Priest-child sex -- the child's "misconduct"?
The Monday night recycling ritual always turns up something interesting in the newspapers. I quickly scan the ones I haven't gotten to all week long, before I plop them into the yellow bin and put them out for the dedicated waste management boys. (They come by without fail, every Tuesday morning except Christmas.)
This week on my peregrination to the parking strip I belatedly caught a red-hot Sunday column by Steve Duin of The O, who shares my disdain for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland's ongoing bankruptcy maneuvers. Like me, Duin is flabbergasted that the church would try to avoid paying full compensation to the many victims of priestly sexual abuse, many of whom were victimized when they were children.
The column is mostly about the archbishop's sudden "discovery" that parish real estate is not really the archdiocese's property, but rather being held in a hitherto unpublicized "trust" for the members of the congregation. That's not the most powerful point that Duin makes, however. In the course of leafing through a recent brief prepared by members of the archdiocese's army of bankruptcy lawyers (who have racked up $5 million or $6 million in fees to date), Duin says he found a quotation which, if he's accurately portrayed it, deepens my disgust. He wrote:
That brings us to the most cynical part of the Archdiocese's brief. Even if the First Amendment allowed exceptions to the church autonomy doctrine, the brief insists, that doesn't apply to the abused. Why? Because every claimant asserts that "at the time of their alleged sexual misconduct, they were members of or associated with the Roman Catholic Church, primarily through attendance at a Catholic school and/or parish church." [Emphasis added.]Dear Lord, has it come to this? Now are we to believe that when a priest has sex with a child, it's the child's "sexual misconduct"?
I hope and pray that Steve Duin is misquoting that brief. Because if that's really the position of Archbishop John Vlazny, then our spiritual leader is one sick, sick man.
UPDATE, 12:26 p.m.: Here is the paragraph in question, taken from a brief signed by the archdiocese's lawyers, in Portland and Colorado Springs, and filed on November 7:
C. Even If There Were a Third Party Exception, the Tort Claimants Are Not Third Parties. The TCC has never established that the tort claimants here are third parties or strangers to the Church. Indeed, the evidence is the opposite. After reviewing complaints by 206 sexual misconduct claimants, Margaret Hoffman testifies that "[i]n every single one of these Complaints, the claimants assert that, at the time of their alleged sexual misconduct, they were members of or associated with the Roman Catholic Church, primarily through attendance at a Catholic school and/or parish church within the Archdiocese." Sec. Hoffman Decl. at ¶ 2. This, too, constitutes evidence that was not before the Spokane Court when it articulated a "third party" exception to the Church Autonomy Doctrine that the tort claimants had never impliedly consented to Catholic Church Doctrine or polity.
I've posted the entire brief here.
UPDATE, 11/29, 12:30 p.m.: Hoffmann was misquoted by the other church lawyers. She never said "their." See my followup post here.