When is a priest not a priest? When he's molesting a child

Sure, but that’s not really relevant here. This is a civil suit (where the question is liability rather than guilt), and there’s no presumption of non-liability. Unless there’s some other special presumption at play (I’m not aware of one that would be at issue here, but this isn’t my area of law), it’s whichever side presents a preponderance of the evidence, which translates to 51% certainty.

(I’m a lawyer, but not yours, and this is not legal advice–just arguing on the internet.)

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Missed that this is a civil suit.

It should probably be pointed out that the actual incidence rate of abuse is not unusually high in the Catholic Church when compared with other denominations and priests are no more likely to sexually abuse people than the average male - possibly quite a bit less likely, in fact. (Contact with children is much more of a correlating factor than celibacy, for example).

Obviously this doesn’t excuse the way abuse cases are treated, but I think the church is often just showing (on a very large scale) that it is not really any different from any other organisation in this regard: they would much rather cover abuse up and endanger further people rather than risking their money and reputation. The fact that they claim moral superiority in spite of this is galling, but I don’t think many secular organisations would act any differently if they could get away with it.

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Off-duty? That means he was acting in his capacity as a normal citizen. Which means he should be tried for the crime. Which means they all should.

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It’s probably important to explain this:

@CarlMud Gave the “off duty cop” explanation, but there’s a difference between a cop and priest. Cops get “time off” where they are not expected to act as police (they sometimes do anyway because of training). Priests are supposed to be “on duty” 24/7. They may not be in office, but they don’t get time off, no matter what type of priest they actually are. They can always be pressed into service.

This is a direct quote from a priest taken from a page dedicated to explaining duties of types of priests: “Priesthood isn’t something we take off during the week and put on for Sunday. It is a 24-7 privilege and blessing—that is, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

So, anyone who trusts their church will make an assumption that a priest is - at all times - going to act as a priest and follow whatever rules their church has laid out for them. That’s why a church is responsible for the actions of their priests. There is no time, no location, where those people aren’t covered by the church. In this instance, there is already a decision with a financial reward against McAlinden himself. He’s guilty. The Diocese is just trying to claim that they aren’t responsible.

@mcsnee has it right. They’re trying to avoid vicarious liability. Here’s why that’s the case (actually from the case itself):

• From 1985 to 1988 McAlinden was the Director of Youth Ministry Services for the Diocese
• In 1985, Naples’ father reported concerns about McAlinden.
• From 1985 to 1988, Naples had a bunch overnight stays at his house.
• In 1988, a second child was reported as being molested.
• So, in 1988, the Diocese removed McAlinden from his position and transferred him to another position as priest where he continued to act for a further 19 years.

The case against the Diocese is all about the fact that they knew McAlinden was a predator and they protected him, not his flock. Their actions show that they knew the problem existed and took actions to keep him safe, but didn’t remove him from the sphere of influence he had over his victims. The picture at the top of the page is actually of McAinden with Naples’ son. He also presided over Naples’ daughter’s wedding. Their claim that McAlinden could ever be perceived as anything but a priest while under their auspices is a joke, and a really horrid attempt to avoid payment.


I think “parish” is the official term. But the priests are employed by the diocese, not the parish.

As for the extent of the priest’s private life, (should it even exist as such), this is circumscribed by religious tradition.

Hi Jerwin, as a reply to Glitch, I provided a quick outline of the case against the diocese above. There’s already a $3M judgement against the priest. This case is about the diocese knowingly retaining a sexual predator who had contact with children (for 19 years!) after they’d been told about it.

It’s not about his private life, and that’s why the comment is so outrageous. The priest in question was the Director of Youth Ministry Services when the allegations were first made, and some of the abuse occurred in his home when he had sleepovers.

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You seem to be generalizing in your description of a “full time priest.” You used a reference to LDS, which isn’t the Church in reference in this case. Different churches have different standards for their priests, including if they’re even called priests. What LDS priests think priesthood involves is irrelevant here.

I’m pretty sure you misunderstood me. I provided that example of a priest’s perception of what a priest does to show that no matter what their duties are, they don’t have a “job” they have a “calling” and consider “being a priest” a life choice. (The church was irrelevant.) If you read the page, that job description isn’t 24/7, but being a priest is considered to be an all-the-time gig, no matter what your stated duties may be. That’s because you may be called for assistance at any time. It has nothing to do with what church a particular priest belongs to, or what restrictions it may place on the priest.

So, you kind of missed my point. The quote and link weren’t about the LDS, but about how a priest perceives “being a priest.” For full transparency: I happen to be an atheist, so I really am not promoting the LDS. I do have plenty of information on religion, most people espousing atheism do, because religion as a concept interests them.

The fact is that the priest in this case WAS acting “as a priest” when he was molesting boys. He was doing so at his home (at least in part), but while acting as the Director of Youth Ministry Services. He wasn’t having kids over because ha was related to a parent, or happened to live nearby, it was a part of his interpreted job description. He has already been found guilty with a judgement against him.

The diocese is trying to say that he wasn’t acting “as a priest” and that’s a load of bull.


To compound his error, he was quoting from a paged referencing the Aaronic Priesthood, which is far from exclusive

The Aaronic priesthood is thought to be a lesser or preparatory priesthood and an “appendage”[2] of the more powerful Melchizedek priesthood.

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) today, the holders of the Aaronic priesthood are primarily young men ages 12 to 18 and recent adult male converts to the church. The general leadership of the Aaronic priesthood, called the Presiding Bishopric, are administrative and financial agents of the church.[nb 1] Local leaders of the Aaronic priesthood are adult male bishops, who serve as pastoral leaders of individual congregations. Aaronic priesthood holders generally prepare, bless, and administer the sacrament, collect fast offerings, perform church and community service, assist in home teaching, and occasionally perform baptisms. In their priesthood activities, holders of the Aaronic priesthood are also supported by the church’s Young Men organization.

No, the role of a particular priest is defined by the sect he belongs to. I’m pretty sure that a strong argument can be made, using Canon Law no less, that “conduct absolutely contrary to the pursuit of his master’s business, to the work of a diocese…” is grounds for laicizing the priest.

The diocese in the story here failed to take such an action. They knew from 1985-1988 that McAlinden had been reported as a predator by the parents of children under his care. He was not laicized. Instead, he was removed from the specific office he held, but not as a priest, and not from the sphere of influence he held over his victims. He is supposed to have victimized Naples from age 13 to 20, and photos show continued involved with his family after that period.

Here’s the direct link to the suit against the diocese. It was in the article.

recovered memories. oh joy.

Holy cow! People have sleepovers with priests! Talk about lambs to the slaughter.

Even when I was 6, I would’ve simply said “like, no dude - you’re not my ‘Stand By Me’ kind of buddy”

To me, a priest is a priest is a priest, on or off duty. The idea that you can put yourself at a deity’s service (if that’s even actually possible - I’ve simply put myself at Evolution’s service, with some good results), but then part-time it - nuh-uh.

But as I said, this could be wonderful. If even one case of priestly abuse is as an ordinary citizen, then a simple argument can be made to round up every god-damned last one of the abusers, their concealers and handlers, and dump them in jail with some new kinds of friends.

A priest is a person. I think the veil of godliness protecting them from legal justice is appalling and disgusting.

But props to the new pope - he recently expressed some machine-gun sentiment about the whole thing. I think he may be getting ready to hand them over to the cops.

Hahahaha. Long may they rot.

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This is about liability and trying to limit the Catholic Church’s costs, no more (meaning it isn’t about morality but money). However, the argument can be easily disputed if the relationship the priest had with the children in question was first based on his identity as a priest and he used that as his platform for access.

  1. The Mafia prefers to be known as Cosa Nostra. The justice system, in the U.S. at least, chooses not to use that self-appointed term because it confers unwarranted respect. The fact that the Catholic church insists that they, and only they, get to capitalize the noun “church” to refer to themselves does not constitute a blanket requirement that everyone else must do so too.

  2. Ever heard the expression “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”? Once it gets to “fool me thousands upon thousands of times”, the onus shifts to the Catholic church to prove that this particular time they are innocent of aiding and abetting in any way.

Considering the fact that priests sleep and eat within the physical walls of Catholic church-owned property and must respond to the needs of their parishioners or supervisors at any time of the day or night, they’re never really off-duty, now are they?

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  1. The Mafia prefers to be known as Cosa Nostra. The justice system, in the U.S. at least, chooses not to use that self-appointed term because it confers unwarranted respect.

Bullshit. Here is an indictment

At all times relevant to this Indictment unless otherwise indicated:
The Enterprise

  1. The members and associates of the Gambino organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra (the “Gambino family”) constituted an “enterprise,” as defined in Title 18, United States Code, Section 1961(4), that is, a group of individuals associated in fact,

There’s a good reason for this-- evidence (and testimony) in the trial may refer to the Gambino Crime Family as an element of the Mafia, or as an element of La Cosa Nostra-- and the credibility of this evidence and testimony should not ultimately depend on whether the two terms refer to the same organization-- though if pressed, reams of evidence could be produced on this matter.

  1. Ever heard the expression “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”? Once it gets to “fool me thousands upon thousands of times”, the onus shifts to the Catholic church to prove that this particular time they are innocent of aiding and abetting in any way.

That’s not how the court system works.

And yet O.J. Simpson lost the civil suit despite being found not guilty in the criminal trial. Because, in fact, that’s exactly how the court system works.

That’s very interesting…thanks! I’m glad to know they were paying attention to name games so as not to lose on a technicality.

However, since we’re nit-picking, I’ll point out that “La Cosa Nostra” is actually wrong, too…at least in Italy, where the “La” is not used.

OJ Simpson was not suing the government to recover forfeited property. The case against him still had to be proven, though not to the standard required of a criminal prosecution.