California Makes a Bad New/Old Law

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I’ve voted two times against giving people who rape children the death penalty.

I authored a bill to put them in prison for life without parole.

That pretty much sums up my attitude toward people who sexually abuse children. I don’t want to kill them, but to say I have no use for them is an understatement.

I’ve also written several times about the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.

I point to all these things now in hopes of forestalling what I am guessing will be a hailstorm of negative reaction and wild accusations because of what I’m about to say. I think the new California law temporarily erasing the statute of limitation on child sexual abuse is a bad law. I would have voted against it.

The new statute I am talking about passed both houses of the California legislature a few weeks ago. It is now on the governor’s desk, waiting for his signature to become law. The law is clearly aimed at the Catholic Church. It exempts public schools and and other government institutions, as well as the child abusers themselves. It also repeats something California has already done once, which is to rewind an old law and essentially erase the statute of limitations on old sexual abuse cases.

Here are the reasons why I think this is a bad law.

Rewind

1. It is a dangerous practice to make people retroactively guilty. Change the law going forward, if you want. But don’t go back and re-write laws in the past to find people guilty of things they wouldn’t be guilty of under the laws as they were at the time they committed the crime. The situation in the new California law is a shade of that practice (which is unconstitutional on its face) since what we are talking about is re-winding the statutory time in which a crime can be punished, in this case, by civil lawsuit.

Let’s say, as a for instance, that the statute of limitations on rape is 5 years. Let’s also say that it comes to light that a general in the armed forces participated in the gang rape of several enlisted personnel back when he was a lieutenant. This was decades ago, but he even though he hasn’t participated in any more rapes (that we know of) he is now turning a blind eye to other rapes in the ranks.

One way to get at this monster would be to rewind the statute of limitations (say we do it for one year to give prosecutors a window to get at him) and extend the time rapists can be brought to justice to 40 years instead of 5.

Problem solved, right?

No.

Problem created.

What we would be doing is setting a precedent of selective justice, and worse, selective law-making, to get at one man. We would be declaring open season on anyone that prosecutors and legislative bodies of the future want to take a crack at retroactively. It might not be such an undoubted monster the next time. It could be anybody, including anybody that the special interests who actually write most legislation want to get at.

We could end up with powerful businesses retroactively suing their competitors out of existence with this practice. In fact, given that most legislation is about helping businesses destroy their competition with laws they write themselves and then get their bought and paid for legislators to pass for them, you can bet it would and will happen.

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2. The California law is, as I mention above, aimed at one group of people, in this case the Catholic Church. The practice of writing laws to get at one group of people, no matter who they are, is egregious.

Here’s why.

When we’re going after a group of people most folks think of as the boogeyman, in this case, a huge Church that not only tolerated, but enabled child abuse for a long period of time, it’s easy to decide that any way we can make them suffer is a good way. However, as always happens with these intrusions of the irrational in lawmaking, what begins as a seemingly justifiable exception, soon becomes the unjustifiable norm.

If the legislature can do this once, as they already have in California, then the legislature can do it again. And as with most things, the more they do it, the less outrageous it seems and the smaller the reason required to do it again.

Pretty soon, we’ve got major corporations writing up legislation that specifically limits their competitors or uses the government to control their customers, and doing it by name.

This is actually just the next step in special interest legislation. Special interest legislation of this type takes up almost all of legislative time right now. This is a bit off the subject, but if special interest legislation was eliminated, most legislative bodies in this country could finish their work in about a quarter of the time they spend today.

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3. There are better ways to punish long-term miscreants than retroactive laws. Legislators do have to put on their little thinking caps. But it can certainly be done. What they have to do is pass a law that begins when it is signed by the governor and goes forward and that is written for everyone.

Of course, I am guessing that California already has all the laws it needs to deal with child sexual abuse in institutional settings. Those laws just weren’t utilized at the right time. Outrage that child sexual abusers escaped punishment because the powerful abused their power is what fuels the desire to use lawsuits to punish the child abuse enablers now.

But civil lawsuits are a poor way to deal with this problem. People who sexually abuse children should go to prison. I am not talking here about Catholic priests. I am talking about all child sexual abusers. I’ve had some dealings with this in Oklahoma and I can tell you that far too many of these guys skate. There are lots of reasons, but judges who, like Dr Richard Dawkins, just can’t seem to see the harm, are among the primary causes.

I believe that sexual abuse by a priest, or any clergy, is especially egregious simply because the trust people place in their clergy puts them in a vulnerable position vis a vis the clergy. People confide things in their priests that they don’t tell anyone else in the world. This makes them deeply vulnerable to this priest. Sexual abuse, especially of a child, is a horrific betrayal of this trust.

At the same time, I am becoming concerned that we are developing a legal and social double standard about child sexual abuse. Dr Dawkins, as a for instance, engaged in grand-standing talk about arresting the Pope because of the Church’s child sexual abuse scandals. Then, he turned around and tried to take a wink-wink attitude toward child sexual abuse in other contexts.

Dr Dawkins isn’t alone in this behavior.

I agree with giving longer sentences to those in a position of trust, such as counselors, clergy and doctors, who violate that trust in this way. I think that, considering the vulnerability of their patients and parishioners to them, it is appropriate to hold them to a higher standard. However, those higher standards should be statutorily defined, not handed down willy-nilly as vengeance.

I do not agree with a wholesale two-tiered system of justice which singles out Catholic clergy for higher sentences simply because they are Catholic clergy. That is discriminatory on its face.

I think the new California statute is a bad law that sets a terrible precedent. It’s just a matter of time before that precedent ends up being used and abused in ways that none of the backers of the law foresaw or intended.

The Pope, Priests and Fatigue


Pope Francis recently discussed a letter he received from a parish priest at a gathering of Rome’s priests at the Vatican.

The priest had mentioned his fatigue. I think that’s something everyone who bears a responsibility for other people can understand.

Here are the Holy Father’s comments.

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The Burden of Sin: What Jesus Endured on the Cross

The One Who knew no sin became sin for us.

 

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Graphic images, not for children.

Pope Francis Discusses the Dignity of Work

In one of his morning homilies a few months ago, Pope Francis talked about societies that put company profits above human dignity, or even human life. “What point have we come to?” he asked.

This kind of talk disturbs cafeteria Christians on the right, just as the Church’s insistence on the fundamental right to life of all human beings and the sanctity of Holy Matrimony disturbs cafeteria Christians on the left.

Each “side” of the culture wars wants the Holy Father to affirm them and their half-Gospel as righteousness so that they can use what would amount to an amputated, phony Jesus to score “gotcha!” points off those on the other side of the various political debates.

But Pope Francis is the Vicar of Christ, not the apologist for the false idols of various religious/political heresies.

Jesus was a worker. A carpenter. By doing that, He elevated work far above the animalistic fight for survival that those in power often try to make it into for working people.

Human beings are made in the image and likeness of Almighty God. As such, we each have a transcendent dignity that extends beyond this life and into eternity. The things we do here, including the work of our heads, hands and hearts, is an expression of that innate, God-given dignity.

All people are entitled to the privileges of owning private property and to have the labor of their lives respected. Part of that respect is a living wage and decent working conditions. When these values are compromised by a moneyed few who mis-use the powers of government to seize the treasure of a nation to satisfy their personal rapaciousness, then those who govern must oppose those actions.

Elected officials who do otherwise may profess Christ with their mouths, but they deny Him by what they do.

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Now Isn’t That Just Special

Sleeping in an airport

Kathy Shiffer, who blogs at Seasons of Grace, published a letter to the American people from Edward Snowden in Edward Snowden, Reluctant Refugee, Pens an Open Letter.  

It turns out that Mr Snowden is living in an airport terminal in Russia. That’s a hard life. But it probably protects him from one of the fears that Ron Paul voiced.

“I’m worried that somebody in our government might kill him with cruise missile or a drone missile,” Dr Paul has said.

So long as Mr Snowden keeps his residence inside a Russian airport terminal, he’s probably protected from American missiles. Such an attack on a Russian airport might have consequences.

This comment from New American gives a feel for the incredibly bi-partisan nature of the carrying on against Edward Snowden:

The Obama administration is considering charging confessed NSA-surveillance leaker Edward Snowden with illegally passing classified documents. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) called Snowden a “traitor.” Senator Dianne Feinstein (R-Calif.) said the 29-year old whistleblower is guilty of “treason.” And, inveterate warmonger Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tweeted, “I view Mr. Snowden’s actions not as one of patriotism but potentially a felony.” Adding, “I hope we follow Mr. Snowden to the ends of the earth to bring him to justice.”

As my gay friends would say, isn’t that just special?

Boehner feinstein snowden cached

We have Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senator Dianne Feinstein, together at last. They can’t agree on anything that would move this country forward, but they do agree that telling the American people that the government has put all of us under surveillance makes a man a “traitor,” and “guilty of treason.”

Why? Why would they stop their hate-off against one another long enough to get together in a new hate-off directed at this 26-year-old? Maybe it’s because they signed off on putting the American people under surveillance. Edward Snowden didn’t “betray” the American people. They did. Edward Snowden just let the rest of us know about it.

Mr Snowden has this to say in his letter:

In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.

To read the rest, go here.

 

Was Michael Hastings the Last American Journalist?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Bill of Rights, United States Constitution

Was Michael Hastings the last American journalist?

Given the all-in-for-the-government way the press has approached the “security breach” that allowed American citizens to know that their government had them — almost all of them — under surveillance, I think that is a fair question.

Thomas Jefferson said, “Our liberty depends on freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

A J Liebling said, “Freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one.”

Has the corporate-owned press ceased to be free? Is it just a mouthpiece for various interests and ideologies? Why would the free press be so completely in support of putting millions of innocent Americans who have committed no crime and have not been accused of committing a crime under government surveillance?

Are they stupid? Do they not see the parallels between this kind of draconian government surveillance of its citizens and every police state nightmare of both history and fiction?

Why are they taking the government line like a bunch of trained chimps instead of asking questions and digging for facts like reporters? Do they ever leave their studios and go out and find the news, or do they just wait for the news to come to them and then “report” (read) it as it comes in? Getting together with a few, carefully selected, “experts” to comment on the latest press release that you just read on the air is not reporting.

The CSPAN interview below gives a glimpse of Michael Hastings and the kind of work he did. It makes no difference what conclusions you draw from the information Mr Hastings gave you. The point is that he gave you the information. That’s a journalist’s job. Deciding what to do with the information is your part of the free press equation.

All this leads me to ask again: Was Michael Hastings the last American journalist?

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Part 1: What’s So Bad About Gosnell?

Remember this?

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This video is from this legislative session in Florida. It reflects the current attitude of Planned Parenthood concerning babies who are born alive during late-term abortions.

That’s the same Planned Parenthood we seeing throwing Dr Kermit Gosnell under the bus and condemning the very practices they paid a lobbyist to protect just a few weeks ago. I’ve written that Dr Gosnell is the monster pro choice built. Actions like the one in this video are how they built him.

Dr Gosnell only did what this lobbyist was working to protect. He was the physician. His patient had already voted that the baby should die by coming to him for his services. The Planned Parenthood lobbyist’s contention that the “decision” of what to do with a baby born alive during abortion “should be left up to the woman, her family and the physician,” was pretty well covered; the lobbyist’s oddball insertion of “her family” into the decision-making process notwithstanding.

So, what’s so bad about Gosnell?

Gosnell Gets Life Without Parole x2

Dr Kermit Gosnell accepted a deal in which he received life in prison without parole in exchange for giving up his right to an appeal. 

He will be sentenced Wednesday for the third conviction, which is for involuntary manslaughter.

I think this is a good deal for everyone involved. I doubt that the 72-year-old Dr Gosnell will be busting out of prison to kill more people the way Ted Bundy did. By forfeiting the right to appeal, he will almost certainly have to do the time.

From CBS News:

Kermit Gosnell Update: Convicted Pa. abortion doctor gets life in prison 

Dr. Kermit Gosnell is escorted to a waiting police van upon leaving the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia, Monday, May 13, 2013, after being convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies who were delivered alive and then killed with scissors at his clinic.

 / AP Photo/Philadelphia Daily News, Yong Kim

(CBS/AP) PHILADELPHIA – A Philadelphia abortion doctor convicted of killing three babies who were born alive in his clinic agreed Tuesday to give up his right to an appeal and faces life in prison but will be spared a death sentence.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, was convicted Monday of first-degree murder in the deaths of the babies who were delivered alive and killed with scissors.

In a case that became a flashpoint in the nation’s abortion debate, former clinic employees testified that Gosnell routinely performed illegal abortions past Pennsylvania’s 24-week limit, that he delivered babies who were still moving, whimpering or breathing, and that he and his assistants dispatched the newborns by “snipping” their spines, as he referred to it.

Prosecutors agreed to two life sentences without parole for two of the three first-degree murder convictions, and Gosnell was to be sentenced Wednesday in the death of the third baby, an involuntary manslaughter conviction in the death of a patient and hundreds of lesser counts.

Prosecutors had sought the death penalty because Gosnell killed more than one person, and his victims were especially vulnerable given their age. But Gosnell’s own advanced age had made it unlikely he would ever be executed before his appeals ran out.

Gosnell has said he considered himself a pioneering inner-city doctor who helped desperate women get late-term abortions. Defense lawyer Jack McMahon said before the sentencing deal that his client’s bid for acquittal was a battle. (Read the rest here.)

Abortion Advocates React to Gosnell Verdict

Spin

“They” are spinning the Gosnell verdict as best they can. 

“They’ve” filed lawsuits against pro life legislation. “They’ve” lobbied — often successfully — to kill bills that would require abortionists to have hospital privileges, to give women informed consent before performing an abortion, to require parental notification before doing an elective abortion on a minor. They’ve fought  bills that would allow the state to file murder charges on the life of the baby as well as the mother when a pregnant woman is murdered. 

I could go on. And on. With the exception of requiring abortionists to have hospital privileges, the things I’ve just described happened with bills that I authored and that became law in Oklahoma. Abortion advocates fought these bills and then attacked me viciously for having authored them. I could easily multiply these things out to cover every legislature in this country. 

Based on this, I believe that “they” do not want any limits on what an abortionist can do to babies, or for that matter, to women. So, it wasn’t any big surprise to me when “they” chimed in with non-sequitur verbal claptrap after the Gosnell verdict today. Their comments today were just an extension of the blab they’ve been blabbing throughout this trial. 

Stand w planned parenthood

Basically, “they” are saying that pro life people are the reason Dr Gosnell was able to commit these crimes. This kind of “who’s on first” sophistry is shameless. “They” don’t care how ridiculous it sounds. “They” know that their faithful followers in the media will buy it and sell it like the kool-aid it is. 

Who are “they?”  

The big-name abortion advocates Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro Choice America. Here are their comments about the Gosnell verdict today. I am publishing the full statements:

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NARAL Pro-Choice America:

Full statement from Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, on the conviction of Kermit Gosnell:
 
“Justice was served to Kermit Gosnell today and he will pay the price for the atrocities he committed. We hope that the lessons of the trial do not fade with the verdict. Anti-choice politicians, and their unrelenting efforts to deny women access to safe and legal abortion care, will only drive more women to back-alley butchers like Kermit Gosnell.

“From the lack of funding available for low-income women to access abortion services, to the sharp decline of reputable providers in Pennsylvania, to the gross negligence of authorities to enforce the law after complaints were filed against Gosnell, each aspect of this case must be a teachable moment for lawmakers: until we reject the politicization of women’s medical care and leave these decisions where they belong — between a woman and her family and her doctor — women will never be safe. The horrifying story of Kermit Gosnell is a peek into the world before Roe v. Wade made legal a woman’s right to make her own choices. 

“NARAL Pro-Choice America’s annual Who Decides? publication has given Pennsylvania an ‘F’ grade precisely because it has passed medically unnecessary laws that restrict access to safe and legal abortion care. It is my sincere hope that the women in Gosnell’s clinic did not suffer in vain and that Pennsylvania, and every state, will step up and join us in making the protection of women’s ability to get, safe, high quality, and legal abortion care a top priority.”

 

Planned Parenthood

PLANNED PARENTHOOD:

Planned Parenthood Statement on Gosnell Verdict

 

 

 “The jury has punished Kermit Gosnell for his appalling crimes. This verdict will ensure that no woman is victimized by Kermit Gosnell ever again.

“This case has made clear that we must have and enforce laws that protect access to safe and legal abortion, and we must reject misguided laws that would limit women’s options and force them to seek treatment from criminals like Kermit Gosnell.”

–Eric Ferrero, Planned Parenthood Federation of America Vice President for Communications

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It appears, based on these statements, that both these organizations have decided that Dr Gosnell is one “abortion provider” they are not going to defend. No matter how “needed” his services were by “desperate” women who just figured out six, seven, eight or even nine months into their pregnancies that they wanted an abortion, the abortion-at-any-time-for-any-reason crowd is going to stand down and let Dr Gosnell take care of himself. 

This is a huge sea-change that pro life commenters seem to be overlooking. Always before, abortion advocates have stood by these docs, no matter what. 

What does this mean for the pro life cause? I’m not sure yet, but I do think it’s an important and possibly pivotal development.

As I said in an earlier post discussing this verdict, I am going to hold back on what I say about Dr Gosnell until after the sentencing phase of the trial is over. I think there’s enough for us to chew on with today’s verdict and these statements. 

I’m putting them here in their entirety because I want you to read them that way. I’m hoping this will make you better able to recognize the inevitable spin based on what Planned Parenthood and NARAL said when it comes. 

 

Children, Child Molesters and Pinocchio’s Nose

Heads are rolling in the Father Fugee scandal. 


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Father Thomas J Triggs

Father Thomas J Triggs, pastor of St Mary Parish, Colts Neck, NJ and Michael and Amy Lenehan, parish youth ministers at the same church have resigned their positions. The reason is that they allowed Father Fugee to participate in parish ministries with children, despite his record as a convicted child molester. 

I would guess that this puts the St Mary Parish into quite an uproar with people taking sides either for or against their former pastor. 

It’s difficult for Protestants to understand the emotional bond that Catholics form with their parish priests. These men hear our confessions, comfort us when we in pain and listen to our most scalding confidences. 

It is beyond difficult to suddenly be faced with assertions that the pastor you’ve trusted so completely has betrayed you in such a fundamental matter. I have no doubt that the entire parish of St Mary is suffering from a sense of betrayal and confusion. 


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The Lenehans and Father Fugee

It appears that the Lenehans are long-time friends of Father Fugee. According to a news report, he publicly thanked them for standing by him when he was convicted of child abuse. 

I understand sticking with a friend when he falls into disgrace. If you love someone, you don’t stop loving them when they get into trouble. What I don’t understand is putting a convicted child abuser in contact with children. 

The Lenehans are saying that they did not know about the agreement between Fugee and prosecutors that he would not come into contact with children. Even if that’s true, they still must have known that he was a convicted child abuser. That alone is reason enough to keep him away from children. 

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It doesn’t matter if they thought he was innocent. It doesn’t matter if the conviction was overturned on a technicality. Their responsibility to the children of St Mary Parish, as well as their responsibility to the entire parish and the Church should have been important enough for them to not put a convicted child molester in contact with children. 

One of the things I’ve seen with people who are tempted to molest children is that they always find ways to put themselves into contact with children. Once they’re caught, they tell the judge sad tales about how they fought their dark impulses. But they also always seek out positions where they will have access to children. 

The debate seems to be what did this parish priest know. I’m guessing, but I would imagine that a conviction of a brother priest for child molesting right there in his own state might just have been something that this priest was aware of. If he did know, then so far as I’m concerned, he’s in the same slot as the Lenehans. Ignorance of an agreement with prosecutors is a technicality. 

If someone is convicted of child molesting responsible people do not place them in positions where they will be in contact with children. 

I do not understand why it’s necessary to say this. It’s obvious. Like Pinocchio’s nose. 

From the Trenton Diocese website:

Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., has accepted the resignation of Father Thomas J. Triggs as pastor of St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck, effective immediately. The May 4 resignation follows recent reports that Father Michael Fugee, a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, had assisted in several activities of the parish’s youth group despite having been restricted from such ministry in an agreement with law enforcement authorities in Bergen County.

 

Bishop O’Connell has granted Father Triggs a period of sabbatical before he will be given a new assignment. A parish administrator will be appointed for St. Mary Parish.

 

In one of his last official acts as pastor, Father Triggs accepted the resignations of Michael and Amy Lenehan, parish youth group ministers, effective immediately. The Lenehans had invited Father Fugee to take part in youth ministry events without ensuring that he would have been cleared for such ministry in compliance with the Diocese of Trenton’s policies.

 

The Diocese of Trenton released a statement April 29 reporting that it was first made aware of the presence of Father Michael Fugee at a youth retreat held in St. Mary Parish through an inquiry from the media on April 23, 2013.  The statement stipulated that Father Fugee had been given no permission to exercise ministry there by the Diocese nor had he filed with the Chancery the “letter of suitability” required of all priests outside of the Diocese before they are to conduct ministry here.   

 

According to that statement, upon learning of Father Fugee’s activities, Bishop O’Connell immediately contacted Father Triggs and indicated that Father Fugee may not exercise ministry there, including any ministry involving youth.  Bishop O’Connell then contacted officials in the Archdiocese of Newark to inform them of developments concerning Father Fugee.

 

In 2001, Father Fugee, while serving in Wycoff, was convicted of criminal sexual contact with a minor. That conviction was later overturned on appeal for procedural reasons. Rather than retry the case, authorities offered Father Fugee the opportunity to undergo counseling and rehabilitation and agree to limited ministry that would preclude access to children and youth. In compliance with those restrictions, the Archdiocese had given Father Fugee responsibilities in the Chancery in Newark. (Read the rest here.)

 


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