I read with interest, and a bit of anger, Professor Hank Shea’s Star Tribune editorial suggesting, “Attorneys for the archdiocese and plaintiffs could waive part of their fees, a major sacrifice that would make more money available for victims.”
Mr. Shea’s seemingly simple solution: Lawyers: Work for less to get the deal done. If each side gives, that will make everything all right.
But like many simple solutions, his ignores the underlying root cause of the problem. Obviously, this scandal started when priests abused children but was made horrible when the church protected the priests and covered it up. The church consistently ignored and denied initial rumors and claims, then quietly moved priests around the country, often without regard to the new crop of children they were sending the tainted priest to. The church lied to parishioners, and pressured them not sue, often with social pressures, often with their very religious beliefs. The survivors suffered through the trauma, and then having to live with these lies. The Church suffered nothing.
Sometimes there were bumps, fits and starts of action. Priests were questioned by prosecutors occasionally, but the church dealt with this by sending perpetrators to so-called “Alcohol treatment.”
There were even a few lawsuits, but many survivors were defeated with Statute of Limitations that had expired while they had suffered through their traumas. Jeff Anderson has lead the fight to defeat that defense here in Minnesota and across the world. His efforts were unsuccessful for many years; decades, but he and his friends persisted, and the Minnesota Legislature finally passed the Child Victims Act. The statute of limitation was no longer a shield for the years of crimes and the decades of cover-up by the Church. The Church was forced to face long-overdue claims. Light has been shown into very dark corners by the brave Survivors with the help of their long-fighting representatives.
Now the core problem is that the Church is using bankruptcy as a shield. Yes, the Church is again hiding. The Church, is it has in many other bankruptcies across the country, is simply biding its time, hiding assets, knowing that once the claims are all discharged it has no more worries from any old claims. And so if it can successfully hide assets and underestimate its own worth, there will be much more left to continue, along with the millions that will start to flow again into the collection plate.
So asking the lawyers to make up the difference is simply asking someone else, the lawyers, to pay for all the horrible acts of the church. So Mr. Shea becomes essentially another apologist for the Church. So now comes forward another apologist asking for help for a Church that has done nothing to earn help. That has gone to the bankruptcy court to hide yet again. That has hidden property and fought to cover assets.
Mr. Shea goes with the ‘call to honor’ at the end of his editorial: “I wager that, at the end of their careers, those lawyers and their firms would say it represented their finest hour.” Which seems like a sad joke when you are looking at actions of the respective parties. One side has fought for the rights of the Survivors for many years, has acted as he has said he would, and most of all has been the voice for those that the Church would easily have silenced. The editorial is a sad commentary. While it was responded to eloquently by one of the survivors, it really should be questioned by anyone that believes in people getting paid for their work, protecting the rights of the survivor, and most of all standing up to wrong, no matter who does it.
A founding partner with Bradshaw & Bryant, Mike Bryant has always fought to find justice for his clients—knowing that legal troubles, both personal injury and criminal, can be devastating for a family. Voted a Top 40 Personal Injury "Super Lawyer" multiple years, Mr. Bryant has also been voted one of the Top 100 Minnesota "Super Lawyers" four times.