In Church Lawsuits, High Bar for Conviction ; Diocese Officials - Not Just Priests - Face Growing Threat, but Making a Case Is Hard

By Abraham McLaughlin writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, December 13, 2002 | Go to article overview

In Church Lawsuits, High Bar for Conviction ; Diocese Officials - Not Just Priests - Face Growing Threat, but Making a Case Is Hard


Abraham McLaughlin writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Should the leaders of America's Roman Catholic church be held criminally liable for enabling or abetting the sex abuse by priests that occurred in their parishes and dioceses?

That's the central question behind a growing effort to probe criminal misconduct among top church officals. The moves come amid mounting public pressure for accountability - of the sort imposed on Enron and Arthur Andersen this year, when top leaders or entire organizations were punished for their connections to some employees' misdeeds.

For many legal and cultural reasons, simply indicting top church leaders - let alone convicting them - is difficult. It's complicated by everything from statutes of limitations to ethnic politics.

Still, the legal threats are escalating.

* In Boston, Cardinal Ber-nard Law has reportedly been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury investigating possible criminal misconduct by officials.

* Under threat of indictment on child-engangerment charges, New Hampshire's diocese this week became the first in the nation to admit it may have violated criminal law. It agreed to a settlement with state prosecutors.

* In Phoenix, lawyers for Archbishop Thomas O'Brien have said their client will not testify before a grand jury unless he's given immunity from criminal prosecution - a sign of concern he might be charged with obstructing justice.

In Massachusetts and elsewhere, prosecutors "are under a great deal of pressure" to respond to the scandal, says Richard Bloom, a Boston College law professor. And because they're elected officials, "they are always responsive" to such pressure. Yet while there's growing evidence church leaders were involved in the scandal, he says, prosecutors have a long way to go to prove criminal intent.

'Indifference is not enough'

Indeed, despite many civil lawsuits - and criminal charges against individual priests - no US Catholic leader has been charged with committing a crime related to the scandal.

One reason: The legal bar is very high.

Laws differ in the 50 states, but legal experts say the most logical charges might include: aiding and abetting a crime, conspiracy to commit a crime, reckless endangerment, child endangerment, or obstruction of justice.

Yet in most states, convicting a church official of conspiracy or aiding-and-abetting would require prosecutors to prove that "he had, as his purpose, that the crime would be repeated - that a child would be harmed," says Robert Blakey, a former prosecutor who is now a law professor at Notre Dame in Indiana.

As terrible as church leaders' actions may be, he says, "Indifference is not enough" to convict them. Nor is "indifference plus knowledge" enough. "Intent to harm" must be proven. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

In Church Lawsuits, High Bar for Conviction ; Diocese Officials - Not Just Priests - Face Growing Threat, but Making a Case Is Hard
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.