Last week we picked up on a column by Steve Duin of The Oregonian, in which he lambasted the Archdiocese of Portland for what appeared to be its suggestion that children who were sexually abused by priests were themselves guilty of "sexual misconduct." Duin quoted from a court brief filed by the archdiocese's lawyers in the pending bankruptcy case involving the church and the victims of abuse.
In my post, I wondered if Duin could possibly have been quoting that brief correctly. But then I got a copy of the brief, and sure enough, it said just what he said it did. I posted the entire document and highlighted the quotation in question:
C. Even If There Were a Third Party Exception, the Tort Claimants Are Not Third Parties. The TCC has never established that the tort claimants here are third parties or strangers to the Church. Indeed, the evidence is the opposite. After reviewing complaints by 206 sexual misconduct claimants, Margaret Hoffman testifies that "[i]n every single one of these Complaints, the claimants assert that, at the time of their alleged sexual misconduct, they were members of or associated with the Roman Catholic Church, primarily through attendance at a Catholic school and/or parish church within the Archdiocese." Sec. Hoffman Decl. at ¶ 2. This, too, constitutes evidence that was not before the Spokane Court when it articulated a "third party" exception to the Church Autonomy Doctrine that the tort claimants had never impliedly consented to Catholic Church Doctrine or polity. [Emphasis added.]
Readers suggested that the word "their" might have been an error, or that it referred only to the priests and not the victims. The mistake theory was pretty hard for me to buy, especially since the offending phrase was actually said to be a quotation from another court "declaration" made by another one of the church's many lawyers, Margaret Hoffmann. I might be able to accept that one set of lawyers made a mistake, but two? And as for the "their" meaning the priests, its placement in that sentence made that an impossible reading.
Well, today I finally got hold of the Hoffmann declaration, and it turns out that she did not say what the brief said she said. I've posted the entire declaration, dated Nov. 7, 2005, here. And here is the passage in question:
Attached to this Declaration are copies of the Complaints that 206 tort claimants previously filed in various state circuit courts, alleging sexual misconduct by agents of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon. In every single one of these Complaints, claimants assert that, at the time of the alleged sexual misconduct, they were members of or associated with the Roman Catholic Church, primarily through attendance at a Catholic school and/or parish church within the Archdiocese.
As you can see, the brief misquoted Hoffmann. She said "the alleged sexual misconduct," not "their."
That's a relief. So much of what the archdiocese has done in connection with these sexual abuse claims has been deeply troubling to me. At least the sickest comment attributed to the church elders so far turns out to be an apparent misunderstanding.