As we have reported many times before, one of the most under-reported elements of the entire Catholic Church abuse story is the prevalence of false claims against innocent priests and priests long ago deceased who are no longer around to defend themselves.
Journalists and public relations-types – being the pack animals that they are – never pursue the ultimate counter-narrative of wrongly accused priests.
Now, in a refreshing episode of honesty, Louis Aguirre, spokesman for the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, a small diocese in Louisiana, has acknowledged that in recent years "there has not been a case that we deemed to be true" even though the diocese has paid out at least one financial settlement for a claim alleging abuse decades ago.
According to Louisiana's The Advocate:
"[Louis Aguirre, spokesman for the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux] said that since the 2002 bishops charter the diocese has not alerted parishioners about allegations against priests because none have been credible."
Profiles in courageIn other words, in being forced to weigh the costs of litigating a case versus merely settling, dioceses are paying settlements even for claims that they themselves know to be bogus.
In doing so, there can be no doubt that the Church is surrendering to injustice as a result of the social pressures fueled by the mainstream media's witch hunt mentality when it comes to the Church.
The Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux's Aguirre also blows the lid off the popular media narrative that the Catholic Church demands confidentiality in settlement agreements. In truth, reports Aguirre, it is the victims – and not the Church – who demand secrecy in settlement agreements in order to protect their identities.
"When we make a settlement … we have given the alleged victim the pledge of confidentiality," reports Aguirre in the Advocate. "They in turn can turn around and talk about it all they want."
Aguirre's comment mirrors the conclusion years ago from the Honorable Patrick J. Schiltz, now a U.S. District Judge in Minnesota, who has had as much experience as any individual with clergy abuse cases. Addressing the issue of settlements with victims in an article (highly recommended) back in 2003, Judge Schiltz wrote:
"There is a reason why victims often sue as 'Jane Doe' or 'John Doe' and often seek protective orders from courts. Victims are understandably concerned to protect their privacy …
"I have been involved in hundreds of settlements, and I literally cannot recall one that required the victim not to talk about his or her abuse."
Separately, some dioceses are finally standing firm against publishing the names of priests who have been accused but whose accusations have not even been deemed to be credible.
Speaking from the Archdiocese of New Orleans, spokeswoman Sarah McDonald told the Advocate that although the the archdiocese publishes the names of priests who have had "credible" allegations against them, the archdiocese has chosen not to publish the names of offending priests from decades past "because some may be deceased and to protect those whose allegations against them are not credible."
Kudos to the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux and the Archdiocese of New Orleans for standing up for falsely accused priests, truth, and justice – however unpopular.