What Rev. William Lynn’s conviction means for the Catholic Church

Alex Brandon AP Monsignor William Lynn leaves the Criminal Justice Center, in Philadelphia on March 27, 2012. What, if anything, … Continued

Alex Brandon

AP

Monsignor William Lynn leaves the Criminal Justice Center, in Philadelphia on March 27, 2012.

What, if anything, changes with the June 22nd conviction of Monsignor William J. Lynn for child endangerment? Legally, one can expect an appeal in order to prevent the former clergy secretary for the Philadelphia Archdiocese from serving the maximum sentence of seven years in jail. But, unlike previous cases, this trial was not of a clerical abuser but of a priest in charge of personnel appointments. The court finding substantiates Lynn’s culpable responsibility for knowing that such abuse was likely to occur, but endangering children nonetheless by assigning abusers to what we Catholics call “near occasions of sin.”

There is little doubt that since 2002 the bishops have legislated stricter guidelines that have had the effect of substantially reducing the instances of clerical pedophilia.

I would not agree with Dr. William Donohue of the Catholic League, however, that the conviction of the monsignor represents a “victory” over the church’s anti-Catholic enemies. Reading the transcript makes it hard to avoid the prosecutors’ insistence that the monsignor had “helped the archdiocese keep predators in ministry, and the public in the dark, by telling parishes their priests were being removed for health reasons and then sending the men to unsuspecting churches.” This may not be a conspiracy, (one of the charges on which Lynn was dismissed) but it is a crime.

To a reasonable observer, this case demonstrates that the courts will not afford clergymen a version of the Nazi’s Nuremburg defense that they “were only following orders.”

In Philadelphia, newly-placed Archbishop Chaput opposes adjusting any statute of limitations on priests accused of sexual abuse. Since the reforms put in place after 2002 have mostly worked, imposing a statute of limitations would maintain current enforcement while effectively keeping old skeletons in the closet. Proponents of keeping the statute of limitations sometimes argue that because many violators during the 1950s through the 1980s are now dead, defrocked or disabled by age, why bother forcing bankruptcy on the church? Conveniently, however, this position also provides cover to prelates like Philadelphia’s late Cardinal Bevilacqua who shredded incriminating documents rather than seek justice for children.

Still to be decided is whether ecclesiastics can assert a claim the right to follow Canon Law as an exercise of religious freedom. In other words, can bishops and their staff members be exempt from the civil law that protects children from sexual predators? This substitution of church law over public legislation has been affirmed by courts in Missouri, Wisconsin and Utah. While this interpretation of the First Amendment may favor Catholicism on the pedophilia issue, judicial decisions apply to all religions. What would be the impact if courts gave Islamic Shari’a Law equal standing with Catholic Canon Law?

The big loser from the timing of Msgr. Lynn’s conviction may be the bishops’ just-launched Fortnight for Freedom. It would be a disaster for the bishops’ authority if the public comes to view this campaign as a smoke-screen to avoid punishing evildoers in the clerical pedophilia. Beware of the fireworks when this campaign closes: it might not be what the bishops expected.

About

Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo is Professor Emeritus of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at Brooklyn College and Distinguished Scholar of the City University of New York.
  • Rongoklunk

    If there’s one thing that persuades me that there’s no god up there, it’s the sexual abuse of little children by priests. If there really was a god, I’m sure there would be a lot of smiting going on down here on earth – and priests would be the first to suffer.
    But nothing will happen because there’s nobody up there. It’s just a fantasy for the indoctrinated and fearful. But at least let’s stop sending our children to churches, and let’s stop teaching them about god – who almost certainly does not exist. It will save them a lot of confusion and pain. I raised five nonbelievers by not mentioning a god, and not sending them to church. They’ve all grown up god free and happy. I strongly recommend it.

  • SODDI

    Lynn is proof that catholics have no conscience. They only do as they are told.

  • amelia45

    The conviction should cause Catholics to think very hard about Pope Benedict’s recent call for the “radicalism of obedience.”

    Blind obedience led Lynn to hide abusing priests, Brady of Ireland to stay silent when he knew of abuse. Bishop Cistone of Saginaw MI and retired Bishop Cullen of Allentown cooperated in the destruction of the list of abusing priests in Philadelphia and remain silent as if nothing untoward occurred; they have not even apologized for their part in hiding the abuse and letting it continue. Law of Boston has a cushy job in Rome, proving his cowardice in his refusal to face the people of Boston for the abuse he let go on for years. Cardinal Dolan paid off priests to get them to leave the priesthood. Ratzinger – now Pope Benedict – for years enforced silence on bishops and cardinals who knew of the sexual abuse of children.

    I am one of the Catholics who is enormously disappointed in the hierarchy of the Church. I greatly fear they will call for a right to follow Church laws and to be exempt from the laws of the nation. It would be a huge mistake to allow that to happen.

    Radical obedience? No. Thoughtful and prayerful discernment, yes.

    As for the “Fortnight for freedom”, I do not agree with the bishops on the issue of contraceptives, sterilization, gay marriage, married priests, and women priests. I think Johnson and Farley wrote terrific, thoughtful, and thought provoking books. What the bishops want is not religious freedom, it is the right to impose tenets of the Catholic faith on people whether they accept them or not. Catholics are not called to be robots and shame on the bishops for treating us as stupid.

  • TTWSYFAMDGGAHJMJ

    IN REPLY TO (IRT)
    JUNEANNETTE
    CATHOLIC EXPERTS WHO AREN’T CATHOLIC
    6/26/2012 2:07 PM EDT

    “‘Then and Now’ Richard Bennett, Biblical Apologist and former Roman Catholic priest, examines in ‘The Pattern of Papal Persecutions” the underlying principle of Roman Catholicism that ultimately requires Her adherents to submit their individual will, conscience and intellect to “ the church

    ANS: I would suggest no Catholic read Bennett because Bennett knows little about Catholicism or he wouldn’t have become an ex-priest.

    IRT: Bennett writes “Freedom is an integral part of the Biblical faith. In the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” The command of the Lord is “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”

    “Total submission is demanded by God to His Word. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church (CC) demands submission of intellect and will to her claimed infallible authority, regardless of the fact that she contradicts the Word of God.”

    ANS: Bennett’s doesn’t understand that the Pope is the voice of God. If Bennett is going to quote Scripture than he must deal with these passages, Acts 15:28 sq; Matthew 16:18 ; John 14, 15, and 16; I Timothy 3:14-15. They confirm Her infallibility.

    Moreover the CC is God’s visible authority on earth: Matthew 16:17cf.” Jesus said to him: “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona. “ I say to thee that thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed in heaven.”

    Further, the Catholic Church (CC) does not require blind obedience: obedience is always pursued without exception, in the context of reason and the CC’s fundamen

  • TTWSYFAMDGGAHJMJ

    IN REPLY TO (IRT)
    JUNEANNETTE
    EX-PRIEST WHO ARE CATHOLIC EXPERTS
    6/26/2012 2:07 PM EDT

    IRT: Bennett: “By contrast, the Roman Catholic Church, [RCC] having apostatized from the true Gospel, does not have and cannot have any such fellowship.

    ANS: What is this apostasy, that She claims infallibility (, Acts 15:28 sq; Matthew 16:18 ; John 14, 15, and 16; I Timothy 3:14-15), or that she binds and looses on earth and in Heaven (Matt16: 17cf.). Unfortunately, it is Bennett who is the apostate.

    IRT: BENNETT: “Counterfeiting the true body of the Lord Jesus Christ, she must therefore find some effective way to bind all to her very visible and active pontifical throne. To this throne she undertakes to chain— by law and through ignorance of Holy Scriptures— priests, presidents, and people, in order to make her Pope the universal monarch.”

    What unmitigated nonsense, is it any wonder why Bennett is an ex-priest? What his diatribe does is expose his ignorance of the RCC. He contradicts the Scripture when he denies the RCC’s infallibility and its authority in the Keys. God would be irrational to trust His RCC to man alone. Those denominations who have abandoned the RCC’s universal teachings number some 33,000, not to mention the non-Christian religions exposing mankind’s inability to know God. But, God is Omniscient and Prescient; he knows all and sees all, past, present, and future. For God to establish a Church blind to the fact that man would teach error would be a contradiction of his Omniscience and Prescience. But God is Truth itself and Truth cannot contradict Truth.

    Further, the CC does not bind man in the chains of law as Bennett accuses the CC of through the ignorance of priests (all priest being ignorant), presidents (as well), and people. (viz. 1.3 billion ignorant Catholics). That reeks of the arrogance that Bennett accuses the Church of, viz. it is Bennett who assumes an infallibility and not the CC that has been given the Keys to the Kingdom (Matt16: 17cf.) Hence, we

  • SODDI

    If the catholic church is the “supreme moral authority” that it claims to be, why doesn’t it simply release its 70 years of archives of sexual molestation by priests?

    No conscience, that’s why.

  • TTWSYFAMDGGAHJMJ

    IN REPLY TO (IRT)
    ARROYO
    LOSERS:

    IRT: “The big loser from Msgr. Lynn’s conviction may be the bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom.”

    ANS: If the Bishops fail, the losers will be the American people.

    Edmund Burke wrote ““The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” De Tocqueville wrote that “America is great because She is good; She will cease to be great when She ceases to be good.” What made America good was the Founding Fathers reliance on our Christian Heritage when they recognized that God endowed man with certain inalienable rights. These rights are explicitly and implicitly imbued in the Ten Commandments.

    The Court in “Stone v. Graham (1980)” banned them from Public Schools and eventually the Public Square suggesting they could corrupt the minds of little children. The Court in O’Bannon v. Indiana Civil Liberties Union (7th Circuit Court, 2001) held that “there was no secular purpose to erecting a monument to the Ten Commandments.”

    The Court confirmed the invalidation of the imposition of the Commandments, the foundation of the Natural Moral Law (NML), when in “Lawrence v. Texas” it claimed the NML, that guarantees man’s inviolable rights, served no legitimate purpose to the State and was not a basis for Civil Law when the NML is the standard for all Civil Law.

    It all began in 1973 in “Roe v. Wade,” when the Court trespassed on the inviolability of our alienable Right to Life and made it violable. There followed a limit on Freedom of Speech (McConnell v. Federal Election Commission), and an assault on Eminent Domain in “Kelo v. City of New London.”

    Incrementally, the Secularists, under the auspices of the ACLU, have been systematically and incrementally eliminating our inalienable rights. After “Roe” made our most fundamental right of man, a Right to Life violable, the Court impugned the Commandments that guarantee our inalienable rights. The assault has now advanced on the emasculation of our Freedom of Religion (Obamacare),

    American is

  • dmd51

    Are you suggesting that the NYC School system protects known child molesters by transferring them from one school to another (unsuspecting) school?

    Yes, unfortunately, there are child molesters employed in the public schools. They show up on the front pages of newspapers and in the dock. In Catholic schools they just show up in a different diocese.

  • TTWSYFAMDGGAHJMJ

    IN REPLY TO (IRT)
    DMDinNV
    3:15 AM EDT

    IRT: “Are you suggesting that the NYC School system protects known child molesters by transferring them from one school to another (unsuspecting) school?”

    ANS: I am not suggesting anything, just giving you the facts for you to figure it out for yourself.

    The American Medical Association found in 1986 that one in four girls, and one in eight boys, are sexually abused in or out of school before the age of 18 (Michael Dobie, “Violation of Trust,” Newsday, June 9, 2002, p. C25.).

    Two years later, a study included in “The Handbook on Sexual Abuse of Children,” reported that one in four girls, and one in six boys, is sexually abused by age 18. It was reported in 1991 that 17.7 percent of males who graduated from high school, and 82.2 percent of females, reported sexual harassment by faculty or staff during their years in school. Fully 13.5 percent said they had sexual intercourse with their teacher.

    In New York City alone, at least one child is sexually abused by a school employee every day. One study concluded that more than 60 percent of employees accused of sexual abuse in the New York City schools were transferred to desk jobs at district offices located inside the schools. Most of these teachers are tenured and 40 percent of those TRANSFERRED are repeat offenders.

    They call it “passing the garbage” in the schools. One reason why this exists is due to efforts by the United Federation of Teachers to protect teachers at the expense of children. Another is the fact that teachers accused of sexual misconduct cannot be fired under New York State law.

    One of the nation’s foremost authorities on the subject of the sexual abuse of minors in public schools is Hofstra University professor Charol Shakeshaft. In 1994, Shakeshaft and Audrey Cohan did a study of 225 cases of educator sexual abuse in New York City. Their findings are astounding.

    All of the accused admitted sexual abuse of a student, but none of the abusers was reported to the autho

  • dcrswm

    What’s next? One can hope RICO….

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