Friday, May 02, 2008

Good News, Good News!

Yes, my friends of the "Dukes of Hazzard" generation, those words of Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane (complete with the voice) rang through my head as I saw the headline in the Newark Star-Ledger this morning: "Vatican clears East Hanover priest of abuse charge."

The article tells the story of Monsignor William McCarthy of the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey, and how Rome has ratified the decision of canonical trial exonerating him of the charges made against him.

Frankly, I was shocked.  A positive headline in the Star Ledger?  I mean, I kept reading the article looking for the obligatory quotes from David Clossey of SNAP, et al.  Where was it?  Did I miss it?  Well pickle me tink (thank you, Ned Flanders), there is no quote!

More importantly, the article gives insight into something else:  Because the criminal statute of limitations had passed between the time the accusers said the abuse took place and when they approached law enforcement authorities, there was no possibility for criminal charges to be filed.  Essentially, the civil government said there was nothing they could do.  But in Catholic Canon Law, there is no "statute of limitations" in such cases, and so it was the Church that conducted a trial on behalf of both sides.  A Tribunal made up of judges from places other than the Paterson Diocese was assembled, and testimony was heard, representing both sides.  In the end, a decision was made, and that decision (along with the transcripts of the trial) was sent to Rome for confirmation that all was done properly.  Rome returned their approval to the local Bishop, who issued a public statement announcing Msgr. McCarthy's innocence.

Years ago, New Jersey native Ray Donovan, Secretary of Labor in the Reagan Administration, was accused of corruption, and later found innocent of the charges after a lengthy trial.  When asked how he felt to have his name cleared, he responded, "Great. Now where do I go to get my reputation back?"  Having his name cleared must be a tremendous load off the back of Msgr. McCarthy, but in this "Age of Google" we live in, where can Priests who are accused of heinous acts and who are later vindicated go to "un-Google" their name?

Oops, I almost forgot.  Here's the article.

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