Sunday, May 27, 2012


 The trial in a Philadelphia courtroom is a first in this country.  A Roman Catholic monsignor is charged with covering up allegations of sexual abuse by priests in the Philadelphia archdiocese.  Monsignor William Lynn was secretary for the clergy in Philadelphia under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.  He is accused of covering up, transferring and otherwise failing to report the actions of a number of priests who abused children.  From the witness stand, Lynn testified it didn't matter what he knew or thought about these priests.  He had no authority to remove them, transfer them or censure them, unless they admitted  their actions to him in person.  (few did)  It was all up to the cardinal what steps would be taken to deal with the situation.  He is absolutely telling the truth.

     In the uproar about all the sex abuse cases, one fact seems to be either missed, forgotten or ignored.  All power in a diocese, (a specific geographical area),  rests with the bishop.  The bishop is considered corporation sole.  All decrees and power run through him.  When it was revealed the bishop of Santa Rosa, Ca. had lost millions of dollars of donations playing the stock market, nothing could be done because once it's donated, the money is his.  He can't steal from himself.  The same is true about personnel matters.  The bishop, or cardinal in this case, is the supreme authority.  Msgr. Lynn, could only recommend courses of action.  If the cardinal did not act, nothing could be done.

     This is the emperor-has-no-clothes moment for the Roman church.  Individual priests abused their position and authority to commit unspeakable acts, but the truth is, it was the Catholic hierarchy, bishops...cardinals...pope...who actively sought to cover-up, obfuscate and bury all these matters so no one would find out.  Other than Boston Cardinal Bernard Law, no other American, Irish, English, Australian, Belgian, French or German prelate has lost their position due to their participation in a world-wide conspiracy to cover up the facts.  (Law was given a very cushy job in Rome by Pope John Paul II.)

     The person who should be sitting in the courtroom is Cardinal Bevilacqua.  Unfortunately, he died in January and was never charged.  Msgr. Lynn is collateral damage.  He went along with the cardinal's policies like a good soldier, and thus bears moral responsibility, but the real culprit, in every case throughout the nation, is the bishop.  All power rests with him.  The bishop of Rome is no different.  Pope John Paul II did virtually nothing to address this problem.  His predecessors were equally culpable and silent.  When John Paul II was informed about allegations of abuse by a prominent Mexican priest, who founded a religious order, the Pope ignored the reports and championed the priest.  He protected Law and many others.  He was not alone.  His fellow bishops repeated the same actions all over the world particularly in the United States.

     The Roman Catholic hierarchy has escaped responsibility and accountability for too long.  Individual priests have been prosecuted and removed, but they could not have operated as long as they did, nor caused the damage they caused, if the bishops had not enabled their behavior over and over again because they were more concerned about the image of the Church than they were the victims of the abuse.  This is the same hierarchy now attacking American nuns because of their refusal to be silent about everything from poverty to health care to the role of women in the Church.  The Pope and his fellow bishops are quick to condemn women religious after having ignored or tolerated a scandal of monstrous proportions for over 50 years.

     Msgr. Lynn is a scapegoat and he should be found not guilty legally.  He had no power to make the necessary changes.  His boss, and bishops and cardinals all over the world are the real villains here, but it appears they will never be called to answer for their least not in this life.

1 comment:

  1. Don't think I agree with you on this one.

    Lynn was not the 'decision maker', but once he reported felonies to his superior, watched those felonies covered up, and more felonies committed by the same individuals he became part of the cover up.

    Lynn had immense power to make the necessary changes. All he had to do was to pick up the phone and talk to the police.

    I view Lynn as a larger transgressor than the guards at Nazi prison camps. He could have saved people with no risk to himself other than his paycheck.

    The sad fact is that it may be impossible to bring higher ups to justice. Bevilacqua died and there may be no evidence that anyone higher than him played a role.

    At the least sticking Lynn in a cell will serve notice to all the other bit players in this evil game that there will be consequences for protecting predator priests.