Thursday, December 19, 2002

John responds to Andy:
John's entire argument rests on his premise that "the church is not liable for" what the priests did, "because the doctrine of respondeat superior does not apply" and "only the abusive priests themselves could be civilly liable to their victims."

I can't imagine any litigator giving the Church such advice. Eventually a jury will hold the Church liable, and of course judgments will be in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars. John's advice, if taken, would have bankrupted the Church long ago. Law (relying on counsel) probably saved the archdiocese hundred-million-dollar judgments, like that imposed against the diocese in Texas.

There is no case or precedent holding the church liable for a priest's misconduct in and of itself. All these cases rest their legal theory on misconduct by bishops, and they produced abundant evidence of such misconduct.

Note that under John's logic, any settlement by a defendant convinced of his innocent would prove his guilt. Asbestos settlements, insurance company settlements, etc., would all prove culpability under John's view. Not even Dr. Sell would plead guilty to get out of jail and avoid the dangerous drugging.

If the bishops had paid only a few private settlements of relatively small amounts while maintaining their innocence, you might have a point. But they have paid hundreds of secret settlements estimated to total $1 billion.

Andy it is just impossible to claim both that Law is innocent and also that it is reasonable and prudent for him to pay out the entire net worth of the diocese to settle claims - which, I repeat, are claims against him, not against his priests.

For the same reason, it has become impossible to defend Trent Lott. If Lott didn't say or do anything wrong, then what is he apologizing for and why is he abandoning long held Republican principles - even Judge Pickering?

John concludes, "I suspect Andy is irrationally driven to defend Law because Law is regarded as a "conservative" on what U.S. politics calls "social issues" (abortion, etc.) ...."
> Not really. My objection is to outsiders trying to dictate what an association (the Church) does. There's no standing or legitimate interest for such objections.

This is like saying the White House and grass-roots Republicans have no standing or legitimate interest in trying to dictate what an association of 51 members (the Senate Republican Conference) does about Trent Lott.

It is curious how anti-Catholic sentiment draws people to attack Cardinal Law. If, as they believe, the Church stands for nonsense, then why their great interest? I certainly have no interest in who heads the World Atheist League or Evolutionists for a Better Tomorrow.

Sure, anti-Catholics have piled on Cardinal Law, just as Trent Lott's enemies piled on him. But it was Law and Lott who gave ammunition and opportunity to their respective enemies.

Roger writes, "John nailed it. Law was paying out secret hush money in order to quiet claims against his own irresponsible management. ..."

Confidentiality is standard for every settlement. If an attorney settled one of these claims against the Church and did not ensure confidentiality, then he should be fired on the spot. Confidentiality hardly supports Roger's claim of misappropriation.

This could only be true if the claims were legally valid and the settlements paid were reasonable. But we know that many claims were not, in fact, legally valid and that the bishops paid money, not to "prudently and frugally" settle a valid claim, but solely to prevent scandal (i.e. save the bishop's reputation) by purchasing silence from prospective plaintiffs.

I agree with John. Law and Lott have demonstrated themselves so thoroughly unfit for any leadership position, that it is a wonder how they got there in the first place. The institutions that put them there need to be fixed.

Andy first excuses Law because he relied on shrinks; now it is because he relied on lawyers. Not sure which is worse. Either way, it is just more evidence of his unfitness for a position of responsibility. A prominent Catholic bishop should not have to ask a shrink or a lawyer what to do with a priest who is a child molester.

What's next -- Lott blaming his troubles on his speechwriter?

The Law settlements were just to conceal his own culpability, and were a wrongful use of Church money. The archdiocese could not have gotten big judgments against it. Mass. law limits liability for charitable organizations to $20k per claim.

No comments: