Church organist fired for decades-old allegation

Church organist fired for decades-old allegation

The Scandal and the US bishops’ reaction to it are leading us to very interesting places when it comes to how we deal with problems as an institution. Here’s an example. Decades ago, some bishops overlooked the sexual abuse of minors by certain priests. In order to make up for that laxity, the bishops have pledged a one-strike policy for misconduct with a minor by any church employee or volunteer. So now, an organist in Waterville, Maine, has been fired because of a claim that she had sex with a minor 35 years ago. Toni Breton was not a church employee at the time and in fact was a volunteer organist. Her family claims that she was dismissed without being allowed to review the evidence against her or even being allowed to participate in the hearing about her. They said, with some justification, that she is being treated like a criminal, even though she has not been convicted of any crime.

(The prosecutor said she cannot be charged because, although the statute of limitations was repealed in 1991, it only applied to charges stemming from alleged abuse occurring six years before the law went into effect, i.e. September 1985.)

So someone can come forward and claim to have been abused by someone 35 years ago and get the person removed from any formal role within the Church based solely on that claim? What kind of evidence could they have had? Was there any physical evidence? Letters, photos, anything? Don’t get me wrong, there may indeed be justification for this removal, but absent any public clarification what kind of message does this send to the average Catholic in the pew?

If I’m a lector or organist or parish council member, must I wait in fear for the day a baseless accusation is made against me? Of course, it’s doubly worse for most priests who are even more vulnerable. A layman could lose his volunteer ministry, but a priest could be suspended from living his vocation.

I know it’s important to “protect the children,” but is that we’re doing here with this kind of zero-tolerance policy? Is this what the Church is about?

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  • Our old DRE, a Dominican Sister with 47 years of service disappeared one day in early 2002.  Poof!  She was gone.

    Someone in IN had accused her of some impropriety 40 years ago.  She was literally BEAMED (Star Trek style) back to IN, and wasn’t heard from again until her accuser withdrew the allegations.

    So, three years or so in purgatory… BAM!  Just like that, for nothing.

    So, nothing new for us in this story.

  • OK, I stand corrected.

    figuratively beamed…?
    practically beamed?
    it was like she was beamed?

    Alpman, thanks for the correction, but you sound like my doctor….

    Do you know what being 40#‘s overweight can do to you?

  • Attila, very funny, and some element of truth there.  Marian apparition, heh.  Just about, yes.  And the idea that we are responsible for the sins of the fathers is wrong.  They are ordained and it’s their vocation to lead.  If they don’t, they will answer to God and no amount of whining on their part will change that.

    However, I don’t find it a problem that laypeople might be held up to a standard if they wish to represent the parish in some way.  I think, for one thing, that lay youth “ministers” who are married and clearly contracepting (let’s not be naive, shall we) are a problem.  I also think clearly gay (and out) musicians ought to find themselves replaced.  Ditto for anyone else deeply compromised and trying to hang onto a “ministry.”  We are a refuge for sinners; we are not a vehicle for their propagation.

    The two last paragraphs are not in conflict.  Use logic.  It’s good for you!

    In a similar vein:  Yes, LaVellette, we are certainly about redemption.  However, we are not about ignoring evil.  Far from it.  Have you never heard of temporal punishment?

  • Michigan Catholic, that comment about the clearly contracepting people was not fair. Some women are really fertile and have ten kids. Some women are not. I’ve been married 18 years and only got pregnant twice.  I’d hate to think that someone is sitting behind me at Mass and thinking “Ah look at that scarlet woman. She’s a contraceptor!”