- Published on Monday, 25 June 2012 06:20
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 1490
When Pope Benedict was Cardinal Ratzinger, he headed up the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith which was responsible for handling problems of abuse by priests. The policy at the time - and for centuries before that - was that it was more important to preserve the reputation of the Catholic Church than to worry about re-occurrence or the victims. So Ratzinger instructed Archbishops and Cardinals throughout the world to move offending priests to another parish - and whatever else was done was to make sure that the offenses and the offenders were kept quiet. So when Monsignor William Lynn from the Philadelphia archdiocese was recently found guilty of covering up sexual abuse by (at least) one priest, he was really just doing what he had been told to do. (BBC News) Just like a soldier in a battle who is asked to do something immoral, we have to ask "who is responsible?" A similar case is where a hitman is hired to kill someone. In most courts of law - both are guilty of the crime.
In the case of Lynn, he took orders from Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua who recently died so cannot be charged. But he too took orders - from Pope Benedict - or more precisely, from Cardinal William Levada (head of Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith) who took over from Ratzinger when he was elected Pope. But Levada simply follows the rules set by the Vatican whose CEO is the Pope. The Popes have always insisted that they are in charge - only Popes are infallible. If anyone steps out of line they are reprimanded or in some cases, excommunicated. There is no doubt which man is responsible for whatever the Catholic Church does.
In Philadelphia, there have been many investigations and they culminated in a court case where several priests were charged with covering up the abuse. Lynn has been found guilty of the specific charge of endangering the victim of Edward Avery, a former priest convicted in 1999 of sexual assault. Once Avery had been found to be abusive, he was sent to another parish where he again abused. But the new parish did not know about his history nor did anyone else - Lynn told parishes with suspected predators that their priests were being removed for health reasons.
Cardinal Bevilacqua was even worse. Not only did he order these transfers and the secrecy, but he also ordered the shredding of a 1994 list of three diagnosed paedophiles and a dozen confirmed predators in the archdiocese.
Cardinal Bevilacqua cannot be prosecuted - but the Pope is still living and can be. His U.S. lawyers have used the excuse that the Pope is the head of the Vatican which is a sovereign State and so cannot be prosecuted. But we all know he's guilty -he's also thrown his minions to the lions. Will he offer Lynn sanctuary like he did Cardinal Law of Boston who fled the U.S. before he could be held accountable? He would have to get Lynn out of jail first - he's headed for up to 7 years in prison although the judge seems to want to be more lenient. The real culprit is going free.
For more on Cardinal Levada - see this interview with him by CNN. Vatican Agrees to be held to a Higher Standard.
Result of Trial and sentencing
Msgr. William J. Lynn, the first Roman Catholic official in the United States to be convicted of covering up sexual abuses by priests under his supervision, was sentenced to three to six years in prison on Tuesday.
"You knew full well what was right, Monsignor Lynn, but you chose wrong," said Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina as she imposed the sentence, which was just short of the maximum of three and a half to seven years.
Monsignor Lynn, 61, was found guilty on June 22 of one count of endangering a child, after a three-month trial that revealed efforts over decades by the Philadelphia archdiocese to play down accusations of child sexual abuse and avoid scandal.
Monsignor Lynn served as secretary for clergy for the 1.5 million-member archdiocese from 1992 to 2004, recommending priest assignments and investigating abuse complaints. During the trial, prosecutors presented evidence that he had shielded predatory priests, sometimes transferring them to unwary new parishes, and lied to the public to avoid bad publicity and lawsuits.
"I think this is going to send a very strong signal to every bishop and everybody who worked for a bishop that if they don't do the right thing they may go to jail," said Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a senior fellow of the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. "They can't just say the bishop made me do it, that's not going to be an excuse that holds up in court."
I would add that they also cannot say that it's the Church's and Pope's policy.
Prosecutors had urged the judge to impose the maximum penalty. They told the court last week that the gravity of Monsignor Lynn's crime - giving known sexual predators continued access to children, causing lifelong anguish and damages to some - was "off the charts." They wrote that Monsignor Lynn had refused to accept responsibility and had an "apparent lack of remorse for anyone but himself."
Ann Casey, who attended the sentencing and said she had been a friend of Monsignor Lynn for 36 years, said she believed that he was a scapegoat and a victim of his intense faith in the leaders of the archdiocese. "It was his vow of obedience to the church that landed him this morning in jail," she said.
Right - he was just doing what the Pope wanted but he hid behind his immunity as head of a foreign state - Vatican city.
During the trial, Monsignor Lynn's lawyers argued that he had tried to protect children, but that his powers were limited and that he had followed the instructions of the cardinal at the time, Anthony J. Bevilacqua. But prosecutors argued that Monsignor Lynn played a central role in deciding how to handle complaints against priests and that "following orders" was no defense.
Monsignor Lynn's conviction was for lax oversight of one former priest who had a known history of abuse, but was allowed to continue in ministry. The former priest, Edward V. Avery, now 69, spent six months in a church psychiatric center in 1993 after an abuse episode, and doctors said he should be kept away from children. But Monsignor Lynn, though aware of this history, sent him to live in a parish rectory and did not warn parish officials.
In 1999, Mr. Avery undressed with a 10-year-old altar boy, told him that God loved him and had him engage in oral sex. Mr. Avery pleaded guilty to the assault just before Monsignor Lynn's trial began and was sentenced to two and a half to five years in prison.
Monsignor Lynn was acquitted of a conspiracy charge and of a child endangerment charge involving another priest.
But the prosecutors, in their sentencing recommendation last week, said that Monsignor Lynn's handling of Father Avery "was no aberration," but rather "part of a continuous, systematic practice of retaining abusive priests in ministry, with continued access to minors, while taking pains to avoid scandal or liability for the archdiocese."
Text in blue above from NY Times