A Catholic diocese created a clever excuse for ignoring child rape: the offending priest was “off duty.” From the article:
The Catholic diocese of Trenton, New Jersey says it wasn’t responsible for a teenage boy’s molestation because the priest was ‘off duty’ at the time of the abuse.
Victim Chris Naples claims Reverend Terence McAlinden, now 73, sexually assaulted him hundreds of times over the course of a decade, starting when he was just 13 years old.
Now 42, Naples is suing the diocese in Mercer County since other church leaders knew about the abuse and did nothing.
Naples previously lost a suit against the diocese in Delaware, where some of the abuse allegedly took place. It was during that case that attorneys for the diocese used the controversial argument that they couldn’t be held responsible for Rev McAlinden’s actions, because abusing a child is not part of a priest’s ‘duties’.
This is the first time I have heard this argument. Since raping a child is not part of a priest’s duties, if a priest commits child rape he is apparently off duty. A lawyer for the diocese attempted to explain:
‘Well, you can determine a priest is not on duty when he is molesting a child, for example,’ the diocese lawyer responded. ‘A priest abusing a child is absolutely contrary to the pursuit of his master’s business, to the work of a diocese.’
As with many other cases, the diocese knew of other instances of abuse yet did nothing to stop it. Worse, McAlinden remains a priest and receives a pension despite being suspended from ministry.
I doubt the “off duty” defense will fly. Naples will likely win the suit, although it is too late to undo the damage.
There is another aspect to this situation that bears mentioning. According to the article, Naples’ abuse lasted until his early 20s, and he continued to have a good relationship with McAlinden for years. Many people may view this as proof that there was no abuse or that the sex was consensual. However, as Naples notes, abusers often know how to manipulate their victims. They often provide the relationships that the victims need and do not wish to lose.
We also have no idea how McAlinden treated Naples outside of the abuse. He may have been a good person, and that too may have kept Naples from revealing the abuse. Quite often victims do not want to discredit or hurt their abusers.
It is important to remember this when looking at cases where the abuse continues into adulthood. It is not just a matter of the victim “liking” it, but the victim being groomed to such a point that the situation either seems normal or unavoidable.