I'm frustrated and angry to see the Catholic Church still covering up for sexual abuse by some of its clergy - but delighted to see that such matters can no longer be kept quiet.
A Scottish priest who says that his vocation was "destroyed" after he spoke out against sexual abuse is to claim unfair dismissal against the Catholic church at an employment tribunal.
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The application is the latest move in a long-running dispute. In July, Lawson revealed to the Observer that he had been fighting for 17 years for appropriate action to be taken against a fellow priest who he claims sexually assaulted him and abused altar boys. He was issued with a disciplinary warning for giving the interview.
"The church still cannot handle the truth," he told the paper. "For 17 years I have tried to get them to reach out to those who have been broken by abuse. All they do is protect the institution."
Lawson was dismissed after he had been unwell for a period following a cancer diagnosis, during which the bishop refused to allow him to reduce his workload. In a decree of removal, Cunningham wrote that Lawson's health had "prevented him exercising his ministry satisfactorily" and that removal was "justified and necessary for the good of souls".
The bishop cited 23 letters of complaint from the parish and said the priest had therefore "sustained the loss of his good reputation". However, the bishop also received more than 200 submissions of support from parishioners, some of whom walked out of mass when Lawson's removal was announced.
"The diocese's orchestrated campaign against me has left me no choice but to fight a civil case," says Lawson, who is also pursuing a Canon Law case in Rome. "The case in Rome could take years. I only had three months from the time of dismissal to take civil action, so I couldn't afford to wait. There has been so much personal pain involved that I need justice. I feel so desperate that I have served, and been willing to serve, the church, yet have been personally attacked in this way."
There's more at the link.
I'm particularly pleased to see that Fr. Lawson is pursuing the employment aspects of this case. The same arguments were used against me when I protested the Church's attitude to the clergy child sex abuse scandal in the USA. The Church has always held itself aloof from secular employment laws. It's traditionally claimed that priests serve God rather than the institution of the Church, working as independent contractors rather than employees, and therefore can't claim the protection of labor law. This is, of course, nothing more or less than a legal cop-out, as Fr. Lawson's claim makes clear. If the Church has the right to dismiss a priest, how can that be exercised in anything other than an employer-employee relationship? I hope he wins big-time, and I hope his efforts to unmask the sexual abuse situation of which he speaks are successful.
The institution of the Church hasn't changed one whit as a result of this scandal. Despite all its public protestations, the 'organization men' who run the institution still close ranks to protect their own - and to hell with the laity, the 'people of God', whom the Church is supposed to serve. That's why I walked away from the priesthood myself. It still tears my guts out sometimes, and I still lie awake some nights wondering whether I've damned myself by doing so, or whether I could have had greater influence had I stayed inside the Church and worked for change. Then something like this happens . . . and I realize all over again that individuals can do nothing to reform the monolithic institution that is the Church today, because the Church will simply ignore them. In theory it's supposed to reform itself from within, and purge itself of undesirable elements. In practice, that's about as likely as the sun rising in the west.
All those of us who are passionate about this mess can do is to stand up and be counted . . . even if all the establishment is willing to count are our footsteps on the way out of the door. I'm very sorry for Fr. Lawson that his footsteps are now among them. I wish it could have been different, for his sake . . . and for mine.