Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford 3, 2009-09-02Note: See below for a “good-news update” about this case, as well as another update.

Most of us realize that, when we’ve dug ourselves into a hole, the best thing to do is drop the shovel and climb out. Apparently, the archdiocese of Hartford never got the memo on this. With the Roman Catholic Church already having dug itself into the abyss of an international child-abuse scandal, the archdiocese and its attorneys have decided the solution is to keep right on digging. Toward that end they pulled a truly reprehensible stunt, as the Hartford Courant reports in a little nugget near the end of the story (WebCite cached article):

In his cross-examinations, [church lawyer Jack] Sitarz has implied that, since [plaintiff] Doe and his friend never forcefully resisted [Fr] Ferguson’s advances, they may have enjoyed them.

That’s right, folks. In a court of law, no less, an archdiocesan lawyer dared imply that the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of a Roman Catholic priest enjoyed being abused!

I’m almost at a loss for words to use to describe this maneuver. This is truly sick behavior.

Sitarz must, I’m sure — being an attorney — know full well that minors cannot legally consent to any kind of sexual activity, and that “liking” the abuse cannot and never will make it legal, much less moral or acceptable.

Yet he trotted out that old saw anyway — knowing it’s legally pointless.

Once again, I’m left asking: Why oh why, lay Catholics, are you tolerating the self-serving, greedy, manipulative, crafty, hateful, and horrific antics of the robed old men who rule your Church? When you are going to say to them, “Enough! No more!” When are you going to take back your own Church, turn them out, and change it into the organ of humility and compassion your own Jesus Christ himself supposedly taught about? What part of any of this behavior do you find acceptable … and why? If (as I hope) you don’t find it acceptable, why are you tolerating it?

Update 1: The Hartford Courant reports the jury has found the archdiocese of Hartford reckless and negligent in its dealings with Fr Ivan Ferguson, and awarded “Jacob Doe” a million dollars (cached). I’m sure the archdiocese will appeal and continue litigating this case, stalling as long as they can. But at the very least, it’s clear the jury did not buy into the archdiocese’s horrific defense.

Update 2: The archdiocese brought its appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court, asking that the statute of limitations be rolled back so it can’t be held accountable for its actions.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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  • Matthew Doe

    I was the witness that testified at this trial and also an abuse victim of FR Ferguson. Not only did Attorney Sitarz imply that we liked this abuse. He has made that the entire theme of the defense. That because we, as scared ,embarrased ,threatened, and controlled ,little boys didn't and couldn't make him stop hurting us, He wants the Jury to believe its our fault. By putting us through two days of accusations and intimidation on the witness stand the Archdiocese of Hartford has abused us all over again and it hurts. I hope the Jury sees through this and send them a message for all the victims of Abuse. We will not tolerate this!

    • I appreciate you coming here and reporting your horrendous experience at the hands of an archdiocesan lawyer. What I'm wondering is, why the judge allowed Atty Sitarz to mention this. As I understand it, the law does not permit such a defense. So why was he allowed to introduce it? I have to wonder if the judge is Catholic, or if s/he is somehow simply intimidated by the Church or the archdiocese. It wouldn't be the first time that the Church has gotten this kind of "favorable treatment" from the CT judicial system, and I don't expect it will be the last.

      At any rate, I salute you for standing up to the archdiocese. Unfortunately, this places you in the minority among Nutmeg State Catholics, who largely have done nothing about this scandal and continue to stand behind the hierarchy. It's a shame they've thrown their lot in with criminals and justice-obstructors, leaving good folks like you to face the pain of moments like this and the wrath of the Church.

    • Lyla Lexie

      I am so sorry that you had to go through such a horrific experience… I too have gone through something similar. While I can’t say I understand how you feel or what you experienced at the hands of a monster, I do know how gut-wrenchingly painful it is to be forced to relive the worst moments of your assault in front of a jury. I want you to know that many people, myself included, are behind you 100%. We know that the lawyer is a scumbag and a liar who is desperately grasping at straws because he knows his defendant is absolutely guilty.
      You are a strong, amazing, and confident person and I hope you know you are loved and supported.

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