Help Now >
FREE Catholic Classes
Last month, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to pay 508 sexual-abuse victims a record $660 million - on top of previous settlements totaling $114 million. The payment dwarfs all others, in large part because in 2003 California enacted a law opening a one-year window for suits previously barred by statutes of limitation. (In addition, the archdiocesan seminary graduated an unusually high number of men later accused of sexual abuse.) To date, the scandal in the United States has cost dioceses roughly $2 billion, with Los Angeles accounting for nearly half that total.
But the staggering size of the L.A. settlement can be traced to another cause. The agreement came after years of legal wrangling - and just days before the cases would have gone to trial - as the archdiocese fought to keep priest-personnel files from plaintiffs and prosecutors. The archdiocese dubiously argued that bishop-priest communications are protected by the First Amendment, and that releasing such information would violate the priests' right to privacy. The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed: in 2006 it refused to overturn a state-court ruling against the archdiocese. By that point, however, the clock had run out on the statutes of limitation in some cases, meaning that suits against several priests were dismissed. This caused many to wonder if that was the desired result.
Among the files released after the Supreme Court decision was that of George Miller. Laicized at Cardinal Roger Mahony's request in 2005, Miller was arrested last month on new charges of molesting a child between 1988 and 1991. Another priest whose file was protected by the archdiocese, Michael Baker, was taken into custody last year and is awaiting trial. In 1986, Baker admitted to Cardinal Mahony that he had molested children. Without notifying the police, the archbishop sent him into treatment. Subsequently, Baker was assigned to nine parishes in "restricted" ministry. Six of those parishes had elementary schools - but none was informed of Baker's past. Cardinal Mahony didn't remove Baker until 2000. The cardinal, who has apologized for his errors in this case and others, said the Baker situation "troubles me the most," as well it should.
As part of the settlement, a retired judge will review archdiocesan personnel files and determine which to release. As the Miller and Baker cases make clear, it is in both the public's and the church's best interests that as much information as possible come to light about the way the archdiocese mishandled the situation. If that means officials of the archdiocese are exposed to further civil or criminal liabilities, so be it. A bishop's fiduciary responsibility for his diocese does not override the demands of justice for victims.
Still, three-quarters of a billion dollars is a huge amount of money, even for a diocese as large and financially secure as Los Angeles is. The archdiocese will pay $250 million in cash, insurance will cover $227 million, and religious orders will be responsible for the rest. To put this in context, in 2006 the assets of the archdiocese totaled $494 million, its liabilities were $415 million, meaning its net assets were $79 million. Considering that the archdiocese spent a total of $35 million on its many programs in '06 (social services, evangelization, education, etc.), no one should harbor any illusions about the damage the settlement will do to the church's ability to carry out its mission.
To point out that the neediest of those served by the church in Los Angeles will likely suffer as a result of these settlements may seem to invite the accusation that one is defending the indefensible. But acknowledging the terrible costs of the settlement is not an act of denial; it is an admission that financial compensation, even when it is necessary, is a blunt instrument of justice and never by itself enough. The havoc wreaked by abuser priests and the bishops who enabled them is first and foremost a matter of unimaginable private anguish for the victims. But these crimes have also fundamentally torn the fabric of trust within the church, which is why bishops must more explicitly acknowledge their own wrongdoing. Without clear acts of penitence by the church's leaders, genuine healing will never begin.
Commonweal Magazine: A Review of Religion, Politics and Culture
More Catholic PRWire
Showing 1 - 50 of 4,717
A Recession Antidote
Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell
Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell
Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Franchising to Evangelize
Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Three words to a deeper faith
Relections for Lent 2009
Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell
World Food Program Director on Lent
Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Glimpse of Me
The 3 stages of life
Sex and the Married Woman
A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Modernity & Morality
Just a Minute
Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Edging God Out
Burying a St. Joseph Statue
George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell
Easter... A Way of Life
Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.