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Immunity for the Catholic church

     Sunday's Traverse City Record Eagle quoted a Catholic Bishop--I think he was from the Catholic Diocese of Chicago--calling for immunity for the Catholic Church in the child-abuse scandals.  The Priest suggested that the verdicts and settlements resulting from the priest abuse of children were destroying the Church and punishing innocent parishioners.  He never mentioned the word "responsibility":  a concept that is only mentioned by tort reformers when they are chastising victims with potential contributory fault. 

          We can certainly understand the anger and frustration of ordinary people whose church contributions are being used to pay these settlements and verdicts, and we all could probably identify some settlements that seem too large or too stale.  If we were to ignore the Church's responsibility for enabling some of these serial abusers, immunity for the Church might make sense.

        Nevertheless, eliminating civil liability for these claims would be dreadful public policy.  Any organization that allows access to children in a fiduciary context and then fails to protect them from abuse must be held accountable.  In the instant situation, it is only civil liability that has brought  to the surface the incredible role that the Church hierarchy has frequently played in protecting perpetrators and enabling them to repeatedly abuse children--even through multiple generations.  Immunity is not the answer, and it is a harsh commentary on the state of our public discourse that an ethical figure can ignore the responsibility of his own institution and demand this type of "tort reform" without being shouted down by the public.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262