The last acceptable prejudice

by Sal on January 4, 2006

in Politics,Religion

It has been said that the last acceptable prejudice in the United States is anti-Catholicism. The MA state legislature is supporting this view in a recent flurry of legislation, all aimed at the Catholic Church under the guise of protection against the sex abuse scandals of the past several years. Components of this legislation include:

  • Elimination of the $20,000.00 liability cap on civil cases against non-profit organizations in cases involving sexual abuse of minors
  • Relaxing restrictions of the statute of limitations on sexual crimes in both civil and criminal cases
  • Require religions organizations to provide full disclosure of financial information to the state Attorney General.

The sexual abuse scandal was a travesty. But under the current law, two priests were put in jail, the Diocese had to pay a large sum of money, and an Archbishop was forced to resign. None of the three above proposed laws would have done anything to prevent the sexual abuse scandal, nor would it have served no purpose except to further punish the Boston church at large instead of just the offenders.

The MA State Legislature is using the current (righteous) sentiment against those involved in the sex abuse scandal to attack religious freedom and the Catholic Church in particular. It makes me very nervous when a government (State or Federal) attempts to put oversight on religious organizations.

MA State Constitution

Article XVIII. Section 1. No law shall be passed prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

U.S. Constitution

Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

Article XVIII. Section 1. No law shall be passed prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jewels January 11, 2006 at 5:57 pm

Article XVIII. Section 1. No law shall be passed prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

You mentioned this article, but I don’t think the laws are being implemented to prohibit the free exercise of religion. I agree with you wholeheartedly that Catholics or other religious groups should not be prejudiced against at all. I think the reason that people were so upset about the sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church was not so much the horror of the priests who committed these repugnant acts (although it is always a sad day when a priest–confidante, mentor, and leader commits a heinous act), but that these acts were covered up by higher ups of the organization. How could any bishop or cardinal allow an abuser to be transferred? I hope that people see that these abombinable mistakes were made by individuals and not feel any differently towards our loving God. By the way, I believe the individuals of any church (Protestant, Orthodox, Catholic) or religious organization should not allow its leaders to do evil!…I know you feel the acts were evil as well.

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Sal January 12, 2006 at 11:58 am

It was horrific for me as a proud member of the Catholic Church to witness the evil acts of a few bad priests, and of a Cardinal who was more concerned with the image of the Church than doing what was right. In the end, the priests who committed the crimes were punished by the law, and Cardinal Law properly resigned his post so the leadership of the Catholic Church in Boston could be turned over to someone who put the interests of God before those of image.

That being said, the infringment of government on a religious organization just because they are religious is a prohibition against the free exercise of religion. I think reasonable people could argue on whether it is appropriate to extend the statute of limitations, but the limits on lawsuits are just another example of the legal system getting out of control with a “sue-me” mentality.

The issue of full financial disclosure is the one I think is most troubling and is blatantly unconstitutional. The government usually has to obtain a Subopena or Search Warrant to examine the financial records of any private organization. In this case, the government is rquiring religious organizations to prove to the Government that they are not doing anything wrong, rather than the other way around (Innocent until proven guilty). What is happening here is an attemtp by the Massachusetts state legislature to use the horrific and evil acts of the Priest abuse scandal to grab power and oversight over religious organizations, oversight that in our country has traditionally been frowned upon. The Archdiocese of Boston has commented that conforming to the requirements of this new law would cost them $3 million a year, money that would normally go to the Church’s many worthwhile ministries, such as Catholic Charity, the many schools and hospitals that the Catholic Church sponsors, and the daily parish life of many Catholics. Not to mention, this regulation would also affect all other religions in MA. Finally, this regulation would have done nothing to prevent the scandal from happening.

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