I heard this segment of This American Life on my way home today. It was a powerful story that, in my view, captures what is wrong (but at the same time almost inevitable) about how the hierarchy has responded to the (now global) abuse problem. Here's the summary:

Patrick Wall was a special kind of monk. He was a fixer. The Catholic church sent him to problem parishes where priests had been removed because of scandal. His job was to come in, keep events from going public and smooth things over until a permanent replacement priest was found. But after four different churches in four years, after covering up for pedophiles and adulterers and liars and embezzlers he decided to make a change. Carl Marziali tells his story. (21 minutes)

You can stream the entire episode here. The Wall segment is the first segment of the show. As a lawyer, I was particularly intrigued when Wall said he thought his work with plaintiffs' lawyers was in many ways more pastoral than the work he was asked to do as a "fixer." The 20 minutes or so is well worth your time.UPDATE: Grant Gallicho tells me that Patrick Wall -- who now works for a plaintiffs' firm -- has quite a history of making questionable claims about the abuse issue. I'm not sure how much of that bleeds into this particular interview, which I found interesting precisely because of the way it illuminates the ambiguous role litigation in both of Wall's incarnations (as a "fixer" and as a consultant for plaintiffs' lawyers). On the one hand, it has helped bring to light lots of documents that we surely never would have seen about the extent of the problem and the flawed responses to it by the relevant authorities (both within and outside the Church). On the other hand, as Wall concedes, the threat of litigation pushed him into a corner in his role as "fixer," causing him (along with other things, no doubt) to approach victims in a less than pastoral manner. But, as with everything, please take the story with the appropriate grains of salt.

Eduardo M. Peñalver is the Allan R. Tessler Dean of the Cornell Law School. The views expressed in the piece are his own, and should not be attributed to Cornell University or Cornell Law School.

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