Judge Denies Boston Archdiocese’s Request to Dismiss Civil Lawsuits
A Superior Court judge yesterday rejected a motion filed by the Archdiocese of Boston, seeking dismissal of 500 civil lawsuits alleging priest sex abuse. Suffolk County Superior Court Judge Constance M. Sweeney disagreed with the archdiocese’s claim that court involvement would violate the Constitution’s call for separation of church and state. Rather, she explained, "If the court were to recognize the defendants' sweeping church autonomy doctrine, which would grant absolute civil immunity to church representatives, the result would be that church representatives could exercise all the rights and privileges the secular law affords yet not be burdened by any of the essential civil laws that protect the safety of all members of society, particularly children," according to the Associated Press. Still, Sweeney made two concessions: deeming the matters as “purely ecclesiastical,” she rejected charges that church supervisors were negligent in ordaining or not removing priests and fully liable for priests’ actions 24 hours a day, according to the Associated Press.
Unhindered, the archdiocese yesterday filed another motion requesting delays—until the grand jury investigation finished—on civil lawsuits against pedophile Rev. Paul Shanley. Shanley, now retired from priesthood, was indicted last June of six counts of indecent assault and battery on children younger than 14 as well as 10 counts of child rape of children younger than 11 years old, including two six-year-olds, according to CNN. The abuse took place over a ten-year span from 1979 to 1989.
The Archdiocese of Boston, which serves roughly 2.1 million Catholics, continues to rationalize its legal maneuvering as a means of placating insurers. However, critics say this behavior is just one more example of the church’s unaccountability. The pending lawsuits could cost the archdiocese $80 million in settlements, according to the BBC.
Similar priest sex abuse scandals have surfaced throughout the nation. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has spent over $2.3 million during the last 14 years and $5 million in insurance monies over the last two decades on priest sex abuse cases, according the Pioneer Press.
In December, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester, faced with criminal violations carrying fines as high as $20,000, became the first to settle with state prosecutors.
Media Resources: New York Times 2/20/03; BBC 2/20/03; Associated Press 2/19/03; Pioneer Press 2/20/03; Feminist Daily News Wire
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .