A sad development in the ongoing saga of the horrific sexual abuse of minors that was perpetrated by priests years ago in our diocese (Diocese of Wilmington). A jury today found that, along with the former priest who acknowledged abusing multiple children, St. Elizabeth Parish was also liable for the crime. The civil trial resulted in an award of $3 million assessed to the parish. Next week the jury will decide what, if any, punitive damages should be awarded. The statement by our bishop can be found here.
I do not know what the next steps will be, but I cannot understand how parishes can be held responsible for the actions of a priest who is assigned by the bishop, not hired by the parish. And since the desires of parishioners have never been followed when transferring priests in our diocese, how can a jury say that the parish is liable?
Those who were abused by priests have suffered horribly, and the perpetrators should, if still alive, be made to pay for their crimes. Likewise, those who either ignored or covered up the abuse should assume responsibility for their actions if they are still alive. But in so many cases, the individuals involved are dead. Even though it may be legal, it somehow seems unjust to make the people who are part of a parish today pay for the abuse that occurred 30 or 40 years ago. All I can do is pray for the victims and ask God to somehow bring some good out of this tragedy. I hope you will join me in those prayers.