by David Fortwengler
Considered one of the most inane advertising campaigns of all time, the Certs mints famously became a part of American pop culture in the 1960s. Who can forget the two attractive actors arguing over the proper description of the product? One would proclaim “It’s a breath mint!” while the other would retort “It’s a candy mint!” The debate would then be settled by an off camera voice stating the famous tag line “It’s two, two, two mints in one!”
The Roman Catholic Church is now embracing it’s multiple personalities in a way that would put Sybil to shame. As the facts of the hierarchies gross negligence not dealing with sexual predators has emerged with volumes of evidence, like many, I assumed they would act like a church. (I know, ass u me) It is obvious after all these years they will use whatever identity their lawyers advise will help them avoid accountability and keep their secrets secret. An organization that claims the moral high ground, professes to know the ultimate truth, and teaches the values of confession and taking responsibility has no intention of willingly admitting their culpability in any crimes.
The defenses church attorneys have used over the years have included the best religious and secular arguments they can conjure up. The one argument rarely used is “Not Guilty” because, well they are. The schizophrenic business model of the Catholic Church has given them the needed double whammy to fight lawsuits from those pesky rape victims and avoid criminal prosecutions. So, what is the Vatican?
“It’s a religion!” “It’s a country!” “It’s two, two, two defenses in one!”
The Religulous Defense
Isn’t it ironic that a Catholic bishop’s worst nightmare is to be called to testify before a civil court and be required to put his hand on the bible and swear to tell the truth? The most common religious defense is to take advantage of the revered freedom of religion clause our founders wisely and correctly included in our Constitution. They claim the state has no right to interfere with the inner workings of their church because it is protected under the first amendment. To my knowledge, no American was prevented by the government this weekend from worshiping at the church of their choice. Catholic churches, Mosques, Temples, and even the Crystal Cathedral were all open for business, as they should be. Thankfully, most judges understand that freedom of religion doesn’t include the right to employ known sexual predators with immunity.
The “Holy” defense is used more frequently to discredit any critics or fact-finders who document or report on church wrongdoing. The New York Times, SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), plaintiff lawyers, and even the Belgium Police, are accused by church apologists of being anti-Catholics looking to destroy the church. The public relations plan is to portray themselves as victims and martyrs who are under attack. The Vatican will never be confused with the “No Spin Zone.”
State of Denial
Rather than defending any case on it’s merits, church lawyers always prefer secular remedies. When a civil trial is imminent every diocese is well-versed on Chapter Eleven. I am referring to U.S. bankruptcy codes that suspend litigation, not chapter 11 verse 7 from Psalms which says, “For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face.”
When a case is filed against the church, the Pope doesn’t call a theologian or a canon lawyer, they call the best civil defense attorney they can afford who is knowledgeable about statutes of limitations. If you can’t argue the facts you argue the law.
A recent decision by the two-thirds catholic U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to the Vatican when they refused to hear an appeal of a decision in Oregon that allows a case against the Vatican to proceed. In its effort to shield itself from liability, the Vatican will claim that it enjoys sovereign immunity from the U.S. legal system because it is an independent state. Vatican employees will claim civil and criminal immunity as heads of state and government. When it comes to the Catholic Church, is there really a difference between church and state? Only when devising a defense strategy.