Saturday, June 20, 2009

In Defense of a Dead Oblate

There is an article in the papers about how the nephew of the late Cardinal O’Connor of New York is filing a sex abuse case against a deceased priest. The article in the New York Daily News puts the victim at a totally different highschool in Philly than the one named in the lawsuit. So much for accurate reporting from the MSM.

A much more accurate accounting of details of all parties and factors concerned is found in a Philly article.

The contention is that a thirteen year old freshman at Father Judge High in Phila., was threatened with failure in his freshman religion class unless he submitted to abuse. The contention is that the nephew of a Cardinal would suffer shame if he could not get a passing grade in religion. The headlines in New York were no doubt eye catching using the name of a former famous dead cleric such as Cardinal O'Connor.

I have to disagree with the idea that a relative of an upscale cleric would automatically be a target for a jealous low level cleric. If anything, my being a cousin of a Bishop I think kept anybody away from me that might have wanted to harm me for fear of my reporting the whole thing to the front office so to speak.

The other point I do not agree with is that a sixty-six year old priest, before Viagra, could harass or rape a healthy thirteen year old boy who was not interested in any play.

The priest in question has been named in a suit earlier this year by another former student in the Delaware diocese where the priest had been teaching at the time of that alleged incident. A Delaware law extended the statute of limitations for these abuse crimes for reporting or for lawsuits for a period of twenty five years past the age of eighteen and with a two year window in which to file suits within this legal timeline.

Do two lawsuits prove guilt or does the name of a dead priest in circulation make for a convenient target for the blossoming cottage industry of abuse support/help groups and let’s not forget the lawyer industry that helped destroy affordable medicine in this country?

The deadline for filing suits at the end of this two year period is July 1, 2009. While the incident in the cardinal’s nephew lawsuit took place in Philadelphia, the teaching order, the Oblates of Saint Francis de Sales, based in Delaware and Washington D.C. are within reach of Delaware’s Abuse law regarding the alleged Philadelphia incident.

Several things I do not like here. One, the priest is dead. Two, the priest’s name is public knowledge by a previous lawsuit. The whole story sounds more like a nuisance lawsuit traveling on the coat tails of another lawsuit.

While the Church bears a hog’s share of responsibility for the shuffling around of perverts over the decades and centuries, not every allegation of abuse is necessarily true especially if money is involved in the equation.

I had disagreed on the clause in the Ryan Report regarding abuse by the clergy in Ireland – the clause that did not name parties involved. In a way the knife cuts both ways. Is it more important at this late date to document an era of abuse or try and shame aged clerics and nuns in their nursing homes to account for what in essence was a system of abuse designed and run by both the state and the church in Ireland?

So too in America, I do not think that dead clerics being named and not being able to defend themselves is a fair balance. By all means there should be counseling, healing and compensation for real abuse. The church has got to get over this hill, learn from its mistakes, reform and move on – this in order to be a credible institution in the modern age.

There is a time and reason – a season - for everything under the sun. It is time to move on.

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