Holy Father, we’ve been sued for the conduct of the church in America. They are saying, Respondeat superior [translation: let the master answer]. What do you say?
Ego nimmer sehen illud Hurer pro in meus vita. [rough translation: I’ve never seen those fornicators before in my life.]
In an effort to keep a rising legal flood below the chin, the Vatican is prepared to argue that bishops are not employees of the church, therefore the church shouldn’t be held responsible for their sometimes nefarious behavior related to allegations of sexual abuse. We’re not lawyers [Truthdig], but that seems pretty ridiculous.
If lawyers in Louisville, Ky., can show that the highest levels of the Catholic Church are ultimately responsible, then they could demand access to secret documents and officials up to and including the pope.
Respondeat superior, a tort doctrine that says that a master is responsible for his servant’s conduct (or a principal his agent’s, or an employer his employee’s; you get the idea), is being advanced by the plaintiffs in Catholic clergy sex abuse cases across the country.
The Pope’s Latin gets a little rough when he gets ruffled — understandably — but the Vatican is prepared to argue in response that the bishops are independent contractors, free agents, unfettered actors, but certainly not employees. Heaven forfend!
Why, if a bishop or a parish priest got married, or got a nun pregnant, or announced that he was gay, the Pope would be powerless — powerless, I say — to do anything about it!
Pope Benedict, back when he was plain old Cardinal Ratzinger, is the guy who ran the discipline department. He also cried crocodile tears in front of a group of abuse victims and said that things would change, and that he would make things right.
Truthdig understates the case when it says that it is “pretty ridiculous” for the Vatican to claim that the American church and its bishops aren’t under the Vatican’s control.
Until the Catholic Church accepts every stripe that it has earned, it will deserve nor receive the smallest measure of redemption.