Thursday, 12 March 2015

Church Claims Religious Freedom to Cheat Abuse Victims

Cardinal Timothy Dolan
Archbishop of New York, former Archbishop of Milwaukee.
Catholic Church Claims It Can Refuse To Pay Victims Of Sex Abuse Because Of Religious Freedom | ThinkProgress:

The Catholic diocese of Milwaukee has suffered a setback in its attempt to avoid its moral responsibilities to the victims of its abusive priests. Its former archbishop, Timothy Dolan, now a cardinal and Archbishop of New York, had tried to insulate its funds by transferring $55 million into a trust fund for maintaining the diocese's cemeteries and mausoleums, then claiming they were not the Church's funds but belonged to the Trust, so the Church had no money with which to compensate its victims, and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

However, the sexual abuse victims petitioned the courts to rule that this was a "fraudulent, preferential or avoidable transfer". The diocese then countered with a claim that paying compensation would infringe it religious freedom citing the Restoration of Religious Freedoms Act (RRFA) and the First Amendment. It was this latter claim that was originally upheld by a district court judge.

The RRFA, as clarrified by the 'Hobby Lobby' case which appears to give anyone who can find a religious objection the freedom to disregard whatever laws they choose, has already been used by a fundamentalist Mormon sect to obstruct a federal investigation into alleged child slavery on its farm. However, the district court ruling was reversed last Monday by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

[I] personally ask for forgiveness for the damage [some priests] have done for having sexually abused children. We will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed.

Pope Francis
Although this doesn't necessarily mean the victims will be compensated out of the money Dolan tried to put out of their reach, only that the Church can't hide behind the RRFA. The victims still have to win that fight against a doggedly determined Catholic Church determined to do all it can to avoid its moral responsibilities to the victims of its priests and which will almost certainly lodge an appeal against the ruling. The victims have still to establish their claim that the transfer of money was "fraudulent, preferential or avoidable", in other words an accounting sleight of hand designed to avoid financial liabilities.

At least 45 Milwaukee priests have been accused of abusing children, including one, Rev. Lawrence Murphy, who was accused of molesting 200 deaf boys. The Vatican refused to take action against Murphy claiming the accusation was an attempt to smear Pope Benedict XVI and his aides and anyway it was all a long time ago.

The cemeteries and mausoleums trust fund was set up by Dolan after the Church was ordered to pay $17 million in compensation to ten victims in California, but the $55 million was not transferred into it until the Wisconsin Supreme Court gave the go-ahead for other victims to sue the diocese. At the time, Dolan, who now vigorously denies he was trying to avoid paying compensation, wrote to Pope Benedict XVI boasting that, "By transferring these assets to the Trust, I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability", presumably confident that Ratzinger would approve of this attempt to avoid responsibility. Soon after, Timothy Dolan was promoted to cardinal and given the prestigious New York diocese.

What could be more important than the Catholic Church's moral responsibilities? The Church's money, of course!

In ruling against the Church, the court explained, ...the rule proposed by the archdiocese "would favor a dishonest debtor at the creditors’ expense."

Er... well, obviously! Wasn't that the entire point of Dolan's financial sleight of hand and the Church's argument to the court? After all, what's the point of a religion and a law like the RRFA, if you can't use them as an excuse to avoid your responsibilities and cheat your victims out of their rightful compensation?

Pope Francis appears to be unaware or unconcerned, judging by his silence on the matter.

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1 comment :

  1. Absolutely disgusting. But -- let them. Let them make these assertions, win or lose, and let the whole world see what is really important to them, and what the "religious freedom" they are always demanding really means to them. The revulsion any normal human must feel at such antics can only carry us even further along the path to total collapse of any respect for this utterly malignant institution.

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