1328 K Wed 15 May 2002
There has been a lot in the media about financial compensation
for victims of sexual assault by priests.
Should an archdiocese be forced to pay? If there is criminal
activity by a priest is an archbishop responsible?
The Catholic Church is sometimes criticised for making payments.
In his latest Letter From America, Alistair Cooke calls it "hush
... In the now many revelations of paedophilia and the hiding
of it by hush money given by the bishops, ...
If a priest murdered someone then he would go to jail. But
it would not make sense to sue the Archdiocese.
In a discussion on NewsHour, which I saw yesterday, Patrick
Schiltz discussed some U.S. laws about not suing charities:
... In their strongest forms, they say you can't sue a charity;
you can't recover damages. The reasoning behind them is when
you sue the Catholic Church, you are not suing the bishop. You
are essentially suing the people in the pews or the people served
by the Catholic Church, neither of whom had anything whatsoever
to do with the decisions that created the damage here. ...
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
1868. Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility
for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:
- by participating directly and voluntarily in them;
- by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
- by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation
to do so;
- by protecting evil-doers.
1869. Thus sin makes men accomplices of one another
and causes concupiscence, violence, and injustice to reign among
them. Sins give rise to social situations and institutions that
are contrary to the divine goodness. 'Structures of sin' are
the expression and effect of personal sins. They lead their victims
to do evil in their turn. In an analogous sense, they constitute
a 'social sin.'[John Paul II, RP 16.]
However there are responsibilities for those who administer
ecclesiastical goods, in the Code of Canon Law:
1284 §1 All administrators are to perform their duties
with the diligence of a good householder.
§2. Therefore they must:
1. be vigilant that no goods placed in their care in any way
perish or suffer damage; to this end they are, to the extent
necessary, to arrange insurance contracts;
2. ensure that the ownership of ecclesiastical goods is safeguarded
in ways which are valid in civil law;
3. observe the provisions of canon and civil law, and the
stipulations of the founder or donor or lawful authority; they
are to take special care that damage will not be suffered by
the Church through the non-observance of the civil law; ...
So bishops have duties here as well and difficult judgements
Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 15 May 2002. Canon Law extract
from the 1997 Harper Collins translation.