Hey Ed Peters!

Hey Ed Peters! May 31, 2012

If you are out there and can hear the sound of my voice, please tell me: what is the estimated cost of the full megillah canonical process for laicizing a pervy priest, particularly one who is fighting the process? Am I right in suspecting it is orders of magnitude more than $20,000? I await your expertise.

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  • kenneth

    Should dollar cost really be the bottom-line criteria in deciding these cases? I’d be interested in seeing an estimate of what it might take to formally defrock someone the hard way, but let’s put these numbers in some perspective. The cost of payouts for this abuse is somewhere in the $2-3 Billion range! It’s hard to see how a laicization process would be vastly more expensive than a bribe, which is what these “settlements” were. Presumably most of the officials and canon lawyers on the bishop’s side would be people who are already on the payroll in some diocese or in Rome. Second, the Church is not helpless because some external agency “tied its hands” or because of some immutable centuries-old doctrine which makes defrocking so hard. This absurdly Byzantine process was created by the last pope circa 1980. If I’m reading things right, before that, bishops had the power to defrock without a full-blown church trial and appeals up to the papacy. There is no reason this pope could not craft a reasonably expedient process which still preserves the crucial elements of due process for the accused priest. If the system is so rigged in favor of insulating priests from virtually any involuntary defrocking, that’s a reflection of where priorities lie, not a situation beyond control. The Church largely created this problem in other ways too. If they hadn’t deliberately hidden evidence and accusations from police, many of these creeps would be in prison, where they belong. Should the Church, or really any organization, be in the business of rewarding evil simply because it’s more expedient than fighting it?

    Wouldn’t it be worth some amount of money to be on record as defending the principles of priesthood and defrocking someone for cause when warranted? Settlements like these let the perverts pretend to the world that they just resigned their commission for “personal reasons” or conscience or whatever they want to make up, and gives them a nice nest egg to help them settle into civilian life. I don’t see where that’s a hell of a lot better than the not-so-old practice of just re-assigning the priest to a far away diocese. These settlements likewise “make the problem go away” and have the added benefit of getting the offender off the Church’s rolls and conscience, but it falls something well short of doing the right thing. It’s also an insult to the priests who haven’t done anything wrong. Many of these guys are probably just scraping by these days. The handful of their colleagues who destroy the reputation of the priesthood by committing the one crime for which Jesus prescribed summary execution, and they get an honorable discharge AND an exit bonus!

  • It is also a question of motivation – if the intention and goal is to remove as quickly as possible Fr. Strange, who, BTW was not convicted by civil authorities; $20K to immediately walk is better than at least three times that to walk in years (if ever). The talent drained by the formal process – and all non convicted persons have rights to formal due process, the $20K is likely well spent. If the motivation is institutional revenge and humiliation of a credibly accused but not convicted offender – and conviction is not a forgone conclusion – then we can extend the process, televise it and rent the Rose Ball for live proceedings. When we are done, we can kick him to the curb (if found guilty) or reinstate him if not (for whatever THAT would be worth).

    I am not imputing these motivations on anyone, least of all Mr. Kenneth, but the monies spent needs to be analyzed in part from a perspective of intention. I disagree that it is some kind of bonus – it is rather the “purchase” of the rights of due process to rid ourselves of one who should have never been ordained.

    Capital, both human and fiscal are zero sum games and $20K to dispense a case is better than $100K and a year’s work of several Church employees to get the same end.

  • Michelle

    I’m not Ed Peters, nor do I play him on TV, but I suspect that any costs involved cannot neglect to take into account the cost of continuing to pay the priest’s salary and medical insurance during the process. That alone would take the costs over $20,000.

  • Surviv

    I would also note that $20K doesn’t go very far these days, especially when one is unhireable.

  • Mark is asking the question specifically in regards to this previous post.