Jeff Anderson, the lead attorney representing many, if not all, of the plaintiffs in the sexual-abuse cases involving the Catholic Church, insists that the church hierarchy is hiding well more than a billion dollars in assets that should be made available to the victims he is representing. The church has claimed in its bankruptcy filing approximately $65 million in assets. Anderson believes that amount to be totally inadequate for his clients. He insists that the value of individual parishes, schools, cemeteries, etc., be included in the assets available for determining just compensation, despite the fact that these entities are all legally structured as separate corporations.
I certainly do not know if those entities will be legally exempt from inclusion or not. I expect that to be determined by the courts. What I do know is that the parishes, schools and cemeteries were created and paid for primarily by parishioners who had absolutely no responsibility for the sexual abuse but who are emotionally hurting and deeply offended victims. Parishioners had little or no choice as to who would be assigned to their parishes and schools. They had absolutely no knowledge of their assigned leaders’ prior history of improper sexual behavior.
Parishioners are additional victims who have been devastated by the sexual abuse. Humiliation, embarrassment, confusion and disruption to their religious way of life have permeated the entire Catholic community through no fault of their own. Anderson continuously demonstrates his implied sympathy for his clients’ need for increased compensation (currently estimated at $145,000) knowing full well those additional assets would be taken from the thousands of completely innocent Catholic victims. That quest is both shameful and appalling.
If Anderson and his associates are so dedicated to honesty and openness, it would be very insightful to know how they have chosen to be compensated. If it’s a percentage of the total settlement, what will that percentage be? If they are sincerely dedicated to their clients’ well-being, then perhaps a reasonable flat fee vs. a percentage of the settlement would conceivably be more appropriate. I’m only guessing, but as an example, 30 percent of $65 million is almost $20 million, which certainly is a great deal of money. Perhaps greed has overtaken the quest for justice.
The victims of sexual abuse should be guaranteed, as a minimum, a lifetime of free, high-quality professional consultation to help them rebuild their self-confidence and find some peace from the harm inflicted on them. Regardless of how much money they receive, it cannot and will not heal them. It may simply provide some satisfaction that those who harmed them are being punished. However, common sense dictates that punishing thousands of other innocent victims is nothing but another gross injustice that they should not be made a part of. Anderson and his associates should stop pursuing this atrocious injustice now.
Wallace R. Johnson lives in Delano, Minn.