Monday, April 30, 2012

As pre-Dick-ted

Lawyers for clerical sexual abuse victims have begun suing parishes in our Archdiocese under a legal theory previously pointed out by our Bishop Emeritus Richard Sklba. Saturday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports,
"The lawsuit filed in Racine County Circuit Court by [Attorney Jeffrey] Anderson names St. Louis Parish in Caledonia, where now-defrocked priest Daniel Budzynski served from 1984 to 1987. The lawsuit accuses Budzynski of molesting a young altar boy, identified in the lawsuit as John Doe 21, during that time.

"It alleges the parish knew or should have known that Budzynski was a threat, and that it and then-Archbishop Rembert Weakland led parents to believe he was not."
Bishop Sklba's retirement interview in the Milwaukee Catholic Herald [in the print-only portion of the article] included this.
"'I never a assigned anyone secretly. If there was the assurance of the psychologists that there was no way in which this individual is going to offend again, and we thought about and did reassign someone, it was with the trustees knowing the background,' he said."
Trustees refers to the trustees of parishes separately-incorporated under Wisconsin law, "The bishop and vicar-general of each diocese, the pastor of the congregation to be incorporated, together with two laypersons, practical communicants of such congregation (the latter to be chosen from and by the congregation)..." Wisconsin Statutes section 187.09(1). So if there was a duty to disclose that a newly-assigned priest had sexually abused a child, Bishop Sklba says then the Arcdiocese's duty would be to disclose this to the parish trustees. It was the trustees who would then have any duty to disclose this to the parishioners.

Many parishes, including mine, have joined in retaining counsel to protect their interests in the Archbankruptcy. This included contributing to an initial six figure retainer. That representation, however, was explained as involving only the issue of whether the separate incorporation of our parishes protects their assets from liabilities of our Archdiocese. From what Mr. Anderson says in the article, it sounds as if he is pessimistic about "piercing the corporate veil" so he is pursuing failure to disclose as an independent ground of parish liability.

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