Repost (because now all sorts of states in these USA are pushing for making the fact of the Seal of Confession a felony offense). ///
There is renewed interest in this post up in the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, USA. I wonder if something is up on whatever side of the issue…
Some years ago there was a little news story covering the fact that the Diocese of Manchester made a monetary settlement for a complaint that advice alleged to have been given by a Priest-Confessor under the Confessional Seal was inappropriate. The story plays out like it was scripted by Satan himself, what with the Diocese of Manchester just so eager — if, perhaps, unwittingly — to cooperate against the Sacrament of Mercy, against the Holy Spirit, who was sent to us for the forgiveness of sins, not so that we stop the forgiveness of sins.
This story had been simmering for months at the time, but May 17, 2013, Tricia L. Nadolny wrote about it in the tiny newspaper called the Concord Monitor. I commented on this story at the time, and, since the priest involved is still off on the peripheries (as far as I know), and since we now have completed the Year of Mercy, I think it is high time to bring this story back into the light of day in hopes that Bishop Libasci will admit his mistake for the sake of the good of the Church, pro bono ecclesiae. The [comments] are by myself, Father George David Byers, at https://ariseletusbegoing.com/
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Diocese of Manchester settles with parents over sexual comments lawsuit
The Pembroke parents who accused a Concord priest of making inappropriate sexual comments to their son during the sacrament of confession will be paid $2,000 to settle the lawsuit they filed in February, according to a spokesman from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester. The settlement, reached Wednesday, stipulates that the money will go to future educational costs of the 14-year-old boy, who is a student at St. John Regional School. [Sounds nice, that settlement, but let’s see how this plays out, and for what reasons. It couldn’t be more nefarious from the settlement side of things.]
Spokesman [for the Diocese of Manchester] Kevin Donovan said the settlement is not an admission of guilt by the Rev. George Desjardins [Yes, well, Father Desjardins can’t say anything one way or the other. He’s bound by the Seal of Confession. However, no matter what the Diocese says, the Diocese is, to all intents, constructions and purposes, saying that he is guilty by way of the settlement made, which is amazing, since they don’t know what went on during that alleged Confession, since the priest cannot say anything about it. Such a settlement destroys a priest for life. It is disingenuous to say that a settlement does not speak to someone’s guilt. Practically, a dark cloud remains over the head of the priest for life. Since that is the case, there must be very serious reasons that we don’t know about for the Diocese to make such a settlement, right? There are reasons, but, stunningly, they have nothing to do with the priest or the penitent, as we will see later in the article.], who was accused of talking about pornography and rape in a December 2012 confession held during the school day. [Of course, a 14 year-old, a young man, is entirely capable of looking at porn and committing rape, especially statutory rape. Many girls have gotten multiple abortions by the time they are fourteen. Boys are, of course, involved. This is not an unlikely scenario. Confession is about forgiveness of sin, such as pornography and rape, right? At any rate, it’s extremely easy to come up with a scenario that would back Father up. In fact, what I’ll imagine here has plenty of indications that it is the true scenario, truer, it seems, that the inconsistent accusations.]
[Diocesan Spokesman] Donovan called the payment “minimal” [That’s a foolish statement, implying that for other cases, the “payment” could be much bigger. That’s a strange phrase of the reporter: “payment” instead of settlement. If’s she’s accurate, something’s wrong. Anyway, speaking about anything “minimal” is a huge invitation to create bogus cases, the more salacious the better it will be for all the more $$$ dollars $$$.] and a “means to an end, so the community can move on.” [“means to an end” of “the community moving on.” In other words, this has nothing to do with the priest, nothing to do with the penitent, nothing to do with justice. The Diocese admits that they are doing something evil, slitting the throat of a defenseless priest, to achieve what they think is a good end, shoving money down the throat of any accuser, not for the accuser’s sake, who is ignored as he chokes on that money, but for the sake of the community, using what they assume to be the greed of the boy’s parents as bait, all of which — the demonic principle of doing evil to achieve good — is justly condemned by Saint Paul (see Romans 3:8). At any rate, the community will not only not move on, but will be condemned with the weight hanging over them of the dynamic of an accusation that obtains money without any accompanying due process for the accused priest. This is something that cheapens their lives, cheapens their religion. They have been insulted by the Diocese, which has effectively said: Go and choke on your money. That’s not a service to the community. The benefit for the diocese is save money in view of a possibly successful litigated claim.]
The parents, who are not being named to protect the name of their son, maintain that Desjardins’s comments were unacceptable, their lawyer, Peter Hutchins, said. [Peter Hutchins has a long history with the Diocese of Manchester, mocking the Diocese for their nefarious idiocy in handling the sex-abuse cases he brought to the Diocese, saying that he just couldn’t believe that they didn’t care about dates or allegations (and therefore neither did the Diocese care about any possibly real victims), but just wanted to shove as much settlement money down as many throats of alleged victims as they could in as little time as possible so as to avoid possible litigated claims)].
In the lawsuit filed at Hillsborough County Superior Court, they [the parents] accused Desjardins of asking the boy whether he had “engaged in watching pornographic material and masturbating.” [Scenario: Perhaps the boy confessed to kind of not keeping custody of his eyes in regard to, kind of like, you know, looking at some, like, you know, immodesty, and ended up committing, you know, impure acts, kind of, maybe. Now, if that were the actual confession, there is a risk that the boy would not celebrate an integral confession, but would rather suffer making a sacrilegious confession in that he didn’t confess circumstances so important that they would add more grave sins to what was already confessed. Asking a pertinent question begged by the ambiguity is a favor to the boy. If the priest asked if there was a partner in sin, this would be laudable. Though, it is said, he asks about a lesser interpretation, about porn, perhaps expecting that what the boy is being ambiguous about concerns a partner in sin. Finding out about a partner in sin, especially regarding a young man, brings with it further questions about the age of the other person, as there are then questions about statutory rape. Such questions are also necessitated for a proper penance and for advice to be given, such as to cut any untoward relationship. One should also ask if the other person is vulnerable in any other way. If one finds out that the other person was an adult, well now, that changes things altogether, doesn’t it? It does. If this were all the case, the priest is to be commended. Of course, we won’t know on this earth, as the Seal of Confession is involved.] When the boy said that he hadn’t and that he had a girlfriend [Hah! There we are: there was, in fact, a partner in this sin, adding another sin to what was confessed. Way to go, Father Desjardins! Good work!], Desjardins [allegedly] told the boy to use “rubbers” [Or maybe the boy had actually said that he had a girl-friend, but that it was all O.K. since he was using prophylactics. And maybe the priest then justly reprimanded the boy for trying to make an excuse for having had sex with his girlfriend. Using condoms does not lessen the sin! The boy, perhaps used to doing whatever he damn well pleases, so that no priest is going to stop him, perhaps became angry with the priest and blamed the priest for all this. Right? People can, at times, be very damning of the Church’s morality in confession, which means they are not repentant. People can go to Confession to try to get permission to sin. Some priests will do that. It doesn’t sound as if Father Desjardins is one of them. But now watch what happens:] and warned him to be careful because a girl can “yell ‘rape’ ” during sex [Hah! Is it that Father was reprimanding him for committing statutory rape, which really threw the boy into a rage? The priest wouldn’t counsel condom use and warn the boy that he is committing statutory rape. That’s just ludicrous. PFffffttt!!!], the lawsuit continued. The parents also accused Desjardins, who is an assisting retired priest at Christ the King Parish, of attempting to grab the boy twice as the student tried to avoid him. Donovan has said that physical contact was nothing more than a handshake after Mass. [Hah! “A handshake after Mass”… Really? Ooooo! Nefarious, that! Wow! A handshake after Mass! No one does that anywhere in the world, ever! A handshake! After Mass! Unheard of. What scandal! What horror! The parents of this kid really, really seem to hate all priests and the Catholic Church and have, it seems, tried their best to instill that in their son. Sad, that. So, O.K. Fathers! Hear that? No more shaking hands after Mass. Just pray some thanksgiving prayers alone, kneeling on the steps of the sanctuary. Actually, that’s a good idea. I digress. At any rate, don’t forget that the parents are best friends of Hutchins, zillionaire abuse attorney. And with this, they get some tuition money.]
Yesterday, he [Donovan, the Diocesan Spokesman] said the diocese still believes the lawsuit had no merit. [Great! But…] But in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed last month, the diocese took a different route when it neither denied nor admitted that Desjardins made the comments [nor can they because the Diocese doesn’t know anything about the Confession since the priest is under the Seal of Confession] and instead argued that the suit should have been thrown out because it interfered with the church’s First Amendment rights. [That’s true, but it ignores that the priest cannot defend himself in any way. It’s the priest’s inability to defend himself that will push courts in future cases (and there may well be future cases, right?) to put the priest on the stand and try to force him to break the Seal of Confession, the very thing the State of New Hampshire already tried to do very recently at that time. One has to wonder what will happen when tens, then hundreds, then thousands and tens of thousands of cases pile up. No one ever needs to have gone to Confession to any priest to claim that one did go, and that one got bad advice or worse. It’s all too easy. Just get any bulletin, find out when confessions times are, retaining proof, and see who hears confessions that day. Then make up a story. Easy peasy. It’s really easy to go to hell. Untold $$$ dollars $$$ will be paid to anyone who makes a complaint, no matter how ludicrous. It seems to me that “payments” for this, The Perdition Crisis, risk dwarfing the billions of dollars paid out for The Judas Crisis.]
Gordon MacDonald, the diocese’s lawyer, argued that the topics Desjardins was accused of discussing – including pornography, masturbation, premarital sex [“pre-marital”… really? But that’s just the paraphrase of the reporter.] and rape – all are considered sins under Catholic doctrine. And he said resolving the case would require a judge or jury to examine the appropriateness of those doctrines as well as whether the alleged discussion was in line with tenets of the Catholic faith. [And there it is: The Perdition Crisis. This is a cave-in to Peter Hutchins, the abuse attorney. This is a practical admission that any and all accusations, no matter what, are accepted as the honest truth, no matter how ludicrous, how inconsistent, and that we can just move on now to discussing the faith and being consistent with the faith. That’s giving a win to the attorney just to do it. That priest cannot defend himself. The diocese cannot pretend to argue for the priest, because they cannot know what the priest said. The diocese is treating itself as the defendant, not the priest, which was the same thing as had happened with The Judas Crisis, where the priest is always guilty no matter what, with no due process, as any innocence would get in the way of making immediate and even blanket settlements in hopes of saving a few bucks. Manchester Diocese has a long history of leading the destruction of the Church by way of throwing due process for priests out the window so as to serve themselves. /// Note that the lawyer also does something just as nefarious. He not only throws judgment of consistency with the faith by the State into the equation, but also the acceptability of the faith before the State in the first place. This is just plain EVIL. This invites the State to say that, for instance, the Catholic Church’s faith in regard to the nefariousness of homosexual marriage is illegal (to take another case that is sure to come about). Sure, the diocesan attorney is saying that these are reasons that the case should be dismissed, but in making the settlement at the very end, he is not only saying, but highlighting, screaming it out, that first amendment issues are vacuous for the defense, and are legitimate avenues for the State to pursue in future cases. The Diocese says that the settlement is just meant to sweep the problem under the carpet. However, there are implications, whether they like it or not.]
“A civil factfinder would become enmeshed in determining whether a Catholic priest [any priest] may discuss pornography, masturbation, sexual intercourse out-of-wedlock [a better phrase], and rape with a penitent during the Sacrament of Penance and whether those subjects are consistent with Catholic doctrine and the Catholic faith’s overall mission,” MacDonald wrote in the motion. [A civil factfinder couldn’t care less. The point would be what was said about these things in view of any civil laws. For instance, if a priest were to say that divorce and the attempt to marry again without a declaration that the first marriage was null from the beginning is wrong might be considered nefarious and illegal by the State. That’s what the State is judging. The State of New Hampshire would gladly shut down the Catholic Church altogether. At any rate, all this immediately goes from Father Doe priest to Father Desjardins, and, again, the priest has no defense, as he cannot break the Seal of Confession. What is most ludicrous is that the Diocese, in saying all this, is acting as if it and the State can reliably act upon the information given by whatever accuser when it all must remain perpetually one-sided because of the Seal of Confession. This simply doesn’t occur to Manchester Diocese, since it seems that they have never given due process to any priest, with the possible exception, in all irony, of convicted felon Monsignor Edward J. Arsenault [now Mr Edward J Bolognini]. Other priests are non-existent in the actual judgment. This lending of credibility to such accusations, and then offering a monetary settlement for them, means that there will never be a time when any accusations are ever not given credibility and acted upon with settlement money, no matter how inconsistent and ludicrous. This is quite the invitation to anyone and everyone to come to the money-tree by way of making bogus accusations about something imagined to have been said in an imaginary Confession.] He said the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and also the state Constitution “prohibit this type of intrusive inquiry into the doctrinal affairs of the church.” [Hutchins may well win his point that he only wants to discuss if any alleged advice goes against State law. So, the point is this: The priest cannot make a defense, and the Diocese cannot defend him, since the Diocese has no idea what the priest said, or, indeed, if there was ever a Confession to begin with. The Diocese must insist on dismissing the case, and not ever pay any settlement. But they caved on the dismissal by going for the settlement. The effect of mentioning the Constitution only to throw that argument out the window with a settlement is to insist that the Constitution does not matter in such cases. Ironic, no? Or is that what Manchester Diocese wanted. That would be in line with what they’ve always done. The next step for the State will be to repeat their attack on the Seal of Confession. And, if there are tens or hundreds of cases in Manchester Diocese alone, you can bet that one priest will cave and say something to defend himself, which will be then be used as a precedent by the State, at least to continue a cross-examination of the priest. If he refuses to continue, realizing he’s been caught out, he’ll be in jail for contempt of court until he decides otherwise.]
[But then the obfuscations get worse:] The family sued specifically for breach of contract, saying the diocese failed to provide their son with the safe learning environment promised in the school’s handbook. In the motion to dismiss, McDonald also claimed that document isn’t a contract. The handbook – which includes a mission statement and sections on, among other things, school rules and student responsibilities – doesn’t include contractual promises, MacDonald said. He said the family accused the diocese of violating “a series of aspirational policies,” not binding promises.
Hutchins said yesterday that he disagrees that a student handbook doesn’t act as a contract in a private school setting. “It’s our position that absolutely all of those materials that basically promise what the school’s going to do and also gives the responsibility to the students and parents (create a contract),” he said. “It goes both ways. Here are your obligations; here are ours. It’s a contract. Period.” [Contract=Money. Hutchins needs to win this point for any future case from a school, etc. But this is not necessarily what will break any bank. Just the fact of the settlement will more than break the bank, regardless of talk of any contracts being broken or not. This is a purposed distraction, but a welcome one to Hutchins if it hits pay-dirt. It’s a bluff. Just one more way to put pressure on the Diocese to make a settlement. He guessed it right. But it’s more than this. He’s saying that the safe-learning environment is to extend to the Confessional, so that the Confessional is to have an oversight it cannot have because of the Seal of Confession. But this is what he is going after: the Seal of Confession. The State is on side with that. This whole thing seems to fly right over the heads of those in the Diocese. And maybe, just maybe, those in the Diocese have absolutely no idea just how evil they are acting with all of this. Or maybe they just don’t have the faith. Or maybe they just literally don’t give a damn…] He also disputed the diocese’s stance that the lawsuit violated its First Amendment rights, saying the suit focused “on the conduct, not the religion.” [Again, I bet Hutchins could win this argument, but not the war, it being that all of it is always hypothetical, since the priest cannot defend himself. At any rate, Hutchins actually has all he needs, for the Diocese acts like any accusation, no matter how ludicrous and inconsistent, will be accepted immediately as the truth. And this is confirmed with the settlement. Hutchins can take that and run with an unlimited number of cases.] Hutchins, who has been involved in litigating more than 150 child abuse cases against New Hampshire clergy [making himself a zillionaire, because it’s all about the children, of course.], said the church is not immune to being held accountable for violations of secular law, such as state statutes or local ordinances. He said a breach of contract falls into that category. “We do not focus on, criticize or try to change religious beliefs or religious procedures,” he said. [I think that’s exactly what he’s trying to do.] “Those are protected.” [He certainly did laugh all the way to the bank when he respected how the diocese threw procedures of justice and due process out the window for those abuse cases. He mocked the Diocese of Manchester for, in some cases, not even asking about dates or allegations. He can accept the word of the Diocese as an attorney for an out of court settlement that all priests are always guilty, no matter what, but he’s also got to know that something’s just not quite correct there, right?] Hutchins is a longtime friend of the father who filed the lawsuit [Kudos to the Monitor for noting the friendship this time. On the other hand, Hutchins was, in effect, given free advertising to fish for more clients with more accusations with more money to be thrown at them], and yesterday he said he is not collecting attorney’s fees for his involvement [that is, for THIS testing of the waters case, that is, for THIS case with his best friends. This was leaning toward being a test case for the Seal of Confession, but the Diocese caved with the settlement. The settlement does nothing by way of precedent to protect the Seal of Confession all the more. Quite the opposite. For the Diocese, whatever an accusation claims is exactly what happened, even though the priest cannot say anything. This is a mockery of the Seal of Confession, plain and simple.]. He said the family decided to sue the diocese after feeling their concerns, which they raised with school administrators shortly after the confession, weren’t taken seriously. Hutchins said diocese [sic] officials called Desjardins’s conduct “innocuous” [That could be a lie, but, anyway, how would the Diocese know, since the priest cannot say anything? Hutchins knows that better than the Diocese. He wants them to say something like that, perhaps to use it as proof that, in fact, they did get the priest to defend himself privately at the Chancery offices. Then Hutchins could claim that the Seal of Confession means nothing, and therefore the priest can in fact be cross-examined in court. If the Diocese accepts the alleged comments of the priest at face value, they are going in that direction. Even if they don’t say that the priest revealed the confession, they are saying that an accusation in itself makes the accusations true, the way they always said that accusations are always true no matter what in abuse cases. Regardless of what Hutchins says the Diocese says, the Diocese, in making the settlement, does say that they accept all accusations as absolutely true no matter what. Moreover, since the Diocese accepts the alleged comments of the priest saying that the using of condoms is great, and if it also says that these comments are “innocuous”, well, that actual comment of the Diocese would be against the faith of the Catholic Church. Contraception is a sin, also in a case of statutory rape, however “consensual”. The priest is most likely innocent of all this, but if Hutchins is right and the Diocese did make such statements, then it is the Diocese that is guilty of acting against the faith and morals of the Church, along with acting against the priesthood and the Sacrament of Confession.] and did nothing to put the family at ease [How would they do that? Take them bowling?] or tell Desjardins that the comments were inappropriate. [But they don’t know what the comments are, since, ad nauseam, the priest is under the Seal of Confession.]
“It shouldn’t have happened in the first place, but once it did happen, they should have had a much more pastoral and immediate human response to it,” Hutchins said. [And he’s just the one to say how that’s to be done, right?]
[Diocesan Spokesman] Donovan said the diocese takes all allegations against priests seriously and places them on leave if officials believe the accusation rises to the level of misconduct. That wasn’t the case here [So why did they make the settlement, just out of meanness, to destroy his good name and his life as a priest?], he said, so Desjardins wasn’t removed from his role as chaplain at the school after the parents went to administrators. [Uh huh. I’m not so sure. At any rate, nothing good can come from this except to put people off of confession, and make priests wary of hearing confessions. That’s not what’s needed right now or ever. This sickness of shoving money down everyone’s throat has got to stop, and it’s got to stop now. Hutchins played the Diocese and won, as he does at will. The Diocese will never consider going to court. They will now make settlements without question every time. As in The Judas Crisis, it all seems to be legal, because it’s all out of court. That doesn’t mean that it is moral or acceptable in Church Law. But this will surely go the way of The Judas Crisis, with mountains of money spread about everywhere. Cui bono? To what good?]
He [the Diocesan Spokesman] said Desjardins did decide [Or was that decided for him?] to take a leave of absence from the school after the lawsuit was filed in February. He was unsure whether the priest would be returning next school year. [“Unsure.” Really?] Read the rest there.
Usually, abuse lawyers go in two year cycles of bringing cases for settlements. Now that the Holy Year of Mercy (and confession!) is completed, we’ll see what happens. But, in the meantime, I think Bishop Libasci would do well to admit the mistake for the sake of the good of the Church, you know, pro bono ecclesiae.
© 2023 Fr George David Byers