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jca2's avatar

How could a priest prove he is innocent of sex abuse charges, other than if he was out of the state or country at the time?

Asked by jca2 (7697points) April 29th, 2019

I know of a priest (who is actually a Monsignor) who was recently accused and found guilty by the Archdiocese for abusing a boy on one occasion 40 years ago.

The priest is 85 years old so he was forced to retire and is currently in a nursing home. Of course he says he didn’t do it and he is determined to clear his name.

The Archdiocese doesn’t have the same standard as criminal court, so they can find someone guilty with whatever protocol they want to.

It’s totally understandable why they can’t have someone with these accusations continue as a priest and having access to children. It’s also totally understandable why the Archdiocese doesn’t want to appear to be tolerant of priests with terrible accusations such as sex abuse of children. I’m not in any way defending priests who abuse children and I’m not critical of the Archdiocese for finding priests guilty, using whatever means they want to.

I’m just wondering how someone could prove their innocence, in a case like this, other than if they were out of the state or country at the time.

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39 Answers

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Good question.

Yellowdog's avatar

I worked in an Afterschool Activities program for many years.

A nine-year-old kid once told his mother that I showed him around the basement of the Life Center at a church, and although he didn’t make an accusation, he probably gained access on his own and explored the basement regularly. He probably thought the place was interesting and wanted to tell his mother about it, (he was VERY familiar with the basement, a place he shouldn’t have access to) but didn’t want to say he went down there without permission or accompaniment,

Fortunately he wasn’t making a sexual or abuse accusation,

Even though the various levels of hierarchy above me believed my innocence, you can’t really “prove” something didn’t happen. My eleven year career was on the chopping block.

Well, what saved me, was I made a case that in our under-staffed and busy program there was never a time when I could have left the area I was in charge of unattended without it being a major problem—to pair off with any single kid and explore the basement.

In fact, I was often at the front desk—or supervising very busy areas, or teaching a class. There were cameras all over the place. My absence from any area I was supposed to be in would cause mayhem and certainly be noticed and announced.

You can’t prove a negative. But there are usually massive holes or conflicting testimony regarding false accusations, and circumstances usually can demonstrate that such events could not occur if they in fact did not.

nerdgirl578's avatar

Personally I think it’s really dangerous if all it takes to completely ruin someone is to accuse them of something. You OBVIOUSLY have to take accusations like this very seriously, but still it’s very easy to abuse if that’s all it takes.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Glad you dodged the bullet @Yellowdog. Some parents are SO paranoid about sexual abuse they imagine things. It happened when I was running my daycare. I wasn’t accused but one of the kids was. It was total imaginary bullshit.

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elbanditoroso's avatar

The priest in question could pray! After all, that’s what he tells others to do. Why wouldn’t it work for him?

Yellowdog's avatar

@elbanditoroso When I lost my car keys at Lindenwood Christian Church in Memphis back in the early 1990s, the pastor’s wife, who helped me look for the keys, said she would offer to pray for me, but (she laughed) “it doesn’t work.”

Yellowdog's avatar

Nope! I am NOT KIDDING. It really doesn’t.

kritiper's avatar

There are other alibis. Who are you to judge?

Patty_Melt's avatar

It could not be proven, but as @Yellowdog suggests, it can be contested.

If there are several people who will come forward on his behalf, I would expect that to help, especially if it is largely men who would have known him in basically the same setting.

Proving innocence in such conditions would be impossible, but especially after so much time has passed.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

It is a crappy situation any way you look at it.

jca2's avatar

@kritiper: If your comment was directed to me, I’m not judging. I don’t think I indicated anything about judging this priest in what I wrote.

josie's avatar

It’s hard to prove innocence since it usually means you didn’t do anything, and not doing something leaves no evidence. That is why in the courts you must be proved guilty.

Assuming an accusation is evidence is a sign of epistemological decadence. That’s bad.

kritiper's avatar

@jca2 Sorry. It’s just that you narrowed it down to two things. And that seemed so abrupt.

ragingloli's avatar

There was an interview recently, with a criminologist that was hired by the church to conduct an internal investigation into child abuse by priests.
He recalled quite clearly how they tried to obstruct and take control of the investigation and its results, once it became clear, that the investigation would not only cover the past, but the present as well.
Even today they have a clear interest in sweeping it under the rug.
So when even the church says that he is guilty, he IS guilty.
And can someone who is guilty, ever truly “prove” his “innocence”?

elbanditoroso's avatar

It seems like there is a parallel with people who are near to, or friends with, people in the Mafia.

You may not be a mafioso yourself, but if you hang around with people who are, you’re going to be tainted, even if you are as innocent as a new born baby.

Bad priests – and as we know, there are plenty of them – put good priests under a shadow.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Well where’s his appt book and didn’t he have a sister/ secretary overseeing his schedule?

I don’t see any other way to prove he didn’t do it, if no rape kit was done, other than a solid alibi and witnesses.

He’ll never be an active priest again at this point, so I wouldn’t encourage him to fight a battle he can’t win, especially at his age, although I can see if would be hard to be discredited after all his years of service.

Dutchess_III's avatar

An appointment book isn’t going to account for every minute of his time @KNOWITALL.

When I had my daycare a relatively new parent (had only been coming about a week and a half) came to me, said that one of the daycare kids had exposed himself to her daughter during nap time. All the kids were pre-K, and there were 6 kids in the room at nap time. Knowing the kid that was accused, who I’d had in my care for 2 years, I found it highly unlikely, but, of course, didn’t want to dismiss it entirely.
While I was trying to figure out how to address this, without coming right out and calling her her kid a liar, I had an idea.
“What color did she say it was?” I asked.
“Pink!” the woman said,triumphantly, as if that was proof.
Human penises are skin color, dip shit, not pink. She had to have known that. At that point I was 99% certain it hadn’t happened, which was a great relief to me, and I realized it was safer for me to just let that kid go.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Monsignor’s are not regular priests, they are usually pretty busy, so I would check that as well as with his clerk/ secretary.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I am sure they are very busy. But if they could even find a schedule, all their schedule is going to read is “4 pm to 5 pm meet with John Q,” from 40 years ago. John Q is probably dead by now.
Can you find your daily schedule from 20 years ago, much less 40?

jca2's avatar

He was not a Monsignor at the time of the alleged abuse.

I think even if he had his schedule, there’s no proof that he deviated from the schedule (or didn’t deviate from it). If I had a job working 9 to 5, 40 years ago, I would have a hard time proving that I didn’t call in sick that day or that I didn’t go in late or whatever.

When I googled it, the article said that he was fitting the alter boys for robes and something happened then. I’ll try to link it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Exactly my point. He may have been exactly where his schedule said he was supposed to be, but that’s no guarantee of what he actually did during that time.

Dutchess_III's avatar

This just caught my eye from your l ink @jca2 : ”The self-taught musical priest won three All-Ireland senior championships in 1960…” but he wasn’t a senior in 1960! Unless “senior” has a different definition in this context.

And this: ”The allegation against Coen… was lodged by a young man who alleged that in 1978…” This is some really sloppy writing, man. If it happened 42 years ago, the man is no longer a “young man.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, reading the first article I have my own doubts about his guilt, although I’m not privvy to all of the information the archdiocese had. He says “The claimant alleged that Coen ordered several boys to stand outside the church, partially unclothed, until he could measure each one for robes.” But no one else is coming forward. Stand outside of the church? So any passersby could see them? That makes no sense.

Dutchess_III's avatar

From your second link “What do you think? Should the New York Archdiocese be forced to show evidence of Father Charlie’s alleged crimes?.” That would make a good Fluther Q.

jca2's avatar

@Dutchess_III: I’m guessing senior championships means he moved to the senior rounds, like he made it through preliminary rounds.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Right. I guessed that too. But was oddly worded when you figure we’re talking about a very senior citizen.

Demosthenes's avatar

What @josie said. Proving innocence is not how it should work, but the problem with sexual crimes is that there often isn’t any evidence at all, so proving guilt isn’t easy either. That’s why sexual crimes are so tough to deal with, especially if they’re referencing things that happened decades ago. There are pieces of evidence that can help: more than one accusation, evidence of a cover-up, etc. But in the absence of those things, it’s just one person’s word against another’s.

Dutchess_III's avatar

….That is suggesting that sexual abuse by the Catholic clergy is an American problem…..?

ucme's avatar

Going to be a struggle to convince anyone that a weird bloke wearing a dress professing his love of Jesus while nursing a hard on every time he gazes upon an infant.

jca2's avatar

@Dutchess_III: Sex abuse by priests has occurred and been (or is being) dealt with all around the world.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

I agree. But the last article you linked said it was an “American problem.”

mightym's avatar

It seems pedophiles love becoming priests because its a perfect job for a pedophile. They come into close contact with kids all the time. When they abused kids, the Catholic Church just moved the priest elsewhere so he could continue his abuse in another area. This is just disgusting. I wonder if the Catholic Church has changed it’s ways when it comes to pedophile priests?

Dutchess_lll's avatar

It’s working on it. It’s getting harder to sweep.under the rug.

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