Here’s an interesting case: A San Francisco priest is being sued by a woman who says he abused her when she was 8. The diocesan review board says the allegations are “inconclusive.” So Archbishop William Levada wants the priest, Fr. Daniel Carter, to resign from his parish, take a six-month sabbatical, and take up an unspecified new assignment after that. Fr. Carter refuses to leave his parish until Levada promises him that his new assignment will be as pastor of a parish.
Carter says his canonical rights are being violated, while Levada says his actions are in line with Vatican-approved Dallas policy. So which is right? Perhaps Fr. Carter is innocent of the charges against him. That would make his removal unjust and disrupt his ministry in the parish for no good reason (although by now it’s well disrupted by this controversy). But if he’s guilty, then it’s only prudent to remove him from his parish and from contact with children. The problem is that we probably will never know. Sure, the civil trial will return a verdict ... maybe. More likely we’ll have a settlement that leaves the question of guilt open-ended.
It looks like this will have to be settled in a Vatican court. But I can see more of these cases popping up in the future and that’s not going to be good for anyone.