Sunday, February 20, 2011

Defending The Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Being Critical of the Grand Jury

In my recent post I have torn into the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to a certain degree as to their handing of sex abuse cases. However there is a huge need to come to their defense to a certain degree and at least alert Catholics what is at stake here.

On a big related note one now suspended and angry accused Catholic Priest went on talk radio yesterday.

The horrible reading of the Grand Jury report can be found here .

First a word on Grand Juries. I am not sure what kind of Grand Jury we have here. Most Grand Juries are very much led by the nose by the local DA. There is truth that any half competent DA can get a Grand Jury to indict a ham sandwich. However this might lean more to what is called a "Runaway" Grand Jury. These Grand Juries after discovering the power they have start convening themselves all over the place and start issuing subpoena to every to everyone on all sort of matters. It is often amusing to watch unless you are on the receiving end. I am not familiar with the history here to tell which this is or if it is a combination of the two to a certain extent. This is the second report in many years so the Grand Jury might have had to do an follow up. Again I am not sure.

One of the biggest concerns I had that the Grand Jury brought forward was how the Church was handling the conflict of interest. To be honest that is not so easy to do and needs to be really looked at. How does one protect and help the victim, protect the rights of the accused, and finally be a responsible steward of the Church resources. Balancing all that is no easy task. This might become a much bigger concern in the future to the person in the pews later on. One think I mentioned is that every victim NEEDS a canon Lawyer provided to him. The problem is those are in short supply. More on this issue later.

The Grand Jury report should be raising some big red flags to policy wonks , the defense bar , and others. That is the Grand Jury went greatly into the area of the tort litigation and the Church. The undercurrent of the report at times seems to be critical that the Church would ever consider using the law to defend itself.

One can have an debate till the cows come home on tort litigation and sexual abuse. However I do raise the question if this is the proper role of GRAND JURY at all. One is reminded of this Mirrors of Justice post- See Against Restitution as the Core Aim of Criminal Law.

One wonders if this is a rather horrid outcome of that. The reason is this is so bad is that it's not really the Grand Jury's role to do this, it is rather ill equipped to handle this, it is using State resources ,and oh yes it can be very abused and unfair. See via Mirrors of Justice The New York Times on Accountability . Will this power Grand Jury focus their lens on other Churches. Will they focus their eyes on the schools districts and juvenile prison system where the accused are shielded and allied with cash strapped administrators? Maybe they will but again maybe they will not. I understand that there is some overlap between the Civil Litigation and what the Grand Jury was looking at. But it seems they have crossed a line.

There were two other things that have gone unnoticed in this report. First the Grand Jury really laid into the abuse review panel. The people on that panel were none too happy about that.

To this point, the Archdiocese’s board that reviews allegations of sexual abuse has been made up of seven members, but several of them (at least three by the count of Eyewitness News) work full-time for the Archdiocese. Eyewitness News asked Bishop Thomas if that is a conflict of interest.

“Well, the Archdiocesan review board includes a varied different number of people,” he said. “They include some lay people, at least one pastor and some non-Catholics.”

The Grand Jury correctly noted that there are real problems and questions unresolved about what standard of proof should be used. Well that if fair enough and true. However I am not going to go into that these people are puppets of the Cardinal without proof. I think this gives us indications that even with the wonderful laity is involved these cases are not easy.

Which now brings us to the other point. The Grand Jury went after a Lay Catholic Teacher here. They were also critical of Catholic school system. I am not totally sure if these abuse panels are handling the lay folks that are accused that work in the Church. If not then why not.

However it is the first indication that the Catholic Laity that is observing this might actually feel the heat more. SNAP (the Catholic Abuse Groups advocates) often throws the word Clericalism around. However I find them guilty of Clericalism when their sole focus seems to be on the Clergy and the and religious. For the most part they are silent on the the standard and cases dealing with Catholic Lay folks that abuse in the Church. It should be noted that Baptists in SNAP at least deal with this and see it as a problem. I understand why they SEEM to do this. Still it is missing a good bit of the problem.

However the combination of the Grand Jury going into the area of tort litigation and the fact that they made a effort to after a Lay Person in this reports is important. In fact it was MUCH NEEDED. This actually might get the Catholic Laity to start thinking about the how to balance the needs for Justice and healing for the accused, and the due process of the accused. Catholic teachers for instance do not have powerful Union interest and lawyers that come to their aid when a student does an allegation. Catholic Teachers and others might start voicing the complaint that some Priest have. That is the Bishop are using them as scapegoats and throwing them to wolves. We see Priests that are having allegations from the DECADES ago having to deal with this in the public square.

We shall see how the Catholic Laity that was a CYO leader , Coach, or teacher soon likes this. That day is coming. We again return to the story of the accused Priest that took to the airwaves today. What is going to be the reaction of a Catholic teacher now retired if he or she is those shoes. This is new ground and quite frankly needed new ground. Children need to be protected and the lay part of this is needed to be looked at. However on the flip side so do the essential rights of the accused whether lay or cleric. We shall see what happens.

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