If church fol­lows a cor­po­rate model, share­hold­ers must claim their rights

Cape Breton Post - - COMMENT - BY LAWRENCE AND BAR­BARA Lawrence and Bar­bara MacPher­son live in East Bay.

We wish to ad­dress the “an­swers” out­lined in the bul­letin of Saint Mary’s Parish, East Bay, on Jan. 24, con­cern­ing the sex abuse set­tle­ment. Af­ter read­ing the ma­te­rial sev­eral times, we felt we had to write and ex­press our thoughts and feel­ings.

We are mem­bers and sup­port­ers of Saint Mary’s Parish, and there­fore mem­bers and sup­port­ers of the Dio­cese of Antigonish and the Vat­i­can. The dio­cese and the Vat­i­can must de­cide whether they are go­ing to be good cor­po­rate cit­i­zens or good shep­herds.

Pri­mar­ily, with re­gard to abuse cases, the dio­cese sees it­self as a cor­po­rate en­tity. Legally, the dio­cese is the Epis­co­pal Cor­po­ra­tion of the Dio­cese of Antigonish; this be­ing the case, who are the share­hold­ers of this cor­po­ra­tion?

We, the parish­ioners, the fi­nan­cial back­ers, are the share­hold­ers. As such, we should be con­sulted and given a vote on de­ci­sions (par­tic­u­larly fi­nan­cial ones) which af­fect this cor­po­ra­tion. To our knowl­edge, con­sul­ta­tion or votes have never taken place on the set­tle­ment or any other is­sue.

On the ques­tion of parishes hav­ing to pay, the bul­letin states that the dio­cese and the bishop are li­able “even if they had no knowl­edge of or re­spon­si­bil­ity for the crime.” (We are de­lighted to hear the abuse be­ing called a crime for the first time in our mem­ory.) The bish­ops of Canada had knowl­edge of the crimes; the bish­ops are re­spon­si­ble for most of the crim­i­nal in­ci­dents.

Bish­ops knew of abuse but re­peat­edly ig­nored th­ese re­ports and placed abusers in new parishes. In such a case they did not in­form the parish­ioners of the dan­gers this new pas­tor posed to their chil­dren.

Bish­ops are li­able be­cause they did have knowl­edge and were re­spon­si­ble for the priests they em­ployed, su­per­vised and re­as­signed. The pope is re­spon­si­ble be­cause he and his rep­re­sen­ta­tives also chose to ig­nore re­ports of abuse and de­viant sex­ual be­hav­iour in the high­est ech­e­lons of their in­sti­tu­tion, even to the point of pro­mot­ing and re­as­sign­ing priests, bish­ops and car­di­nals.

The le­gal-cor­po­rate ar­gu­ment is now be­ing used to spread the re­spon­si­bil­ity to those who were ig­no­rant of the sit­u­a­tion, to those who sup­ported the parishes fi­nan­cially and spir­i­tu­ally, to those who had no knowl­edge of the crimes, to those whose chil­dren were placed in jeop­ardy, to those who of­ten de­fended the priest when ru­mours and re­ports of abuse were cir­cu­lat­ing.

If the dio­cese and the Vat­i­can wish to use the le­gal-cor­po­rate rules and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for the pur­pose of in­clud­ing the in­no­cent parish­ioners in pay­ing for th­ese crimes of sex­ual abuse, they must now or­ga­nize them­selves as a le­gal-cor­po­rate en­tity and pro­vide pub­lic in­put for the share­hold­ers as ev­ery other pub­lic cor­po­rate en­tity must do.

What is the chal­lenge we face? If the “we” re­ferred to in this ques­tion is the church, then “ad­dress­ing the wrongs of the past, in­cor­po­rat­ing Gospel val­ues in the set- tle­ment,” is com­ing from a spir­i­tual per­spec­tive. It im­plies a re­spon­si­bil­ity to shep­herd the peo­ple.

Sud­denly, the church hi­er­ar­chy is turn­ing away from the le­gal-cor­po­rate stance and be­com­ing a spir­i­tual in­sti­tu­tion.

As we see it, the church must de­cide what it wants to be – le­gal-cor­po­rate, or spir­i­tual shep­herd. It must ad­dress the sins com­mit­ted by the abusers and those who did not ad­dress th­ese crimes at the time they were re­ported.

The church must ad­mit that it did not live up to its le­gal-cor­po­rate re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. More im­por­tant, those re­spon­si­ble ig­nored their spir­i­tual re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as shep­herds of God’s peo­ple.

In spite of th­ese bla­tant, long­stand­ing and dam­ag­ing events, the dio­cese ex­pects us, the parish­ioners, to bear full and com­plete fi­nan­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity for th­ese crimes.

Not once have we heard a priest or a bishop state that he is con­tribut­ing any­thing to the set­tle­ment. We have not been told of any ben­e­fit, such as travel or holi- days, be­ing cur­tailed or di­min­ished. We have not heard one word about sac­ri­fice on the part of those who are at the cen­tre of and re­spon­si­ble for th­ese shame­ful ac­tiv­i­ties.

Does the church hi­er­ar­chy se­ri­ously ex­pect parish­ioners of the dio­cese sim­ply to hand over more money when all the in­vest­ment made over hun­dreds of years is be­ing used to pay for crimes by the very ones who used their po­si­tion within the church to cover up de­spi­ca­ble acts against chil­dren both here and over­seas?

The ex­tent of the cor­rup­tion in the in­sti­tu­tion’s hi­er­ar­chy and ad­min­is­tra­tion is be­com­ing more ev­i­dent with each pass­ing week.

The chal­lenge the church hi­er­ar­chy faces is to live up to the val­ues of the Gospel by com­pletely chang­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the church so it is legally and spir­i­tu­ally re­spon­si­ble for the ac­tions of those hold­ing po­si­tions of au­thor­ity and lead­er­ship.

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