Christine Flowers: Unjustly convicted, priest has a new shot at justice

Daily Times

By Christine Flowers, Delaware County Daily Times
POSTED: 12/26/15

If “A” hurts me, I am his victim and have the right to sue him in a court of law for damages. If what “A” did also amounts to a criminal act, he can be prosecuted and, if found guilty, sentenced to a long prison term.

But this only works if there is a legitimate nexus between what “A” did and the harm I presumably suffered. Even if “A” violated some other legal obligation for which he could be held responsible, I can’t attempt to make him pay for a crime he didn’t commit, the one that caused me pain.

That’s the case even if my injuries are real and easily proven. Because the American criminal justice system doesn’t believe in making one person pay for the crimes of another, no matter how satisfying that would be for the people who were unjustly wronged. We don’t “prosecute by proxy.”

Well, we usually don’t. But when it comes to the Catholic Church, the rules are completely suspended. In the wake of the verifiably horrific allegations of sexual abuse by priests and the equally horrific cover ups by the hierarchy, prosecutors have decided that the public is willing to overlook legal niceties like due process and transparency and want anyone even tangentially connected to the abuse to be punished.

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