ABA Journal


Law in Popular Culture

Lawyer’s fiction mirrors reality; his life fell apart after defending an accused pedophile priest

Oct 10, 2013, 10:40 am CDT


When I was a boy, there was a priest in one of the parishes here who impregnated an underage, mentally handicapped girl. The church reacted as descibed in the article above, moving him out of state and refusing to divulge his whereabouts to law enforcement agencies or the courts. The protection of pedophile priests and the church's "unlimited funds to defend" them appears to be related to a persisting vanity that the church fancies itself above the secular law and believes that the church alone should have jurisdiction over criminal conduct by clerics. This attitude made institutionalized protection of pedophiles a major problem within (and later for) the church.

By B. McLeod on 2013 10 10, 12:26 pm CDT

As a Catholic who went through MANDATORY sexual abuse training before I could work with the youth at my church, I can tell you that the official position of the church is that 1) everyone should report, and report to the legal authorities, 2) the church community should cooperate with external authorities and get external help from psychologists and other professionals, and 3) anyone who commits sexual abuse will be punished by the law. This has been a painful learning process for the Catholic faith, and my hope for the future is that the public will accept evolution and accept that the Church is changing and growing and atoning for the mistakes of the humans who made bad decisions in the past that have led the church into disrepute.

By RecentGrad on 2013 10 10, 1:20 pm CDT

BMcLeod, how hard did the police really try? Or did they just back off in the face of the church's actions. Seems like the priest would have been findable, unless they sent him out of country.

By JimB on 2013 10 10, 2:40 pm CDT

Agree with RecentGrad. Abuse of children is an evil and atrocious act, regardless of who commits it. My problem is the distortions of the problem in the Catholic Church that are spread by the media. First, the vast majority of abuse claims are from 30 to 40 years ago. At that time, Bishops were told by the medical community that pedophiles needed treatment and they could be "cured." Bishops relied on this advice, to everyone's detriment. Second, the rate of pedophilia in the RC priesthood is less than the rate in the public at large. If you reduce the comparison pool to just men (who commit the vast majority of pedo crimes) the rate of the RC priesthood pedophilia against all men is even lower. So, it is not a problem of being a priest. Third, the problem of pedophilic abuse is rampant in all faiths. The RC church simply has the deepest pockets, so plaintiffs lawyers go there first. Trust me, the protestants, baptists, etc., are next in line and are actually being sued and prosecuted at a similar pace, although the press doesn't cover those stories. Fourth, the RC Church has responded with a comprehensive and effective policy of safeguarding all children. It is working. Interestingly, when the Baptist Convention of the US was approached and asked if they would adopt similar policies their answer was an emphatic "no". This story was one of the greatest unreported stories of the last several years. A Google search will tell you all about it.
My point is that the RC Church is not alone in dealing with this horrible situation. We are doing all we can to make amends and ensure it never happens again. As terrible as it is, it should not be used as a basis for anti-Catholic bigotry. Watch over the next decade as other institutions are unmasked. Other churches, schools, children's organizations (BSA anyone?) have similar abuses and cover-ups exposed.
Everyone needs to focus on our children. Know who they are with and what they are doing. Be aware of the signs of abuse or grooming. If you see something, say something.

By WMantooth on 2013 10 10, 3:33 pm CDT

Until people own that we are God and we are in control of our experience here, religions will always be abusive. Anytime you turn your life over to someone else or an entity like a church it is because you don't own it. Churches are about control. Like most the Catholic church is a cult because it doesn't allow people to question their beliefs or think for themselves. If they did people would see the mountain of inconsistencies in the "Story" that Christianity has been peddling. We are one with our maker. Take back your personal relationship with God and no church can abuse you!

By Denise Martin on 2013 10 10, 4:02 pm CDT

"We are one with our maker. Take back your personal relationship with God and no church can abuse you!"

Isn't this a prime example of "turn your life over to someone else," in this case you and your own particular ideas?

Just what kind of cult are you running?

By Been There on 2013 10 10, 6:33 pm CDT

That is not what I said. Whatever you want to believe, live, dedicate yourself to, if you can't question it without punishment or persecution it is about controlling you, not helping you find God. If my point of view offends you - don't adopt it. Find your own. Churches rarely encourage anyone to seek God through any channel other than their own. If I am running a cult I suck at it. I have no followers and no money. But I am free to believe what I want. Isn't that why we pioneered this country? Peace to you Been There!

By Denise Martin on 2013 10 10, 6:55 pm CDT

Whether bishops obtained opinions from doctors and whether priests are statistically more likely to be pedophiles are gigantic red herrings. What brought the church to the pickle it is in is that the criminal acts occurred, and church officials, fully aware that they were criminal acts, deliberately chose to become complicit by hiding the perpetrators and covering up the offenses. No matter who you are, or what some doctor says, you aren't privileged to hide out an employee who is commiting sex crimes against children. Don't even try to legitimize it with bullshit arguments. Just don't.

By B. McLeod on 2013 10 11, 1:07 am CDT

@Denise Martin - my experience as a young Catholic, actually, has been that we are encouraged to ask questions and to seek the answers. You can't truly understand any faith unless you're asking the hard questions. I've never been expected to blindly follow, and if I were, I wouldn't have stayed in the church. I don't necessarily agree with everything the church says, but we have a complicated system of doctrine and dogma, and there's a difference between things we are required to believe, and things that we are encouraged to believe. Asking questions is vital to learning and understanding.

By RecentGrad on 2013 10 11, 1:52 pm CDT

RecentGrad - That's good to hear. I spent 6 years litigating Pro Se to get my son's father out of our lives because his brand of Fundamental Christianity was a horror story. I dealt with three different churches that he ran to during our legal battle. In our four day custody trial his "Religious Camp" made fools of themselves in court. It's all on Youtube under the title Liar Liar Christians on Fire. This is a smart man, but every time I to tried to show him that what he was peddling was in conflict with some of his other beliefs that he deemed gospel he would get extremely abusive and start double talking a hundred miles an hour. I have experienced this with Christians over and over. For example, according to the Bible Jesus told us that we would do greater things then he. If he is God and I am not how could I possibly out perform him? I Am God - just as the Bible states. Now watch the shit storm because I made that simple statement. Most people are scared to death of God.

By Denise Martin on 2013 10 11, 2:50 pm CDT

B, McLeod - Your comment is spot on and illuminates the problem once again. Mo human being should be fielding someone else's relationship with God. There is no need to pay an intermediary. If you can't communicate directly with God yourself you have totally missed the boat. Churches are about money and control and thus highly ripe environments for those you would exploit others.

By Denise Martin on 2013 10 11, 2:54 pm CDT

Now this article is as sad as it is funny. Jewish rabbi's charging women to torture their husbands so that they can get a religious divorce. I'll stick to my personal relationship with the I Am - thank you!

By Denise Martin on 2013 10 11, 3:17 pm CDT

Having worked with schools and police departments for over 30 years (okay -- so it's closer to 40), I think it's time we addressed the issue of conducting an investigation without unfairly ruing a reputation. In an era of open records and transparency in government operations, I often found that erring on the side of child safety meant that some parent, news person, or community do-gooder would hear the unsubstantiated rumors and by the time my office had reached the conclusion that the accusation was either unfounded, misdirected, or viciously planted as a personal attack, the damage to the innocent target of our investigation was nearly irreparable.

By Gary Avery on 2013 10 11, 5:51 pm CDT

Comment removed by moderator.

By Denise Martin on 2013 10 11, 6:12 pm CDT

Last month, the California Legislature passed a bill lifting the statute of limitations on on older child abuse cases for 1 year.

But before it passed, a Catholic lawyer friend of mine mentioned to me that the Church was passing out a petition to everyone after Mass to sign, stating the Church was being persecuted and that if people signed the petition, they could help stop the persecution of the Church. Never did they mention that this bill that the Church opposed so vehemently, was actually designed to help victims come forward and get restitution for prior sex crimes perpetrated by the Church. It was only when she looked up the bill in question that she saw the truth of the matter.

By AnotherLawyer on 2013 10 16, 4:02 pm CDT

I meant older child *sex* abuse cases, not child abuse cases in general.

By AnotherLawyer on 2013 10 16, 4:05 pm CDT

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