Bishop claims constitutional freedom to assign pervert priests

Bishop claims constitutional freedom to assign pervert priests

The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Penn., under the infamous Bishop Joseph Adamec, is trying to argue in court that lawsuits by the victims of sex abuse by priests violated the Church’s constiutional freedoms. Specifically, the diocese claims that “Religious communities … have the right not to be hindered by legislation or administrative action on the part of the civil authority in the selection, training, appointment and transfer of their own ministers.”

Sorry, but that argument is so full of holes, it could be mistaken for Swiss cheese. For one thing, it’s been tried in court and shot down already. For another thing, while the Church has the right to administer itself, bishops and other Catholic officials are not above the law and if they are legally negligent or commit crimes themselves, they can be held accountable even if they are engaged in religious activities. By the diocese’s argument, if a priest is rushing to give the Last Rites to a dying man and kills someone with his car because he is speeding, he shouldn’t be held responsible. Uh, uh, that isn’t going to fly.

[Father John D.] Byrnes’ argument is based on the church view that a priest has conferred spiritual powers, and that a bishop alone can decide who meets the standards of that office and what their assignment should be.

Byrnes is the canon lawyer for the diocese. The argument really astounds me in its attempt to twist the Church’s teachings to protect Adamec. So if a bishop is a real meathead and decides that a child-molesting pervert meets his standards, then the rest of us should just lump it and take whatever he shovels out? Is there no external standard by which the bishop can be held accountable?

This one is a slam dunk. I can’t wait for the judge to rule on this one.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli