Saturday, July 14, 2012

Religious Freedom for Me, Not Thee: Green Bay Diocese Claims First-Amendment Right to Protect Pedophiles

In a comment yesterday responding to my last posting about the U.S. Catholic bishops' "Fortnight for Freedom" débacle, Coolmom wrote, 

And now the Diocese of Green Bay is arguing that its First Amendment rights mean they can transfer a known pedophile and not be held criminally responsible? 
Tell me I misunderstood that!

I'm afraid you didn't misunderstand, Coolmom.

As Peter Isely writes in a press statement at the SNAP Wisconsin site,

In a stunning motion filed in an Appleton, Wisconsin court the Diocese of Green Bay has argued that bishops and religious officials who operate schools, churches, and youth centers can intentionally conceal and transfer clergy child molesters, even if found guilty of doing so by a jury.

And as he also notes,

Following the logic of the diocese argument, the US Constitution allows a bishop or religious official full civil immunity to secretly assign a cleric to a parish or school to work with children, even if that cleric has or is intending to commit child rape. When a bishop assigns a priest, according to the diocese, that does not mean the bishop believes the priest is safe to be around children. And any decision a bishop makes about a cleric may “not be evaluated or explained” by courts because the First Amendment allows religious organizations to essentially do what they want and be accountable to no one. 
In other words: According to the bishops of the Catholic Church, American religious liberty is for bishops, not children. The US Constitution does not protect children to freely worship and practice their faith from religious officials who put the protection of sex offender clerics over their safety.

Religious freedom for me but not for thee: that has been the bottom line all along, as the U.S. Catholic bishops rant about religious freedom and how it's under attack these days.  It's their religious freedom, not yours and mine, with which they're concerned.

Especially if the "yours and mine" in that sentence refers to a child being abused by a priest, or to his or her family, or to anyone else concerned to safeguard children from this kind of abuse.

This action by the Green Bay diocese tends to confirm Mark Silk's judgment that "the bishops' rage against the contraception mandate is actually displaced anger at losing their de facto power to decide the fate of sexually abusive priests."  The phony religious freedom war is a smokescreen for the bishops' continued assertion that the Catholic hierarchy should have the unrestricted right to handle their own affairs, including the processing of priests abusing minors, in-house.  With no government restrictions, supervision, or penalties when the hierarchy flouts laws governing criminal behavior.

It's absolutely about religious freedom for me, if I'm a Roman Catholic cleric, but not for thee, if you're anyone else in the world.  And the primary reason the hierarchy are so desperate to have a Republican-controlled White House and Congress after the 2012 elections is that they imagine they will receive more breaks from GOP leaders than from a Democratic-controlled federal government, when it comes to their "right" to handle these matters in-house.

Even if the election of a GOP federal government in the U.S. this fall puts the future of the entire planet at risk . . . . 

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