Case Closed: Catholic Attorneys Should Not Defend Catholic Priests Involved In Abuse Cases

As a practicing Catholic and former Catholic educator, I am sick to my stomach reading and watching about the continuing pathetic saga of Catholic priests abuse cases.  When will it ever stop?

As someone who is devoted to my Catholic faith, I have read most of the report filed by the Attorney General of Pennsylvania. The report confirmed what we Catholics already knew, that there are many names of priests which never surfaced to the public but whose names are etched their victim’s hippocampus.

As of October 4, 2018, a total of 13 states are investigating clergy sexual abuse cases. While it took an attorney general from Pennsylvania to publicly state the obvious, what remains anonymous are the names of the law firms and attorneys who to this day, continue to defend these evil priests.  Why aren’t the names of these law firms made public? Why aren’t the names of attorneys who handled these cases for (Arch)dioceses made public?

I asked a relative how is it possible that a mutual friend who is Catholic, who graduated from a Catholic elementary, secondary, university, and law school continue to defend cases on behalf of the Archdiocese of San Francisco? My relative responded: “that’s his job.” I was stunned by this response.  If a Catholic attorney defends an (Arch)diocese in cases involving alleged clerical abuse, then the attorney should reject handling such cases. Would these same attorneys defend a member of Hitler’s army who gassed thousands of children in concentration camps knowing there is a big paycheck waiting for them at the end of the day?

The Archdiocese of San Francisco’s website list Larry Jannuzzi as their “Legal Counsel.” The website also lists Paula Carney as “Assistant Legal Counsel.” In addition to his normal daily activities, Jannuzzi is also responsible for working with outside counsel on matters such as priest abuse cases.  The Archdiocese’s preferred law firm for such cases is Weintraub Tobin Chediak Coleman Grodin Law Corporation.  Prior to merging with Weintraub Genshlea Chediak Law Corporation in 2011, Tobin & Tobin, San Francisco’s oldest law firm, was the Archdiocese’s preferred outside counsel.

Although there are far too many cases to address the horrendous comments by attorneys litigating on behalf of the Catholic Church, there is one exchange worth noting by the attorney for the Archdiocese of San Francisco which exemplifies the sheer arrogance of lawyers. Jean Guccione writes in her March 29, 2005 article for the Los Angeles Times:

The San Francisco case involves Father Joseph T. Pritchard, now deceased, who is accused of molesting at least 22 children throughout the 1970s. In a statement read by a judge Monday to prospective jurors, the archdiocese admitted that it did not investigate “thoroughly enough or do enough at that time to protect the children.”

The statement also acknowledged that three fellow priests “sometimes walked into the room where sexual molestation had been taking place and should have seen enough circumstances to make them suspicious of Father Pritchard’s behavior” and reported it to his superiors.

A jury last week awarded one of Pritchard’s earliest victims $437,000. Jury selection began Monday in the case of four other victims who have brought civil suits.

Attorney (Name Withheld), who represents the archdiocese, warned not to read too much into the statement. “It’s an acknowledgment of negligence, nothing more or less,” he said, declining on elaborate about why the archdiocese made the admission.

But attorney Laurence Drivon, who represents hundreds of people suing the church in California, including one whose case is among those being tried in San Francisco, said the statement is significant.

Drivon said the sexual abuse contributed to his client becoming “a full-blown drug addict by the time he graduated from high school” and living on the streets for months at a time when he was unable to hold down a job.

I cannot fathom why any attorney defending the Catholic Church would use such callous, insensitive language involving a legal case of sexual abuse of a minor.  How troubling it is to know that despite the outcome of the case, an attorney will receive his paycheck irrespective of the outcome of the case.

I think it is only fair that the names of the legal firms defending the Catholic Church are made public; this will at least make such law firms insignificant to those individuals who would otherwise have hired such firms because of their legal acumen.

The moral fiber of our world is shredding.  Decisions such as which legal cases to take should matter.  Catholics who defend the Church in alleged abuse cases should recuse themselves – case closed!

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