Here Come the (Canon) Lawyers

June 2002

“Attention Priests and Deacons: Have Your Rights Been Violated?” So proclaims the big headline of a large ad in the National Catholic Reporter (April 12), placed by a group of canon lawyers. The text of the ad asks: “Has your bishop removed you from functioning as a priest or deacon following an unsubstantiated allegation of misconduct?”

Sorry, but we have no sympathy for this. We would have, however, had the headline proclaimed, “Attention Priests and Deacons: Has Your Honor Been Violated?” and had the text asked, “Has your bishop removed you from functioning as a priest or deacon following an untrue allegation of misconduct?”

Look, if you’ve been accused of sexual immorality, and if the allegation is true even though technically unsubstantiated, you’re getting what you deserve. Face the music, take your just punishment, reform your life, and save your soul.

We know that lawyers are not accustomed to thinking this way. But we had higher hopes for canon lawyers. But no. Here comes the Catholic A.C.L.U.: You can beat the rap. Make ’em prove it. You have a right to be a priest if they can’t prove it. Demand due process! Insist on your rights!

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New Oxford Notes: June 2002

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