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Friday, September 23, 2005

Opting out

Well, it's time to fish or cut bait on the class action that's been brought against all of us Western Oregon Catholics over the archdiocese's bankruptcy. As I've discussed here several times before, I don't want to be part of the church's maneuvers to avoid paying its debts to those who were abused by priests. I believe that the federal judge in Spokane who threw out the church's similar theory up there was correct.

Hearing no better way to act on my instincts on this one, it's time to write the letter to the church's big bucks downtown lawyer, opting out of the defendant class. According to the notice I got, the deadline for doing so is October 3.

Here's what I've got for a letter (with personal data redacted):

Steven M. Hedberg, Esq.
Perkins Coie LLP
1120 NW Couch Street, 10th floor
Portland, Oregon 97209-4128
Re: Request to be Excluded from Class Action -- In re Roman Catholic Archbishop of Portland in Oregon U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Oregon No. 04-37154-elp11

We hereby request that we be excluded as defendants from the above-referenced class action. Our names are John A. Bogdanski and ***. Our address is *** NE ***, Portland, Oregon 97212 and our telephone number is 503-***.

From the fall of 1998 to the spring of 2002, we were members of The Madeleine Parish. Since the fall of 2002, we have been members of St. Philip Neri Parish. We have made cash and property donations at both of those churches, and we have also made small cash donations from time to time at Mass at other Catholic parishes in the Archdiocese of Portland.

Our donations were all made with the understanding that the gifts would be spent and distributed in the complete discretion of the Archbishop, acting through his agents, the pastors of the parishes. We were never under the impression that we retained any beneficial interest in the donated money and property, and we never understood that the Archbishop owed any fiduciary duty to us. In fact, we believed that his duty was to answer the call of the Holy Spirit in deciding how the gifts would be used, without regard to any duty to us.

Unless a subclass is formed to include parishioners and donors who share our views, we do not wish to be part of the class.


Not the happiest document I ever drafted. It will probably result in my being sued individually. But I don't see what else I can do.

Comments (12)

The right thing to do though. I applaud your integrity.

This lapsed Catholic doesn't go to Mass anymore, but Philip Neri's where our Hosford-Abernethy Neighborhood Association meets. I've found there's good people there.

Sued personally? That would be taking sacrifice for the Church to a new level. I'd be surprised if it turned out that way, actually. You're a turnip.

And besides all that, wouldn't you only be liable for abuse that occurred from 1998-2002?

I meant to add:
"Assuming 1998-2002 was your only connection to a parish alleged to have been involved in abuse."

Jack--on what basis could you be sued individually? That is, what plaintiff's attorney in the world could convince a jury that you and your wife should bear any responsibility for what some priest did to some poor kid(s) 20 years ago?

If I cut and paste your letter with my info, will the archbishop's toney attorneys make us a subclass and try to take both our homes in an effort to limit their liability? This whole thing makes me physically ILL. Hopefully this painful process is the Holy Spirit's way of smashing down the crusty doors that hide the Church's dirty secrets.

That's the whole point of this "defense" -- no attorney would want to sue Jack or any other parishoner. He has no liability for the actions of the priests -- so he gets to keep his .0001 % of "church" property and the church gets to keep on keeping on.

Some amazing sh*t happens in bankruptcy court but this takes the cake. I hope for sanctions against the attorneys and the church for presenting these arguments. (I also hope for an extradition of Cardinal Bernard Law and a RICO prosecution against the church so I'm obviously a bit biased).

Fortunately, the catholic church does not have a monopoly on spirituality. I'd recommend considering joining a church with solid institutional values.

I can see (plainitff's) counsel's theory of liability now: civil conspiracy to commit the underlying tort/crime. Not that it would play to a jury. But I'm just sayin'...

The scary part is that Oregon courts WILL recognize claims of civil conspiracy and other forms of joint liability under the Restatement (Second) - Granewich v. Harding, anyone?

Thought for the day: Does tithing or the giving of gifts to the Church amount to aiding or abetting rogue priests or any coverup of their activities?

Things that make you go, "Hmmm."

Good luck, Jack.

Although we would be sued individually, it is my understanding that our personal assets would not be vulnerable to a judgment. What we would lose if we lost is our right to claim that any of the church's property is held in trust for us. That's a concession I'm already making in the letter.

The plaintiffs here don't want my money. They want an open public trial of what happened to them, and they want the church's money. I believe they're entitled to both.

Jack, that's a relief. (Still, the thought of being an individual defendant in this type of case makes me shudder.)

They want your future contributions, at the expense of your liberty interest and they want the church to pledge your future contributions. The bankruptcy case makes sense to place an outer limit based on what is available for payment today. Were a court more willing to recognize a liberty interest in worshipping with the church or association of your choice, in the future, then the tactic of the bankruptcy proceeding would not have been perceived as necessary.

Your focus should be on the future contributions, and the limits upon any court in their award of damages, and future collection efforts. Tomorrow's collection plate should be free from any award. If your church leaders pledge, voluntarily, to pay more from future collection plates then that is strictly between you and your church.

Application of civil RICO actions against associations, just as against Bill Sizemore, are an abomination to the First Amendment.

Jack, I was wondering what your take is on the vatican setting up holy search squads to ferret out gay priests in seminaries. Do you think they are confusing gay with pedophilia? And throwing this up as a hey look what we're doing to make sure the abuse never happens again.
Jack Danger

I'm too close to this to analyze it rationally. The church's position on gay people mystifies me. Rooting out seminarians on the basis of sexual orientation doesn't seem right -- especially for a group that never rooted out its many sexual predators.

How the church is going to "find" gay people in an organization that is sworn to celibacy is sure to be an interesting process.

I know it's corny, but I pray for the Pope and the Archbishop. I pray that God will speak to them, and that they're not too caught up in the money and the trappings of their offices to listen.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Opting out:

» Jack is Opting out from AboutItAll.com | Oregon
I don’t have any idea what the Salzman family is gonna do. Sadly, though we were not a member of the parish at the time, and our current priest is not the same priest, St. John Fisher *WAS* one of places where a bad guy was. Jack’s le... [Read More]

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