Catholic church plays hardball in the courts.
April 14, 2002 8:35 AM   Subscribe

Catholic church plays hardball in the courts. [NYTimes link, login metafi/metafi] "The dioceses have on the whole acted little differently from commercial institutions confronted by explosive litigation risks. They have tried aggressively to limit exposure to claims by setting up parishes as individual corporations, invoked the statute of limitations, subjected plaintiffs to days of grueling depositions and settled claims in secret." Should the church be behaving just like any private company? What would Jesus do?
posted by boltman (16 comments total)
I am not Catholic but I would do what they are doing in order to work the system. It is the business of the Church and all institutions first to survive. This may sound un-churchly a thing to do, but would economic ruin be better for those zillions of believers? What is good for you, for business etc should also be used by the Church. If they should not do it, then so too, business ought not. Inb other words, if they are not able to set an example they can at least follow one.
posted by Postroad at 8:59 AM on April 14, 2002

How is the Catholic Church acting any different then they have in the last 400 years? The Church has historically acted like a corporation, ever since the founding of the corporation in the 1600’s [which corresponds with the birth of the modern church in Paris]. The Church has always been at one at odds with corporation/capitalism and in the same bed with it. During the Middle Ages, the Church owned much of the then Europe.

So I ask again, “How is this different?” Morally, I think it is a bit on the shady side. But as Postroad said, they are just using the system to further the good deeds that they DO, do.
posted by plemeljr at 9:06 AM on April 14, 2002

yea, i heard someone from the catholic church talking about this on npr, saying it was mostly the insurance companies playing hardball, that is also discussed in the linked article

This is because insurance companies, not church officials, choose the lawyers in most of the cases, and the officials are often reluctant to question the lawyers' tactical judgments, legal experts say. Mark E. Chopko, the general counsel of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that only about 30 of the nation's 194 Roman Catholic dioceses have legal departments.

so it shouldn't be too surprising that they act like other corporations, since they probably hire the same insurance companies. i couldn't help but think, listening to him explain it in an it's-not-our-fault sort of way, that if they weren't happy with their representation they could get someone else though...

and, if they are not able to set an example they should seek new leadership that can. their job is to set examples and provide moral leadership. and it is in fact not the first business of the church to survive, it is to do what they think god says in the bible, if they do that, according to the christian belief system god will provide the survival part, and if he doesn't that's god's will and should be accepted.
posted by rhyax at 9:10 AM on April 14, 2002

What would Jesus do? He would forgive them.
posted by NortonDC at 9:24 AM on April 14, 2002

I'm with you rhyax. I'm Lutheran, not Catholic, but I know I would be extremely unconfortable with my church using the same "ends justify the means" calculus that some of these dioceses seem to be embracing.
posted by boltman at 9:27 AM on April 14, 2002

Presumably, the question to ask is: does the Church view itself as a "corporation" or human "institution"? If that's really how it sees itself, then why should we invest it with any more moral authority than, say, Disney? If that isn't how it sees itself, then can it actually provide a cogent moral (or, for that matter, theological) justification for putting its own financial interests above the interests of its parishioners?

If a Christian church can only survive by being un-Christian, then surely, somewhere, there is a problem. And while Jesus might forgive those involved, he would probably throw them out of the temple first.
posted by thomas j wise at 10:52 AM on April 14, 2002


He'd make an O out of his mouth and go about his business.
posted by Settle at 12:14 PM on April 14, 2002

WWJD? You do realize he loved children, right?
posted by fleener at 2:45 PM on April 14, 2002

Perhaps my question was unclear. I was asking what Jesus would do if he were running the church. Would he condone these hardball tactics by the church/insurance company lawyers? (shredding documents, publicizing names of victims, etc). Does a Christian institution have the same obligation to turn the other cheek that individual Christians ostensibly have, even if doing so might result in massive financial loss?
posted by boltman at 3:02 PM on April 14, 2002

Anytime Jesus wants to step in and personally run the church, he can. That's what the church people say, anyway.





Oh, Jesus ...

posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:52 PM on April 14, 2002

Two words: TAX THEM.
posted by rushmc at 10:25 PM on April 14, 2002

> Two words: TAX THEM.

Yep. Churches are tax dodges for social clubs. If you want to pray, you can do it at home for free. If you want to start a charity, you can set up an independent charity organization and tax it like a charity organization (or, smarter, give your money to an established charity organization that will use the money more efficiently). If you want to build a place to hang out with your pals and keep your children away from people who don't look like you, the place should be taxed like any other social club.
posted by pracowity at 11:55 PM on April 14, 2002

er, social clubs are not taxed either, unless they are for-profit.

plus, it would seem to violate the 'free exercise' clause of the first amendment, don't you think?
posted by boltman at 5:47 AM on April 15, 2002

WWJD? Get his ass nailed to a cross, most likely...
posted by darian at 8:07 AM on April 15, 2002

Catholic church plays hardball in the courts.

My rodii-vision is acting up. When I saw this link, I said, WTF? Where else are they gonna play handball, anyway? A hockey rink?
posted by rodii at 8:59 AM on April 15, 2002

I think that we should all keep in mind that Jesus has been dead for a long, long time...
posted by Settle at 7:34 PM on April 15, 2002

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