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Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The prevalence of the sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy and its shocking cover-up by church officials have obscured the largely untold story of the tort system's remarkable success in bringing the scandal to light. The lessons of clergy sexual abuse litigation give us reason to reconsider the case for tort reform and to look more closely at how tort litigation can enhance the performance of public and private policymaking institutions.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06644-1
    Subjects: Political Science, Religion, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Timeline of Events
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Father Gilbert Gauthe was a popular parish priest in the farming community of Henry, Louisiana.¹ In the five and a half years since his arrival, many parishioners had come to treat him as a family member. He dined regularly in their homes and was often invited along on vacations. He provided help in times of personal crisis. He monitored police messages on a CB radio in his car and sped to the scene of accidents to offer assistance. Father Gauthe organized activities for the boys of the community, who were naturally attracted to the hip, energetic priest who rode a...

  5. I An Overview of Clergy Sexual Abuse Litigation

    • CHAPTER ONE A Short History
      (pp. 13-41)

      Litigation against the Catholic Church for clergy sexual abuse predates the Gauthe case. One can find reports of criminal prosecutions of priests dating back to the nineteenth century, and in the decades before the Gauthe case, dioceses around the country quietly settled civil claims.¹ At the time the Gastals filed their lawsuit against Gauthe and the Diocese of Lafayette, dioceses in California, Oregon, Idaho, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Rhode Island were facing criminal and civil litigation for clergy sexual abuse.² Prior to the Gauthe case, however, incidents of clergy sexual abuse were viewed as rare and...

    • CHAPTER TWO Statistics
      (pp. 42-54)

      In the previous chapter, we focused on a handful of landmark cases in order to simplify and structure the complex history of clergy sexual abuse litigation. We turn now to what statistics can teach us about clergy sexual abuse litigation in the aggregate. In the first half of the chapter, I review existing data concerning the nature and scope of clergy sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. I then present original, and more limited data concerning clergy sexual abuse litigation. But first a word of caution is in order. The original data presented in the second half of the chapter...

    • CHAPTER THREE Legal Issues
      (pp. 55-78)

      Clergy sexual abuse lawsuits assert claims against individual priests who commit abuse and institutional defendants such as dioceses and religious orders. Claims against priests typically allege battery: intentional contact with the person of another that is harmful or offensive.¹ This is an uncontroversial theory of recovery, and these claims normally result in either an admission of liability or a relatively straightforward dispute over the facts of what happened. Most priests, however, lack sufficient assets to pay damages. They are named in civil suits primarily to bolster claims against institutional defendants.

      Claims against institutional defendants seek to hold a diocese or...

  6. II Litigation and Policymaking

    • CHAPTER FOUR Framing Clergy Sexual Abuse as a Problem of Institutional Failure
      (pp. 81-107)

      In lawsuits against the Catholic Church, plaintiffs have framed clergy sexual abuse as not merely a problem of child exploitation by individual clergy members but also as an issue of institutional failure on the part of church officials. This frame of institutional failure quickly became the dominant frame in news media coverage of the issue, and it was widely accepted among the general public, the Catholic laity, government officials, and church leaders. The USCCB’s own National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People declared in its 2004 Report on the Crisis in the Catholic Church in the...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Placing Clergy Sexual Abuse on Policy Agendas
      (pp. 108-136)

      At the June 2002 meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas, the only item on the agenda was clergy sexual abuse. Boston Globe reporters described the atmosphere as “the kind of circus that normally attends a presidential convention.”¹ Seven hundred journalists attended the meeting. Outside the Fairmont hotel, where the meeting took place, hundreds of protesters greeted the bishops as they arrived. Fearing that the situation might get out of control, Dallas police, including SWAT teams, stood by on high alert.² Inside, USCCB president Bishop Wilton Gregory opened the meeting by explaining that “[t]he task that we...

    • CHAPTER SIX Uncovering Concealed Information
      (pp. 137-160)

      Allegations that bishops have attempted to cover-up clergy sexual abuse have persisted throughout the scandal. The most notorious allegations were made by Governor Frank Keating of Oklahoma. The bishops selected Keating at their June 2002 Dallas meeting to chair the newly created National Review Board, charged with overseeing implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children & Young People. Keating’s appointment was announced with great enthusiasm and portrayed as the start of a new, tougher attitude toward clergy sexual abuse. “From this day forward,” proclaimed USCCB president Bishop Wilton Gregory, “no one known to have sexually abused a child will...

  7. III Tort Litigation as a Policy Venue

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Assessing the Results of Clergy Sexual Abuse Litigation
      (pp. 163-189)

      So far, we have seen that clergy sexual abuse litigation has had a significant impact on church and government policymaking. The chapters in Part II demonstrated how litigation framed clergy sexual abuse as an issue of institutional failure, placed this issue on the agendas of church and government policymakers, and uncovered information essential to understanding the problem. We turn now to the question of whether the litigation’s impact has been beneficial and, if so, whether its benefits outweigh its costs.

      Clergy sexual abuse litigation has yielded a number of significant benefits. They include victim compensation, church policies designed to prevent...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT The Complementary Policymaking Role of Tort Litigation
      (pp. 190-212)

      The sexual abuse of over 13,000 children and adolescents by Catholic priests in the United States since 1950 is an astonishing fact. Even more astonishing is that church officials knew of these crimes and, for the most part, failed to report them to civil authorities or remove the perpetrators from ministry. Law enforcement authorities, even when notified, often failed to investigate or prosecute. Legislators were either unaware of the problem or unwilling to address it for fear of political repercussions. The clergy sexual abuse scandal is a story of multiple institutional failures.

      Tort litigation has played an essential role in...

  8. Appendixes
    (pp. 213-224)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 225-268)
  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 269-272)
  11. Index
    (pp. 273-286)