Will the Catholic Church ever comprehend the evil that it has done?
Case in point: closing remarks by a lawyer for the Diocese of Burlington, Vermont, in a case involving (surprise) sexual abuse by a priest, Fr. Edward Paquette. Paquette had a long history of abuse in other dioceses that was disclosed to church officials in Vermont when he was transferred.
“An 11-year-old boy should never be molested, particularly by a priest,” church counsel Thomas McCormick said in his closing arguments. “But when the decision was made to take Father Paquette in 1972 — that was 36 years ago — psychologists and psychiatrists thought it could be cured.”
McCormick questioned how a jury could assess the diocese’s actions of the 1970s when its leader at the time, Vermont Catholic Bishop John Marshall, died in 1994.
“Paquette’s not here, Bishop Marshall is dead,” the church lawyer said. “Documents don’t tell you the whole story. We can look back and say (the diocese) made a mistake, but there’s no evidence they acted with bad motive or bad spirit or wrong intention.”
McCormick, saying “I don’t mean to minimize what he went through,” had asked the jury to limit any damages to the plaintiff to no more than $15,000 for a year of therapy.
“Numbers can get huge,” the church lawyer said. “Compensate him fairly if you choose, but not wildly. Don’t punish the diocese today for the decisions made yesterday.”
The jury didn’t buy it. The plaintiff, David Navari, was awarded $192,500 in compensatory damages and $3.4 million in punitive damages.
Bishop Salvatore Matano’s excuse?
“I don’t in any way want to imply that we are above the law, but still, the relationship the bishop has with that priest is a bond created by the sacrament. So how you effectively deal with it is very complex.”
Despite his long rap sheet, Paquette, though stripped of faculties, has never been laicized (and of course, has not been excommunicated).