Archive for July, 2007

What should happen to Mahony?

In the wake of the record breaking sexual abuse settlement by the R.C. Archdiocese of Los Angeles, many people are calling for the resignation of Cardinal Mahony.

See for example here,  here, here , here ,and here.

When disgraced Archbishop Bernard Law resigned from the Diocese of Boston he was rewarded with a post presiding over the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. Not exactly a stinging reprimand.

It is true that Mahony shouldn’t be allowed to remain in charge in Los Angeles; he has lost whatever credibility and moral authority he had. But as far as I am concerned, Mahony shouldn’t resign: he should face acriminal investigation.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley issued a statement indicating that may be a possibility:.

“Today’s massive civil settlement highlights the institutional moral failure of the archdiocese to supervise predatory priests who operated for years under its jurisdiction…” 

But I am not holding my breath…


When is it okay for a doctor to have sex with their patients?

The Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons is trying to “cure” the “chronic problem” of doctors sexually abusing their patients.

This story  in the London Free Press reports that the College is:

 “…floating an updated set of guidelines for physicians that contains advice on when it’s appropriate for a doctor to be sexually intimate with someone they medically cared for in the past or a member of their patient’s family.”

When is it appropriate for doctors to have sex with their patients? Let me see…how about NEVER!

The doctor-patient relationship has to be one of the most powerful of fiduciary relationships. Patients have to place their complete trust in their physicians. Can there be a more vulernable position to be in?

The article reports that:

“…allegations of sexual abuse by doctors are heard regularly by the college’s disciplinary committee.”

For example:

 A Toronto doctor for fondling and kissing his patient’s breasts and sending her an essay containing  sexual innuendo.

  A Whitby doctor for having sexual relations with a patient and attempting to placate her husband by offering to prescribe him medication.

The statement “First do no harm” is widely attributed to Hippocrates, author of the Hippocratic oath. Perhaps these sexually abusive physicians have never of him?

New Sexual Abuse Compensation Claim Decision from British Columbia

The Supreme Court of British Columbia just released a decision assessing damages for W.B., a victim of sexual abuse by his adopted father J.B.

W.B. was sexually abused by foster siblings when he was 8 years old. When he was 10 he was placed for adoption in the B household where he engaged in sexual relations with his adoptive siblings. When his “adopted” father J.B. learned of the sexual contact, he began to sexually abuse W.B. for more than a year.

W.B. became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and was convicted of armed robbery. The psychologist who testified on W.B.’s behalf stated:

 …this man suffered significant emotional, physical and sexual abuse as a child while in care. It has left a profound mark on him. It has limited his ability to form stable interpersonal   relationships. It has limited his ability to form friendships. He is left in a situation where he has great difficulty trusting other individuals. He suffers from emotional instability with periods of  depression and anxiety. This, in my opinion, is directly related to the abuse and neglect that he suffered as a child. He has strength of character to the extent that he has been able to establish himself in a career and also to be in a stable relationship and to function with a family despite the very real deficits that are present.

It is my opinion he is at risk for further emotional problems in the future. There is a relative emotional instability present that in a stable supportive environment he can deal with. However, should that environment change to any great extent, I believe he would be very vulnerable to developing a Major Depression, which would make it very difficult for him to function in society at the level he currently does. I believe he may benefit from counselling, but only to a limited extent. I believe he would have difficulty in trusting a counsellor and opening up and discussing the very real difficulties he has experience in life. He has in the past been able to discuss this to a certain extent with the psychologist he saw before and he may well be able to do so again in the future . . .

The court was concerned with distinguishing between the effects of the prior abuse and referred to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Blackwater v. Plint, [2005] 3 S.C.R. 3, 48 B.C.L.R. (4th) 1 where McLachlin C.J. stated:

Untangling the different sources of damage and loss may be nigh impossible. Yet the law requires  that it be done, since at law a plaintiff is entitled only to be compensated for loss caused by the  actionable wrong. It is the “essential purpose and most basic principle of tort law” that the plaintiff be placed in the position he or she would have been in had the tort not been committed…

J.B.’s non-pecuniary (emotional pain and suffering) damages were assessed at $60,000.00. The court also awarded him two years of lost income, $50,000.00 for the time he spent in jail.

The full decision is reported at  W.B. v. J.B., [2007] B.C.J. No. 1564.

Can you put a price on Loss of Faith?

This weekend I read William Lobdell’s moving, and very sad, article Test of Faith in the Los Angeles Times.

Lobdell, a committed Christian, chronicles his time as a reporter on the newspaper’s religion beat.  He describes in depressing detail how he investigated allegations of sexual abuse by church leaders of every faith. At first he appears to have been suspicious of victims who came forward with allegations of sexual abuse that were sometimes several decades in the past:

But then I began going over the documents. And interviewing the victims, scores of them. I discovered that the term “sexual abuse” is a euphemism. Most of these children were raped and sodomized by someone they and their family believed was Christ’s representative on Earth. That’s not something an 8-year-old’s mind can process; it forever warps a person’s sexuality and spirituality.

After spending years covering stories about sexual abuse, fraud, and deception by people of faith he finally realized…

My soul, for lack of a better term, had lost faith long ago — probably around the time I stopped going to church. My brain, which had been in denial, had finally caught up.

Clearly, I saw now that belief in God, no matter how grounded, requires at some point a leap of faith. Either you have the gift of faith or you don’t. It’s not a choice. It can’t be willed into existence. And there’s no faking it if you’re honest about the state of your soul.

Many survivors of clergy sexual abuse that I have assisted have told me the biggest loss they suffered, the harm that cannot be healed, is the loss of their faith. I have nothing but admiration for the survivors that I have had the privilege to represent who not only had the strength to come forward to demand accountability from their abusers (and those in authority within the Church who allowed the abuse to continue) but who despite everything they have gone through, still maintain their faith in God, and in their Church.

There has yet to be any reported court decision in North America that has awarded compensation for “loss of faith”. Perhaps it is about time…

Does the Catholic Church attract sexual abusers…or create them?

In the wake of the $660 million settlement for sexual abuse by priests in the RC Archdiocese of Los Angeles I have seen dozens of articles and blogs asking the question of whether the Catholic vow of celibacy plays any part in what seems to be the disproportionate number of Catholic priests accused or convicted of sexual abuse.

I believe that the institutional structure of the Catholic Church provides an opportunity for pedophile priests to attract, groom, manipulate and abuse their victims (see also the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Doe v. Bennett).

I had not considered that there was something about the Roman Catholic Church that might actually contribute to the creation of sexual abusers.

Until I read an article in the American Chronicle by Dr. Richard Cravatts. He suggests that: ” the very process of accepting celibacy and entering the priesthood at an emotionally immature age level predispose priests to conflicting notions about human sexuality…”

Dr. Cravatts quotes Dr. Donna Markham, the president of Southdown Institute in Ontario, Canada. Southdown is a treatment center for Catholic priests with what are referred to as “boundary issues” a euphemism for sexual abusers. Some of the priest sexual abusers that I have sued received treatment (but unfortunately not a “cure”) at Southdown.

  “Many priests entered seminary before they reached mature psychosexual development,” says Markham. “For some men, the institutional life in the same-sex environment may have served to further postpone social and sexual development. For these men, at the age of their ordination in their mid- to late twenties, they were intellectually and physically adults, but emotionally they remained far younger.”

I recommend anyone the article to anyone interested in an objective discussion of clergy sexual abuse.

Sexual Abuse Not Just a Catholic Problem?

In the wake of the R.C. Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ 660 million dollar abuse claim settlement the Vatican has issued a statement “reminding” the public that sexual abuse is not just a problem with the Catholic Church.

No kidding…

Pedophilia is a scourge that does not restrict itself to any particular religious faith. I have represented victims of clergy sexual abuse by Catholic’s, Anglican’s, and Baptist’s, as well as person’s in a position of authority that had nothing to do with religion. 

That being said, the institutional heirarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, and it’s demand for total obediance to Priest, Bishop, Pope, does appear to create the kind of “power relationship” that pedophiles use to manipulate their victims.

See for example the comments of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Doe vs. Bennett case.

 The relationship between the bishop and a priest in a diocese is not only spiritual, but temporal.

 First, the bishop provided Bennett with the opportunity to abuse his power.

 Second, Bennett’s wrongful acts were strongly related to the psychological intimacy inherent in  his role as priest.

 Third, the bishop conferred an enormous degree of power on Bennett relative to his victims.

Read the entire decision here.

660 Million Dollar Payment (second) Largest Abuse Claim Settlement to Date?

A California judge has approved a $660 million sexual abuse settlement by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The settlement means that 500 + victims of abuse will not have to testify in court.

Terms of the settlement also require the Church to release confidential internal files showing steps the RC Church took to cover up the abuse over many decades.

You can read more about the settlement here.

The settlement is being reported as a record breaking payment to settle abuse claims. While the agreement is certainly the largest to date in the U.S., the 660 million dollar payment pales in comparison to the 5 BILLION DOLLAR settlement that the Canadian government and several religious organizations have agreed to pay to 70,000 survivors of abuse in Canada’s Indian Residential Schools.

I posted about the Indian Residential School’s Abuse Claims settlement here.

John McKiggan’s Abuse Claims Feed