Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New bishop once blamed devil for abuse lawsuits

Last updated April 20, 2010 4:05 p.m. PT

New bishop once blamed devil for abuse lawsuits

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- A Chicago bishop who once blamed the devil for sexual abuse lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Church and proposed shielding the church from legal damages has been named to lead an Illinois diocese.

Thomas Paprocki, an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Chicago, was announced Tuesday as the church's ninth bishop of Springfield.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said it was disappointed with Paprocki's promotion.

"It says to us that the Vatican is more interested in doctrinal purity than child safety - or at least that child safety isn't the No. 1 priority," said David Clohessy, SNAP's executive director.

Paprocki, 57, said three years ago that the principal force behind the waves of abuse lawsuits was "none other than the devil."

He said the cost of litigation was making it more difficult for the church to perform charitable works. An attorney himself, Paprocki proposed that the courts revive an old policy of shielding nonprofit organizations from lawsuits over negligence and abuse.

"The settlement or award of civil damages is punishing the wrong people, namely the average parishioner or donor whose financial contributions support the church but who have no role in the supervision of clergy," Paprocki said in October 2007 during a special Mass for judges and attorneys.

Paprocki didn't immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday afternoon. A message seeking comment also was left Tuesday afternoon with the papal nuncio's office in Washington.

In a news conference earlier in the day, Paprocki said the church must address sexual abuse to help restore trust. "I know what a painful and what a troubling issue that this sin and this crime is that confronts us in the church," he said, according to The (Springfield) State Journal-Register.

Paprocki was ordained in 1978. He co-founded the South Chicago Legal Clinic to offer legal services to the poor and later became a top aide in the Chicago archdiocese.

He succeeds Archbishop George Lucas, who was named to lead the Omaha archdiocese last June.

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