The Body of Christ is guilty, your honor

The Body of Christ is guilty, your honor

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati pleaded guilty yesterday. Actually the archdiocese pleaded no contest to charges of failure to report child sexual abuse by priests, resulting in a criminal conviction.

That’s right, I said archdiocese, not archbishop. And who is the archdiocese? Not the archbishop alone, or even the priests, but all Catholic faithful of Cincinnati. They’re all guilty according to the plea.

It is the first criminal conviction of a diocese in this country and it shouldn’t have happened. The men responsible for the crimes should have been convicted not the whole diocese. Who is responsible? Well, who was it that told the lawyers to plead no contest, thus saving his own butt? The SNAP representative quoted in the story gets it right, “Without individuals (admitting guilt), there is no accountability.”

And aside from the shame and the black eye, the archdiocese pays a $10,000 fine and must set up a $3 million fund to compensate victims, although the victims must then agree not to sue the diocese.

  • PMC,

    First, if the Cincinnati D.A.‘s office sought an indictment against the RCAC itself, rather than against individual priests or bishops (who may be deceased), then the Abp. had no choice but to defend or settle the action as brought. Then he could have defended, or at least showed why the DA was wrong in prosecuting the whole Church rather than the individuals responsible. Instead, what he did was stonewall and make excuses and generally gave the appearance that the Church, as a corporate body, was organized to cover up a criminal act.

    Pilarczyk can’t be responsible for the underlying criminal allegations concerning matters that arose before he was on the watch. And I’m not saying he need be. What he should have done is show why the current prosecution is unjust because it went after those who didn’t have any complicity in the crime rather than those who did. Just because the perpetrators are dead doesn’t give the DA the right to shift the blame to the organization to which they belonged, if the organization is not “corporately” responsible.

  • I think the objection here is an ecclesiastic one (i.e., how can you indict the Body of Christ?), rather than a civil/judicial one. The church is the mystical Body of Christ. But the church is also made up of non-mystical, temporal entities that hold property, employ people, run school and hospitals, etc. If a Catholic school or hospital can be liable for malfeasance, why not an archdiocese?

    And that’s precisely my point. We’ve positioned the Church, in the eyes of government and the faithful alike, in such a way in our civil society that it almost always means the bishop and priests and does not include the lay faithful. So it comes down to this: is the Church, the mystical Body of Christ, to be identified like a secular corporation or should it be identified as a religious family.

    Are the children held responsible for the crimes of the father? No.

    I think the archbishop should have fought a definition of the Church as some business entity and instead should have demanded the individuals be held responsible for their actions.

    And yes, he should have litigated and spent the money because it would help to correct a mistaken understanding of the reality of the Church.

    Perhaps admitting fault is the first step to correcting the obvious mistakes of the past.

    Yes, but whose faults? Whose mistakes? Is the Church as a body responsible or were individuals responsible? By letting the Church as a whole take the rap, you are implying that something inherent in the Church was at fault rather than something inherent in actions of individuals. It’s not the Church’s teachings or her canon law that was at fault, but those who clearly violated her teachings.

    As an analogy, do we hold the corporate officers of Enron responsible for their crimes or do we allow the lower-level employees and stockholders to bear some of the responsibility as well?