On Words and Actions

Vanishing Predators blog

September 19, 2019

By Daniel Carlson

According to Ronald Reagan, the most terrifying words in the English language are: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” Many of us, upon hearing that comment, simply shake our heads for experience has taught us that government involvement often involves endless red tape, wholesale ineptitude, legal hurdles, and a thoroughgoing lack of concern on the part of the bureaucracy in question.

With Reagan’s sardonic remark in mind, it comes as no surprise that survivors of clergy abuse find it equally disheartening when Catholic prelates proclaim: “We’re from the Diocese, and we’re here to help.” Much like the ordeal we citizens must endure in the face of overriding governmental indolence, abuse victims have become accustomed to false promises, deception, and rigid stonewalling by Church hierarchy.

Consider, for example, the recent decision by the Diocese of Rochester, New York, to declare bankruptcy. Facing the potential of huge judgements for claims of past sexual abuse by its clergy, the Diocese (following the lead of nineteen other Catholic dioceses or archdioceses in the United States) decided to reorganize its finances. This decision halts all actions on civil suits already filed, and shifts those matters to the bankruptcy proceedings where release of information about abuse and cover-ups will be restricted.

Not to be outdone, the Archdiocese of New Orleans has gone even further. In its attempt to stymie victims of clergy abuse, its attorneys argue that a case known as the “NOLA No-call” lawsuit should block any litigation involving the Church. In the “No-call” matter, a New Orleans Saints fan sued claiming that the end of an NFL game should be replayed because of a blown call by a referee. The Louisiana Supreme Court, however, found that judges and juries should not second-guess decisions by a professional sports league enforcing its own rules.

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