Will the gavel ever come down on the Hanoski case?
Sex abuse cases are a potential lose-lose for everyone if all you can do is launch a civil court action.
by Tom Thorne, Belleville, Ontario
An earlier statement from the Archdiocese of Kingston in Ontario about the Hanoski case confirms the following: "The Archdiocese of Kingston can confirm that it has been served with a legal action in which allegations are made by Joseph Hanoski. These allegations have not been proven in court. Neither of the priests named in the civil suit is presently involved in parish ministry. Since the legal process is underway, no other information pertaining to the proceeding can be provided at this time. The Archbishop and the Archdiocese request prayers for all concerned."
When Joe Hanoski decided to bring his civil action against Father Paul Hamilton and Father Michael Reed he and his legal council must have realized that by launching this case any proof would be have to be furnished by himself. If proof had been available and clear cut before, this case would have been dealt with long ago so what can have changed?
If there are witnesses to what allegedly happened then someone may emerge who has remained silent for almost eight years. If there are witnesses that never came forward eight years ago and they are prepared to speak now then the civil case makes some sense. If there are no witnesses or new information then it remains simply one person’s word against another.
The most pressing question is the timing of this civil action. Why have almost eight years gone by before the civil case is launched? And why was the case never been on a police blotter and if it ever was in the police hands what happened that nothing was done or that criminal charges never materialized? I am digging further into this part of the story at this time. It is Catholic Church policy from the Vatican in such cases to report them to the police as the Archdiocese of Kingston did recently with allegations raised against Father René Labelle.
It can only be that there is no evidence that can stand up in criminal court. And so the only way for the case to surface is as a civil action which is a weaker alternative. Civil actions have a way of never getting into open court. There will be a discovery meeting and if proof or a way to resolve the issue is not forth coming then a trial could result. It is difficult to ascertain how a settlement that would satisfy Joe Hanoski can be reached. Also if the case is without any obvious merit then the judge can simply dismiss the action.
If there is any substance to the case or the parties simply want to come to terms then settlement will likely be private between the parties as I said before. The silence we have all known for the past eight years will probably continue. Since the case has not had a trial airing, the innuendos and the reputations of all concerned will remain damaged even if they are innocent. Time and more silence does not heal wounds, it simply aggravates the situation.
Let’s presume for a moment that the priests named in this civil action are innocent. Their reputations are sullied for all time unless they can show that innocence in open court or in public. Public opinion at this time is clearly favouring Joe Hanoski as an alleged victim. The public will not assume innocence for the defendants. However, the priests could always counter sue for the damage done to their reputations.
Joe Hanoski is allegedly suing for $3.5 million in damages. Who is on the hook for this money? The defendants of course but also their diocese. The defendants have no real assets, but the Archdiocese of Kingston and their insurance company does. A successful award to Joe Hanoski will be a lot less than $3.5 million in any case. However any dollar settlement is ultimately a cost to all Catholics supporting their parishes throughout the archdiocese.
How much less can the dollars involved be? A small fraction of the $3.5 million would be my guess. Then there are the costs of bringing the action and the costs for the defense . If you lose the case or it is dismissed then the plaintiff pays those court costs and the costs of any legal representation the plaintiff and the defendants may have mounted up.
If the plaintiff wins (and that means proves the case) then the defendants are subject to damages plus costs. The defendants could if proof is obtained in the civil trial also be subject to criminal action.
Joe Hanoski’s lawyer must be quite confident of winning this case to even launch a civil action of this kind. It would be foolhardy to enter into this case after eight years of silence unless there is new information or a way forward for the plaintiff.
Just having your day in court is not enough. Going to court is always risky and going to trial even more so for all concerned. Perhaps all the participants in this exercise have not clearly thought out the implications of their actions.
Hopefully this civil court action can create a situation where justice can prevail. However justice is always blind and the results of this action may satisfy no one and the fallout may remain toxic forever.
© Copyright 2012, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.