Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Does money equal justice?

As you may know, and as you certainly know if you read any of the uberbloggers such as Amy Welborn, the archdiocese of Boston may have to declare bankruptcy. This would be an unheard-of step. This is being made necessary because of the damages awarded to the many victims of Boston priests.

Everyone, myself included, is agreed that the victims deserve something. Most of us, without a second thought, think that this means that the victims deserve money. But I have a question: if you were raped by a priest, what good would money do for you? Wouldn't victims rather have justice than cash? Those who commit these crimes, and those who were accomplices, should be put in jail. This would be justice.

But we think that justice means that the victims get a big pile of cash. Where does the cash come from? I live in the archdiocese of Chicago--if I were to sue them for some misdeeds against me (None have occurred. This is hypothetical.) I wouldn't be getting money from the Cardinal. I would be getting my money from St. Stephen's church and St. Mary's church and St. Joseph's church. The cash to pay me comes from the money given to the Church by other Catholics, intended for the missions, or for the mortgage on the building.

Always remember: lawyers don't create wealth, they just redistribute it. If a victim gets a million dollars from the archdiocese of Boston, that money is taken from other members of the diocese. One could make a case for suing a cigarette company which has made profits over the years by selling a dangerous product. The company is an adequate target, since its structure and assets are the direct result of the profits made. Any damage judgments will come from those profits, and are thus tied to the original misdeed. It is not so in the case of the church--there is no profit. There is no necessary connection between the misdeeds and the property of the Church. In fact, this property was probably generated from the good-faith offerings of the members of the diocese. Any monetary judgment comes from these offerings.

Of course the victims deserve something. But what they deserve is justice, which is not necessarily the same thing as money.

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