Church Deflects Blame for Pedophile Priest by Arguing That He Was “Not On Duty”

In the 1980s, Chris Naples was sexually assaulted multiple times by Rev. Terence McAlinden, his one-time youth group leader through the Diocese of Trenton (New Jersey). A few years ago, Naples sued — in Delaware — because he said his Church sanctioned the visits there. The Church basically replied, “No we didn’t,” adding that McAlinden wasn’t working for them at the time (he was off duty), so they weren’t to blame.

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So the matter at hand wasn’t whether the abuse happened; it was about whether Delaware was the proper jurisdiction for this case.

And that led to an incredible exchange this past January — only coming to light now — in which the Delaware Supreme Court judges asked an attorney for the Diocese of Trenton, “How do we determine when a priest is and is not on duty?”

Just listen to his jaw-dropping answer:

… McAlinden wasn’t officially a priest when he took a teenage Naples to Delaware, the lawyer argued.

“How do we determine when a priest is and is not on duty?” one of the justices asked, according to a video of the session on the court’s website.

“Well,” replied the diocese lawyer, “you can determine a priest is not on duty when he is [abusing] a child, for example. … A priest abusing a child is absolutely contrary to the pursuit of his master’s business, to the work of a diocese.”

Silly me. I thought that being a priest was like being a soldier; it was a lifetime commitment. But now I know that a molested child is like a Get Out of the Priesthood Free card: you’re off the clock when you’re committing rape. (I’m just waiting for someone to say, “it depends on what the definition of ‘Priest’ is”…)

The judges affirmed a lower court’s ruling against Naples (again, solely based on jurisdiction, not the assault charges). So Naples is trying to sue again, this time in New Jersey:

“This has never been about the money,” Naples said. “It’s about exposing him for the monster that he is, and it’s about transparency in the diocese. They knew about McAlinden. They could have done something about it. And they did what every other diocese did. They kept it hush-hush and paid behind-the-scenes settlements.

The diocese supposedly suspended McAlinden from his official position after hearing and investigating the claims of abuse, but even that’s suspect:

Naples said the diocese told him in 2007 that McAlinden would be removed from the priesthood altogether, or laicized. Yet five years later, at the time of the deposition, McAlinden said he remained a priest, albeit a retired one, and drew a pension from the diocese. He augmented that pay by working as a real estate agent, he said.

It’s just horrific all around — and completely in line with the Church’s reputation of not taking responsibility when its representatives do something reprehensible.

(Image via Shutterstock)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.