Here in Connecticut, legislators are mulling over a proposed bill that would extend the statute of limitations on child-abuse lawsuits. The archdiocese of Hartford, however, interprets this as a direct attack upon them, and they’re fighting back. The Hartford Courant reports on an attempt by Connecticut’s three Roman Catholic hierarchs to get the laity to lobby the legislature on their behalf (WebCite cached article):
A proposal to extend the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases could have a “devastating financial effect” on the state’s Catholic dioceses, Hartford Archbishop Henry J. Mansell wrote to pastors this week, urging them to include a letter opposing the bill in parish bulletins this weekend.
The letter says the bill, now pending in the legislature, would put “all Church institutions, including your parish, at risk,” and warns that it could lead to bankruptcy, threaten the assets of parishes even without a history of abuse, and “would undermine the mission of the Catholic Church in Connecticut.”
“The bottom line is that this is terrible public policy, discriminatory by its nature, and a huge threat to us all,” says the letter, signed by Mansell, Bishop William E. Lori of the Bridgeport diocese, and Bishop Michael R. Cote of Norwich.
The bishops are especially concerned because House bill 5473 — if enacted — would open the door to lawsuits based on the notorious, late Dr George Reardon, who had practiced at the archdiocese-owned St Francis Hospital in Hartford. Although Dr Reardon is long dead, a few years ago a cache of child pornography had been found in a West Hartford home he’d lived in (cached article); the slides and movies had been of children he’d seen in the course of his practice at the hospital, mostly taken on hospital premises. The cache was enormous … 50,000 slides and 100 movies … and Reardon had taken them over the course of a few decades. What makes the hospital — and the archdiocese that runs it — vulnerable to lawsuits is not just that these had been filmed there and during the course of Reardon’s practice, but that they had been put on notice about Reardon’s activities long ago: The Hartford Courant published a comprehensive story of one family’s attempt to get justice done where Reardon was concerned, and that happened in 1970 (cached article). The Hartford County Medical Association also demonstrably knew about Reardon’s predilections, as early as 1970 (see this Courant blog entry, with cached version). But Dr Reardon was not disciplined — either by the hospital or by state authorities — until 1995 … 25 years later! St Francis and the archdiocese clearly bear the burden of having allowed Reardon to prey on his child-patients for those 25 years at the very least (maybe more, if he’d been reported to them prior to 1970).
At any rate, the bishops’ appeal letter reveals their true concern in this case: Money. They are not interested in being held accountable for what they have done, they are not interested in admitting fault, they are not interested in anything, except holding onto as much of their money and assets as they can. Of course, this means they aren’t paying attention to Jesus’ own teachings; Jesus ordered his followers not to be concerned with wealth or possessions, e.g. in the following:
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? (Matthew 16:26a)
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36)
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. (Luke 6:20b)
And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:24-25)
Connecticut’s Catholic bishops, then, are being un-Christian by worrying about money and assets. If they were true Christians they would be willing to give it up — all of it — if needed, and not whine and cry about it.
In any event, this law would not apply only to the Reardon case, but broadly to other similar cases of child abuse, too. So it is not “targeted” solely at the archdiocese of Hartford. The bishops are dishonest when they claim the law “targets” them … because it doesn’t.
Hat tip: Creedible blog.Tags: 5473, archdiocese of hartford, catholic church, child abuse, connecticut, diocese of bridgeport, diocese of norwich, dr george reardon, george reardon, hartford, hartford ct, hb 5473, henry mansell, house bill 5473, michael cote, raised bill 5473, rb 5473, roman catholic, roman catholic church, st francis hospital, west hartford CT, william lori