But Professor Smith's concern goes beyond that. He is worried that the case will prevent the Catholic Church from doing things like providing semi-decent schools for kids in San Diego:
Don't get me wrong; if anybody, priest or otherwise, rapes a child, I think life in prison is too good for such a miscreant. My late father, a judge in Idaho, sent a Catholic priest to the Idaho State Penitentiary for child molestation, from which he was lucky to emerge alive. But if you were a sexual abuse victim, would you really say, I should get $1 million (and my lawyer a third to a half of that) even if it means closing down the school at Our Lady of the Poor and dropping those three hundred kids into schools where they wont learn to read? I'm not sure what the word for that would be, some sort of reckoning perhaps, but justice it ain't.
The way Professor Smith puts it, there is a choice: either give money to the victims of the pedophile priests or shut down genuinely good things like the Catholic schools, which, unlike government schools, do a pretty good job of educating kids.
But this is a false dichotomy. Sure, it's true that each archdiocese is legally organized as a separate entity, but they are all a part of this great big thing we think of as The Catholic Church. Now, I realize that the current Pope is more interested in covering up allegations of sexual impropriety than in taking responsibility for his church's complicity in it, but, how is this for an idea: the Catholic Church could come up with the money to keep the schools going AND pay compensation to the victims of pedophile priests.
If it doesn't have the cash on hand, well, the Church could put a few of its rare manuscripts, tapestries, or paintings up for auction. According to this Wikipedia article, the Vatican Library has been collecting rare manuscripts for centuries, and the collection now includes the Codex Vaticanus, the oldest nearly-complete copy of the Bible known to exist. Likewise, the Vatican Museums -- plural -- appear to have a pretty extensive collection of valuable art, including what appear to be some very lovely tapestries.
I'm pretty sure raising $150 million would be a snap for the Catholic Church. Granted, the rules of how corporations are organized don't require the Catholic Church in Rome to take responsibility for the actions of an archdiocese in America. Legally, they are separate entities. And the Catholic Church has the legal right to take advantage of whatever rules are in place for organzing corporations.
But shouldn't we, maybe, hold the Catholic Church to a higher standard?
Apparently, the answer to that is no.