L.A. Attorney: Many Abuse Accusations Against Catholic Priests Are ‘Entirely False’

This is something we all knew had to be the case.  From Newsbusters.

My emphases :

Where’s the Media? L.A. Att’y Declares Many Abuse Accusations Against Catholic Priests Are ‘Entirely False’

By Dave Pierre

In a stunning ten-page declaration recently submitted to the Los Angeles County Superior Court, veteran attorney Donald H. Steier stated that his investigations into claims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests have uncovered vast fraud and that his probes have revealed that many accusations are completely false.

Counselor Steier has played a role in over one hundred investigations involving Catholic clergy in Los Angeles. In his missive Mr. Steier relayed, “One retired F.B.I. agent who worked with me to investigate many claims in the Clergy Cases told me, in his opinion, about ONE-HALF of the claims made in the Clergy Cases were either entirely false or so greatly exaggerated that the truth would not have supported a prosecutable claim for childhood sexual abuse” (capital letters are his).

Mr. Steier also added, “In several cases my investigation has provided objective information that could not be reconciled with the truthfulness of the subjective allegations. In other words, in many cases objective facts showed that accusations were false.”

Mr. Steier’s declaration is a stunner. He is as experienced as anyone in studying the claims of abuse against Catholic clergy in the Los Angeles area. Also among Steier’s eye-opening statements:

* “I have had accused priest clients take polygraph examinations performed by very experienced former law enforcement experts, including from L.A.P.D., the Sheriff Department, and F.B.I. In many cases the examinations showed my clients’ denial of wrongdoing was ‘truthful,’ and in those cases I offered in writing to the accuser to undergo a similar polygraph examination at my expense. In every case the accuser refused to have his veracity tested by that investigative tool, which is routinely used by intelligence agencies.”
* “I am aware of several plaintiffs who testified that they realized that they had been abused only after learning that some other person – sometimes a relative – had received a financial settlement from the Archdiocese or another Catholic institution.”
* “In my investigation of many cases, I have seen the stories of some accusers change significantly over time, sometimes altering years, locations, and what activity was alleged – in every case, the changes seemed to have enabled or enhanced claims against my clients, or drastically increased alleged damages.”
* “I am aware that false memories can also be planted or created by various psychological processes, including by therapists who might be characterized as ‘sexual victim advocates,’ if not outright charlatans.”
* “Most of the approximately seven hundred psychiatric ‘Certificates of Merit’ filed in these Clergy Cases, as required by [California] Code of Civil Procedure § 340.1, were signed by the same therapist.” (!) (Note: A “Certificate of Merit” from “a licensed mental health practitioner” is required in California before filing an abuse lawsuit.)

Steier signed and submitted the declaration “under penalty of perjury” November 30, 2010. Los Angeles County Superior Court officially filed it at 11 a.m. on December 15, 2010. (Images of Steier’s declaration: pages 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10.)

Steier also took aim at the outspoken advocacy group SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests):

They maintain an interactive Internet website with a user ‘Forum’ and ‘Message Board,’ among other features, where people can share detailed information between alleged victims pertaining to identity of specific alleged perpetrators, their alleged ‘modus operandi,’ and other details of alleged molestation. In effect, a person who wanted to make a false claim of sexual abuse by a priest could go to that website and find a ‘blueprint’ of factual allegations to make that would coincide with allegations made by other people. Law enforcement also uses the S.N.A.P. website to attempt to locate new victims and allegations against Catholic priests.

Needless to say, SNAP had a fit at the sight of Steier’s declaration. In a frantic press statement dated December 13, 2010, SNAP derided Steier’s declaration as a “legal maneuver” that was “among the most outrageous and hurtful ever made by a church defense lawyer.” In addition to claiming it will file a complaint with the California Bar Association, it demanded that Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony “denounce Steier’s claims and to disclose how much archdiocesan money has been paid to Steier.” (Gee, the last time I checked, SNAP steadfastly refused to divulge how much of its income is derived from the number of lawyers with whom it closely collaborates!)

Yet there is a glaring absence from SNAP’s statement. The organization does not refute nor deny any of the specific claims made by Steier. It simply labels them as “outrageous” and “hurtful.” That is hardly a blow to the explosive declaration aired by the veteran attorney.

Yes, Catholic priests terribly abused minors, and bishops failed to stop the harm. That’s an undeniable truth. There are few crimes that revolt more than sexual abuse. The abuse of minors is a dark episode that the Church will forever have to live with.

Yet major media outlets have largely ignored a major element to the entire Catholic abuse scandal narrative.


Read the rest there… and weep for the harm and injustice done.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Sadly, this comes as no surprise to me whatsoever. None.

  2. capchoirgirl says:

    S.N.A.P. really turns my stomach. We did some work on a sexual abuse of minors bill back in 2006 in our state, and the SNAP reps were just totally unpalatable. Yes, we weep for those who were abused and pray that those who perpetrated it are punished justly. But if you raised ANY sort of question–“say, 30 years on statute of limitations is a long time, how can you possibly prosecute these sort of thing, sans evidence?”–then you were in the pocket of the Church and not interested in protecting children.

  3. capchoirgirl,

    You’ve got it exactly right.

    What I want to know is, where is the outcry by S.N.A.P.S.T.? (Survivor Network against those Abused by Public School Teachers?)

  4. priests wife says:

    This is a reason why ALL cases should go to trial- justice must be served- but false accusations are evil as well.

    As a Catholic mom, I have opted out of all the ‘safe kid’ stuff. I’ll help keep my kids safe by cultivating an atmosphere of chastity and keeping my eyes on them.

  5. Jack Hughes says:

    soo let me get this straight…. the so called ‘Long Lent’ in the Archdiocese of LA could be the result of a therepist implanting false memories, thieves searching a unsecured website in order to get details of how to concont a false case against a Priest and an unscrupulous shyster.

    Just think of the good men of God who have had their reputations irrevocably tarnished by unfounded allegations; reminds me of the Movie Doubt (2008) where a Religious Sister wrongfully (in my opinion) accuses a priest of molestation. Also with the news in the previous post regarding the Archdiocese of Milwauke think how much Church money has been paid to people who wanted to make a quick buck, money that could have been used for the Beautification of Churches, to help the poor……….

    Unless these people repent they will have a very nasty suprise on Judgement Day

  6. Scott W. says:

    I had to eat humble pie on this issue over at Mark Shea’s blog. The link that this story coming from is basically for selling a book. Nothing wrong with that of course, but if you actually read the Steier material, it is light on concrete evidence and heavy on anecdote. While I imagine he sincerely believes half of the cases are fraudulent, nothing in the material establishes it by a longshot. I’m sure there are plenty of fraudulent cases out there, but let’s get some verifiable facts so we don’t get burned and end up looking like a bunch of whitewashing ideologues.

  7. shane says:

    As Richard Dawkins wrote:

    “The Roman Catholic Church has borne a heavy share of such retrospective opprobrium. For all sorts of reasons I dislike the Roman Catholic Church. But I dislike unfairness even more, and I can’t help wondering whether this one institution has been unfairly demonized over the issue, especially in Ireland and America… We should be aware of the remarkable power of the mind to concoct false memories, especially when abetted by unscrupulous therapists and mercenary lawyers. The psychologist Elizabeth Loftus has shown great courage, in the face of spiteful vested interests, in demonstrating how easy it is for people to concoct memories that are entirely false but which seem, to the victim, every bit as real as true memories. This is so counter-intuitive that juries are easily swayed by sincere but false testimony from witnesses.”

    (The God Delusion, pp. 315-16)

  8. digdigby says:

    Say you are in prison. When you were a kid you were in a Catholic school where a priest abused several children and a lawyer comes to you and says, “If you can just remember him putting his hand on your leg once… you can blame everything wrong you ever did on someone else, get a lot of sympathy and a LOT of money. Would you say no?

  9. Jacob says:

    * “I am aware that false memories can also be planted or created by various psychological processes, including by therapists who might be characterized as ‘sexual victim advocates,’ if not outright charlatans.”

    Can anyone say, “Satanic Ritual Abuse Scare“?

  10. Elly says:

    priests wife- what do you mean by “safe kid” stuff?


  11. Scott W. says:

    priests wife- what do you mean by “safe kid” stuff?

    Sorry to butt in, but she probably means things like the VIRTUS program and a program called (iirc) “Safe Touching”. Alot of us here probably have taken it as a requirement if we had any work with kids in a Church capacity. I had to show a video to the teens. They just rolled their eyes. It’s hard to find anything explicitly objectionable about the material, but it is not very good and, pardon the cynicism, is more like “security theater” than something useful.

  12. AnAmericanMother says:

    I’ll see your “Satanic Ritual Abuse Scare” and raise you a “McMartin Preschool”.

    This is absolutely no surprise. Corrupt lawyers and greedy plaintiffs work in symbiosis to generate claims from a vague substratum of fact. It just happens to be sex abuse allegations in this case.

    Years ago, I was a young law student working at the law firm that represented MARTA (the public transit corporation in our city). One of their buses had a wreck on Peachtree Street right in front of Macy’s while out of service and headed for the garage. Made the evening news. Within two weeks they had fielded over 100 claims from people who claimed to have been on the bus and seriously injured – more people than could fit on the bus if they were packed in like sardines!

    In personal injury cases, it’s greedy plaintiffs and crooked chiropractors with “runners” who notify the crooked lawyers. Substitute ‘psychotherapist’ for ‘chiropractor’ and you have the template for a bogus sexual abuse case.

    The horrible thing about any bogus case is that it makes justice harder to come by for the genuine, good faith plaintiff with an actual case. And when you get a cluster of bogus cases due to media piling on, favorable statute of limitations, and a vulnerable target with deep pockets . . . . !

  13. AnAmericanMother says:

    priests wife,

    I have to disagree that every case should go to trial.

    Many, many cases should be disposed of on motion to dismiss or summary judgment. If every case went to trial, not only would the court system be overwhelmed, but honest and innocent defendants would be bankrupted by the legal costs.

    The last time I tried a case – it’s been around ten years – it cost our client over $75,000 just to get to trial, never mind the mindboggling cost of the trial itself. And that was a relatively simple defense of a personal injury case with pretty clear cut damages, disputed liability, and few witnesses. Get a lot of medical testimony and a bunch of witnesses, and you will easily be north of $150,000 even in a little county state court. Double it for federal court.

    Compare that to a case that cost us $11,000 to get out on summary judgment in federal court — and we got every penny of that back for our client by filing a Rule 11 motion against the plaintiff for bringing a frivolous lawsuit.

  14. priests wife says:

    Scott- yes- thanking for answering elly- I have no problem with adults doing the training- I just think ‘training’ the kids puts pressure on the potential victims- shouldn’t adults be doing the protecting (but that is just me- I’ll revisit the issue when my kids get older and aren’t with me all the time)

  15. digdigby says:

    Safe Kids?
    When St. Bernardine of Siena was about 10, a nobleman came up to him and whispered a disgusting suggestion. The future saint socked him so hard in the jaw that blood was pouring from his face, and he fled in confusion, the sound of the blow echoed about the town square with a supernatural loudness. This same nobleman, the rest of his life came to every local sermon of Bernardine, utterly overwhelmed by tears. Bernardine organized his young friends. If any perverts approached them they would agree to go off alone outside the city walls with the man, once there, the whole gang would shower the pederast with rocks ‘worse than St. Stephan suffered’. I assume from St. Bernardine’s (quite reliable) biography that kids were savvy about this stuff. Wouldn’t you agree?

  16. Fr. Basil says:

    There is an Orthodox organization that is similar to SNAP called Pokrov (meaning protection, after one of the feasts of the Theotokos).

    They list cases they claim are “Orthodox ecclesiastical abuse”, but it’s obvious they have an agenda, as they consider perpetrators of “ecclesiastical abuse” to be priest’s sons and even catechumens.

    One person they hound was not even ORTHODOX at the time of alleged pedophilia incidents, served his time, and is trying to live a life of penance and privacy in an Orthodox monstery, fulfilling the requirements of his release.

  17. Fr. Basil says:

    I clicked before I was finished. The bishop of the diocese knows of his past, and is ensuring the legal requirements are met.

  18. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Any time an organization is paying out substantial amounts of money, especially in the midst of a moral panic, there is bound to be fraud. False accusations will be made, and I have no doubt that some have been made with regard to clerical sex abuse.

    All of that having been said, there are many, many cases where abuse occurred. The abusers have been protected by a wall of silence, and the victims’ pleas have gone unanswered.

    I can personally attest to the fact that there was tremendous corruption in the seminary system. Incidents of sexual misconduct & sexual harassment were swept under the rug or pooh poohed by superiors.

    I will also say that while SNAP clearly has an agenda, they would not exist in the victims of clerical abuse had received fair & proper treatment in the first place. To this day, SNAP is one of the few resources available to victims of clerical abuse.

  19. TJerome says:

    Of course. Whenever you find lawyers (I’m one myself) taking a case on a contingency fee basis, you will find a lot of shaky and bogus claims. What the hey, if you throw crap against the wall, some of it will stick.

    The biggest media failure (probably deliberately) is the media’s silence on an important fact: that far more public school teachers (union members, democrats) are involved in child sexual abuse than Catholic priests. But by virtue of their status as members of the Abortion Party (formerly the Democratic Party) they are immune from criticism.

  20. EXCHIEF says:

    Not a surprise at all that the anti-Catholic media and, in many cases, anti-Catholic attornies (including government prosecutors) refuse to make any mention of this. When you have an agenda and information is inconsistent with that agenda you ignore it at best, or cover it up at worst.

  21. Supertradmum says:

    I am not surprised. However, there are many cases which are not brought to court or to the hierarchies attention. Four people in my family, three girls and a boy, were abused for years. When they talked to the nuns about it, the nuns were too embarrassed to approach the priest. These good, now old and mature, people are still Catholic, have not left the Church, married good Catholics, and have been active in the Catholic Church. They sent their children to Catholic schools. They exhibit heroic virtue.

    Not all crimes are reported…not everyone sues. Those who fraudulently do so insult those who do not.

  22. Norah says:

    if you actually read the Steier material, it is light on concrete evidence and heavy on anecdote

    So are many of the sexual abuse allegations which have received tens of thousands of dollars from Catholic dioceses all over the world.

    Steier signed and submitted the declaration “under penalty of perjury” November 30, 2010.

    Does this not mean that if Steier is found to have lied in his declaration he is subject to the penalties which would apply to perjury in a court of law?

  23. Scott W. says:

    So are many of the sexual abuse allegations which have received tens of thousands of dollars from Catholic dioceses all over the world.

    I agree. However, my point is that this link that is going viral on the Catholic blogosphere and touting a very specific assertion–one that cannot be sustained by the material there. It is quite simply a dodgy source. I’ll put my willingness to fire the AntiCatholic-seeking missiles at people using the scandal for an agenda against anyone, but not based on this link–it’s a bad idea that will backfire and blow our credibility to Hell. No shortcuts for the righteous.

  24. Gail F says:

    I am not surprised, this is what I assumed was happening. My Archdiocese gave money to anyone whose claim was remotely viable — they did not have to prove anything, just that they and the priest were actually where they said they were. So if people were making obviously false claims that a priest abused them, you’ve got to assume that some of the claims that were physically possible (the priest was in the parish or school at the time) were false too. I don’t know if there was any other way to approach settling claims that were decades old — in some cases, the accused priests were long dead — other than to pay people who were lying (or mentally ill, or deceived by “repressed memory therapists”) so that those who were telling the truth were not denied. But there must be a special place in Hell for anyone who would fabricate such a thing to get money. It is just more abuse to the people who really were sexually abused!

    Many priests were falsely accused. Where is the justice for them? If a man’s life is ruined because of a terrible thing some other men did, that isn’t acceptable “collateral damage.” SNAP seems to me to be nothing more than a witch hunt, like the people behind the horrendous McMartin Daycare case mentioned above. What good they do is swallowed up in their all-consuming rage and hate for things that, much of the time, aren’t even there.

  25. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Say you are in prison. When you were a kid you were in a Catholic school where a priest abused several children and a lawyer comes to you and says, “If you can just remember him putting his hand on your leg once… you can blame everything wrong you ever did on someone else, get a lot of sympathy and a LOT of money. Would you say no?

    As I recall, both Jim McGreevey (ex-NJ gov.) & Mark Foley (ex-Congressman) both blamed clerical abuse for their misdeeds. Funny how that didn’t come out until well after they were caught.

    In similar manner, recently convicted molester Doug Perlitz claimed a “dark & abusive relationship” with a priest caused him to molest young boys in Haiti. While I know of evidence that proves such a relationship, the judge did not buy the argument that it merited leniency when he was sentenced last month to nearly 20 years in federal prison.

  26. Sandra_in_Severn says:

    Stuff like this was happening too often in Northern California; heard about priests LONG DEAD, that were accused of these crimes, and no defense possible. There was a group that passed out fliers on the UC-Berkley campus “seeking” abuse victims, one of my former students brought it in to show our pastor (at St. Michel’s Catholic Parish, Travis AFB 2004), I shared about them here before. Disgusting in this life, but in the end there will be justice. I can only hope and pray.

  27. Agnes says:

    I also am not surprised, and it seems to me there will be a lot of copy-catting and tale-bearing before the end of it, if there ever is an end. Truth and untruth. The investigation of such cases have to be so carefully conducted, and I think the sloppiness of the civil system ends up persecuting many innocent clergy, along with some guilty. It goes to show how one sin in the dark can produce a ripple effect through the entire Mystical Body. Pray for ALL priests.

  28. Bob says:

    This is exactly why there is a statute of limitations in the US; of course it was rescinded for Catholic clergy to enable easier persecution.

  29. Rob Cartusciello says:

    I have had the burden of knowing eight convicted clerical abusers.

    I also know of two men who were unjustly accused. One accuser was found to be untrustworthy as a witness (after accusing three priests of assault) the other was acquitted in court. Both returned to public ministry.

    In the end, God will not be mocked – either by false accusers or by those wolves in clerical clothing who perpetrate sacrilege by molesting children & flaunting their vows.

  30. catholicmidwest says:

    I’m not convinced that this man is so correct. I’ve seen too much personally that has convinced me otherwise. Abuse was quite common in some places, and I know of some of those places through my direct experiences of the situations there. Certainly there were probably some false accusations at other places, but that doesn’t negate the ones I know of, where abuse really did happen.

    One of the places I personally know about was a midwestern junior seminary run by a religious order. They used to do “come & see” weekends for school-aged kids. It shut down in the 90s because of sexual crimes that were committed by the religious there. The (many) abuses were finally admitted publicly because they could no longer be denied, and they paid up. A boy from our home town, who was one of my son’s best friends, and who was a resident student, was sent home when the manure hit the fan. I see however that they are up and running again, but I wouldn’t let any kids or grand kids of mine go within 10 miles of the place.

    We also had a truly flaming seminary here in Michigan, which is now shut down. Anyone ever hear of St. John’s in Plymouth?

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