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