Saturday, 14 April 2012

The Hanoski Case: Can we hope to break the eight years of silence?

The Hanoski case outcome needs transparency to be of any tangible use to Joe Hanoski and to the Catholics in the parishes operated by the Diocese of Kingston.
by Tom Thorne
For the past month I have been attending four useful sessions about sex abuse initiated by Father John Hibbard, of Holy Rosary Parish here in Belleville and supported by the Sisters of Providence. 
The idea is to place the sexual abuse issues into a form that we can examine. The objective is to try to understand this issue and work out ways to deal with it personally and as a parish. These sessions were the result of the Hanoski versus Hamilton legal action now before the courts.
The natural inclination for Catholics is to try to heal when trust in a priest has been compromised as it was by the swift and silent removal of Holy Rosary’s last pastor Father Paul Hamilton some eight years ago.
Suffice it to say the four sessions helped refocus in a positive way the negative feelings of betrayal and helplessness that people of the parish feel about this lingering situation. 
No one would speak about a case that is and remains frozen in silence by all concerned. The silence was deafening for eight years so to finally get the issue out into an open session was useful although the issue of what happens when the Hanoski versus Hamilton legal civil case now before the courts goes to settlement or some kind of resolution is still unresolved.
The fact remains that due to the legal advice to retain silence when the case is before the courts the actual outcome of this legal process probably will entail a settlement of some kind and a call for all parties to agree to further silence. 
This will serve the needs of courts, lawyers and any insurance companies making cash settlements on behalf of the Diocese of Kingston. I suspect this will be the case if it hasn’t already happened and as a result no one, the alleged victim, the alleged abuser, or the Diocese of Kingston can say anything about the settlement when it is accepted by all parties. 
That is simply wrong. This case does not just include the plaintiff and the accused priests or the corporate well being of the Diocese of Kingston. It first includes the Holy Rosary Parish and all the other parishes of the diocese. 
The outcome of this case should be public. If guilt is established then it needs to be out in the open. If there is no proof then this needs to stated. If the parties cannot prove their case, but came to a financial settlement that should also be known.
Why is this necessary? Catholics each week contribute money to their parish and by extension provide revenues to support the centralized operations of the diocese. If the diocese makes a settlement, buys insurance for these kinds of claims, then the parishes in the diocese should have a full accounting of the costs of this issue when these cases go to trial or into settlement.
In this situation, Archbishop Brendan O’Brian needs to instruct the diocese lawyers, and likely an insurance company, that he needs transparency about the outcome. If he did this before trial discovery process things would go very differently for this case. The parties may wish to re-examine where they stand if full public disclosure is on the table. It would certainly alter the negotiations for a legal settlement.
The Archbishop needs to ask himself why do legal procedures that impose more silence trump the work of Christ?  If the Diocese works from the first principles of Christ, then truth becomes important. Silence is not an option, only foregiveness, reconciliation and unconditional love should guide decisions.
When you go to a civil legal action you enter a potentially public arena if the case goes to open court. In these type of cases the victim is not the only casualty. The parish also suffers, and everything is up for grabs.
To do less means that the participants cannot move on. If they agree to silence as an element of a legal a settlement everyone involved remains in a limbo state which ultimately tears at the fabric of the Church, the victim, the priests and aids in the work of self deception and more negative behavior from all concerned.
That is why transparency is important after eight years of silence for the Hanoski-Hamilton case. Continued silence ensures that this specific case remains in limbo and does little to resolve sex abuse in the future work of the Church.
© Copyright 2012, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved