Civil Lawsuits Help Criminal Prosecution
Florida’s most notorious predator priest, Fr. Neil Doherty, pled no contest on January 14 to molesting kids. Police and prosecutors built a strong case against him, in part, because of evidence unearthed in more than 20 civil lawsuits against Doherty over the years.
It’s a part of the clergy sex abuse and cover-up crisis that few people are aware of: the fact that civil lawsuits can lead to criminal prosecution of predators. Civil litigation enables victims and their advocates to expose long-secret church records as a part of the “discovery” process (including critical evidence—documents, photos, depositions, personnel files—that criminal investigations often overlook). The result: more predators are convicted and kept away from kids.
Civil litigation has led to the arrests of other predators, including Fr. Bruce MacArthur, Fr. A. J. Cote, and Fr. Donald McGuire (the Jesuit who was once Mother Teresa’s confessor). It’s happened at least six times in California alone (with Fr. George Neville Rucker, Fr. Denis Lyons, Fr. Michael Wempe, Fr. Michael Baker, and Fr. Edward Anthony Rodrigue).
Law enforcement authorities are human. They’re often overworked and underpaid. They always have plenty on their plates.
But when an abuse victim or his/her lawyer walk into the police station with dozens or hundreds of files about a credibly accused child molester, it makes the job of secular officials considerably easier.
So remember this the next time you hear a church official or congregant say “these victims, these lawsuits, it’s all about the money.” That’s what many who help or enable child molesters want you to think. But it’s about prevention too, by both deterring future crimes and cover ups and by locking up the predators.
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.