May 23, 2006

Building Trust

Times Argus

May 23, 2006

Vermont's Catholic Church last week announced it hopes to put certain assets out reach of plaintiffs in sexual abuse lawsuits by placing them into charitable trusts.

In a letter to his 118,000 members, Bishop Salvatore Matano said he felt it necessary to "do everything possible to protect our parishes and the interests of the faithful from unbridled, unjust and terribly unreasonable assault." That statement, he later explained, was not intended to be critical of people who had filed lawsuits against the Church alleging sexual abuse, but rather a reference to "a legal system that sometimes places us in a position where we can't really reach out in justice to all parties."

Frankly, we think the Bishop's explanation is as unsatisfactory as his actions. Coming on the heels of the Church's attempt to remove the presiding judge in the first priest misconduct trial from hearing any of the 19 new lawsuits that have been filed, the attempt to shield its assets does it no credit.

Bishop Matano is rightly concerned about the possible impact of jury awards on the Church's finances and the stability or even the existence of Vermont's 128 parishes. It is an understandable impulse to want to protect them. And it is understandable that the Church would take steps through the court system to ensure it receives a fair hearing in the lawsuits.

Posted by kshaw at May 23, 2006 07:53 AM