Suing the Church for sexual child abuse

Would YOU, personally, be willing to sue the Church in a secular court if a priest sexually molested one of your children?

I myself, don’t think I could do it. Perhaps sue the individual priest, but I don’t think I could sue Christ’s Church in a secular court.

This must be a terrible, terrible decision for any Catholic faced with such a scenerio.

What confuses me about the whole issue is that, while I feel the church (since, the priest will most likely not have the financial means) should be responsible for the victim’s counseling for, well, as long as they need it, people tend to sue the church for such extreme amounts of money.

To me this says “I’m scarred, and nothing will ever heal the scars, but $10,000,000 would ease the pain…”

I think victim’s are entitled to justice, but not vengeance.

Like it or not, the Church has brought this on itself. (by “Church” I mean the clergy and hierarchy - not the transcendent CHURCH) For too long it has knowingly admitted, enabled and covered up the activities of pervert priests. Lest anyone forget, Bishops knowingly and repeatedly moved priests around their diocese - and elsewhere - despite repeated instances of sexual assault, etc.

believe it or not, sexual abuse is one of the most damaging things that can happen to a young person. Further, most people until recently did not sue the Church - they simply wanted their child protected and other children not put through something similar. In addition, Bishops treated the priest as merely having a sinful problem - failing completely to see the criminal behavior at work.

There will always be sinners and criminals in the Church, but hopefully Bishops will no longer tolerate, enable and hide the perpetrators.

IMHO it’s a terrible shame, but the large damages claims were the only thing that really focused the Bishops - and in that way are a veritable good. The devotion of the Bishops to mammon and not Christ’s flock is another real tragedy here. I, for one, don’t blame the victims, lawyers or papers for this overwhelming debacle - I blame the clergy and hierarchy.

I can see your point, in this context, but I think you are failing to consider the legal climate of this country as you say so.

Consider that this is a country where a woman won a multi-million dollar suit after burning herself with hot coffee (while driving with the cup between her legs).

This is a country where an elderly gentleman died the night before his scheduled surgery and the family sued the surgeon (and won) for malpractice.

This isn’t something the church brought on itself, because if these people weren’t seeking multi-million dollar settlements for this, they would most likely wait until they slipped on the steps of the Cathedral and sue for twice as much.

As to the McDonald’s case perhaps you are not aware that McDonalds had several instances of severe burns from its coffee prior to that judgment - but decided for marketing purposes to keep the coffee much hotter than one would at home? Were you also aware the woman suffered 3rd degree burns and required reconstructive surgery? That coffee at normal home temperatures generally wouldn’t cause such burns - a fact McDonalds knew but chose to disregard for the almighty dollar? McD got justice, IMHO.

I don’t know the facts in the elderly gentleman’s case, but can easily imagine circumstances where delay was unconscionable.

I also know of a case where an unsupervised resident punctured the heart of a 4y/o 7 times when he performed the wrong procedure - performed it improperly and was repeatedly told by the attending nurse he wasn’t doing it right - the hospital intimidated the nurse, tried to hide records and information on her name - and it all came out in court. Of course the local papers merely reported the outrageous malpractice verdict of $7MM.

Our legal system may have issues, but usually these “runaway” verdicts have very good reasons behind them that are often not obvious to the general public.

All of which is irrelevant to the matter here - IMHO without the large - and threat of large - damages the men in purple and crimson would still be shifting, protecting and covering up the activities of the clergy. The problem is one of their own making. If the system is indeed broken as you imply, then all the more reason for them to have acted properly - and they are therefore doubly at fault.

I could not disagree with you more. I think it is ridiculous to think that the victims and their families were just looking for an excuse to get rich off the Church. No one asks to be abused or raped. They did not bring it upon themseleves - the Priests who molested and the Bishops who turned a blind eye are the ones to blame.

I am actually thankful that the suits have been filed. Maybe this will actually teach a lesson to those in charge and help prevent my children and grandchildren from repeat child molesters masquarading as Priests.

Well said, Carol Marie. I was going to ignore this comment, but you are absolutely right here.

Honestly, it’s beyond outrageous for the poster to suggest that kids actually abused and raped are merely abusing the system in the same way as a faked slip and fall claim. These kids were damaged. They were abused and raped. The Bishops and the clergy failed them in just about every way possible. And it’s apparent to all that cash was the only way to get the clergy’s attention.

We don’t need to continue to blame the victims, the papers or lawyers - we need to blame the perpetrators and enablers. Frankly, if false claims have been bid into the system - that, too, is a function of the terrible decisions made by the Bishops - because the verdicts wouldn’t have gone through the roof, the publicity wouldn’t have been so pervasive and juries wouldn’t think our Bishops and priests are all lying, perverted and greedy.

I recall hearing or reading SOMEWHERE that Catholics who sued the church could be excommunicated but I now can’t find a reference source to support that statement.

That is not what I was implying. What I said was that after the fact of the (alleged) abuses it was seen as a grand opportunity for many to make money. People are suing for multi-million dollar awards. I didn’t say this was a “slip and fall” just that our society encourages those who have been wronged, however slight or however grand, to sue to party at fault (or the party perceived to be at fault) for as much money as is humanly possible. This isn’t a reflection on the victims, it is a reflection on the lawyers who, I have no doubt, are encouraging ever larger settlements since they see a sizable chunk of it themselves.

I imagine even if they could doing so would cause such a media uproar that no Bishop would ever want to put his name to that. Talk about a way to quickly become less popular than Cardinal Law.

This isn’t something the church brought on itself, because if these people weren’t seeking multi-million dollar settlements for this, they would most likely wait until they slipped on the steps of the Cathedral and sue for twice as much.

This has to be one of the most ridiculous statements I"ve read in a long long time.

The abuse happened. It was real. It was covered up and enabled. The clergy and Bishops knew it. They were part of it. The kids were damaged. The clergy and Bishops are at fault - not the lawyers - not the kids - not the press - not the legal system. Until Catholics accept that unpleasant fact - we are complicit, IMHO.

What you implied above is available for anyone to review and analyze. In my view what you implied above remains outrageous.

Well, my opinions that many lawsuit awards are entirely too much and that in these lawsuits the quest for vengeance is greatly outweighing the desire to seek justice is simply put, my opinion. If you think my opinions are ridiculous, that is quite fine, I post them expecting scrutiny, however, brow-beating me for my opinion will not change my mind no matter how many times you post it.

Probaby the only thing that would change your mind is if your child - or a friend’s child were abused.
Maybe then you would see the situation through different lenses.

I was molested when I was 9. I didn’t bring upon myself, and if I had hired a lawyer to sue - the lawyer would not have been responsible either.

Classmates of mine who did choose to sue did not bring it upon themselves either - neither did their lawyers.

Their lawsuit was tossed because of the statute of limitations - so in their case the Church got off scot free and the victims received nothing.

Ill founded, self serving and meanspirited opinions are not due much respect.
Ill Founded - the cases you cited in no way imply a broken system; and even if they did so are inapt here. Further a broken system would call for more care in one’s decisions and acts - not less…

Self serving - you are a seminarian with a seeming vested interest in whitewashing the scandal by blaming those who brought it to light and not your soon-to-be confreres who created it.

Mean spirtited - you are blaming the victim and their allies against the perpetrators.

I’m not brow-beating you for your opinion as such. I’m letting you know your opinion is itself a scandal because it is so off base.

He’s a seminarian?
Oh gee…that’s grand…just grand.

Herein lies the problem, I never said anything about a person bringing abuse on themselves. And if you hired a lawyer to sue, well that’s fine. There is nothing wrong with working within our legal structure (I’d say its preferable to, say, shooting people). My statement, which no, would NOT change were I molested, rests not within the act of being abused, but with the acts of vengeance.

Case in point, I once knew a priest, let’s just call him “Father E”

“Father E” was accused of some un-chaste acts committed decades ago. So, Father E denies the charge. However, Father E is not in the best health, he wants the whole thing to end. He asks his accuser what it would take to avoid a lengthy court process. Father E ceases to deny his wrongdoing, he doesn’t admit, he doesn’t deny. He removed himself from public ministry, and after so long as a priest, he is of age to retire anyway.

The accuser tells the Diocese that he will persist with his lawsuit unless the Diocese does one of two things

  1. Takes away Father E’s pension
  2. (And with this wording) Ensures that Father E is publicly chastised.

Father E chose the latter so he could retire and not let the issue kill him.

Now, the man got his money, he had counseling for the rest of his life paid for. His accusation (whether true or not) had Father E removed from the ministry in such a way that he would never publicly say mass or present himself as a priest in public again.

Wasn’t enough. He had to publicly humiliate Father E. That is the line of vengeance I am speaking of. I’m not saying victims brought molestation on themselves, but molestation is not a free license to go after the church in the spirit of vengeance.

I don’t consider it vengeance for an abuser to be publicly chastised.
Nor is it vengeance for the Church to remove such filth from the priesthood or their pension plans.

Again…you set a clear pattern here of assuming the worst of the victim.
Do you know the victim is a liar? And if the victim is - indeed- correct, then nothing done to Father E. can compare to the abuse.

It would seem if Father E. were innocent he wouldn’t have been so willing to negotiate.
Would you negotiate with a false accuser and allow yourself to be branded a molester when you are not?

The story does not add up.

Would I negotiate in order to keep my pension and prevent a massive heart attack? Yes.

I am not assuming the worst, but I believe a priest or bishop should be punished, but how much punishment would you say is too far?

In a heartbeat.

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