U.S. Attorney Thomas O’Brien is known for novel applications of law in going after outrageous behavior. He is trying to nail Cardinal Mahoney on grounds of fraud for failing to provide honest services. It will be a difficult case. Although actions of Mahoney reek of perjury, being an accessory before the act and after the act to felony, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, he is slippery enough to escape indictment, since these charges are hard to prove.

Cardinal Mahoney, along with many bishops, did something morally wrong in inflicting known abusers on unsuspecting parishes. The problem is whether they did anything illegal. Law are made to cover only crimes that people probably commit. As an extreme example, a German helped someone commit suicide and then ate part of his body. The German courts discovered there is no law against cannibalism in Germany – no one ever thought to pass one. Similarly, no one ever thought to make it a crime to put known pedophiles in parishes with access to children, because no one thought anyone would be so depraved and hard-hearted as to do that. Our lawmakers were insufficiently acquainted with Catholic bishops.

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