The Catholic Church: Pedophilia as a First Amendment Right

I think I’m going to be sick.

Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars: In one of the many pedophilia lawsuits against them, having to do with known pedophiles in the priesthood not being reported to the police and in fact being re-assigned repeatedly to new dioceses, the Catholic Church is arguing that the case should be dismissed on First Amendment grounds. They’re arguing that the free exercise of religion clause means that the Church should be able to discipline their priests however they want, and assign and re-assign them wherever they want. They’re arguing that for the courts to rule otherwise would make the courts and the government “unconstitutionally entangled in religious doctrine, practice, or church polity.”

Okay. Let’s get this out of the way first: This defense is complete bullshit. A religious organization’s First Amendment right to run its own ship stops when there’s harm or potential harm to the public. Churches have to obey fire and safety codes; religious leaders can’t commit fraud or murder; etc.

That’s not my point.

My point is this:

They basically just said that child molestation, and the protection of priests who commit it, is part of the Catholic Church’s doctrine, practice, or church polity.

They said that protecting priests who molest children is a legitimate part of their religion and their religious structure, a Constitutionally protected form of religious expression, an internal matter that they should be free to exercise.

And they think this is a defense???

If this defense were being mounted by anyone other than a respected, well-established religious organization, it wouldn’t just not be a defense. It would be an admission of guilt. They basically said, “Yes, we protect pedophiles from prosecution and move them from parish to parish so they can keep molesting kids for years. What business is it of yours? That’s a valid form of free religious expression.”

I think I’m going to be sick.

The Catholic Church: Pedophilia as a First Amendment Right
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5 thoughts on “The Catholic Church: Pedophilia as a First Amendment Right

  1. 2

    Oh! Spanish Inquisitor, I didn’t expect you (sorry, couldn’t resist!).
    All this goes to show is that the Catholic Church has its head up its ass. Also, they need some new lawyers. I have never heard anything so … so STUPID in my entire life. They’re not really going to get away with this, are they?! I have to go read up on this, excuse me…

  2. 3

    AS a lawyer, I have to say that if a defense has even a remote chance of success, if it is even slightly colorable, then it will be asserted, else the lawyer risks a malpractice claim. Fact of life.
    But that particular defense is particularly odorous. I can’t see how it couldn’t possibly backfire on them. But really, with the facts they have to work with, they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

  3. 5

    Were it not for our insane bias in favor of religion in general, the entire Church hierarchy from the Pope on down would be the target of a RICO prosecution — every bishop and cardinal in America would be under arrest, and every high church official not in America, including Ratzinger, would be liable to arrest the moment they set foot on our soil. That would surely be the case for any multinational corporation outside the religion business whose employees committed such vile crimes on such a massive scale, and whose management conspired to conceal and perpetuate those crimes, and it ought to be the case for the oldest, largest, and most corrupt corporation on Earth, but because it’s engaged in that least productive of all industries, religion, it’s untouchable.

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