America’s greatest sin: No truth spoken to power

STAN HONDA AFP/GETTY IMAGES Catholic Monsignor William Lynn returns after a lunch break to Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center March 26, … Continued

STAN HONDA

AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Catholic Monsignor William Lynn returns after a lunch break to Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center March 26, 2012 in Philadelphia during his trial on covering up pedophile abuses. Monsignor Lynn, who oversaw the assignment of priests to schools and parishes across the Philadelphia region, faces accusations that he failed to keep priests accused of sexual abuse away from minors. Co-defendant Reverend James Brennan is accused of sexually abusing boys in the 1990′s.

Six years in prison for Monsignor William Lynn, former clergy secretary in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia because of his complicity in sexual abuse of minors; $60 million in fines to Penn State and its football program for similar indifference towards a coach. These despicable events are linked by a defect in American society. There is little public conscience to protect those speaking truth to power.

Particularly sad is how these recent events distort what should be an uplifting faith in an institution. Does not Penn State make of its football a weekly religion, replete with dedicated blue-and-white, competing ritually in an arena for honor? Does not Catholic America consider the bishop’s office the watchtower of a living faith? We all regret the sins and sympathize with the victims, but unless we recognize the climate that has fostered wrongdoing and change, these events will be repeated.

The failure to be feared the most lies with the university favoring football wins over integrity and with the clericalism that prefers loyalty over virtue. In short, there is a moral void in American society that does not reward whistle blowing against the interests of an institution.

I think the case of Philadelphia’s Monsignor Lynn is the more tragic because it is clearly religious. Similar cover-ups of abuses occur in other institutions, but because more is expected from the Catholic Church, the betrayal is worse. The court sentenced the priest to three to six years in prison, which is not the maximum sought by the prosecution, but far more than the simple house arrest or work release proposed by the monsignor’s attorneys.Consider what that will mean for the 60-year-old cleric: denied the protection of his clerical garb, tossed into the general prison population, unprepared to rely on violence to protect himself from further violence from street criminals – we have all seen TV and film representation of the terrors behind prison walls. Is this too harsh for a mild-mannered priest who was only following the orders of his bishop? Is this sentence a reflection of an anti-Catholic bias against we who believe that a bishop is chosen by God to lead the church? Was it not his job as clergy secretary to keep secret the sinful behavior of wayward priests so as to serve the greater good of preserving the good name of Catholicism?

I would argue in rebuttal, that precisely because the courts are required to “serve the greater good” and because the church needs to preserve “the good name of Catholicism,” the penalty is not harsh enough. Three to six years makes the message clear. Without fearsome consequences to those working directly for power-conscious prelates, ecclesiastical ambition and blind loyalty to one’s superiors will interfere with justice. There will always be the temptation to obey men rather than God when one’s career will suffer more from standing up for justice than from meekly serving those in power. This is true for coaches, university administrators and sadly also for chancery officials. In Catholic America, we can be thankful for the members of SNAP for standing courageously against cardinals, archbishops and their minions. Truth was spoken to power, generally at the cost of personal vilification and church orchestrated legal attacks.

While I have sympathy for Monsignor Lynn who will face punishments that will likely test his soul, I also remember that his actions– or lack thereof — tortured the souls of innocent children. Eerily, like the Penn State case where coach Joe Paterno (d. January 22, 2012) had passed away before his role was fully disclosed, in Philadelphia, Cardinal Anthony Joseph Bevilacqua (d. January 31, 2012) had also passed away before the sentencing. Meanwhile, Cardinal Bernard Francis Law of Boston where this tale began to unravel is ensconced in Rome, safe from U.S. legal prosecution.

The jail time that Monsignor Lynn will serve helps strip away the shield of loyalty upon which some unfeeling bishops had depended to avoid culpability for questionable actions. Ultimately, I see benefits to the church in general and bishops in particular to have leadership that is transparent in decision-making and evangelical in inspiration.


View Photo Gallery: With nearly one in four Americans in its fold, a powerful lobby and extensive charity work, the Catholic Church is one of the most influential institutions in America.

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.
  • JudyJones

    Thank you for this superb article…

    Philadelphia priest, Msgr Lynn, will be spending several years in jail because brave victims came forward and broke their silence. We also thank the Judge and the Philly DA’s for bringing some long over due justice to victims who have been sexually abused.

    This trial, verdict, and sentence sends a strong message to all church officials around the world that they can no longer get away with enabling and covering up sex crimes against innocent kids.

    It is time to start protecting children instead of protecting child predators. The Philadelphia Archdiocese is not unique in how they handle child sex crimes, all other dioceses throughout the world have secret archives and many “bishops are still NOT removing credibly accused predators from their parishes”. Law enforcement needs to be investigating other dioceses who are still protecting the predators. This is the only for sure way to protect kids today.

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511. [email protected],
    (SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)

  • Voiceless Victim

    William Lynn is but the first. Very few cases of catholic church child sexual abuse do not involve a criminal conspiracy to coverup serious crimes, and endanger additional children.

    There is absolutely no reason why catholic hierarchy who engage in criminal conduct should receive different treatment from other criminals. It is only the expectation of the catholic hierarchy and their apologists that they are somehow above the law and deserve such special protection from responsibility for their crimes that makes it so hard for them to accept this barely sufficient sentence.

    And it is also this expectation to be able to commit large numbers of horrendous crimes with impunity which has led to these crimes becoming so very widespread.

    With this sentence perhaps removing the expectation of being entitled to unfettered law breaking without consequence, it is possible this will actually result in the real actions to properly protect children the church is so keen to claim credit for, but so loath to deliver.

    At no time has any real thought or compassion been expended by the hierarchy on the sheer magnitude of the human suffering inflicted by the actions of William Lynn and the monsters who he so carefully protected. On victims, on their families, and on the community.

    Such times as these are opportunities to learn and to grow and become better, both personally and as an institution. Let us hope the church does not squander this opportunity as it has squandered the lives of countless innocent children, and is able to rise above its obsession with its own self interest to accept the truth and amend its most toxic and hypocritical culture.

  • amelia45

    The statement from the diocese includes this: “Fair-minded people will question the severity of the heavy, three to six year sentence imposed on Msgr. Lynn today.”

    Monsignor Lynn was secretary of clergy for the diocese from 1992 to 2004 – 12 years. I don’t think spending half the amount of time atoning for the the abuse that took place during the 12 years of his silence is too much. We will never know how many children were abused by priests who were at one time identified by Lynn and known to Bevilaqua and others on the staff at the time. Two, three, a dozen who have spent years trying to deal with what happened to them. Six years is not too much in light of the years of suffering of even one of the innocents his silence allowed to become a victim.

    This will be a terrible time for Msgr. Lynn, who, I suspect, is a gentle man who was in way over his head. He had to make a choice between conflicting obligations and and chose obedience over protection of children. Like a child, he took what the bishop/cardinal said and just obeyed. He knew there was a problem but he – obeyed. Was it cowardice? How could someone become a priest and a monsignor and have so poor a grasp of what is important, what is honest, and what Jesus would do – because Jesus would never have been silent or passive about child abuse among those who claimed to love Him and follow Him.

    Lynn and all the bishops and cardinals who knew of child abuse and kept it hidden have come to love the Church more than Jesus. They confuse a loyalty to the Church with loyalty to the life Jesus called us to live.

    It is exactly the kind of institutionalism that Stevens-Arroya calls it. In the Catholic Church it is clericalism – an extreme loyalty to fallible humans, and the higher the position of that fallible human in the Church, the more loyalty is demanded.

    I will not accept the “radicalism of obedience” – not any more. I will listen to those who tell me of the teachings of the Church, I will pray, but

  • skiadvocat

    The Archdiocese of Philadelphia said it remained ”committed to protecting children and caring for victims,” while adding that “fair-minded people will question the severity of the heavy, three to six year sentence imposed on Msgr. Lynn today.

    Many “fair-minded people” have been questioning, ever since the release of the first Grand Jury Report in September 2005, why archdiocesan leadership and management, both lay and clergy, chose to protect the leaders and institution at the expense of the innocence, beauty, health, spirit and mind of many young child and young adult victims throughout the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

    Michael Skiendzielewski
    Captain (Retired)
    Philadelphia Police Dept.
    Philadelphia, PA
    .

  • Kay Goodnow

    Thank you for this excellent and objective article.

    Many of us were brainwashed from birth. I was. I am also a victim/survivor, now 76 years old but my abuse occurred when I was 14. Of course I have lived through hell, and am now enjoying watching the arrogance of the church leaders wash the whole church down the drain. We were raised to believe that a priest was next to God, so anything they did or said was NOT to be questioned. Who would believe us. Generations before mine were also raised this way, and it may take generations more for the damage to be undone. (Manybe less, if the bishops continue their antics which illustrate their duplicity). Parents, no matter how devoted you are to your church, take good care not to expose your children to the evil therein. They have the right to a life without abuse. They are, after all, the future of all of us.

  • Jeannie Guzman

    For a long time I have felt there was “A Moral Void” in the Hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. I was kicked off of “Catholic Discussion Boards” over 10 years ago, because no one would believe there was a world-wide, orchestrated effort by the Roman Catholic Church to do all in Her power to AVOID SCANDAL to the Church and the Priesthood, at the expense of innocent children being abused, raped and sodomized. Check out the international directive, sent to EVERY bishop in the world called, “Crimen Sollicitationis.” It was a Top Secret Vatican Directive punishable by excommunication, if it were ever made public! This directive and the full contents of it can be found by Googling “Crimen Sollicitationis English Version. Read it and weep. Then, tell me if you honestly don’t feel there is a MORAL Void in the Vatican and in the Hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. That is why I am no longer a Catholic!

  • Danny Haszard

    Institutional pedophile abuse needs cleaning up!
    Penn State,Pedophile Priest and Jehovah’s Witnesses molestation unholy trinity big news same week.
    Jehovah’s Witnesses hit with $28 million sex abuse settlement Oakland,Calif.-Google it.

    Many court documents and news events prove that Jehovah Witnesses require two witnesses when a child comes forward with allegations of molestation within the congregation.
    It has also been shown that child molesters within the organization usually have not been identified to the congregation members or the public at large.
    These people engage in a door to door ministry, possibly exposing children to pedophiles.
    The Watchtower corporation has paid out millions in settlement money already.

    Danny Haszard *tell the truth don’t be afraid* FMI dannyhaszard(dot)com

  • ForgottenAustralianFamily

    It is not only ‘a defect in American society’. In fact American society is far ahead of Australian society in this moral evolution. It is not only the church or the university, but anywhere power is wielded behind closed doors. Imagine what the world will be like when we have confronted and conquered the abuse of power wherever it exists. In Queensland, where the Premier has just described us as “the Spain of Australia”, you would hardly notice a change from the bad old days. Let’s hope the legacy of the Fitzgerald Inquiry inspires the truth to be told here as well!

  • juneannette

    The Roman Catholic “church”, as an institution fosters and promotes the predatory sexual abuse of children.
    That’s because aberrant sexual behaviour is the example the bishops themselves set for their priest understudies. They both sanction and practice sexual depravity themselves. They set the standard and the priests (who don’t know any better) think it is perfectly acceptable and normal to do likewise! Sexual perversion is thus the norm in RC hierarchy circles and so the pedophile epidemic will continue to rage in the unholy Roman Catholic “church”!
    *Richard Sipe explains . . and I quote:
    “This sexual aberration is not generated from the bottom up – that is only from unsuitable candidates – but from the top down – that is from the sexual behaviors of superiors, even bishops and cardinals.
    Bishop Thomas Lyons, now deceased, who was an Auxiliary in the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. groomed, seduced, and sexually abused a boy from the time he was seven years old until he was 17. When that boy grew into manhood he in turn abused his own child and young relatives. When I asked him about his actions he said to me, “I thought it was natural. Father (Lyons) told me a priest showed him this when he was growing up.” A pattern was perpetuated for at least four generations.

    *Source / Website: richardsipe.com / Priests, Celibacy, Sexuality & the Catholic Church
    Article Online: Open Letter of author Richard Sipe to Benedict XVI
    - continued -

  • juneannette

    The Roman Catholic “church”, as an institution fosters and promotes the predatory sexual abuse of children.
    That’s because aberrant sexual behaviour is the example the bishops themselves set for their priest understudies. They both sanction and practice sexual depravity themselves. They set the standard and the priests (who don’t know any better) think it is perfectly acceptable and normal to do likewise! Sexual perversion is thus the norm in RC hierarchy circles and so the pedophile epidemic will continue to rage in the unholy Roman Catholic “church”!
    *Richard Sipe goes on to say . . and I quote:
    Abbot John Eidenschink of St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota sexually abused some of his young monks during confession and spiritual direction. He admitted this behavior in regard to two of the monks I interviewed. They described the behavior in disturbingly graphic detail. Older monks that I interviewed told me that they knew that John’s Novice Master was inappropriately affectionate with him during his two years as a novice. More than a dozen of the monks of this monastery have been credibly accused of abuse of minors while Abbot Eidenschink was promoted to President of his Monastic Congregation, the American Cassinese.
    *Source / Website: richardsipe.com / Priests, Celibacy, Sexuality & the Catholic Church
    Article Online: Open Letter of author Richard Sipe to Benedict XVI

  • juneannette

    The Roman Catholic “church”, as an institution fosters and promotes the predatory sexual abuse of children.
    That’s because aberrant sexual behaviour is the example the bishops themselves set for their priest understudies. They both sanction and practice sexual depravity themselves. They set the standard and the priests (who don’t know any better) think it is perfectly acceptable and normal to do likewise! Sexual perversion is thus the norm in RC hierarchy circles and so the pedophile epidemic will continue to rage in the unholy Roman Catholic “church”!
    *Richard Sipe goes on to say . . and I quote:
    While I was Adjunct Professor at a Pontifical Seminary, St. Mary’s Baltimore (1972-1984) a number of seminarians came to me with concerns about the behavior of Theodore E. McCarrick, then bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey. It has been widely known for several decades that Bishop/Archbishop now Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick took seminarians and young priests to a shore home in New Jersey, sites in New York, and other places and slept with some of them. He
    established a coterie of young seminarians and priests that he encouraged to call him “Uncle Ted.” I have his correspondence where he referred to these men as being “cousins” with each other.”
    *Source / Website: richardsipe.com / Priests, Celibacy, Sexuality & the Catholic Church
    Article Online: Open Letter of author Richard Sipe to Benedict XVI

  • juneannette

    NO REAL REFORM has been implemented to protect children from predator priests. The good ole boys network is still in tact; the so-called “princes of the church” are still in charge; the MONARCHY still rules; the clever ploy of “mental reservation” can still be employed to withhold the TRUTH and their VOWS of SILENCE still give them license to withhold anything they deem harmful to the church, so as not to give SCANDAL to the priests . . the bishops . . the church! So in TRUTH, nothing has changed and it’s business as usual in the Roman Catholic “church”. The oaths of secrecy taken by RC priests, bishops and cardinals, required under RC Canon law that relegate these matters to internal church affairs implemented with a view to avoiding SCANDAL to the “church”, are still in force.
    The gross lies and deception that invariably proceed from such ungodly policies are wholly inconsistent with Christian principles of honesty, transparency and integrity and cannot be reconciled with those who profess Christ.
    SECRECY and COVER UP are the defining characteristics of the RC “church” but such is not the spirit of those who profess to be Christians!
    “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;” (Eph. 5:9)
    Those who have sought to hold the RC “church” accountable and who have pressed for true reform must sadly concede that that will not be forthcoming.
    Roman Catholicism is not Christ’s Church!

  • juneannette

    MEMO to Roman Catholics:
    Many of us have concluded long ago that the RCC is irreformable and have renounced the false religion of Rome to embrace the religion of Christ without contradiction. Christ is the very essence of TRUTH (John 14:6), and yet it is evident that in these matters the unholy Roman Catholic “church” has done all they could within their power to suppress the truth and obstruct justice. As Christ said: “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” (John 7:16)
    Those truly “tethered to the truth” and guided by the Holy Spirit are compelled to leave.” (John 14:16-17; 16:13) Those who remain show their tacit approval of the conduct of their “blind leaders” and will end up in the ditch alongside them. (Matt. 15:14)
    It seems implausible to me that otherwise intelligent people are willing to ignore the abundant and compelling evidence regarding the abuse of children across the globe by Roman Catholic clergy and the deliberate cover up of their gross crimes that unarguably and categorically proves the church of which they are members is not guided by the Holy Spirit, neither the one true church built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, of which Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone and only head.(Eph. 2:20; Eph. 5:23)
    So blinded are they by their inbred institutional loyalty they find themselves unable to act rationally in the face of the painful realities with which they are now confronted which compels them to leave, but choose instead to remain tethered to a church that is utterly devoid of any moral or spiritual credibility. For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.(Eph. 5:9) In place of goodness, there is gross immorality and unchecked vice . . all that is evil; in place of righteousness, there is widespread corruption; in place of truth, there is ‘mental reservation’ . . deceit and lies. As it is written . . spiritual wickedness in high places. (Eph. 6:12)
    May the Lord yet be pleased to grant to the multi

  • ONE NATION

    We all know the crime to the child was wrong and very damageing but the crime of cover up of a sexual abuse cases is more damageing to the nation. The RCC administration has caused many RCs to lose faith in their church by their policy of silence the truth of these crimes commit by their religious so that the image is not damaged which is unlawful and truth always comes out. Why has not more of these administrators that cover up these crimes have not had their day in court? There should no time limit on sexual abuse crimes of children or the cover up these crimes by federal law no matter who violates the law. All nations must fully protect their children. What would God say?

  • NeilAllen1

    The Catholic church still has a “shield of loyalty” when it comes to protecting their thousands and thousands of pedophile priests in the US and their protectors.

    Catholics in Philly paid lawyers $11 million to save Msgr Lynn, even though he hid 35 times as many pedophiles as Joe Paterno hid.

    Catholics protect their pedophile priests like parents protect children.

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