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The Church Is Evil
As, I believe, Marion commented on this blog not long ago, it's wise to use the word "evil" sparingly. And I do. These days, I just bring it out for special occasions, like when I read stories about how the Church is lobbying against extending the amount of time victims of child sexual abuse have to pursue justice against their abusers. From Bill Frogameni on Alternet:

Although such legislation isn't meant to apply only to victims of clerical abuse, opposition has overwhelmingly come from the Catholic Church. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops claims not to hold a position on retroactive suits, but bishops' conferences in individual states have lobbied vigorously against them. Last year, a bill proposed by Colorado State Senate President Joan Fitzgerald to extend civil statutes and create a window period was effectively killed after Colorado's bishops hired lobbyists and had letters read in church invoking the fear of bankruptcy and urging congregants to call their representatives. "It was horrific," says Fitzgerald. "They pulled out all the stops ... It seemed amazing to me -- their lack of concern for their flock and their laity."

Fitzgerald, herself Catholic, believes that concerns about unfair suits and Church bankruptcy are red herrings. The real agenda, she thinks, is to insulate Church leaders from further public scrutiny over abuse and cover-ups. Bishops are required by Church law to keep records of scandal secret, so documentation of abuse often remains in files controlled by top diocesan officials. Barbara Blaine, founder of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP), agrees with Fitzgerald that bishops' real fear is having these documents exposed. "More than anything else, they are fixated on avoiding depositions and courtroom testimony where they'll be treated like regular citizens instead of royalty, and where they'll have to explain decades of secrecy and recklessness and corruption," Blaine says.

Retroactive civil action affords a unique opportunity to identify perpetrators who escaped criminal penalties and may still be abusive, says Marci Hamilton, a professor at Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law and author of God vs.The Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law (Cambridge University Press, 2005). "If you don't extend the statute of limitations and you don't create a window, it's just a given you won't know about 90 percent of the perpetrators out there," says Hamilton, who has testified in several states on the constitutionality of retroactive civil windows.

SNAP's Blaine refuses to accept a system that lets child abusers -- and those who protected them -- off the hook. "Many prosecutors are timid and many laws are antiquated," she says, "so [Church] cover-ups will stay covered up unless child sex victims are given a chance to seek justice and expose crimes in court."

Oh yeah, and even the Pope's in on the obstruction of justice!

Posted by aalkon at August 11, 2007 9:15 AM

Comments

Here is my take, if the Pope as a cardinal claimed the catholic church had jurisdiction over piests who commited sexual abuse then he was inciting bishops to break the law. If a church refuses to abide by the laws of the land in which it resides, simply strip any of the rights and privliges that it claims as a religion. Tax it, demand accounting of doations, jil priest for tax evasion, slap tehm with a bill for 250yrs worth of property taxes.

Also if the catholic church did indeed hire lobbyists does that not violate them staying out of politics to qualify as tax benifits??

Posted by: lujlp at August 11, 2007 12:34 AM

I got to stop posting while so tired my spelling just gets worse and worse

Posted by: lujlp at August 11, 2007 12:38 AM

Here is my take(with spell check), if the Pope as a cardinal claimed the catholic church had legal jurisdiction over priests who committed sexual abuse then he was inciting bishops to break the law. If a church refuses to abide by the laws of the land in which it resides, simply strip any of the rights and privileges that it claims as a religion.
Tax it, demand accounting of donations, jail priests for tax evasion, don’t allow any citizen or company to claim donations to the church as deductions on their own taxes, slap them with a bill for 250yrs worth of property taxes.
Also if the catholic church did indeed hire lobbyists does that not violate them staying out of politics to qualify for tax benefits??

Posted by: lujlp at August 11, 2007 12:41 AM

Also Amy before I forget, here in Phoenix your colum is found in the New Times, and while I can always find it on their website, your colum never seems to show up in the print edition

I send in half a dozen complints about it a month, but you might want to check it out yourself

Posted by: lujlp at August 11, 2007 12:44 AM

I'm on most of the New Times sites, except where I was already running in a paper...if enough people ask for it in the print editions, they might run it there, too. If anybody wants to see my column where you live, either ask the features editor of the daily or the editor and publisher of the alt weekly.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 11, 2007 12:52 AM

> my spelling just gets
> worse and worse

I love the way you double down with the fucked up punctuation as well. It's how we know it's really you, and it never seems to get the way of understanding what you mean. I envy you that.

Posted by: Crid at August 11, 2007 1:28 AM

Reconcile your position on statutes of limitations in these cases with the demonstrated ability of interrogators to generate false memories.

Crime of any kind by people in the religious profession offends us more only because of their advertised position as arbiters of morality. They are not subject, logically, to any variation in the observation of their rights or duties to the public. We already see that men are regarded as rapists and pedophiles by many because of the reporting environment, which rewards salacious material and claims immunity from the consequences of the reporter's mistake.

Posted by: Radwaste at August 11, 2007 8:09 AM

Because some generate false memories doesn't mean others don't have a case. Your logic is remiscent of those who'd ban drinking for all because some drive drunk, or who'd ban nudity from TV because children might see it.

When there's injustice, or prejudice, debunk it, as I do on my blog pretty regularly and as I did in Diddle He Or Didn't He:

http://www.advicegoddess.com/ag-column-archives/2007/05/diddle_he_or_di.html

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 11, 2007 10:20 AM

This reminds me of a joke about the Catholic Church: it's pro-life before birth and fair game afterwards.

Ahem.

Posted by: Rebecca at August 11, 2007 12:54 PM

"Because some generate false memories doesn't mean others don't have a case."

Of course, and at no time have I suggested they do not. I am not sure where you got the reasoning behind the next sentence, because I did not propose special treatment for anyone, nor enhanced penalties. I back consistent legal practices, including lawmaking, because activists want to punish someone in particular without regard for any consequences. This does not exclude justice in any way; it guarantees it in the faces of those who would seek vengeance in their case, never mind the effect on legal precedent.

Posted by: Radwaste at August 11, 2007 7:53 PM

"Also if the catholic church did indeed hire lobbyists does that not violate them staying out of politics to qualify for tax benefits?"

You can check for the rules on tax-exempt status on the IRS Web site. Basically, a regulation is violated by any non-profit which devotes a "substantial" amount of its resources to political activity. It applies only to that entity, as well. The Catholic church in your town isn't going to pay because another one hired a lobbyist, regardless of how it benefits. If the lobbyist is a trivial expense, then he's not "substantial" and gets a pass.

Posted by: Radwaste at August 11, 2007 8:00 PM

Hey, I got mentioned in a blog post! Cool.

False memories/herd mentality are concerns with any sort of sexual abuse case alleging activities that occurred in the past. That having been said, the reason that so many of these cases are being brought decades after the fact is that the Church engaged in a massive cover-up at the time. As a Catholic, I consider the coverup to be not only morally reprehensible, but stupid - did no one ever think about what would happen if this came out? Guess not. Given that, while I am happy to have a debate on the length of time that can be given for ANY sexual abuse case to be brought after the fact, the Church should be staying out of the debate altogether.

Some of the people with whom I discuss this reply with, "Oh, if they just let priests get married that would solve all of the problems." It's not as simple as that. Priests aren't paid enough to support families, for one thing, and the concept of their roles does not allow for the Catholic concept of marriage in which one's spouse and children are of predominant importance. It would require a massive re-working of the Church's entire system. That having been said, if the Church had admitted - to itself, if to no one else - decades ago that the sexual abuse cases were a significant problem, and started thinking of ways to deal with them, it might be in a much better position now vis a vis supply and quality of priests. When a significant number of agents of your faith are committing evil in your name - and I think a priest who depends on the respect of the community that his role engenders to be doing things in the name of the Church - and you believe in a world where things happen for a reason, led by an omnipotent deity, it seems (to me) to logically follow that you are being given a sign to change your system. We're not talking about one or two bad apples here.

Is it possible that the Church is being hit with some false accusations here? Sure. I'd be surprised if that weren't happening. But I doubt that any blameless priests are individually being accused of things that they didn't do, which would be my main concern, and I'm guessing that some of the people who were abused had their lives spin so out of control as a result that they're dead long before their time, be it through a dangerous motorcycle ride, a drug overdose or just plain old suicide. I just can't get up in arms at the idea that three of the 80 cases against a given priest may be based on false memories. Do I think that the legal system should just wave those cases by? No, no, no - but I think it's the role of the legal system to try to weed them out, rather than that of the Church to stop them from happening.

Posted by: marion at August 12, 2007 9:09 AM

Marion says:

"But I doubt that any blameless priests are individually being accused of things that they didn't do, which would be my main concern . . ."

Blameless priests have indeed been accused of things they didn't do. The case of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, Archbishop of Chicago until his death in (if I remember right) 1996, comes to mind immediately. I have no doubt that there are others.

Posted by: Larry McKenna at August 13, 2007 7:31 AM

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