Archdiocese of New Orleans offices

The administrative offices of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

It is hardly surprising that SNAP — the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests — should doubt the good faith of the Catholic hierarchy.

When you have spent years watching child abusers discreetly shuttled back and forth between parishes, you are bound to conclude that appearances take precedence over the physical and psychological welfare of the youngsters in pastoral care.

We have known for some years now that the church was on the hook for damages owed to the victims of predatory clerics and that the final bill would be ruinous, but the scope of the problem is only just now becoming a little clearer. Even going broke is an expensive business in America. Attorney and consultant bills alone so far exceed $26 million.

If SNAP already had good reason to take archdiocesan pronouncements with a grain of salt, it is on high alert right now, figuring that this would be logical time for the hierarchy to pull a fast one. A handy distraction just presented itself.

Back in 2020, Archbishop Gregory Aymond said that the archdiocese, although it had been forced into bankruptcy, did not need to seek financial assistance in response to the crisis brought on by the avalanche of civil lawsuits filed by victims of lubricious men of the cloth.

At the time Aymond told the Vatican that settling the lawsuits would cost no more than $7.5 million, and no contribution would be required from the so-called church apostolates such as schools, charities and parishes That was a massive miscalculation. The archdiocese's total liability has yet to be determined, as the number of complaints has ballooned in the intervening years, but there is no doubt it will hugely exceed the church's ability to pay.

Aymond now concedes that attorney bills alone will exceed $26 million, and he plans to put the arm on to help come up with the moolah. The church's change of tune has not gone down well with local luminaries, including TV and Broadway star Wendell Pierce, who deems it outrageous that parents of Catholic school students, for instance, should in effect be fined in atonement for the sins of the archdiocesan administration.

The general air of incompetence surrounding the church is by no means limited to financial matters. The great bugbear of the Catholic Church — sins of the flesh — has made an appearance too.

The most sensational recent revelation comes from Pearl River, where two dominatrices, one from Seattle and one from Atlanta, filmed themselves having sex with former priest Travis Clark on the altar of a Catholic church.

If the church does not rate a show of respect from its own clergy, SNAP can hardly be expected to tug a forelock either. Sure enough, SNAP greeted the latest news of archdiocesan money woes with the gravest suspicion. SNAP's theory is that when the apostolates find that their cash reserves are running low, as they inevitably will, their erstwhile beneficiaries will blame the victims of sexual abuse for claiming compensation from church funds and leaving other legitimate needs unmet.

The archdiocese disclaims any nefarious intent and declares that it is solely responsible for the financial crisis. That admission might have carried more weight had it been made unprompted, but we know from experience that the church can be slow to accept blame.

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