Catholic Church Thinks It Shouldn’t Have To Pay Fines For Abuse Because Of Religious Freedom

By Wendy Gittleson | 11 March 2015
Addicting Info

Cardinal Timothy Dolan allegedly transferred church funds into a separate trust in order to protect them from clergy abuse lawsuits. (Image: AP Photo / Seth Wenig)

For everyone who warned that the Hobby Lobby case, in which the Supreme Court ruled that a retail store can have a religious exemption when it comes to covering birth control, would become a slippery slope – we’re sliding right to the bottom.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee is claiming a similar defense in its sex abuse cases, but only after they tried hiding the money from their victims first.

The accusations against the Milwaukee Archdiocese are particularly horrific. They involve 45 priests who are accused of molesting almost 200 deaf boys.

According to Think Progress, they first sealed the $55 million in funds from bankruptcy by putting it in a trust for cemeteries and mausoleums. They then tried the religious freedom defense. That worked at first, when a court ruled in 2013 that their religious freedom did shield them from paying victims.

On Monday, though, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overruled the first court. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the victims will see the money, though. It will likely be appealed again.

The church is claiming that because the money is in a fund for cemeteries and mausoleums, they won’t be able to fulfill their obligation of servicing dead people if they are forced to pay for the people whose lives they’ve ruined.

Religious freedom became an issue after the archdiocese claimed that it had a Canonical obligation to “properly maintain in perpetuity” the cemeteries and mausoleums funded through the trust. If victims of sex abuse or other creditors are compensated out of these funds, the archdiocese says, “there will be no funds or, at best, insufficient funds, for the perpetual care of the Milwaukee Catholic Cemeteries,” and thus the archdiocese claims that it will be unable to fulfill a religious obligation.

In rejecting this claim that the archdiocese has a religious right to spend the trust’s funds on burial places and only on burial places, the Seventh Circuit offers several reasons why religious freedom cannot trump the rights of the archdiocese’s creditors and those of its clergy’s victims. Perhaps most significantly, the court holds that the archdiocese’s religious liberty claim would fail even under the strictest level of constitutional scrutiny.

Source: Think Progress

The court ruled in a way I think the Supreme Court should have ruled in the Hobby Lobby case. They ruled that churches don’t get to opt out of paying Social Security taxes – that the public’s interest can supersede religious freedom:

Drawing a comparison to a Supreme Court decision holding that religious objectors may not opt out of Social Security taxes, the court notes that federal bankruptcy law, like Social Security, “’serves the public interest by providing a comprehensive … system with a variety of benefits available to all participants’ nationwide.” Just as Social Security “aids those who have reached a certain age or are disabled, the Code aids those who have reached a certain financial condition and who need assistance repaying or recovering a debt.”

The court warns that if this becomes precedent that there’s no telling where it will end. Anyone at anytime can join or create a cult just to “gain economic advantage.” I would argue that the Hobby Lobby ruling could do something very similar. Businesses can use their own religious beliefs, no matter how bizarre, to discriminate or to violate laws.

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39 COMMENTS

  1. Children should be compensated for the suffering they had to bare … If there is no money for monosolium and creamation for us aging populationI still think the Children should be compensated first for the life of hell they had to bare …

    • to bare is to make one naked. So in a way you are correct. These children had to bear the burden of one of the most severe abuses that could ever be inflicted on Any person. A priest is a person. Being a priest does not dispensate him from committing a heinious crime on a child anymore than if he were any other person. The "church" simply does not want to part with its money and therefore takes any action to hide the huge amounts of cash it owns.

  2. IF the "journalist" who wrote this article actually understood the difference between catholicism verses Christianity, you would have never compared Hobby Lobby to the catholic church. I look forward to the day when such journalists are as open-minded as they make themselves out to be to the truth.

    • If the “reader” of this article actually understood the difference between case decision and church denomination, they would not have put on display their woeful inability to understand the succintly written text of this article open forum.
      I look forward to the day when such readers are as capable as they percieve themselves to be to literacy.

  3. It's not unreasonable to expect to find, in any large organization, some Bad Actors- Bad Apples- who cause great harm. Those are bad but not unexpected. What the Roman Catholic Church is willfully ignorant of, is just how EVIL their responses were: rather than removing credibly accused priests from contact with children and referring them to secular law enforcement, and automatically defrocking them upon conviction (what nearly ALL the laity thinks should happen), the hierarchy moves these priests around, crossing national borders if need be, and actively facilitates their preying on new, unsuspecting children.
    The enabling of the child rape is what SHOULD outrage anyone who even sort of cares about children; THAT'S what makes the RCC look so evil.

  4. It's not unreasonable to expect to find, in any large organization, some Bad Actors- Bad Apples- who cause great harm. Those are bad but not unexpected. What the Roman Catholic Church is willfully ignorant of, is just how EVIL their responses were: rather than removing credibly accused priests from contact with children and referring them to secular law enforcement, and automatically defrocking them upon conviction (what nearly ALL the laity thinks should happen), the hierarchy moves these priests around, crossing national borders if need be, and actively facilitates their preying on new, unsuspecting children.

    • We don't know how much this occurred, it's a rumor. It probably did occur but to what extent we don't know. There's a lot of assumptions being made by the general public and a lot of people who hate the RCC and Christianity in general, as I can tell by obvious atheist comments being made, that are salivating and gleefully enjoying this whole thing because they would like to see the fall of not just the RCC but Christianity in general. Pedophilia occurs in all occupations that involve children, nobody says to end public schools because of SOME pedophiles—and yes they've shuffled teachers and staff around too. I've personally witnessed this over the years working in public schools. There are also children and parents of these children who lie too and make false claims trying to sue and get rich. I do not doubt for one moment this is also occurring with the Catholic Church as people come out of the woodwork 20-40 years later once someone starts a claim. This same pattern occurs with politicians and celebrities too–and the timing is always suspect, especially around election time or in the case of judge Cavanaugh. We should NOT believe all victims, people lie when they see a benefit–be it money, politics, or a disdain for the church in general because they're now atheists/converts to some other faith. Not all priests are pedos, we don't know if any Popes knew about this, I do suspect the last Pope Benedict who left early likely knew and was overwhelmed. The general public should not play judge and jury as we do not know the details and it's a he said/she-he said situation and I doubt there's any real proof to be given. I'm sure some cases did occur so don't twist my words, just as there are bad people in schools, the Boyscouts, the medical field, etc. Nobody has called for the end of these organizations. Nobody mentions pedophilia that occurs in Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism (albeit a much smaller group) or other Christian organizations. There's a political bias going on here, it's not PC to criticize non-Christians for "racist" reasons and Catholics/Christians are regularly spat at by the liberal biased media and social media with no repercussions. All the media cares about is a juice story to post so they get ratings.

      • The other professions you speak of don’t claim to be Gods spokesmen…..they don’t set themselves up to be the masters of morality, telling everyone else how to live their lives and threatening their brainwashed followers with the fires of hell if they don’t toe the line they, themselves ignore. The gross hypocrisy is sickening, as is the corruption. Their arrogance is beyond belief
        That is why they should be held to account and the full weight of the law enforced.
        What do you expect from a sect that thinks they can commit any sin and all they have to do is confess and say a few Hail Mary’s to be forgiven? They are evil, depraved men, hiding behind a privilege they do not deserve.

  5. Its revealing to observe selective religious obligation. The notion that the so called ‘faithful’ in their fine wool garments can side step their crimes is…devious. Projecting a type of divinity to out trump common law shows us the unrestrained arrogance they have for all of us.
    Devious arrogance hidden under fine gowns tells us to recall the spiritual term ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’.

  6. If a person makes a vow to join a religious order promising abstinence then all forms of sex are wrong and vows have been broken… PERIOD!
    There is no excuse that is acceptable in any way shape or form!
    This has certainly harmed these children and former children who are now adults MONSTROUSLY emotionally and mentally! It has also harmed every parent most especially the mothers of these children. Compensation needs to be at the bare minimum counseling for the rest of their lives for these affected families!
    How could you ever think this was not breaking vows!

  7. Fine – if that is what they think….Then … WE the real people have the right to delete these lying religions as they tried to delete 'aTHEISTS' when they ruled…!

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