Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The bankruptcy of a bankrupt church.

The San Diego Diocese of the Catholic Church has filed for bankruptcy. They are the fifth local branch of the Church of Rome to do so in the United States. Others that have sought legal protection from debts are the branches in Davenport, Iowa; Portland, Oregon; Spokane, Washington; and Tucson, Arizona.

The move in San Diego is being done for the same reason as in the other areas. The church there is facing 150 lawsuits due to sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests. The church says it is facing such massive pay outs to the victims of the priests that it can’t afford to pay its debts. In San Diego the church has $156 million in assets.

There are several disturbing aspects to this move by the church.

One is that the church appears to be using bankruptcy as a means of stopping the lawsuits from proceeding thus keeping some embarrassing information under wraps. A lawyer for the victims said: “For three years they’ve told people they want to settle, they want to be transparent. But the moment it became clear the truth will come out through a jury trial, they sought to shut down victims’ ability to get compensated and get out the truth.” One television news report states that the diocese “did not list the names of litigants who have filed sex-abuse claims, indicating that it has petitioned to enter those details under seal.” This looks more like a cover up to me.

The second issue for me is that bankruptcy strikes me as rather immoral. If you owe debts to someone and then file bankruptcy you don’t have to pay them what you owe them. Bankruptcy has always struck me as a form of legalized theft. And theft violates one of the ten commandments -- in fact it violates one of the few commandments that makes sense.

What it looks like to me is that the Catholic Church first allowed and/or covered-up the abuse of children. Then when it was required to pay them compensation for the harm done it files bankruptcy thus stealing the compensation, along with stealing from others to whom money is owed. This is highly immoral but par for the course.

But what really gets me is why the San Diego Diocese is being treated as an independent entity. They list their assets in San Diego and their liabilities. But shouldn’t the church be required to list their global assets and global liabilities?

People forget that they call themselves Catholic because the word means universal. They present themselves as a global entity not just a local one. And they operate as a global entity with corporate headquarters in Rome. The name indicates this. It is Roman because its headquarters are in Rome but Catholic as they are all part of the same body. Their universality is official teaching of the church.

The hierarchy of the church ensures that every priest, bishop, archbishop and cardinal serves under the authority of the Vatican. They are not independent at all. San Diego can’t exactly announce that they renounce the virgin birth and praying to Mary. Anyone who did that would be removed from office by the church leadership under the authority of Rome.

All church leaders are interconnected. There is no independent church. If you are a member of the Roman Catholic Church you are a member of the universal body of Catholics not of a specific church or diocese. You may attend services in a specific area but you are a member of the universal church. If you travel you can worship at any of the Catholic churches you will find and be considered a full fledged Catholic at those churches as well. You know that they are supposed to preach the same doctrines and that they too are under the authority of Rome.

And the cover up of abuse was not just done locally. If Father Kiddiefiddle was caught in San Diego and it proved to be embarrassing he’d be moved. But such moves were often to other regions of the country or even the world. The church universal acted in concert with these cover ups. It wasn’t just a specific diocese.

If the priest from San Diego was caught with a gaggle of Girl Scouts he could, and often was, moved to other cities. The recipient diocese of this priest was also complicit in the cover-up. And if the priest was caught again he would often be moved again to another diocese. They played a game of musical priests. When the music stopped whichever priest was caught was transferred out. But instead of being out of the game he was sent to another diocese where he continued the game.

The crisis of child abuse within the church was not restricted to one region. The Catholic Church lived up to their name -- it was universal -- or at least global which is what they really mean. Priests could be moved anywhere in the world. And remember that the Pope started out as a priest in Germany. The previous Pope began his clerical career as a priest in Poland. He would rise through the ranks. One doesn’t rise without the approval of church leaders above you in hierarchy and Cardinals are appointed by the Pope.

If Ford produces a car that is dangerous and they are found liable for damages the company, not the local dealer, is held responsible. And Ford is less hierarchical than the Roman Catholic Church.

I see no reason why the San Diego branch of this universal body ought to be given bankruptcy protection. It is an immoral shirking of responsibility to debtors and the assets of the church extend around the world and all the way to Rome. They ought not be allowed to pretend their assets stop at the borders of the diocese alone. The only bankruptcy the Catholic Church should be allowed to declare is moral bankruptcy.

Photo: An an example of the incredible wealth of the Roman church and as a testament against their right to file bankruptch look at this photo. That is one of many treasurers sitting in the Vatican. That is model church is made of gold and platinum. Solid gold artifacts are not uncommon. Papal diamond rngs are certainly not unknown. Paintings worth hundreds of millions exist. The sale of just a tiny number of such objects would pay off the debts of all the bankrupt churches.

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Blogger Indioheathen said...

Chapter 7 bankruptcy relieves individual debtors of their debts and Chapter 11 bankruptcy relieves businesses, corporations, and organizations of their debts.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy on the other hand does not cancel out debts. It allows both categories of debtors to pay debts they are in arrears on back to their creditors on a low, monthly payment plan without liens being placed on their assets and bank accounts by the creditors. Chapter 13, in my opinion, is a fair and reasonable compromise over the the other two wipe-out-your-debts form of bankrupty.

Since 2006, it has been more difficult to file Chapter 7 or 11 for debtors with assets over $50,000 dollars.

Federal bankruptcy judges who are members of the Roman Catholic Church ought to dismiss themselves from presiding over RC dioceases' Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases. Non-RC judges should preside over them and deny the bankruptcy. Aside from owning all that gold and other valueable relics, the Roman Catholic Church also owns more private real estate in the world than any other private entity.

February 28, 2007

Blogger amoebe said...

The Catholic church has its assets well protected. Of course they know what their priests do, and while they cover those activities up and allow the perpetrators to get away unscathed, they certainly protect themselves against the financial consequences. It's ok if you molest some kids, but don't you EVER touch my money. They are just a really sick bunch of old guys.

March 01, 2007

Blogger D.A. Becker said...

Sick old guys who don't get to have sex go nuts. Catholics are nuts; they're old, their sick, and they can't have sex for the pleasure of it. (What other purpose does it have?)

March 06, 2007

Blogger Publius II said...

ummm... ever hear of procreation, Derreck? :)

NGZ - Good point about the universality of the Catholic Church. Seems to me, that if a local diocese owes money for any reason, the Church as a whole should ultimately be legally responsible.

And I kinda agree with you as well about Bankruptcy being immoral. Restructuring of debt (chapter 13) is at least a little bit more acceptable.

The problem is, without a Bankruptcy system, you are thrown back to two alternatives, either allow people to become indentured servants, or throw them in debtors prison.

March 07, 2007

Blogger D.A. Becker said...

I knew sex also has some strange effect on women if they don't protect themselves. They go all ballooney :)

March 07, 2007

Blogger luggage79 said...

d.a., well, at least they don't PMS while they are going all ballooney. Imagine the combination of both! Nature is indeed wise to prevent that :-D

March 07, 2007


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