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Ethics & Religion
Col. #2,021
May 7, 2020
Should Catholic Priests Be Allowed to Marry?
By Mike McManus

More than 7,000 Catholic priests have been "credibly" accused of molesting more than 20,000 minors from 1950 through 2018, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Virtually none have served prison terms.

What's more, a Bloomberg Businessweek review of court filings by lawyers for churches and victims in the past 15 years shows that the U.S. Catholic Church has shielded $2 billion in assets from abuse victims via bankruptcies.

"The survivors should have gotten that money, and they didn't" says Terry McKiernan, president of

A priest raped a 7-year-old girl while visiting her in the hospital after she had her tonsils removed. Another priest forced a 9-year-old boy into having oral sex, then rinsed out the youngster's mouth with holy water. One boy was forced to say Confession to the priest who sexually abused him.

My question for Catholics is simple: Wouldn't it be better to allow priests to marry?

Why not end priestly celibacy which is an invitation to pedophiles to become Catholic priests who can use the respected cover of priesthood to secretly molest innocent children?

There are NO charges that pastors of Baptist, Methodist or Congregational churches have molested children. Their sexual drive is satisfied by the wives they marry.

More dioceses are filing for bankruptcy now that the rules are changing on how much time a victim has to sue over abuse. Seven states and the District of Columbia passed laws in 2019 that suspend the statute of limitations on civil sex abuse suits. Known as "window statutes" they have become popular.

Window statutes caused churches to declare bankruptcy in San Diego, Wilmington, Del. and cities throughout Minnesota.

After New York State's law went into effect in August, almost 430 sex abuse victims immediately filed lawsuits, mostly against dioceses. The diocese of Rochester, NY declared bankruptcy in September.

In many cases, churches precede bankruptcy by transferring and reclassifying assets. The effect is to shrink the pot of money available to clergy abuse victims. A Bloomberg Businessweek review of court filings by lawyers for churches and victims in the past 15 years shows that the U.S. Catholic Church has shielded more than $2 billion in assets from abuse victims in bankruptcies using these methods.

In the Diocese of Santa Fe, the business managers of 90 parishes in northern New Mexico gathered in 2012 to hear the archdiocese explain how to incorporate their parishes separate from the archdiocese. "We got step-by-step instructions," says Christine Romero then the office manager of St. Anne parish in Santa Fe.

The legal change let the archdiocese assert that each parish was a distinct organization that owned its own property. . At the time, church leaders created the Archdiocese of Santa Fe Real Estate Corp. and began transferring hundreds of properties into it. It allowed the Archdiocese to take about $91 million off its books.

Ms. Romero asked how this would affect the parishes, and was told it would not change day-to-day operations. "It's just to protect us from the pedophile law suits." By incorporating parishes, the archdiocese was able to take $91 million off its books.

James Stang, lawyer for the alleged clergy abuse victims in the bankruptcy, charged that the transfers were made with the intent to "hinder, delay or defraud" the claimants.

Church officials then put $37 million in cash and investments into a Wells Fargo account. Presumably, it will be later used to pay victims.

America's largest bankruptcy settlement is of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 2018 which said it did not own the parishes, the schools or the 10 cemeteries within its territory. "They took a paintbrush and went to every cemetery and painted over the name "Archdiocese of St. Paul Minneapolis," charged Jeff Anderson, a lawyer representing abuse victims.

The Archdiocese claimed to own assets worth less than $50 million, while lawyers for victims said the number was closer to $1.7 billion. The result: some 450 victims got a total of $210 million - an average of $467,000 each! That's a very substantial sum. Some of it came from church assets and some from insurance.

In Milwaukee a similar battle resulted in 350 victims being paid $60,000 each.

Hector Balderas, New Mexico's attorney general, is disturbed about the archdiocese's history of paying off victims and making them sign non-disclosure agreements to stay silent.

Fortunately, the victims finally won significant cash awards.

However, the larger issue is whether the Catholic Church should change its celibacy rule to allow priests to marry. In time, that would end the plague of pedophile priests.


Copyright (c) 2020 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to www.ethicsandreligion.comm. Hit Search for any topic.


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