The National Catholic Review
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Cardinal Law Gives Deposition in Civil Suit Against Archdiocese

Cardinal Bernard F. Law was interrogated under oath on May 8 by a lawyer representing 86 people who have filed suit against him and the Archdiocese of Boston, alleging that he was negligent in supervising John J. Geoghan when Geoghan was a priest of the archdiocese. Cardinal Law said he had relied on the advice of doctors and subordinates when he approved the transfer of the priest accused of sexually abusing children. The deposition was ordered by the judge after the archdiocese withdrew from a settlement with Geoghan’s victims.

Earlier, Cardinal Law had acknowledged the disappointment, the anger, and even the sense of fresh betrayal arising from a decision by the Archdiocese of Boston’s Finance Council to back out of a multimillion-dollar settlement with victims of the former priest. The cardinal said the archdiocese would continue to work for a just and equitable solution for all victims of clergy sex abuse. He talked about the rejected settlement during his regular Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston.

He said the Finance Council, whose approval is required under canon law for the $15 million to $30 million payment to settle claims by the 86 victims, had rejected the settlement out of a laudable concern that the payment would negatively affect the response which the archdiocese can later make to the other victims.

Although the archdiocese had thought there were about 30 other victims when it agreed to the tentative settlement in March, Cardinal Law said, the number of possible victims of clergy sex abuse in the archdiocese had now reached about 150. When you have the 150 in addition to the 86 already settled, the amount at hand will be very negatively affected, the cardinal said. There are no easy answers. Certainly, we must respond as best we can to all those who have suffered abuse by clergy. It is also true that the financial resources of the archdiocese are limited. Somehow, in the weeks ahead, we must deal with those two realities as we seek a just and equitable solution.

In a lengthy statement on May 3, David W. Smith, chancellor of the Boston Archdiocese, said the Finance Council members had expressed grave concern...that the proposed settlement would consume substantially all of the resources of the archdiocese that can reasonably be made available, and therefore such an action would leave the archdiocese unable to provide a just and proportional response to other victims.

The cardinal expressed his deep regret at the vote, particularly in light of the fact that the Finance Council had previously been briefed on the proposed settlement and had expressed, at the time, a desire to see it go forward, the statement added. The council unanimously advised the cardinal to develop a mechanism which will provide all necessary counseling for the victims and their families and to come up with a nonlitigious global assistance fund for all victims.

Announcement of the Finance Council’s decision came on the same weekend as the start of the 2002 Cardinal’s Appeal, the annual fund-raising drive for the Boston Archdiocese. The $17.4 million fund drive is to assist nearly 80 programs and agencies the archdiocese supports, such as the Family Life Apostolate, the Catholic School Office, the Lay Volunteer Office, the Office for Vocations, the Office of Health Care, various ethnic apostolates and campus ministries.

The Cardinal’s Appeal money is operating money.... It goes to pay the bills, said Kenneth Hokenson, chief development officer for the archdiocese. It’s important to note that as soon as it comes in it goes out to provide the many good works and services that the church provides to the archdiocese.

Hokenson said many Catholics are angry and frustrated with the sex abuse scandal and will stop giving to the church to send a message. But at the end of the day, when all is said and done, I think the bulk of the people who support the many good works of the church will be there for her, because the church is there for them, he said.

Vatican Official Says Church Has Legal Tools to Address Sex Abuse

A top Vatican official said the church has all the legal tools it needs to address clerical sex abuse and that obliging bishops to report all accusations to civil authorities may be going too far. Archbishop Julian Herranz, the Spanish-born president of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts and a participant in the recent Vatican-U.S. church summit on the crisis, made the remarks during a lecture on April 29 at the Catholic University of Milan. He said he was speaking in a personal capacity.

While acknowledging civil authority over criminal cases, the archbishop criticized attempts to require church leaders to report all abuse accusations to civil authorities and to turn over relevant documents. He said such proposals had come on an emotional wave of public clamor. He also criticized the U.S. tort system, which provides for an almost unlimited juridical responsibility on the part of the church for any criminal behavior whatsoever on the part of its ministers.

Archbishop Herranz, one of the Vatican’s top legal officials, said church law provides all the trial and punishment tools necessary to mete out justice and protect the community in clerical sex abuse cases. In extreme cases, certain crimes committed by sacred ministersregarding not only that concrete form of homosexuality that is pedophiliacan be punished with a perpetual sentence of dismissal from the clerical state, he said. But given the seriousness of the penalty, he said, church law requires necessary guarantees with a regular prior investigation, ascertainment of the facts and proof of guilt, ensuring at the same time the right of defense both of the accused and of the victim.

To dispense with these proceedings would indicate a lack of the most fundamental sense of justice with regard to all the individuals affected, Archbishop Herranz said.

At the Vatican summit, U.S. church leaders proposed in a final statement that new special processes be created to facilitate the defrocking of priests who sexually abuse minors. Sources said such processes would strike a balance between a lengthy juridical trial and a speedy administrative act, which the Vatican repeatedly has said it will not accept. U.S. bishops were to discuss the proposal at their annual spring meeting in Dallas, Tex., on June 13-15.

Let the Daylight Shine,’ Bishops’ General Secretary Tells Attorneys

The general secretary of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops told diocesan attorneys that he thinks the current crisis in the church over the handling of sex abuse cases will not pass until every stone that is hiding some secret has been overturned to let the daylight shine on that spot. He said, Such a thing is happening now, and the more it is resisted, the longer and more painful it will be. The official, Msgr. William P. Fay, told a national gathering of diocesan attorneys that the greatest crisis the church in this country has faced has perhaps traumatized everyone.

Monsignor Fay, in reporting on the U.S. cardinals’ meeting at the Vatican, said the two most concrete actions to come from the discussion were the possibility of directives from the Holy See for national standards in handling sexual abuse of minors, and visitation of U.S. seminaries by apostolic representatives of the Vatican to ensure that the education we are giving our candidates for the priesthood is as excellent and as effective as it can be in the areas of celibacy, chastity and boundary issues.

He said, It is expected that the bishops [at their June meeting in Dallas, Tex.] will explore seriously the possibility of establishing a national office for the protection of children that will engage others in society towards the greater protection of our youth.

News Briefs

Argentina’s current financial crisis is the fate of all nations that accept the dominant development prescription implemented by the international financial institutions under the direction of the United States administration and the other members of the G-7, concluded the Executive Committee of the International Jesuit Network for Development, which met at the Center of Concern in Washington, D.C., on May 3-5.

The Vatican said silence has been the only reply to its formal request for a reason why the Russian government will not allow Bishop Jerzy Mazur to return to his diocese in Siberia.

Lutheran and Catholic scholars met on May 2-5 at St. Paul’s College in Washington, D.C., to continue drafting a document on church koinonia, or communion, as evidenced in church structures and ministries. Representatives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Catholic Church hope to produce a theological text that contributes to the full, visible unity between Lutheran and Catholic churches, according to a press release issued after the meeting by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Pontifical Biblical Commission document, The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible, is important for Catholic-Jewish relations because it accepts as valid Jewish interpretations of Scripture that parallel Christian views, said several biblical scholars from both faiths.

In a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. bishops supported a proposed rule that would permit states to make unborn children and their mothers eligible for prenatal health care coverage under State Children’s Health Insurance.

Sudan’s oil revenue should be placed in an internationally administered fund to be used for humanitarian and development purposes, said the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

A Jesuit university is absolutely the place for a discussion of new approaches to homosexuality by various faith communities, a Jesuit educator said at the University of San Francisco on April 21. David Robinson, S.J., director of educational mission at the university’s College of Professional Studies, made the comments about a conference at the school on New Jewish and Christian Approaches to Homosexuality.

Comments

Mariel Birnbaumer | 5/21/2002 - 8:27am
Because I expect high standards and thoughtful information from your magazine I was surprised by your superficial reference to the economic unrest in Argentina (Signs of the Times, 5/20). I agree that many policies imposed by the IMF on struggling economies are ill advised, but the Argentinean economy has suffered (and suffers) the constant assault of its political establishment. The responsible press and the Catholic Church in Argentina, involved in a public dialogue seeking a way out of the present crisis, voice the opinion of many Argentineans: without fiscal discipline of the present political system new loans will only feed a bigger public debt. The fact that the members of Congress make more money than the their American counterparts and continue distributing patronage jobs in the middle of the present crisis is an example of their disregard for the common good. The political and labor union establishments seeking their personal financial advantages played a big role on the genesis of this crisis. They can not be blamed on the IMF.

Robert Ashworth | 5/16/2002 - 4:09pm
The Vatican official, Archbishop Herranz, article regarding “The Church Has legal Tool To Address Abuse”, appears to be in denial. The uproar has nothing to do with emotion. It appears that way because of the news media obsession with sex. The facts are that the Catholic hierarchy was an abysmal failure at achieving justice. Few if not all of the abuse charges were ever credible in their eyes. While they persist in using this language (an indication that nothing has changed), the civil courts consistently found otherwise. Instead, the system in place now has no oversight and was wielded as a powerful tool to thwart the truth for purposes of self-preservation. The fact is many of the diocese administrators used civil law to attack the faithful, particularly when they knew that the victims were correct based on church law, while using their exempt status to hide from any return attacks. I know this as fact and believe others based on personal experience. This is not emotion but fact. Based on the Catholic Churches responses such as these, it appears they have not learned their lesson and have no intention to correct the situation. Until they do I suggest all the faithful reconsider why they continue to donate funds that support this.

Mariel Birnbaumer | 5/21/2002 - 8:27am
Because I expect high standards and thoughtful information from your magazine I was surprised by your superficial reference to the economic unrest in Argentina (Signs of the Times, 5/20). I agree that many policies imposed by the IMF on struggling economies are ill advised, but the Argentinean economy has suffered (and suffers) the constant assault of its political establishment. The responsible press and the Catholic Church in Argentina, involved in a public dialogue seeking a way out of the present crisis, voice the opinion of many Argentineans: without fiscal discipline of the present political system new loans will only feed a bigger public debt. The fact that the members of Congress make more money than the their American counterparts and continue distributing patronage jobs in the middle of the present crisis is an example of their disregard for the common good. The political and labor union establishments seeking their personal financial advantages played a big role on the genesis of this crisis. They can not be blamed on the IMF.

Robert Ashworth | 5/16/2002 - 4:09pm
The Vatican official, Archbishop Herranz, article regarding “The Church Has legal Tool To Address Abuse”, appears to be in denial. The uproar has nothing to do with emotion. It appears that way because of the news media obsession with sex. The facts are that the Catholic hierarchy was an abysmal failure at achieving justice. Few if not all of the abuse charges were ever credible in their eyes. While they persist in using this language (an indication that nothing has changed), the civil courts consistently found otherwise. Instead, the system in place now has no oversight and was wielded as a powerful tool to thwart the truth for purposes of self-preservation. The fact is many of the diocese administrators used civil law to attack the faithful, particularly when they knew that the victims were correct based on church law, while using their exempt status to hide from any return attacks. I know this as fact and believe others based on personal experience. This is not emotion but fact. Based on the Catholic Churches responses such as these, it appears they have not learned their lesson and have no intention to correct the situation. Until they do I suggest all the faithful reconsider why they continue to donate funds that support this.