Catholic Church’s Internal Rifts Compound as One Diocese Sues Another
The San Bernardino diocese filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Boston archdiocese, alleging "misrepresentations and suppression of information" as well as "active misconduct and negligence" in recommending the 1990 transfer of Reverend Paul Shanley despite his history of pedophilia, reported the Los Angeles Times. The case—which seeks Boston’s full responsibility in paying damages resulting from a lawsuit brought by one of Shanley’s alleged victims, Kevin English—marks the Catholic church’s first internal legal battle. Arguing that Shanley would never have been accepted had the truth been told, San Bernardino spokesman Father Howard Lincoln insisted, “We should not have to pay for Boston’s mistake,” according to the LA Times. The lawsuit highlights a growing trend where severe internal rifts are now plaguing the once-unified church. Former priest A.W. Richard Sipe told the Washington Post, “it’s a major shift, a whole new form of self-defense in which the niceties of a gentleman’s agreement between diocese has been dropped.”
Earlier this week, Bishop Richard Lennon, the interim head of the embattled Boston Archdiocese, rejected donations from the Catholic lay group Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) and barred Catholic Charities from accepting the funds. However, the struggling Catholic Charities may reject the bishop’s order and accept the group’s $35,000 contribution. Vice chair Peter G. Meade told the Boston Globe Lennon’s move was a grave mistake, "The board's position has been very clear--we are continuing a hundred-year-long position of accepting money from those who contribute, and it would be profoundly sad if we had to revisit this issue... This isn't about power or politics, but about feeding the hungry and clothing the naked."
Meanwhile, in California where state statute of limitations on civil sexual lawsuits were lifted for one year in January, 50 cases have been filed and attorneys pledge that hundreds more may follow. Failing attempts at mediation, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles—claiming First Amendment rights—continues to oppose full public disclosure of church documents. However, plaintiffs’ attorneys say the tactic is meant to hinder prosecution.
A decision by the Los Angeles County Superior Court is expected later this week, according to the New York Times.
Media Resources: NY Times 4/2/03, 4/3/03; Washington Post 4/3/03; LA Times 4/2/03; Christian Science Monitor 4/3/03; Feminist Daily News