Legacy of Scandal Is Huge Waste

By Jim Ketchum
Times Herald [Louisville KY]
Downloaded June 14, 2003

You could do a lot with $25.7 million.

You could give it to Habitat for Humanity and build about 500 simple, decent, affordable houses for people who need them.

You could fund St. Clair County's Discovery Years early-childhood development program for about five years before you'd have to ask cranky taxpayers for money to run it.

You could send a boatload of students to the college or university of their choice and avoid those dumb student-loan payments later on.

You might even fund a few years of sewer separation work in Port Huron if you didn't mind literally pouring your money into a hole in the ground.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville in Kentucky will spend $25.7 million settling complaints from nearly 250 people who claim sexual abuse by priests and other employees of the Roman Catholic Church.

That represents more than half the archdiocese's $48 million in liquid assets.

No matter how you look at it, $25.7 million is a lot of money.

It takes scads of collection plates to hold that much cash.

Without liability insurance to foot the bill, it has to come from somewhere. For openers, job cuts, salary freezes and a budget cut of about $2 million appear to be the source.

It would be bad enough if this were the only Catholic archdiocese in trouble.

It isn't.

Boston's Archdiocese agreed to pay $10 million to 86 plaintiffs, and the Diocese of Manchester, N.H., agreed to settle claims amounting to $6.5 million.

Sadly, it's not over.

Others who say they, too, are victims are awaiting their day in court.

Not enough of the perpetrators are behind bars. None of them begins to have enough assets to make even a small dent in the settlements. Monetarily, they'll get off free.

Doing 100 years in the pokey won't begin to undo the damage they've done.

Former Secretary of Labor Raymond Donovan, acquitted of financial wrongdoing, asked where he could go to get his reputation back.

The U.S. Catholic Church, which too often looked the other way while the disaster brewed, might ask the same question.

Catholic bishops meet next week in St. Louis. Last year in Dallas, they promised to do more of their business in public. But this time around, they'll talk about the abuse scandal behind closed doors. Old ways of doing things die hard.

The saddest aspect to all of it is the utter waste, the squandering of resources, both human and monetary.

There is the waste of priests who sullied and debased the collars they wore.

There is the waste of their victims, many of whom still have not come to terms with the damage they suffered.

It is waste that did not have to happen if people had been valued more than reputations.

In the end, the cost is far greater than $25.7 million.

Contact Jim Ketchum at (810) 989-6262 or


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