Catholics in Washington (DC) challenge law empowering abuse survivors

Graffiti on a wall in Lisbon depicting a priest chasing two children, denouncing the child abuse scandal that rocked the catholic church

A couple of weeks ago I was writing about how the Southern Baptist Convention had decided that it was a good look to pile into a sexual abuse case in KY that was nothing to directly do with them on the side of the abusers and against the victims.

Why did they do that?

Well, because if it went their way then it would set a precedent that would protect them financially.

Guess who else is playing a similar legal card?

Oh OK, my title gives it away of course, so let’s get into that by starting with a bit of background.

Catholic Abuse

What I probably don’t need to brief you on is the scale of the abuse, but as a brief reminder, let’s go there anyway. It has been global, endemic, and deeply shocking for many. Listen to some Catholic apologists and you might become convinced that it was simply a few bad priests. The rather glaring flaw that completely destroys that claim has been the church policy of protecting the abusers, and keeping it all secret. Telling abusing priests to go say a few Hail Mary’s, and then moving them to a new parish to start all over again, was not in any way handling the problem.

The issue has now been revealed to so vast that there are numerous Wikipedia pages documenting it all. For example there is …

The scale and complexity of the interlinked Wikipedia pages themselves is just jaw dropping.

In other words, the abuse happened on such a vast scale that they have more or less industrialised sexual abuse.

Some might argue that a few abused the system. No, please pause that thought. They did not abuse the system, instead the system itself was excessively abusive decade after decade, and perhaps even century after century.

OK, so what’s the story here, why am I flagging up stuff that is old news?

The answer is that there is new news.

The Maryland Child Victims Act

A more specific bit of background here is that roughly a month ago the Maryland Child Victims Act was passed into law on Oct 1. That eliminated all statutes of limitations for civil lawsuits regarding child sex abuse in Maryland. This was the initiative of a legislator named C.T. Wilson. For him this is deeply personal. As a child of 8 he was raped many many times for years, and it took him almost 30 years to be able to speak out about it.

You can find his harrowing story here.

Knowing that this law was coming, the response of the Archdiocese of Baltimore was to preemptively file for bankruptcy a couple of days prior to the law being enacted. That move will shift all claims to a bankruptcy court, where they hope for a permanent end date. What it also stops is the ability of the abused to have their day in court and prevents them from throwing a public spotlight on the abuse they endured.

We have an insight into the financial motivation here …

According to the bankruptcy filing, the archdiocese has assets estimated to be between $100 million and $500 million. It estimates the number of its creditors to be 1,000 to 5,000 and its liabilities to be from $500 million to $1 billion.

Baltimore is the 36th U.S. Catholic diocese or religious order to file for such protection since the Catholic clergy sex abuse crisis exploded into public view in the early 2000s. Baltimore will be the sixth diocese to file in 2023.

What is rather clear is that the new law that removes all statutes of limitations for civil lawsuits will have devastating financial consequences.

To put that another way, they enabled clerics to fuck kids, and now this law enables those kids who have now grown up with that dark shadow looming in their past to fuck the institution that enabled and protected the abusers where it will really hurt – financially.

Declaring bankruptcy is not the only legal play the institution has.

The Archdiocese of Washington has now challenged the new law

Their argument in court, as explained here within a Nov 15 article in the Washington Post is this …

Late Monday, the archdiocese also filed motions to dismiss the cases on the grounds that the new law violates the Maryland Constitution’s provisions on due process by allowing previously barred claims to be revived.

“The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington is asserting its legal defenses in the cases filed against it,” the archdiocese said in a statement.

However, when the new Maryland act was drafted, those doing so anticipated challenges exactly like this one. To handle such push back they also included clauses that would ensure any ruling by a lower court that rejected the law’s constitutionality would be fast-tracked directly to the Maryland Supreme Court.

Maryland Attorney General Anthony G. Brown (D) is quoted as follows …

“As I advised the General Assembly during the 2023 session, I can, in good faith, defend the constitutionality of the Child Victims Act, pursuant to the authorities and opportunities presented under Maryland law, and will do so,”

In essence, the Catholic Church know that they now face dire financial consequences and so they have opened up two distinct avenues in an attempt to defend themselves …

  • The Bankruptcy strategy
  • Constitutional challenges to any legislation that opens the door to them being held libel in civil cases.

Neither approach is ethical, nor founded upon any human empathy or compassion. Both legal strategies strive to protect deeply vile sexual abusers along with the institution that protected and enabled them for decades.

The counter argument being made by the church is the law strips the archdiocese of immunity that the General Assembly granted it six years ago.

This attempt to defend the indefensible is also highlighted and underlined by a report that was released the same day the legislation passed …

The Child Victims Act passed by an overwhelming 175-5 vote in the General Assembly and was signed into law by Gov. Wes Moore (D) on the same day a highly anticipated report by the attorney general became public. That report detailed sexual abuse and “physical torture” by more than 150 clergy members in the Archdiocese of Baltimore from the mid-1940s to 2002. Many of those perpetrators had already been known to the public, and no criminal charges resulted from the report.

The horrifying detail revealed by that report includes …

“Tests of torture” that involved chaining and whipping teenagers. Two sisters abused as grade-schoolers “hundreds of times” by one priest. A deacon who admitted to molesting more than 100 minors over three decades. Clergy who preyed on children they met recovering at hospitals.

What can one say when faced that except perhaps “Jesus” … and to be clear that’s an expletive, not a prayer.

The report itself can be found here – 456 pages.

Last Thought

The organization that claims a direct line to God and presents itself as the ultimate moral authority has revealed itself to be morally bankrupt. Hopefully they will also soon reap their well-earned reward and be held accountable.

The church should now also perhaps advise that contributors make out their checks directly to the lawyers who are fighting to coverup the widespread sexual abuse of children by their pedophile priests.

Oh, and as a passing shot to our Right-Wing “friends” who often plead a deep desire to protect kids, no drag artists were involved.

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