Friday, December 10, 2010

Bad publicity
Our view: Bad publicity: What's it worth to Winona diocese?
StoryDiscussionOur view: Bad publicity: What's it worth to Winona diocese?
Posted: Friday, December 10, 2010 7:15 am | 1 Comment

Font Size:Default font sizeLarger font size.How much publicity could you buy with $134,000?

Probably a whole lot less than the Diocese of Winona and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis got for free last week.

The two dioceses decided to seek attorneys fees from a man who apparently was molested by a priest, Thomas Adamson.

Let's review: Adamson is no stranger to the Diocese of Winona. The diocese had to pay more than a million dollars because he had committed sexual abuses while working as a priest for the diocese. He scurried to the archdiocese where the abuse continued. A victim decided to sue the diocese two years ago. He won in trial, but an appeals court later said the statute of limitations prevented him from winning a judgment, handing both dioceses a technical victory.

Let's also make this clear: This was no exoneration. This was no victory. This was a technicality.

So, the dioceses have decided to seek attorneys fees because they technically prevailed.

If we have this right: They're asking a victim to pay for their attorneys even though he was sexually abused by a priest whom the dioceses knew to be a threat (he first admitted to abusing children in 1964).

The sheer gall of such a request is stunning. But this is no mere civil litigation between two private parties. This is an institution that purports to be the legacy of Jesus Christ's compassion, mercy, forgiveness and love.

To think the dioceses would ask for money from a victim is not only disappointing, but it shows a basic lack of compassion. If this is how the church acts, how can it reasonably expect its parishioners to turn the other cheek? The quality of mercy appears to be strained in the church, especially when it comes to attorneys fees.

Beyond the sheer audacity of such a move, it's equally sad that when the dioceses announced they would "postpone" a claim for attorneys fees, it appeared to be little more than a publicity stunt, meant to assuage a storm of bad publicity. The truth is while the dioceses said they'd "postpone" their action, the suits still are active, and it hasn't really stopped the legal action.

So why haven't the requests been dropped?

Could the dioceses' action be more a warning to other victims of clergy sex abuse?

And what about Pope Benedict XVI's vow to root this cancer of clergy sex abuse out of the America Catholic Church by openness, transparency and


These requests for attorneys fees seems to suggest there's something more here than the money. After all, what is $68,000 to a diocese that just renovated its cathedral for


We understand that not every single suit that's been brought against any church - Catholic or otherwise - has been legitimate. But that is for the courts to decide. And far too many cases have had merit.

This most recent case was hardly frivolous.

If the dioceses aren't seeking attorneys fees to serve as an example, then the Catholic Church should be more savvy and realize its actions would appear vindictive.

By Darrell Ehrlick, editor, on behalf of the Winona Daily News editorial board, which also includes publisher Rusty Cunningham and deputy editor Jerome Christenson. To comment, call 453-3507 or send e-mail to

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