Breaking: Msgr Lynn in Philly: Decision Reversed

Just in: Via Deacon Greg:

The unanimous decision released Thursday by the state Superior Court also dismisses the criminal case against Monsignor William Lynn, a Philadelphia area priest. Lynn has been serving three to six years in prison after his child-endangerment conviction last year. Prosecutors had argued that Lynn reassigned predators to new parishes in Philadelphia when he was secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004. Lynn’s conviction stems from the case of one priest, Edward Avery, found to have abused a child after such a transfer. Lynn’s attorneys contended the state’s child-endangerment law at the time applied only to parents and caregivers, not supervisors like Lynn.

Read More at:

The only question I have is: Did he know? If so, then he deserves to do time. However, I think there’s a good chance that Msgr. Lynn did all he could and was overruled by the now late Cardinal Bevilacqua.

We’ll see how this shakes out.

Child Protection Right Under Abuser’s Noses

My erstwhile assistant, Christine Marino found this about an ad that displays two images, one for adults and another for children. Amazing.

Let’s pray today for all victims of abuse, so we might better offer protection for them and for forgiveness and healing so that all may live in peace. Amen.

Conversations with My Molester…a New Play

Michael Mack, a victim of sexual abuse by a priest has written a play based on his visit to the priest who molested him after finding out that he lived a mere hour away. Mack showed up on his doorstep. The NY Times has more.

The result is “Conversations With My Molester: A Journey of Faith,” which had its debut last year at the Boston Playwrights’ Theater at Boston University to mark the 10th anniversary of the Globe series. Now, Mr. Mack, 56, is reviving the nonfiction drama at the Paulist Center, a Catholic community center in downtown Boston that is dedicated to social justice.

On Friday night, about 50 people attended the opening, which was followed by a question-and-answer session with Mr. Mack and the Rev. Rick Walsh of the Paulist Center. The play and subsequent discussion showed how the priest scandal, stemming from events that took place decades ago, continues to haunt the lives of the victims and reverberate throughout the church.

The Archdiocese of Boston is still reeling from the many discoveries of sexual abuse by priests in their diocese. More church closings are happening because of now poor attendance and financial ruin, caused mostly by the scandal. We wonder if the church will ever recover here.

But the Paulist Center seems to be taking a good first step. Just steps from the Boston Common on Park Street, the play resonated with many in the audience. The realism in this non-fiction drama cuts to the core and covers even the most reviling situations that the abused encounter…the fact that the abused often abuse themselves:

One of the most unsettling moments of the performance was when Mr. Mack revealed that as a camp counselor when he was in high school, he had come close to seducing a vulnerable, 8-year-old in whom he recognized himself.

“You lean closer, his hair a drift of baby shampoo,” Mr. Mack said as he acted out the scene. “Your face so close to the heat of his cheek you smell his breath, like apples.” At that point, the images of his own molesting came rushing back, and he stopped himself before anything happened.

That admission — that he had almost re-enacted the very crime perpetrated against him — drew particular praise from the audience. And it led to a general discussion of one of the little-acknowledged effects of molesting, that some victims become perpetrators.

Yikes! That is a very real and horrifying admission. Blessings on Mr Mack’s new work and on the Paulist Center for having a lot of guts to show this in the Catholic Church building.

Joliet Priest Removed …Again

Last week sometime we reported about Fr. F. Lee Ryan who had been removed from ministry for allegedly abusing a 16 year old (although some say 14) and then was restored to ministry again after the CDF said that Canon Law didn’t require his removal.

Bishop Conlon restored him to ministry, but exiled him to a remote area that was basically cornfields and a limited population.

That decision has been once again reversed by Bishop Conlon, the Bishop of Joliet.

From Deacon Greg and the Herald News:

In a written statement, Conlon said, “Last week I announced that Father F. Lee Ryan would be permitted to exercise a very narrow priestly ministry. Subsequent discussions that have occurred since that decision have highlighted that any action needs to fulfill the larger need of the Church to confront the scandal of child abuse in its midst and diligently restore trust.

“For the sake of the greater good of the Church, I have decided to revoke my earlier permission and once again place Fr. Ryan on full administrative leave.”

Conlon said he would “initiate further conversations with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” the panel in Rome that found Ryan not guilty based on a church law in place at the time of the alleged abuse. That law refers to discipline against priests who engage in adultery or improper touching with people under the age of 16.

The accuser has said he was 14 at the time of the alleged incidents.

I will applaud this decision to stand behind the Dallas Charter and to look into the case further.

Accused Priest Returned to Ministry in Joliet…But Should He Be Allowed to Return?

From the Herald News in Joliet, Ill. recently comes the news about Fr. F. Lee Ryan, who had a credible accusation against him regarding and affair he had with a minor.

The law calls for discipline up to removal from the priesthood for adultery with minors under the age of 16. But Ryan is being reinstated to what the diocese described this week as “very limited ministry” to homebound parishioners in the Watseka area.

Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, who heads the diocese and is also the chair of the Bishop’s Conference on the Committee on Child Protection, received the news from Rome that because of a loophole in Canon Law, Fr. Ryan can be reinstated. That loophole is that the child in question was not under the age of 16.

“The Congregation issued a decision that Fr. Ryan is not guilty of grave delict (“serious crime”) under the 1917 Code of Law which was in effect at the time of the alleged abuse. The letter from the Congregation simply cited one Canon (2359 p2) without further explanation.”

That Canon says: “If they have committed a crime against the sixth commandment with a minor under sixteen years of age, or have committed adultery, rape, bestiality, sodomy, pandering, or incest with any person related to them by consanguinity or affinity in the first degree, they shall be suspended, declared infamous, deprived of any office, benefice, dignity, or position which they may have, and in more serious cases, shall be deposed.”

The victim also claims that he was 14, but for some reason they are going with 16 in the official report.

There’s much to consider here and one needs to know a bit about Canon Law, the Watseka area, the priest in question and the Bishop’s response.

The first is that Vatican is merely considering Canon Law here and I’m not sure they realize that nobody in the United States really cares what Church law says in this instance because the church’s credibility in these cases is shot. If the priest did this, then he should be punished to the extent that the law allows and 16 is a ridiculous age and has since been updated, but at the time this was the law on the books that he would have violated. Regardless, it looks bad.

Fr. Ryan has been very cooperative with the case and is extremely sorrowful for his actions. That’s laudable, but I’m also wondering if he has received psychological treatment for this and if he has a clean record since? Even suspicions should come into play here. Is this a psychologically healthy individual? Who knows?

Lastly, the Bishop’s response is coming under fire. People are saying that he’s using the excuse of “following the orders from Rome.” Well, that’s not exactly right. Bishop Conlon could have reinstated Fr. Ryan to work in a parish or in youth ministry in the middle of a thriving city. But instead he took a more practical approach. He sent Fr. Ryan to Watseka. What’s in Watseka? Cornfields upon cornfields. There is literally nothing there. This priest might encounter 3 to 4 people in a year there. It’s the equivalent of being sent to Siberia. So in some way Bishop Conlon may have been forced to sent this priest back into ministry by ecclesiastical law, but he also took care to send him to the safest place possible. Perhaps he should have fought back a bit more and pleaded for more prudence (and perhaps he did!), but to say that he blindly followed orders is kind of silly.

The issue here is a lack of understanding of Ephebophilia in Rome and a strict adherence to Canon Law. Perhaps, someone should point out that to the folks in the CDF?

Apologize, Resign and Forgive

On Thursday, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas-City/St Joseph was found guilty of failing to tell police about Shawn Ratigan, a priest suspected of sexually exploiting children after Bishop Finn has full knowledge of pornographic pictures found on Fr. Ratigan’s computer, some which he had taken himself.

What’s next for Bishop Finn? I would suggest an apology and a resignation. It would be impossible for him to lead the diocese at this juncture. Sadly, this is another black eye on the church as Bishop Finn openly violated the Dallas Charter. Earlier in this case when asked why they had not come forward, a diocesan spokesperson reported that they are only required to report cases of sexual abuse, not pornography. In my opinion, that’s just one more example of some in the church living by the letter, rather than the spirit of the law, civil or otherwise. While technically, the spokesperson may be correct, common sense also should tell them that the only proper thing to do would have been to report Ratigan immediately.

One would think that a Bishop would know better. But apparently, Finn did all he could to deny that any wrongdoing was going on.

From the Washington Post:

Finn’s statement after his conviction carefully pointed to inadequate diocesan “process and procedures” as the reason that Ratigan was not reported to police, and his expression of regret was for policy failures and “for the hurt that these events have caused.”

Until this week Finn had vigorously rejected the charges that he had done anything wrong, and had hired a high-priced defense team to make his case. The diocese revealed this week that Finn’s legal bills have cost the diocese and its insurers nearly $1.4 million over the past year, and that parishes will have to kick in more money to cover the outlays. Finn and the diocese still face numerous civil suits resulting from the case.

This is not going to end well. Kansas City/St Joseph was a model diocese before Finn’s arrival with much live and enthusiasm for the Catholic Church. I fear that much of that has eroded now.

It’s time for Bishop Finn to resign. That is the only way to healing and reconciliation.

It may be difficult to forgive someone like Bishop Finn and Fr. Ratigan, to be sure. But we are called to do this as Catholics. At the same time, justice is the only way that reconciliation can occur for the diocese. And with that in mind, Bishop Finn needs to take the first step in moving on and letting the diocese come to heal and more importantly call anyone who has been abused back home to receive and apology and a promise that justice for victims of abuse will happen. That will be the next Bishop’s first order of business.

Today, let’s pray for victims of abuse, for all of the children that Fr. Ratigan violated and for these two priests who will face justice for their crimes. Lastly, for the people of the diocese of Kansas City/St Joseph…
Know that we here at Googling God stand with you today.

Can We Forgive Fr. Groeschel? And Can He Reach to Reconcile?

So Fr. Groeschel and the CFR’s issued two statements of apology yesterday. They essentially both say the same thing and Fr. Groeschel’s seems like a shorter version of the CFR’s. Essentially, everyone was on message: We apologize, the abused are not victims, Fr. Groeschel’s mind is failing, Fr. Groeschel has a great record of helping people.

Here’s Fr. Groeschel’s apology:

I apologize for my comments. I did not intend to blame the victim. A priest (or anyone else) who abuses a minor is always wrong and is always responsible. My mind and my way of expressing myself are not as clear as they used to be. I have spent my life trying to help others the best that I could. I deeply regret any harm I have caused to anyone.

While Fr. Benedict sadly may be suffering some effects from the accident it in no way exonerates him from the statement he made which was indeed hateful and horrible for any victim of abuse to hear. I fear, however, that this opinion may be widespread amongst many clergy and laity within our church. It shows a blatant ignorance for what sexual abuse has done and leads people into deeper darkness.

Those comments as Joe Zwilling of the New York Archdiocese said in his carefully written press release “do not represent us” as Catholics.

And for a self-professed “orthodox” Catholic to say these words is horrendous and for a Catholic paper to write them without further introspection on them or challenge is not just shoddy journalism, it’s shoddy Catholicism.

That said, what is Catholic is our capability to forgive and so while this doesn’t change what Fr. Benedict said I call for all of us to accept his apology and to offer him sincere forgiveness.

And that friends is hard for all of us.

While I am angered by Fr. Benedict’s statements and am sincerely wondering if those secretly are his true beliefs about sexual abuse, I also know that I cannot let that anger get in the way of forgiveness–where God calls each one of us to be.

Forgiveness however, does not turn a blind eye to justice. And I do think that despite the public embarrassment that Fr. Benedict is facing now, he should also be made to do some kind of restitution or penance for saying something so callous, old as he is, or not. He’s been speaking fairly lucidly and frequently publicly and offering tons of retreats and we haven’t heard any reports of missteps until now. And if that is the case then maybe he should spend some time listening (which as a psychologist he does very well) to those who have been abused by priests in some kind of formal retreat for them under supervision of another. The folks who run the Archdiocese’s Virtus training would be well-advised to take the lead in reaching out to him at this time and to set something up. I wonder if there’s a victim of abuse who is brave enough to take matters into their own hands and offer to speak with him?

Forgiveness on our part is always possible. We cannot let evil control and ultimately destroy us–something Fr. Benedict has also preached on and knows well. But reconciliation is sometimes harder to come by. And Fr. Benedict should take great pains to reconcile with the community here and we as laity should take great pains to welcome that and to forge understanding with those who have been abused with a man who seems to think that they bear some responsibility. Even if he’s saying that he misspoke now, I can’t help but believe that at least a small part of him feels this way.

I’ve said my share of stupid things in my life. Thankfully, most of them not in the public eye. But what I think I pride myself on most is my ability to try to heal the relationships that have been damaged by my own stupidity–even when my statements were unintentional.

He’s an old man. He’s been through a lot these years. But that’s no excuse. I’m glad he apologized and tried to set the record straight.

I forgive Fr. Benedict. And I hope he can forgive himself and can reach out to reconcile with those he has hurt by his words.

Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR on Child Abuse: “Sometimes the Kid is the Seducer”

I’ve known of Fr. Benedict Groeschel for some time. I’ve found him to be somewhat pleasant on the occasions I’ve been in the same room with him. My sister would speak with him several times at Children’s Village where she served as a teacher for years. I’ve been a celebrations for my dear friend, Fr. Jim Lloyd where he’s been in attendance as well. So know that I hold no ill will against Fr. Benedict or his religious order, who I have seen with my own eyes do some incredible work with the poor.

So I’m hoping that in this interview he gave to the National Catholic Register, he didn’t mean this in the way that it came out. Because it sure doesn’t sound good.

He said this with regards to priests who are child sex abusers:

People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to — a psychopath. But that’s not the case. Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer.

NCR: Why would that be?
Well, it’s not so hard to see — a kid looking for a father and didn’t have his own — and they won’t be planning to get into heavy-duty sex, but almost romantic, embracing, kissing, perhaps sleeping but not having intercourse or anything like that.

It’s an understandable thing, and you know where you find it, among other clergy or important people; you look at teachers, attorneys, judges, social workers. Generally, if they get involved, it’s heterosexually, and if it’s a priest, he leaves and gets married — that’s the usual thing — and gets a dispensation. A lot of priests leave quickly, get civilly married and then apply for the dispensation, which takes about three years.

But there are the relatively rare cases where a priest is involved in a homosexual way with a minor. I think the statistic I read recently in a secular psychology review was about 2%. Would that be true of other clergy? Would it be true of doctors, lawyers, coaches?

Here’s this poor guy — [Penn State football coach Jerry] Sandusky — it went on for years. Interesting: Why didn’t anyone say anything? Apparently, a number of kids knew about it and didn’t break the ice.

Let me point out a number of troubling things to be clear:

There’s no way that a kid should be held responsible when it comes to sexual abuse. Even if a 17 year old consents to sex with an older man or woman the adult should know better than to engage in that type of act with a MINOR!

And “poor Jerry Sandusky?”—come on, Fr. Groeschel! Sandusky pathologically designed a way to become close to his victims and took full advantage of them and abused them for his own sexual deviancy. The fact that kids looked up to him is absolutely irrelevant.

Do I feel sorry for people who engage in sexual abuse, who are only attracted to teens at the same age they were when their sexuality got stunted by an abuser. Men and women who are caught in a vicious cycle of the abused becoming abusers?

Yes. I do. But that doesn’t mean they get a free pass and it certainly doesn’t mean that it’s the fault of kid who got abused.

Would he say that a woman who got raped would be at fault because she showed affection to a man who couldn’t understand that “no meant no?”

I’m hoping that someone misspoke. Because I can’t believe that after all that’s been said and done about sexual abuse and the millions of dollars that are still be spent by the church on this, that Fr. Groschel would say something like this.

They Knew

From today’s NYT…the results of an major investigation by Louis Freeh, the former director of the FBI:

Freeh’s investigation — which took seven months and involved more than 400 interviews and the review of more than 3.5 million documents — accuses Paterno, the university’s former president and others of deliberately hiding facts about Sandusky’s sexually predatory behavior over the years.

“In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders of Penn State University” “repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the board of trustees, the Penn State community and the public at large.”

Our church knows deeply the pain that is inflicted when cover ups happen when children are abused by child molesters. It is so tough to think that people could be that cold to not protect a child and it’s so easy for all of us to grow unforgiving and hateful towards them.

Are they in fact, too hard to forgive? If so, what does that say about us as so-called people of forgiveness? What does it say about justice if we dare to forgive them?

Justice is not blind. But do we sometimes become blind by not being able to forgive people–allowing our hatred to turn us into people who seem to be controlled by hatred.

And instead of channelling that justice that we can clearly see more positively, doesn’t evil have a way to keep us in our desolation? Where we seek revenge, rather than reconciliation.

I really hate Jerry Sandusky for what he’s done. But my hatred doesn’t help protect children who might be victimized by someone like him down the road. And I can’t change what Mr. Sandusky did in his horrible past, his monstrous, devious, sick life. I can only choose to move on and not let his vileness turn me into someone who can’t see that love always conquers hatred. We can’t seem to control our emotions–and I think we need to do that. And good religion teaches us to temper our dark passions and lead us not into the temptation that evil would rather have us turn to. Rather it hopes to deliver us from all that is evil.

They knew. And now we know that we know now. But where does that call us to be? May we be challenged today by forgiveness, justice and a sense that all may be brought to healing by God’s love.

Including those who find it hard to forgive.

UPDATE: Msgr. Lynn = Guilty of Endangerment but Not Conspiracy

Reuters has the early story:

Monsignor William Lynn was found guilty on Friday of one count of endangering the welfare of a child, making him the highest-ranking U.S. Roman Catholic official convicted in the church child sex abuse scandal.

The jury acquitted Lynn, who oversaw hundreds of priests in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, on two other counts.

The jury deliberated 13 days before reaching a decision in the trial of Lynn, 61, who for 12 years served as secretary of the clergy.

He was accused of conspiracy and child endangerment in what prosecutors said was an effort to cover up child sex abuse allegations, often by transferring priests to unsuspecting parishes.

This seems like the right call to me. Msgr. Lynn certainly made some mistakes and endangered children but I don’t think he was part of a conspiracy. Perhaps some others higher up the ladder were, but I’m not sure he was privy to those discussions.

More to come. This will make Boston look like a day at the beach as I’ve stated before and sadly, it makes the Catholic Church look horrendous and backwards and priests will suffer greatly for this. Bishops once again will feel the scathing look of the public eye for their failure to protect children and instead protect the institution.