MO- St. Louis lawsuit charges archbishop broke the law

This new lawsuit is in the public record. It seeks unspecified damages. It makes unusual and disturbing charges.

I’ve not met or spoken with this family. Because of that, and because the victim is young, the crimes are recent, the lawsuit is detailed and prosecution is pending, I won’t answer many questions today. The last thing on earth I would want is to do or say anything that might in any way make an obviously traumatic situation more difficult for this courageous girl and her parents.

Archbishop Carlson, however, has said nothing about the case against Fr. Joseph Jiang. He’s had more than a year to do so. We in SNAP hope he will live up to his promises to be “open and transparent” in clergy sex abuse and cover up cases. Specifically, we hope he will personally respond to the allegations that Fr. Jiang admitted his abuse of this girl to Carlson.

Let’s be clear on what we are NOT saying today. We are not alleging that there’s anything improper about Fr. Jiang’s movements from China to the US and from state to state to state. Again, however, we hope Carlson will shed some light on these somewhat unusual transfers.

We are not alleging that Carlson has done anything illegal. That accusation is in the civil lawsuit and the legal process will resolve that accusation. Again, we hope Carlson will personally address this charge now.

And it should be Carlson himself, not one of his public relations staffers, who speaks to and takes questions about these serious allegations. We aren’t sure that he’s ever really taken questions from a group of journalists about any of the dozens and dozens of clergy sex abuse and cover up lawsuits he has surely dealt with. It’s time he stop hiding behind his defense lawyers and public relations professionals.

Let’s talk briefly about this courageous family.

Responsible people do all they can to keep predators away from kids. That’s what this brave family is doing.

Too often, parents put all their eggs in one basket and assume our overworked criminal justice system will lock up child molesters. That is tempting but irresponsible.

Sometimes, because of archaic laws and loopholes, overwhelmed and underfunded police and prosecutors lose criminal cases to shrewd pedophiles and their cunning lawyers. Then, child sex offenders go free and hurt others. Families then sometimes try civil action but are told “you’re too late.” And they end up feeling further betrayed and helpless and depressed, knowing that more could have been done to warn parents about a predator.

So smart, caring adults use every means possible – criminal cases, civil suits and media attention – to protect the vulnerable. Gradually, more and more people realize that this approach is the best way to safeguard children. It’s very hard for victims and their families. But it’s very compassionate and effective.

Criminal child sex cases are often about jailing one bad guy. Usually, evidence of complicity by the predator’s peers and supervisors doesn’t surface. So institutions, like the Catholic hierarchy, that repeatedly act selfishly and recklessly and deceitfully with child molesters and children’s safety walk away scot-free.

That’s why civil suits are important. Through trials, depositions and discovery, society learns more about dreadful crimes and cover ups. That knowledge makes the public more careful.  It prevents future crimes and cover ups. And those disclosures deter other employers and officials from ignoring, minimizing, hiding and enabling sexual violence against kids.

In short, bosses are less apt to help child predators – by action or inaction – if they fear being exposed and sued.

Civil suits also give citizens a chance to compare institutions’ deeds and words. Civil suits against Catholic officials often show that while bishops promise ‘compassion’ and ‘transparency,’ they usually practice ‘viciousness’ and ‘secrecy’ (especially in court).

So we are grateful this family is doing what’s right. We are grateful they have chosen the more difficult but more responsible path. We hope others will follow their courageous and compassionate example. (Remember: roughly 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 8 boys are sexually assaulted as kids. So in reality, there should be many, many more child sex abuse and cover up suits.)

Someday, there may be a better way to stop heinous child sex crimes and immoral cover ups than criminal prosecution, civil suits and publicity. But for now, those three steps are the best way to keep kids from being raped, sodomized and molested. We admire this family for doing everything they can to make children safer and keep other families from suffering the way they are suffering.

A few callous, die-hard archdiocesan backers will, no doubt, claim that this family is motivated by financial considerations. That’s wrong and hurtful.

First, no one can know what is in another person’s heart.

Second, church officials often exploit technicalities and get many clergy sex abuse cases tossed out.

Third, clergy sex abuse settlements in Missouri are often very low. (We know of one that was for $3,000.)

Fourth, one might be skeptical of someone who brings a civil child sex abuse suit without also pursuing a criminal case. (Why seek compensation when you’re not seeking jail time?) But that’s not what’s happening here.

Fifth, this civil suit is happening more than a year after the criminal charges were filed.

Sixth, if Carlson had acted properly and Jiang had pled guilty (or been found guilty), we strongly suspect this family would not have filed this suit. 

At least three times, Fr. Jiang’s trial has been delayed. Archbishop Carlson’s deposition has been delayed. Carlson has had more than a year to provide Fr. Jiang’s files to the prosecutor. But he has not done so.

So the criminal process, for this family, at this point, obviously hasn’t really succeeded or has only partially succeeded.

Keep in mind that Fr. Jiang could die. He could flee the country. His lawyers might win on a technicality. Under these scenarios and others, every wrongdoer in the criminal case would escape all consequences for these heinous crimes (child sex abuse and victim tampering).

So clearly, relying strictly on the criminal process is risky. If you were molested as a child and have a pending criminal case, we strongly advise you to seriously consider a civil case too.

(Recall the case of Fr. James Beine, a.k.a Marr James. He was convicted in Missouri on indecent exposure charges and in Illinois on child porn charges. Both were overturned on appeal, he left jail and moved to Nevada where he sought a teacher’s license. Now, his whereabouts are unknown.)

We close, as we almost always do, with a plea to current and former church members and employees: please call police and prosecutors if you have any information that might help prove or disprove these allegations. Please don’t sit back. Please don’t assume that the full truth will surface and that all of the wrongdoers will be caught and be appropriately disciplined. Above all, please don’t naively believe that a dangerous predator will be kept away from kids by others alone. Please, if you saw, suspected or suffered abuse or cover up – by Fr. Jiang or any cleric – find the courage to do your moral and civic duty. Please call the independent and professional secular officials, not biased and self-serving church officials.

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