Another Reason to Call the Cops: It’s Your Only Option UPDATED

That’s right. I’m referring to the post I wrote yesterday about why you need to call the police if you run into a Penn State situation in your parish.

I don’t know how it is in your diocese, but in mine, when signing my children up for Religious Education classes, Youth Group activities, etc., all of the sign up forms have sad little liability waivers built into them now. They say, in a nutshell, “you can’t sue us.”

Here is an example,

I, (Name of parent or guardian) __________________________________ grant permission for my child (name of child)  ______________________ to participate in the Project/Activity Du Jour– Specific Date & Time of activity( example: Nov. 13 –2 pm to 5 pm).

I agree on behalf of myself, my child’s other parent if known or living (Name of other parent)______________________  to hold harmless and defend the name of your parish, The Diocese You Live In, its officers directors and agents, the chaperones, or representatives associated with the event, arising from or in connection with any illness, injury, death, or cost of medical treatment in connection therewith, and I agree to compensate the Diocese You Live In, chaperones, or representatives associated with the event for reasonable attorney fees and expenses arising in connection therewith.

Parent Signature ______________________________________   Date _________________________

I don’t know about you, but I would line out, or strike, that last ridiculous part of the waiver, just for good measure. I’ll be damned if I agree to pay the legal fees of alleged criminals. I don’t care where they work.

So, you see, you really have no alternative but to call the Police, Sheriff, Constable, etc., if you discover something criminally untoward happening to your child or the child of anyone else. Because try as the Church authorities might,  when Detective Joe Friday, Agent of the State, investigates a crime, the case becomes The State vs. The Alleged Criminal. And that cannot be waived away by these silly little “cover our rears” liability waivers.

So there you have it. You really have no alternative but to call the cops and prepare yourself for your duty to become the States’ witness, if you want to protect children going forward. They have a real easy phone number to remember (9-1-1).

Update: Fr. Robert Barron on the mysterium iniquitatis and the mystery of forgiveness.

Update II: Fr. James Martin shares his views on abuse at Penn State & in the Church.

Update III: Brad Miner on Crime and Punishment at Penn State.

Update IV: Betrayal and the Power of Relationship

  • Lisa Graas

    Don’t assume that “the state” won’t use the opportunity to get their foot into the door of the Church to drag our priests off to prison for things that are actually not wrong. Setting a legal precedent that allows state control of things within the Church is risky business.

    • Frank Weathers

      Right. So that’s why folks are afraid to call the police when actual crimes against humanity have taken place. Good to know.

    • Jen

      Lisa true there is the possibility that people could misuse such advice and falsely accuse a priest or report things that are more their own sick imaginations than facts …on the other hand in the Penn State example that were discussing – on two different occasions adult men walked in on him in the act with children – in one case he was sodomizing a 1o year old – in the other case it was oral sex – i forget how old the boy was – but young 8 -10? …sorry to be so explicit – but that’s what we are talking about – the difference between merely suspecting ( like what you perhaps imagine) or even strongly suspecting with good cause ( like in the current case which Bishop Finn is involved in ) and actually knowing ( like the Penn State case ) ….these men did not remove the child or call the police – by their own words they were concerned about their own job security …in the case we are discussing it was not a matter of merely suspecting – it was a matter of undeniable fact and these cowards left the children there and did not call the police. … is there a possibility mistakes will be made – of course – but better to err on the side of child safety than on the side of protecting child molesters…

      • Frank Weathers

        I absolutely agree with Jen on this one Lisa. Besides, as I stated in that post around what Kevin O’Brien shared, if anything, our leaders lack of moral courage has resulted in more scrutiny from the State than would have been the case if these incidents were reported to the authorities and investigated with rigor. Instead, the Church covered for the perpetrators and became accessories to the crimes.

  • Rambling Follower

    I would call 9-1-1 immediately if I suspected child abuse. Also, as a public-school teacher I am legally bound to call the Department of Social Services as well. And that is a very good thing.

  • Frank Weathers

    Allow Joe Six-Pack to quote you something just like Joe Friday would:

    “Human society can be neither well-ordered nor prosperous unless it has some people invested with legitimate authority to preserve its institutions and to devote themselves as far as is necessary to work and care for the good of all. . . . Every human community needs an authority to govern it. . . . Its role is to ensure as far as is possible the common good of the society.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 1897-1898)

  • maxlindenman

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Frank. The way I look at it, I’d be doing the bishop a favor by not putting him in any position where he might feel torn by conflicting loyalties. I suspect if you were to wake up Bishop Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph at 3:00 AM and ask whether he wishes that computer repairman had gone straight to the cops, he’d mumble “Man, do I ever,” before fading back into a troubled sleep.

  • Jen

    I agree calling the cops is the correct thing to do when faced with undeniable evidence that an adult is sexually abusing a child – after removing the child from danger – reading the Penn State grand jury report one of the most devastating things is that on at least two occasions grown men walked in on another grown man sexually abusing a very young child — and walked away without removing the child from immediate danger. We live in a culture of cowardice … and while I agree that calling the cops is the right thing to do – sadly I don’t think it is a real solution either – I have known of too many cases where the authorities did indeed know and they too choose to do nothing. In fact in this Penn State case – it had previously been brought to the attention of the attorney general’s office and they dropped it because the head of Penn States security told them to — WTF? Since when do college rent a cops tell attorney generals who to prosecute?? We live in a world where often close family members abuse children and the family covers it up — why are we surprised then when strangers in big institutions do the same? So how do we respond to evil on this scale? …. In your post yesterday you made a comparison to flight 93 – so let me introduce another response to 9-11 that is very appropriate to this case—24th-Sunday-in-Ordinary-Time—-The-Fo.aspx I just happened unto this homily immediately after reading the Grand Jury … as is often the case the Holy Spirit has impeccable timing …

    • Frank Weathers

      Thanks for your comment Jen! I have added Fr. Barrons homily as an update to the post.

      • Frank Weathers

        You know, I’m not sure if that guy was a rent-a-cop. Penn State might have had their own police department. I know UCLA did. But either way, it makes you wonder about that Attorney General, and whether he was putting the cash generating Penn State football program above the welfare of our children.

        • Jen

          True – I imagine that a school that size probably has it’s own legitimate police force – and to be fair – I think the earlier case that actually got that far was very questionable and concerning but sadly not really something that could be prosecuted . I hesitate to recommend reading it – but the grand jury report has alot of information in it. I read it and I have two concerns about recommending it to others …1. it could easily become a further exploration of the victims – there are people out there who are sick and would enjoy reading it … and 2. it is not for the faint of heart …it is truly disturbing … but on the other hand I would recommend it to some folks – who need to get their facts straight and understand how incredibly ugly child sexual abuse is ….

  • Frank Weathers

    How about this Liability Waiver? Informal Poll idea: Who many of you are being asked to sign forms like the one I shared in this post? It is on every sign up sheet for every little event/function in my Parish’s youth group.

  • Tammy

    I would not call 911 for a ‘weird off-feeling’ or general suspicion about someone, but if an adult comes across another adult IN THE ACT of victimizing a child, then 911 it is, smack the guy on the head and yell “Good riddance !” as they haul his still-wet-from-the-shower self into the cop car.

    When I taught confirmation prep, I told the kids that they had to decide ahead of time who they were and what they stood for because situations would arise with no time to think about it. I used the example of a news story from about 20 years earlier; teens walking into a friends house to find a mentally-impaired teen girl from the neighborhood being manipulated to do sex acts. They would have a split second to react before becoming complicit in the situation. “Would you have the courage to cover her with your coat, tell the your friends this was “over” and report it?

    Not easy stuff to be sure, but it is in the difficult moments when we show our mettle.

    How sad for that “student” (coach) who buckled in fear and shock and called his father rather than the cops…its easy to see how his mind went down that path, even though it was such an error. He may spend his life being known for this failure of character. That has got to sting.

  • Tim

    I’m pretty sure it’s understood that the liability you are waiving is civil liability and only certain kinds (usually anything above negligence you can’t agree to waive). And attorneys’ fees are usually only awarded to the “prevailing party”, regardless of what a contract says.

    I’ve never come across an agreement where one party agrees to pay for attorneys’ fees incurred in a criminal action (i.e. a victim would have to pay defendant’s attorneys’ fees). I imagine the court would declare such an agreement void (due to public policy, e.g.) or interpret it as only applying to civil liability.