The butcher’s bill in 730 easy payments of $2

The butcher’s bill in 730 easy payments of $2

In their quest for ever larger settlements (and thus ever larger retainers, since they usually get one-third), lawyers for alleged sex-abuse victims in the Diocese of Spokane, Washington, want to make parishioners pay half of the settlement.

An attorney representing people who allege they were sexually abused by priests says Catholics in Eastern Washington can settle their church’s sex-abuse crisis and bankruptcy for $60 million—half of which he suggests could come from parishioners.

Bishop William Skylstad already has $30 million at his disposal from asset sales, insurance settlements and pledges from Catholic Charities and related organizations.

The remaining $30 million could be raised through what those involved in negotiations are calling the “latte-a-day” plan.

Or we could call it the “buy the lawyer a new BMW” plan, because this is about enriching the lawyers. I guess the lawyers are taking the doctrine of the “corporate” nature of the Body of Christ seriously.

Here’s the plan:

Numbers under the proposed plan might look like this: If just 20,000 of Eastern Washington’s 93,000 Catholics pitched in, the payment would be $2.05 per person per day for two years—less than the cost of a latte. If all 93,000 parishioners pay, the sum would be far less.

The calculation is intended to undercut suggestions that victims are calling for the sale of churches and schools. A small daily sacrifice by fewer than one in four Catholics could end the bankruptcy and resolve this dark chapter in the church’s history, said Michael Pfau, another attorney representing victims.

That’s what this really is: extortion. Either pay up or we’ll take your parishes and schools from you. And while $2 may be chicken feed for fancy-pants lawyers, $60 per month is a hefty chunk of change for most of us, especially the elderly on fixed incomes who make
up a large part of many parishes’ populations.

And this is what it’s come to: Some priests abuse kids, their bishops abet the abuse, and grandma has to choose between keeping her parish and paying for her prescriptions. Nice.

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  • Interesting, what will they do, seize the assets of all those who don’t pay…

    I don’t even know what a latte is since I’m too cheap (actually too broke) to go into a Dunkin’ Donuts or a Starbuck’s.

    I wonder if we “unregister” from our parishes, will we be safe?

    Is it time for the church to go underground again?

    Or is it time to:

    Prepare war, stir up the mighty men. Let all the men of war draw near, let them come up.  Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, “I am a warrior.”
    Joel 3:9-10

    I prefer the latter option.

  • What’s your solution?  The right to sue those who harm us and get money damages if we win, flawed though it is, is the best system we have figured out so far.

    Who abused these people? Some pervert priests. Who abeted the abuse? Some bishops.

    Sue those priests and bishops for all they have. The problem, from the lawyers’ point of view, is that they don’t have much. So they must seek to include someone with deeper pockets.

    Plus I fail to see how big money payouts make up for abuse. Reading the stories of victims who got big settlements, I see how they’re just as unhappy as before, if not worse, because money doesn’t bring happiness and now they feel like they accepted money in payment for sex.

  • Of course, Rick, you’re a lawyer so you have a dog in this race.

    And yes, I am critical of the contingency system and rich lawyers whose primary aim seems to be to get richer, everyone else be damned. I’m critical of the justice system that has created an entitled attitude among people who think that because something bad happened to them they’re entitled to a big payday.

    I don’t think all lawyers are bad. I know some very good ones, some very good Catholics. But there are plenty of bad apples.

    Just look at your last statement: You would put a legal settlement over a person’s faith.

    “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21

  • First of all, the settlements are wholly disproportionate to the financial damages the victims sustained. Second, the culpability of the bishops in most of these cases does not justify holding the dioceses financially accountable. The very notion that 300 or so bishops would uniformly act negligently in these cases is laughable. They acted on the assumption that offenders could be rehabilitated and that the abuse was not generally damaging to the victim.

    By secular standards the bishops acted reasonably in these cases. By the standards of Christian pastors they failed miserably – but that is not a justification for a lawsuit in secular courts.

    The big picture here is that the “rich, evil” Catholic Church is being taken to the cleaners by the trial lawyers.

    For the future, the Church should do exactly what trial lawyers and physicians do to protect themselves from being fleeced by the courts – structure their assets in such a way that they are untouchable by the legal system.

    Anyone who thinks justice is being served here should explain why the public schools cannot be sold off to pay legal settlements against school administrators. The answer quite simply is that the public wouldn’t stand for it. But it’s open season on the Church.

  • I didn’t say you are plaintiff’s lawyer. I said you are a lawyer and as a lawyer you have a vested interest in legal issues. You are the one who jumped to a conclusion. The rest of your assessment of my personality is irrelevant to the topic being discussed. Don’t get in a twist over nothing. We’re just talking.

    Second, organizations are inanimate objects. They cannot supervise, abet, or cause harm. Individuals do. That may not be the legal principle, but that’s part of the problem.

    Justice would be served by the negligent people being held accountable.

    But my question was – – this is the system in our country and we haven’t found a better one; what is the better one you are suggesting?

    I don’t need to have found the cure before diagnosing the disease.

    wildly unrelated statements such as accusing me of putting “a legal settlement over a person’s faith.”

    I read your statement about grandma losing her parish—the place she goes to worship God and receive Him in the sacraments—as saying the practice of her faith is of secondary importance to the cause legal settlements. Am I wrong in my interetation of your words?

  • Second, when you say that an organization cannot cause harm, that’s a nice thought, but contrary to the time honored practices of our legal system.

    Which is what I said. And I also said that this “time-honored practice” is part of the problem.

    … let the Church explain it to its parishioners and then find a way to accommodate the parishioners’ needs.

    There you go again. The “Church”, in the legal sense of which you are speaking, is an inanimate object. A person would have to explain it to the people, the bishop.

    The reality is that it was people, not inanimate objects, who abused the victims and abetted the abusers. And thus it should be persons who pay. The institution only gets involved because it has the deep pockets.

    In fact, that’s the only reason organizations get sued.

  • Oh and pardon me for breaking my own rules about posting twice in a row, but frankly, I don’t really care what poeople think about the way I engage in discourse. The comboxes exhibit exist as a curiousity and a courtesy, they are not a public utility.

    As much as I enjoy having conversations with people who don’t insult me, I couldn’t care less if people who don’t like my style stop contributing.

    This blog exists for me to express myself. That’s it. If and when the day comes that I’m tired of doing that, it all goes away. That’s blogging.

  • Rick on this thread, and Brian on the NFP thread.

    How do we let these guys, who show up out of nowhere get under our skin?

    Perhaps, we should just ignore them?  Dom, don’t let them get to you.

  • Everyone who has ever been sexually abused has suffered untold damage. Yes the law provides a means of compensation for this, however most people who have been abused do not have the bankroll of the Catholic Church, the Vatican,  to go after. There is no monetary amount that can compensate for the pain and suffering the abused go through and bankrupting a church will
    not bring healing. What will bring healing is learning to forgive and making the necessary adjustments to move forward a stronger individual. Lawyers are only lining their pockets at the expense of those who suffer.

  • Is it fair that the poor retired shareholders should suffer?

    As I said above, No it’s not fair.

    If the manager does something wrong let the manager pay. Ditto with bishops.

    Organizations are inanimate objects and do not commit crimes or sin. People do.

    This may not be the law, but it is logic and justice.

    Anger can be justified, but using it as excuse to hurt anyone and everyone because of your pain or outrage is neither Christian nor just.

  • Jay, you asked “How would you feel about being raped as a child from age 11 to 16, at least weekly, by the local priest? And, how do you feel about your complaints about this abuse being scoffed at by two separate cardinals?”

    I would probably feel the way so many young women have felt who have been raped by relatives including their own fathers, step-fathers, uncles and brothers from a very early age. All too often the mother refused to believe that it was happening. They would stick their head in the sand and chose the perpetrator over their own victim child. How much more damaging could it be when it is your own family member who betrays you ? Who is there to turn to then?
    All that we can do now for all the children of abuse is to pray and become aware.

  • For one thing, it’s “Cardinal” Ratzinger. At one time it would have been “Father” or “Archbishop.”

    For another thing, it was not written by him. It was issued by the Vatican in the 1960s.

    Finally, your characterization and interpretation of the document is completely off base. I wrote extensively about it when the story about it broke several years ago. Do a search on my site for it.

    Your anti-Catholic smears are just more bile that I refuse to allow to further pollute my site.