Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Catholic Priest Conviction For Clergy Sex Abuse of An Adult Is Thrown Out - Testimony Too Religious

In the famed King of the Hill episode The Passion of Dauterive , which can be viewed here , the ever emotionally unstable Bill after a near death experience no less enters into a romantic relationship with his Clergyperson the Methodist  Pastor Stroup. The good producers of the show appears did not know that Rev Stroup had put herself in danger of doing a crime that being  Texas. Penal Code Chapter 5. (22.011) .

I am of still of two conflicted  minds about these adult abuse clergy laws as a criminal matter.

 Part of me thinks that much of this would be better served by remaining in the realm of a civil tort. I am  not saying I think there is no moral problem or real harm can not occur.

But in the real world widow pastors have had married one of their flock and College campus ministers have married a college student they was a part of their flock. In some of these cases no doubt something might have got out of hand before they said " I do" . That  being maybe the line in the relationship between religious advisor and we are dating was not  so clearly defined as the relationship progressed

Further with more females pastors , rabbis, priests, etc on the scene I do wonder in the real world if we are going to see some significant gender bias in prosecution and conviction rates.

It's a real problem but we see in some states having these laws and others not how to deal with this is in dispute.

Which leads us today to the interesting case out of Minnesota  that Religion Clause reports on. See Priest's Conviction Was Based On Excessive Religious Evidence

The fact pattern is this as we can gather from the Appeals Court Opinion  :

Christopher Wenthe was a Roman Catholic priest in a St. Paul parish when he first met A.F., a  ADULT parishioner, in July 2003. In October 2003, appellant heard A.F.’s confession and agreed to serve as her regular confessor. Appellant heard A.F.’s confession anonymously approximately three or four more times.

A friendship developed between A.F. and the Priest then happen in the ensuing weeks. They often spent time together in various social contexts. They shared their personal concerns and struggles and often talked for hours about theological matters.

The next day ironically after a evening where " Theology of the Body " was discussed A.F. came to the Priests living quarters and sexual conduct occurred. Sexual conduct occurred thereafter about once every two weeks in the course of the next year. The last sexual encounter occurred in February 2005. She reported this to the police in 2010.

The state charged appellant with one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct under Minn. Stat. § 609.344, subd. 1(l)(ii) (2002), for sexual conduct that occurred while the complainant was meeting with the defendant on an ongoing basis for spiritual counsel. The state subsequently amended the complaint to include a second count under subdivision 1(l)(i) (2002), alleging sexual conduct that occurred during the course of a single meeting in which the complainant sought or received spiritual counsel

The Lawyers for the Priest present many issued but the Court addressed two of them before remanding this case back to the district court.

I. Does the clergy sexual conduct statute violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution on its face?

The  Appeals Court answered no

II. Did the clergy sexual conduct statute, as applied in this case, violate the Establishment Clause?  

The Court answered YES.  

The court gets into the details but their main objections was the Prosecution was bringing up just to much Roman Catholic stuff.  Such as:

(i) evidence regarding the power imbalance between priests and parishioners, stemming from priests’ religious authority; (ii) the Roman Catholic Church’s official  policies regarding pastoral care; (iii) the church’s doctrines and concerns about sexual conduct involving priests; (iv) the church’s response to the allegations of appellant’s misconduct; and (v) the religious training appellant received.

In the Court's view maybe the fact that Priest broke his vow of celibacy is really not all that relevant perhaps nor the fact the Catholic Church says they should be " Holy Men".

The Court did not say it but I do wonder if they thought perhaps the totality of all this was too

I sort of feel for Prosecutors here that the line about how much internal religious stuff they need to present and how much is too much is not clear. But I think it also shows perhaps that the State realizes to win these cases they do did a sort of wow factor to sort of outrage the jury.


Kay Goodnow said...

1. Your blog needs an editor or a proofreader.
2. If Catholic priests are supposed to be celibate, they should remain celibate. Otherwise, they should be punished.
3. When a suit occurs it should follow civil law as to violation of priviledge.
4. Any other explanation is more smoke and mirrors.

James H said...

Miss Goodnow

First thanks for the grammer advice

Second I agree that Priest should remain celibate but I do disagree that its the Judicial system to punish them if they break that vow

Last but not least I was addressing how these suits are handled as general matter and the interesting topic of evidence and the establishment clause.

There is no attempt at smoke and mirrors here. Just an very interesting legal issue and how the Court might deal with this in the future

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