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Well, I Hope This Whole Ugly Thing Is on the Exit Path

The Providence Journal features a long article making heroes of three lawyers who sued the Catholic Church in the state (taking home an average income of $1.5 million).

Look, I know this entire scandal has brought out dreadful secrets from the Church — spread out over the past three decades, but concentrated toward the beginning of that span. I also feel that a reckoning had to be forced. But I just cannot bring myself to see the lawyers as heroes in a situation that doesn't seem to have any. Carl DeLuca tells a story from his private-prep-school days, when he already knew he wanted to be a lawyer, that pretty much sums it up for me:

Once, he intervened when a teacher accused one of his classmates of having pot. The teacher had found marijuana cigarettes in the bushes at school and said he knew they belonged to this student because he saw the boy toss the joints in the air -- sending them into the bushes.

The classmate confided in DeLuca: He had stashed the pot in the bushes, in a phony Coke can with a removable bottom, but no one had been around; he hadn't thrown anything.

DeLuca suspected the teacher was lying, that the "only way he could connect the pot to the kid was to say he saw him throw it in the air."

So with the teacher and a school administrator present, DeLuca tested the landing pattern of marijuana, by tossing fake joints into the air. "No matter how we threw them," he says, "they didn't fall like the teacher said." The teacher backed off; DeLuca considered a career in criminal law.

So that the guilty might have no fear.

Timothy Conlon, another of the lawyers, offers up an anecdote that bears remembering in these hard times for Catholics:

Later, in private practice, Conlon settled out of court a multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit -- in 1988 -- against the Providence school department. Three former students said a teacher molested them. Depositions showed the teacher was shifted from school to school, Conlon said, "in what teachers call the dance of the lemons. It's not like the Catholic church has a corner on this, you follow me?"

But the last lawyer offers a pervasive sentiment that I find perplexing and not a little hypocritical:

Richard Cappalli saw the church waging an "aggressive attack" on his innocent clients. It wasn't how a church, any church, should behave, he says.

Beyond noting that "aggressive attack" is apparently Cappalli's characterization, I'm not sure what such people expect. Would he have called off his lawsuit had the Church acted as he would have liked it to do? I suspect he means that it should have apologized and sent the checks without delay. In the end, it appears that the legal attack was the only way to get through to certain members of the hierarchy, but it must be expected that legal attacks will be met with legal defense.

As long as we remember what's important in life:

DeLUCA PAID off his debts, hired a secretary, and bought a new, black Volvo -- with tiny DVD screens in the headrests facing the backseat, where his two children ride.

Please, God, let this prove to have been a wrap-up story.

Posted by Justin Katz @ 11:49 PM EST