Many people in West Virginia have watched as scandals surrounding sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic church have erupted across the nation and even the world. Certainly, it is important that children are protected but it is also important to note that not every allegation may be true just like with any type of allegation or criminal charge. The state of West Virginia appears poised to try a new approach to pursuing some accountability for alleged improprieties by the church.
As reported by The New York Times, the state’s Attorney General filed a lawsuit against the only Catholic diocese in West Virginia that is civil, not criminal. The state is using violation of a consumer protection law as the basis on which to bring the lawsuit, something that is almost never done when a religious institution is involved. These types of laws are generally left for issues involving businesses.
Whether or not the case will eventually be allowed to make it to a full trial is yet to be seen as the unique nature of it may need some review. The state is asserting that the diocese hired people to work at its parochial schools and camp programs without conducting sufficient background checks. The state also indicates that the church knowingly hired some pedofiles to work in the schools and camps.
Another element of the lawsuit is the assertion that the church deliberately failed to inform parents of the pedofiles on staff while simultaneously promoting their schools and camps as safe for children.