Hardball Tactics

Hitting Hard In Court

Michael Simon and his mother Mary Beth Simon found out the hard way what it meant to take on the Catholic Church in court. As a 14-year old, Michael had been sexually abused by his lay principal at Our Lady of Good Counsel School in Cleveland.

"I've experienced some very difficult things in a very short period of time in my life. But I'm still in one piece," says Michael Simon.

CBS News Correspondent Ed Bradley reports in 1998, after the principal was sent to prison, Michael and his mother decided to sue the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. Then came the depositions. In a grilling spread out over two days, church lawyers made Michael recall in excruciating detail how he had been molested -- then asked him how he could have let this happen, when he'd been taught that these sex acts were sins.

"A lot of it was just trying to say, hey, 'You knew what you were getting yourself into, and you went anyway. Shame on you. It wasn't our fault. It wasn't the church's fault, it was your fault.'"

At the time, Simon was 14.

"I was absolutely furious with the Church for this," says Mary Beth Simon. "He was the victim and they're telling him, 'It was your own fault this happened. It was your parents' fault this happened.'"

If it was the intent of the Cleveland diocese to intimidate Michael Simon, it worked. The day after the deposition, the Simons dropped their lawsuit.

Mary Beth Simon says that the church, in that deposition, at least the lawyer, played hardball.

She also says that in dropping the suit, she gave in to their hardball tactics.

"But I think I would do anything to prevent the pain and anguish for our child," she says. "If that's what it took, then that's what it took."
  • David Kohn

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