Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I came across this article in connection with a recent brouhaha in Boston.

Up there, an attorney who has represented numerous complainants and allegators in that Archdiocese’s still-sputtering priest-sex-abuse matters, announced last week that he would publish a list of 120 or so priests from that area against whom he has obtained cash judgments from the Archdiocese in the course of the past decade or more.

He published the list the next day.

The relevant newspaper articles are here and here and here.

As always, it’s interesting to read the Reader Comments as well as the article. In this case they seem to run significantly against the attorney’s action, raising some refreshingly acute questions as to his motives and wondering if he’ll soon be publishing a list of those priests originally accused but then exonerated. Nor can it be assumed that such Readers took their cue from the newspaper (the ‘Boston Globe’) itself; that paper has always provided a far too uncritical home to this mutant subtype of the overall Sex Offense Mania.

The paper then published an actual Letter to the Editor a couple of days later. It congratulates the attorney: publishing such lists will “likely prevent future sexual abuse against children, support the healing of victims, and hold accountable those who have committed these sexual crimes”. All very classical as these things go.

Except that “likely” is a thin basis for grounding such a massive perversion of legal principles as has been seen in the sordid and lethal career of the Mania Regime(s).

And you have to have – legally speaking – a proven crime before you can have a victim; or at least before you can have a ‘proven’ victim; this is a complexity that to the Mania cadres is simply an instance of thinking-too-much. If a person claims to be a victim, then they cannot be questioned and a perp must be found and punished. A victim requires a crime, a crime requires a perpetrator, and a perpetrator must not only be punished but – while we’re at it – prevented as well.

Nor is it altogether certain just how ‘healing’ is helped in any substantial way. The terms ‘healing’ and ‘closure’ – respectable English words – actually seem to resemble ‘recovered memory’: perfectly acceptable and grammatical words that have somehow been made to carry the burden of rather dubious concepts. ‘Healing’ in Victimology shades perilously close to ‘vengeance’ and ‘revenge’, which if they are going to be classed as healing medicines, must also be acknowledged as having highly toxic side-effects, and perhaps they are more toxic in their side-effects than they are medicinal in their hoped-for primary effect.

All of which doesn’t excuse the fact that in the vast majority of these civil abuse cases it has yet to be established that the allegators’ stories were actually true.

This Letter to the Editor also references, while we’re on the subject, the recent dust-up over a decade-old confidential letter sent from the Papal representative in Ireland to the Irish bishops. Bishops have to be careful to follow all the canon-law regulations when pursuing Church disciplinary actions against alleged abusive priests, the Papal representative said; otherwise if the accused priest appeals his case to Rome, as is his right in canon law, then Rome might find any existing canon-law irregularities in the local bishop’s handling of the case and be forced to overrule the local bishop. Which could prove “embarrassing” – meaning that it would be embarrassing to the local bishop if he were overruled by Rome because he did not follow the law (canon) when dealing with the accused priest.

Which is all pretty solid organizational thinking.

It is a sign of the lack of competence and/or integrity of so much of the Mania Regime thinking, and perhaps also a sign of how desperate the profiteers of this hugely lucrative industry are becoming, that such a letter is being made the basis of claims that the Vatican somehow was urging local bishops not to report abusers to the police in order to avoid the aforementioned “embarrassment”.

The confidential letter from the Papal representative is pretty much the same as a letter sent from the Supreme Court to subordinate courts advising judges to make sure they follow the proper procedures at their level so that if an appeal gets up to the highest level it won’t be demonstrably deficient in law, such that the Supreme Court will have to create the double embarrassment of overruling a subordinate court and turning someone loose on a technicality.

But to the American Mania the entire point of view of the Vatican letter is lost. And that is hugely revealing in itself. Once a Victim has declared some priest an abuser, then to the Maniacal mind the matter is settled. It remains only to get the bum thrown out of town with as little time as possible wasted on legal ‘technicalities’ and ‘niceties’ (you get to thinking, reading these Mania types, that you are not very far at all from the pitchfork-and-torch days of a less progressive age of Western history).

Indeed, especially since the Vatican is proving far more faithful to the principles of its canon law than the US Supreme Court and many subordinate courts have proven faithful to the principles of American and Western Law, the Maniacs are whipped into even more of a frenzy. Apparently convinced that principles are merely pretexts for ‘oppression’ (and where oh where did they – and the American law schools – get THAT idea?) then if you stand up for principles you must be an oppressor yourself, or in this case an ‘abuser’, or at least an abuse-enabler. Or at the very least ‘insensitive’. But why quibble and think too much? The Victim (it is a disrespect to preface that with ‘alleged’) has spoken; so – as the old Third Reich newsreels used to intone (threateningly): Mehr als dies braucht ihr nicht zu wissen! (More than this you do NOT need to know!)

Further thoughts in this regard are treated in the primary piece I mentioned in the first sentence.

It is a sworn declaration filed by a Los Angeles attorney who for many years has been working on defending priests from this type of allegations.

He does not go into the specifics of any case but rather gives an overview of the general state of this phenomenon as it applies to court proceedings (civil, more than criminal – of which there have been so few cases, curiously enough).

In many of these civil settlements the accused priest was not even named as a Party Defendant and everything took place between the bishop’s staff and attorneys and the attorneys representing the allegators. And thus the image of a court-room trial (such as they are in sex-offense cases in the Mania Regime) with a Defendant being confronted with witnesses or alleged victims, evidence presented and weighed, attorneys for both sides putting it all out there for the jury … none of that has happened in the huge majority of these ‘cases’.

The civil attorneys shrewdly sued the Archdiocese and it was that organizational entity (which also had the deep pockets) and not any individual priest (probably not so deep pockets) that did the dealing with the litigant attorneys.

Hence it is not accurate to say that the priests in the civil-settlement cases – which means the vast vast majority of them – have actually been ‘proven’ to have done anything at all. (I am NOT claiming or implying that no abuse took place; I am saying that very few cases have actually been examined in a trial – to the extent, alas, that a trial in these times of Mania can be expected to seek truth objectively and impartially.)

You can make a good case that the individual priests were, in a legal and not simply figurative sense, sold down the river by their organization, i.e. the specific diocese or archdiocese being sued: the diocese was sued (not the priest), and in order to minimize its losses in attorney fees and settlements, the diocese chose to do the horse-trading with the allegators’ attorneys that are the stock-in-trade of civil litigation practice. Curiously, in very few instances did the local prosecutors think that an individual case would survive a trial.

But somehow the spin has been put on things that if the priest was named in a settlement (Xmillion dollars to so-and-so for an allegation made about Father B) then Father B was clearly ‘guilty’ of the allegation, and had been proven to be so ‘in court’. Which ain’t necessarily so at all.

In his sworn statement as an attorney and officer of the court (and with some experience in these types of cases), Attorney Donald Steier affirms that one retired FBI agent who has worked on the cases figures that half of them are “either entirely false or so greatly exaggerated that the truth would not have supported a prosecutable claim for childhood sexual abuse”.

Steier further recounts – again in a sworn statement – instances where priests voluntarily took lie detector tests – which they passed, while allegators consistently refused to take such tests; cases where basic facts in the allegations were proven to be utterly untrue by the discovery of further evidence; allegators who did not recall abuse until discovering that somebody they knew had received sizable financial payouts for their allegations (this was a major dynamic in the Shanley case in Boston); stories presented by allegators changing significantly over time; the inevitable ‘repressed memories’.

He also observes that the requisite Certificate of Merit required by California civil law in Clergy Abuse cases has, in almost all of the recorded 700 civil cases in the State, been issued by the same single licensed mental health practitioner. A doctor with a similar track-record in dispensing Scheduled drugs would be on a DEA watchlist.

But I think what is most significant is this attorney’s insider-opinion on such ‘advocacy’ groups as S.N.A.P. (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests). On the basis of his experience and observation, Steier concludes that this outfit is actually working hand-in-glove with the major Clergy-Abuse civil lawyers and providing, under cover of Victim Assistance, all sorts of queasy grease for the skids of abuse-allegations.

They provide on their website interactive Forum and Message-Boards in which individuals (anybody, actually) can share their ‘story’ in as much detail as they wish. Conventional and Correct wisdom asserts that this helps ‘healing’, ‘closure’, and the karmic balance generally.

BUT what it also actually constitutes is an easily-accessible database for a person looking to make an allegation and seeking to avoid gross errors (claiming that Father drove them somewhere in his SUV when the man has never had a license and hates autos, say) and perhaps even hoping to burnish the story by adding a few already-known (such as the term applies in these matters) details (he likes Classical music but only up to the Baroque period, he has a stuffed muskellunge on his living room wall over the zebra-striped sofa).

Having done such homework, with or without the help of an advocate, the allegator may then present him/herself to a suitably disposed attorney – perhaps advertised or mentioned on the group’s site – who with a straight face can take all these ‘facts’ down or – out of the milk of human kindness – suggest to an otherwise uninformed allegator that s/he visit the site for ‘support, care, and concern’ and then, having thought things over, come back in a couple of days. That sort of thing.

Steier actually uses the term “blueprint”, suggesting that the site just happens to provide all the necessary assistance to drawing one up.

He also notes – again under oath – that enterprising law enforcement personnel (and I am not suggesting that this includes all law enforcement personnel) troll the site looking for new ‘victims’ within their particular jurisdiction.

The gentleman who put Steier’s Declaration up on his site notes that S.N.A.P. issued a “hasty press statement” that simply abused (my term) Steier and called his sensitivity and integrity into question, without bothering (or daring) to refute any of his actual assertions (made, as I have said, under oath) and claiming that since Steier has been employed by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in some cases, then he is simply a paid shill and not to be trusted.

But most damaging of all, this gentleman adds that he has been personally rebuffed by S.N.A.P.’s national office when he asked how much of its budget comes from ‘contributions’ from the selfsame noted Clergy Abuse allegator attorneys or their firms.

And this raises the ugly matter of – not to put too fine a point on it – kickbacks. You might want to put a more charitable term to it, such as Referral Fee (although that is usually a sum paid by one attorney to another attorney who referred the client) or perhaps Finder’s Fee – although that too is a bit of a stretch.

Kickback, I think, does nicely under the circumstances.

The advice is to “stay tuned” and I can hardly disagree. My immediately previous Post noted that the Ph.D. candidate who had researched the subject in the Boston area had concluded by mentioning at the very end of the Dissertation that more serious and objective study of the Boston clergy-abuse cases would probably reveal more than is currently known.

Why mention this matter at all?

First, because it is offensive – a stench in the nostrils of any decent citizen – to see such brazen chicanery practiced on a regular basis AND under the color not only of Law but of ‘sensitivity’.

And secondly because it is lethally dangerous to the integrity of the judicial system and to the integrity of every professional from the several fields (attorneys, prosecutors, law enforcement, mental health, and judicial personnel) and, ultimately, to the integrity of the Law itself.

And lastly because it may very probably be undermining – through gross exaggeration and even untruth – the credibility of a religious organization that has played a major role not only in the formation of Western civilization but also in seeing that civilization through some mighty tough times (don’t think you have problems until you imagine daily life in the Dark Ages).

And because of the fact that American society and culture is now declining from its once-fabled culture of Super-Abundance and sassy, unthinking self-confidence and indeed is regressing to a culture of Scarcity and Troubles from which it shall not soon emerge. The strength and Help that didn’t seem necessary in the bright, sunny noon of the nation’s history may be desperately needed as the evening shadows begin to fall, and the darkness returns.

As best I can see, the Church – and she wasn’t alone – did not take a strong enough position decades ago in the matter of abuse. That has since been corrected in large part (very very few new cases have been reported and most of the incidents in the news are decades old).

And the President himself, preferring not to look ‘back’ at who tortured whom and when and on whose orders and authority, seeks to move forward and look ahead rather than back.

I am not making a facile equation between torture and abuse (feel free to compute your own calculations on that) but I think that if he believes – as he seems to – that all things considered the US government has enough to do without going down the dark ‘back’ road, then the clergy-abuse cases, which are far far more dubiously grounded than the reports and claims of torture, should also be put behind us.

We are approaching a time when the Church’s work may (once again) be as important, and perhaps more useful and effective, than the government’s.

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