National Catholic Register: Abuse cover-up in schools seen as church's deep pockets targeted
involving 200 claims have cost California Catholic institutions $250 million and have put $100 million into lawyers’ pockets.
Colorado nearly passed a law identical to California’s, but it failed after the Archdiocese of Denver, Nussbaum and the Colorado Catholic Conference demanded that any lifting of the statute of limitations be done in such a way that public schools could also be sued for old allegations.
The leading Colorado bill was introduced and promoted by Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald.
“Joan Fitz-Gerald’s attitude made it hard to believe she had in mind anything other than maximum legal injury to the church,” said State Sen. Shawn Mitchell R-Broomfield, a Mormon and an attorney who fought to defeat the Colorado bills.
Nussbaum said targeting the church reflects a “perfect storm” phenomenon, in which several variables have combined to enhance anti-Catholic hostility.
“No. 1, the church is perceived by the plaintiffs’ bar as having deep pockets,” Nussbaum said. “It doesn’t have deep financial resources, but in terms of real estate you could say it has deep pockets.”
Secondly, Nussbaum said, some members of the mainstream media have deep-seated issues regarding church teachings on sex outside of marriage, homosexuality and celibacy.
“They see any sexual abuse in the church as affirmation of their beliefs,” Nussbaum said. “They believe that church teachings on sexuality lead to sexual abuse. Others simply share a well-known and deep-seated animus toward all things Catholic, and that’s a part of our culture. All of this has come together to create the perfect storm of legislation and litigation.”
While all of it may be difficult for Catholics and the church, Mitchell says it’s far worse than that. He fought the Colorado bills because he viewed them as a threat to American justice.
“This kind of legislation distorts our principles and our system of justice by targeting a particular defendant,” Mitchell said. “These laws tie the hands of the targeted defendants behind their backs and ensure victory for plaintiffs. If we change the system in this manner for every alleged demon on the legal landscape, we will trade a system of justice for a system of bounties.”
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Wayne Laugesen, who writes from Boulder, Colo., is a National Catholic Register correspondent..
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Copyright © 2007 Circle Media, Inc. All rights reserved. Republished with permission by Catholic Online from the Aug. 26 - Sept. 1, 2007, National Catholic Register (www.ncregister.com), a Catholic Online Preferred Publishing Partner.
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