Priests in legal limbo

Every time we’ve covered the sex abuse crisis on Interfaith Voices, I wondered about the possibility of false accusations against priests. When guests say that priests should be removed from ministry if there is a “credible accusation,” I wondered, what makes a charge “credible?” And who decides?

Now, Daniel Burke of Religion News Service has broken a story on this issue, and NCR has covered it. We feature it this week on Interfaith Voices

For example, I interviewed a priest who was accused of “child endangerment,” because he helped a little girl write her name in the Tamil language (the priest’s native language) on a blackboard. The case was so flimsy that a grand jury threw it out for lack of evidence. In fact, since the priest in question is a native of India, there is some evidence that there was racism behind the charge.

Yet, the bishop refused to re-instate this priest in ministry or to continue a process of “incardination” that had already begun, or take steps to restore his good name. The bishop simply wanted him to return to India. But most telling: the priest says the bishop refused to dialogue with him after the proceedings.

Then there is the question of “due process” (such as it is) in the church. This was driven home to me when the canon lawyer for the accused priest in question said that decisions stemming from an appeal to the Vatican go to the bishop in question, but not to him or his client! Incredible! If there are two parties to a dispute, surely both should know the outcome.

Essentially, it seems to me that Burke has uncovered another form of “abuse” in the church.

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