Making awful even worse

Radio station KYW has the bare bones of an extremely distressing story from the Diocese of Pennsylvania:

An 81-year-man who says he was repeatedly raped by an Episcopal priest more than 60 years ago is now suing the Diocese of Pennsylvania.

When Ralph White was a teenager at All Saints Parish in Wynnewood, he says, he was sexually abused on a number of occasions by the Rev. Gibson Bell.

Rev. Bell influenced White’s mother to have her son placed in a mental institution. Later, White’s mother disowned her son and willed her estate to Rev. Bell.

Rev. Bell died in 1979, and the church now owns the property.

The Philadelphia Inquirer goes deeper with an extremely sympathetic depiction of the alleged victim:

At 81 and in poor health, Ralph White Jr. is not confident he will live to see a dime from the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.

But White voiced relief yesterday that a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court had ordered the church to respond to his lawsuit alleging his pastor sexually abused him in the 1940s, when he was a boy, and later took his inheritance. ….

“I . . . encourage others to speak out and tell the truth of what has happened – and is happening – to them,” he said at a small news conference outside Episcopal Church House, the diocesan headquarters, near Independence Mall.

Suffering a heart condition and “fighting depression,” White supported himself with a cane while he read a statement.

Updated: the statement of the diocesan standing committee is here.

Without full knowledge of the case, it is difficult to say too much about the way the diocese is handling it, but given that it appears to concede that Mr. White was repeatedly raped and his property appropriated by a priest–that the Church, in other words, was largely responsible for ruining his life–is questioning the statute of limitations and the motives of Mr. White’s lawyer (“One wonders, 60 years on, whether Mr. White is driving this boat, or perhaps his attorney.”) really the way to go?

Updated: A commenter has stated that the diocese does not concede the facts I have said that they concede. This is true, but neither does it contest them. I am not arguing the merits of Mr. White’s case. I am arguing that most of the public will learn about this case via the mainstream media, and that the diocese comes off extremely poorly in these stories.

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