After the scandal the main defence remains silence.
The Hanoski case remains in legal limbo. The interest in this story remains high as my blog readers search for new information and a resolution. How should the Archdiocese of Kingston respond to this case?
by Tom Thorne
I was checking my reader statistics today for the stories featured on this blog. Surprisingly, stories I wrote about the Hanoski case months ago are still getting hits each day. One story has had a total of over 354 readers at last count. Other coverage I have written on this topic average 15 readers per week. Readers seem to be monitoring this blog to see if some new revelation is going to be reported. I can only report, at this time, that the silence is deafening from all the participants involved in this sad affair.
In the 10 June 2012 clergy appointments for the Diocese of Kingston, Father Michael Reed, the priest who allegedly knew details about Hanoski case and failed to report them, remains "on leave". Then when I checked the Kingston diocese web site I find that Father Rene Labelle who was recently arraigned in Kingston civil court for another alleged indiscretion at a Kingston high school, is now at the Diocese Centre. Father Paul Hamilton, the central figure in the Hanoski case is still on the Diocese books. He remains simply without any job and in a limbo now approaching nine years. His notation on the website doesn’t even have him "on leave" anymore.
So where does that leave us? The Hanoski case may have settled for all I know. If it was settled recently and Father Michael Reed is still on leave that means that the settlement made no difference to his current status. I suspect that the legal negotiations continue and each day they go on they cost more and more.
First is the cost to the reputations of all concerned. That is an incalculable cost exasperated by the time this is all taking. Second is the very real dollar cost of all this legal work for plaintiff Joe Hanoski and also for the Diocese of Kingston. If the diocese adequately defends itself, that costs money that comes out of general revenue. That money needs to be accounted for so parishes know the costs associated with legal fees, and keeping priests on administrative leave without performing their normal duties.
Where do those dollars come from? Some may come from practice insurance taken out by the diocese. More likely the insurance is the kind for settling with plaintiffs launching actions against priests. After this situation is resolved that cost will almost certainly rise to prepare for any future charges against priests.
Also the money to pay for insurance initially comes from the parish revenue we all contribute through the collection plate. The money for these diocese legal defences does not fall from heaven. If there is no insurance then the diocese is clearly liable for any and all settlements along with the priests themselves. Since priests rarely have their own money the diocese carries the can. Archbishop Brendan O'Brien needs to transparently report these expenses to the diocese in a financial statement specifically concerning this issue.
The moral turpitude of this type of story ultimately destroys the authority of the church no matter how good the intentions of Archbishops are to stem it with administrative leaves if a priest is accused or charged. It places the clergy on a constant political correct alert about how the priests work with parishioners and their families. The atmosphere of how the faithful feel betrayed certainly alters the way in which the church works with the Catholic and general communities. Young people, already falling way from the church, now have a reason to justify what they already think is irrelevant to their lives.
The optics of this situation, as it drags on for months and years, seems to sit in a state of inertia and staleness. There is no real active management response by the diocese, the Archbishop or the Vatican that can stem the poor public and media relations brought about by these scandals. It seems that the only defence the diocese can offer is a stoney silence or to say that offending priests will be charged and then placed on administrative leave. The other reason is often given that any disclosures may breach privacy concerns.
Stoney silences don't work. Prissy notions of dealing with sex scandals also don’t work. There needs to be an active approach to these human failings that does not respond always with catechism or Papal certainties. Obviously views held by the church in regards to human sexuality need to be rethought not only by clerics but also by Catholic lay people whose views should be taken much more seriously.
The top down view and traditions of celibacy need a complete airing where the start point is not only what is in the history and Catechism of the Catholic Church and Papal and Vatican pronouncements, but how that all works in the real lives of Catholics including the priesthood. Any change of this kind will require a major rethink and revision to remain relevant to contemporary lives whether they are lay or in Holy Orders.
Contemporary Catholics are surrounded by techniques of science that cannot be easily fitted into dogmatic Vatican arguments or pronouncements. Nor can these technical developments be passed over with top down answers or status quo responses. Adult Catholics are certainly capable of a debate that I believe would strengthen the Church.
The truth is the institutional church is dying. Christ, however, is not dying. His principles stand no matter how the foibles of humans play out. The top down institutional Catholic Church is in turmoil. Pyramid structures of control are fragmented by pressures from the layers below. Insular practices of the priesthood and their disciplined top down management control systems are not working. In fact the truth is probably that the pyramidal structure of the church with its Vatican team of know it all managers is irrelevant to the needs each day of many parishes throughout the world.
If the Pope cannot maintain moral persuasion or he is not taken seriously, then the centralized nature of the rules of the church, the catechism, begins to falter. If the authority from this bureaucratic pyramid organizational structure cannot stop priests from sexually molesting their charges then that system doesn't work. Again history teaches that these stresses have always played a part in how the Vatican responds to change. This is not a new phenomenon but in a world of constant change techniques and communications stresses are much more intense than ever before and they will alter the Church despite itself.
© Copyright 2012, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved