THE CHURCH BUYS SILENCE

"The defendant, in fact, is the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix. Would that cause you to have difficulty evaluating the evidence?"
One prospective juror in the front row raised his arm high.
"I have contributed all my life to Catholic charities," the man said. "I've been brought up in the church, and I've done lots of work for the church."
Judge Moroney asked, "Would that make it difficult for you?"
"My answer is that I would feel very odd about it. I could give a verdict against the priest, but I don't think I could ever do so against the church as a whole."
Judge Moroney thanked the man and excused him from jury duty.
Then another man at the other end of the jury box raised his arm.
He felt the same way. He, too, was excused.

Now there were 36 prospective jurors left on the panel. There were no more Roman Catholics who felt they could not vote against the church.

You can figure what happened next.
The two experts on hand to help the church's law firm pick a jury explained what the odds of winning the case now were. They were not good.

Losing this case would create a mountain of bad publicity. If the case actually went to trial, there would be extensive press coverage. There would be almost daily television coverage.

The story of Father Bredemann, the pederast priest, would be aired in public once again. Bishop O'Brien would be on the witness stand. And there was the possibility of a large verdict awarded against the church. Even if the church won the case, the whole thing would leave a bad aroma.

An overture was made to the plaintiffs. A settlement conference was arranged. After three hours, both sides agreed to settle their differences.

But the settlement was sealed. We will never know how much the church paid to avoid the publicity of this trial.

We are left to ponder one thing: Is there ever a time when the church will be able to take a case like this to an open trial? Must it always settle to maintain the silence?

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