God, sex and
greed go global
OF COURSE, they went
global long ago, but the reference here is to an article which has just
appeared in the US-based business journal, Forbes Magazine under
& Greed. Written
by journalist Daniel Lyons, it focuses on the
quite extraordinary financial dimensions of the sexual allegations
currently being made against the Catholic Church in the United States.
Some of these claims possibly the majority of the early claims are
genuine. Others, including a number based on bizarre recovered memories,
are apparently false.
There can be no doubt at all that the
church has greatly exacerbated its own predicament by adopting policies of
concealment and denial towards some entirely genuine cases where priests
have sexually exploited the young people whose spiritual welfare had been
entrusted to their care. On far too many occasions the church has sought
to suppress the facts. Out of naivety or moral dishonesty or both, it
appears to have created situations in some dioceses where known sexual
offenders were given new opportunities to re-offend rather than being
The folly and dishonesty of the policies which have
been adopted by the Church in the past, however, cannot and should not be
allowed to disguise the fact that the Church has now been demonised. The
process of demonisation has inevitably made it into a target for a
growing number of allegations.
Naive onlookers may assume that all these claims are
being made spontaneously. In fact, however, a significant proportion are
being generated by lawyers who have discovered that sexual allegations
have suddenly given them access to the deep pockets of the Catholic church
and who are actively encouraging potential clients to make new complaints.
The pattern which has resulted, in which a core of
genuine complaints has come to be surrounded by a penumbra of false
(3), many of them led by lawyers and financially driven, is one
which will be familiar to anyone who has some knowledge of the growth of
care home allegations in Britain.
In the past, one of the
factors which has protected the United States against the kind of
explosion of retrospective cases we have seen in Britain has been the
statutes of limitation which have effectively outlawed the
majority of late allegations. However, such has been the power of the
moral panic generated in recent years in relation to Catholic priests that
some states are contemplating doing away with these restrictions. Last
year the state of California led the way by suspending its statutes of
limitation for an entire year. In effect it declared an open season for
retrospective allegations of abuse not only against the Catholic church
but against any other institution.
According to Patrick Schiltz, associate dean of the law school at the
University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis,
the current frenzy of allegations stems from a decade-long campaign by
plaintiff lawyers: Its like warfare, he says.
Phase One was for plaintiff lawyers to maximize bad publicity and destroy
the credibility of the Church. Phase Two is to use that publicity to push
for legislative changes. Phase Three will be to collect. The problem, he
says, is that fraudulent claims could get paid off with legitimate ones.
Whos going to doubt them? I worry about the person who was an altar boy
30 years ago, and his life has been a disappointment, and now he realizes
he has a lottery ticket in his pocket.
If we were to reduce what is happening in America simply to its financial
dimensions it would be tempting to conclude that the days chronicled by
Charles Dickens, when Fagin organised a gang of nimble-fingered young boys
who enriched their master by picking the pockets of London gentlemen are
finally over. The modern Fagin, it might seem, is a law-abiding attorney,
resident in the United States, who recruits indiscriminately genuine
victims of sexual abuse alongside deluded adult recipients of therapy and
a significant number of opportunistic perjurers. Their function is not to
fish silk handkerchiefs and gold watches from the pockets of unsuspecting
gentlemen; it is to extract millions of dollars in settlements from
This bare, money-centred
perspective would certainly seem to be the one which is favoured by Daniel
Lyons. Some of these cases, he writes, are
likely to bankrupt some Catholic dioceses, but this legal assault seeks
even deeper pockets: big insurers. Put aside the pious talk about
protecting kids, and the racket boils down to this: Plaintiff lawyers are
going after old insurance policies written decades ago under entirely
analysis is both hard-headed and beguiling. But it is also in some
respects misleading. What it leaves out of account is that, although the
lawyers in question are undoubtedly driven by financial incentives (more
so, perhaps, than they would care to admit to themselves) there is another
even more powerful motivation. These lawyers are not crooks engaged in
what Lyons describes as a racket. They are professionals whose
idealistic zeal to protect children from harm is, in almost all cases,
undoubtedly sincere. Ultimately they are driven by something which is more
powerful than mere money; they are driven by a sense of their own
It is no coincidence that the
most visible victim for the moment of this new American righteousness is
the Catholic church. As Philip Jenkins has argued in his book
The New Anti-Catholicism, the church is particularly vulnerable
because of the deep strain of anti-Catholic prejudice which has always
been a part of American history and prominent in American Puritanism.
But no institution which has had pastoral responsibility for children can
be considered safe. Click on
www.stopmormonsexualabuse.com and you will immediately find
yourself being addressed by lawyers who are already making the assumption
that you are a victim of sexual abuse:
You Are Not Alone.
For years the Mormon Church has been a safe haven for child molesters. It
is time for the Mormon Church to take responsibility for the injuries to
scores of children that its clergy has perpetrated. Attorneys Jeffrey
Anderson, Timothy Kosnoff, and David Slader organized the Victims of
Mormon Sexual Abuse Project to help those victims.
Nor is it only the Catholic
and the Mormon churches which are in the firing line. Have you been
visited by any Jehovahs Witnesses recently? If so then
www.lambsroar.org have some questions for you:
Are you aware of who
may be knocking on your door?
molesters being legally sent to your door?
Are you and your children safe
Have you, or someone you love,
been affected by the policies within the Watchtower organization?
If the answer to the last question is yes, then the time for lambs
to be silent is over. It is time for them to roar. Lawyers are on hand to
help them to do so especially if they live
The reality into which Daniel Lyonss article affords a disquieting
insight is one in which the existence of real sexual abuse has been used
in order to license the unleashing of a traditional crusading mentality.
This in turn has been combined both with militant secularism, and with the
fiercest kind of economic liberalism in order to create a new and
extremely dangerous kind of witch-hunt.
Whether they are
in fact guilty or not, Catholic priests accused of paedophilia are
imagined as belonging to an evil organisation which must be punished,
humiliated and if necessary bankrupted.
Driven as it is not only by ideological zeal and irrational fears but by
the financial acquisitiveness of both plaintiffs and lawyers, this new
secularist witch-hunt seems to be directed principally at churches which
are by their very nature global institutions. Given this fact it seems
quite likely that the modern sexual abuse witch-hunt, which until now has
been most powerful in the English-speaking world and in Scandinavia, is
set to become a global phenomenon.