Obviously, I want to see the victims of sexual abuse by clergy adequately compensated for the harm that was done to them. And, I want to see this compensation provided sooner rather than later. Recent bankruptcy proceedings involving Catholic dioceses suggest that the easiest way for this to happen is by the insurance companies agreeing to 'pony up' big money to provide monetary compensation to victims and other creditors. However, when the news broke in November of 2014 that the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis was suing its insurers for refusing to pay on abuse claims, my sympathies went immediately to the insurers. 

After all, most if not all of the companies involved in the Archdiocese's suit are publicly held, and therefore they have a fiduciary duty to their stockholders. And, in many cases there is truth to their argument that the abuse that resulted in these claims was not an 'accident' or 'occurrence' but an expected event that, if unintended, the Archdiocese should have been able to foresee and prevent. Moreover, in my experience the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis continued to reassign clergy guilty of misconduct even after receiving notice from its insurers that there would no coverage of the individual going forward. [I received a comment from someone suggesting that the Archdiocese would argue that it only reassigned men that they believed had been reformed or cured. The questioner asked if there was evidence to refute that. That argument, while once popular, has been much less persuasive since the 2009 unsealing of letters by Father Gerald Fitzgerald, founder of the Servants of the Paraclete, the order which sponsored the preeminent treatment center for clergy. I am attaching below a few of his letters from the 1950s and 1960s which demonstrate that he had no belief in 'cures' for clergy with sexual interests in children. From my own experience, I can't remember ever seeing a psychological assessment that concluded that there was no risk of the priest re-offending.]

Take, for instance, the case of Father Stanley Maslowski. In 1991, Father Maslowski served time for the theft of nearly $200,000 during a three year period from the parish at which he had been assigned, Saint Thomas of Corcoran. At the time that he was assigned to the parish the Archdiocese was aware that Father Maslowski had a serious sex addiction, and thought it likely he had embezzled from Saint Pius in White Bear Lake. Nonetheless, they were apparently taken by surprise by the more recent theft, which went to fund sex binges that by Maslowski's own admission often cost up to $1000 a week. In Corcoran. In the 1980s. 

Barely more than two years after his release from the workhouse, Father Maslowski was back in ministry in this Archdiocese (on the condition that he end his friendship with the notorious madam Rebecca Rand), despite the fact that the Archdiocese had received notice from Catholic Mutual- Catholic Mutual!!!!- that they would not provide insurance coverage for him if he was reinstated. And, despite serious concerns about his ongoing behavior, he remained in ministry until the summer of 2013, when he was removed due to 'a change in the church's political climate'. 

Given circumstances such as this, is it just to expect insurers to pay? To the extent that the Archdiocese was aware of the likelihood of abuse taking place and continued to reassign clergy, probably not. More importantly, is it helpful? If such pay outs provide necessary compensation to victims, perhaps it is appropriate. But, for the safety of children in the Catholic Church, the best result would be for the insurers to have their day in court, and win.

Why? Because that is one of the few things that could really impact the way that the Archdiocese responds to clergy who are guilty of or are disposed to acts of sexual abuse. I can state from experience that appealing to the better natures of the Archdiocesan leadership does not work, nor does logic or even trying to shame them into doing the right thing. But, take away insurance coverage, and send a clear message that the insurers won't be compelled to pay, and then you will see a change. We all know that as of now that change has not occurred- the reinstatement of Fathers Barrett, Gallatin, and Stolzman have made that clear.

In case you doubt my assessment, you should review the letter I am posting below, which was written by a former Chancellor for Civil Affairs, Bill Fallon, and is a part of the recently released file of Father Joseph Gallatin. Note closely the reason given for Archbishop Roach introducing a policy of background checks for clergy. 


Paul Wulterkens
02/05/2015 10:05am

The hierarchy will argue that they did not knowingly move clerics they knew to be predators, I.e., they thought the clerics were cured or had reformed. Hence, the damage done was unintended. What is the evidence to refute that argument?

02/06/2015 7:49pm

What is the evidence? Hmmmm, perhaps repeated cases of abuse. The bottom line is that the archdiocese never complied with MN's statute requiring the reporting of the abuse of minors.

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    Jennifer Haselberger is a canon lawyer who served as the Chancellor for Canonical Affairs in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis until April of 2013, when she resigned in protest of the Archdiocese's handling of sexual misconduct by clergy.

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