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: http://www.wjactv.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/pa-court-reverses-conviction-priest-sex-abuse-case-1179.shtml#.UryB9aWBLj0

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.

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?

Facebook Forgivers

So I’ll be honest, some days the factions in the Catholic Church drive me up the wall. For instance my colleague Jim Martin, SJ posted a picture of Sr. Pat Farrell, the head of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious on Facebook and immediately people talked about her being a “bad Catholic.”

Fr. Jim then posted the following note:

Earlier I posted a profile about Sister Pat Farrell, OSF, the current president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. David Gibson’s article for Religion News Service focused on her work for the Church, and with the poor, in Central America over the last 30 years, often in situations of great danger. How is it possible that, within a few minutes, I had to delete so many ad hominem comments about Sister Pat, which critiqued her for not being a “good Catholic”? Have people no sense of perspective any longer? If not, I have an idea: If you’d like to criticize Sister Pat for not being a good Catholic, as some did, then I would suggest that you do the following: First, spend some time working with the poor in San Antonio. Then, spend six years working with the poor in Chile during an oppressive and violent political regime. You’ll be working in a Catholic parish in a small town in the desert, by the way. Next, move to El Salvador, where you will be in danger of being killed for working for the Catholic Church. That is, put your life on the line every single day for Jesus Christ and for the Catholic Church. At one point during your almost twenty years there, work in a refugee camp, run by the church, that is the target of military raids. Do all of this, by the way, while living under vows of poverty, chastity and obedience; living far from your home country; and having nothing to call your own. Then feel free to come back and post a comment on this Facebook page about what a bad Catholic she is.

And suddenly I’m inspired both by Sr. Pat and also by Fr. Jim’s bravery in standing up for Sr. Pat.

Indeed it is stories like that which inspire me to stay Catholic. It’s people like that, who keep me grounded and help me realize that the church is the people of God inspiring one another and not tearing them down.

I’ve often said that if I weren’t Catholic, I would probably be a Quaker. On Beliefnet’s Belief-o-Matic Quiz I often score high in agreement with the Quakers. So I began to investigate once and said “What do Quakers believe and am I in line with their beliefs?”

What I found was a website that said, Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about being a Quaker. BY Phillip Gulley. Here are the first few lines of what he writes:

I’ve been talking with a wide variety of Quakers these past few months, discussing with them what it means to be a Quaker. It’s been an interesting experience. When I tell evangelical Quakers what progressive Quakers believe, they often say, “That’s not Quakerly!” When I tell progressive Quakers what evangelical Quakers believe, they say the same thing. It seems the only things Quakers agree upon is that other Quakers aren’t real Quakers.

Now substitute Catholic for the word Quaker in this paragraph and see if you feel the same way I did.

No religion, a flawed man-made system is perfect. Only God is perfect and our imperfection doesn’t make God angry…

It makes God more forgiving than we could imagine. It goes beyond denomination into a newness of life for all of us. All we have to be is just as forgiving of our own brothers and sisters.

And that friends, is very, very difficult for all of us. Because hatred runs deep and wounds are even deeper.

And while I can forgive others when they offend me, reconciliation is much harder to achieve because reconciliation is the repairing of the relationship. We’re all required to forgive but reconciliation comes at a much greater price.

Because some people don’t accept the forgiveness of others or are too hurt to move towards reconciliation.

And the internet just might be the worst place ever in that regard. Today can we Catholics who really value forgiveness to the point of making it a sacrament, to the point where we can be examples of reconciliation and civility on the internet.

I’ll start. If anything I’ve ever written has offended you or if I took a tone with you on Facebook, or in any way made you feel less than I should have…know that I apologize and hope we can reconcile if we are estranged.

We need to stay in conversation with one another even when we disagree. One of my students is an atheist and one of the highest honors I could ever have is the fact that she stays in conversation with me and calls me a “reasonable theist.” I hope that people on all sides can be as charitable as she is.

And I hope I can be as well.

When You Survive a Shooting Only to Be Killed in Another

The Colorado movie theatre shooting gives us just one more look into the lives of young people who’s generation is marked by a number of random acts of violence. It’s so rampant in their lives that one person could in fact have been present at more than one random shooting now.

And I’m not talking about someone who lives in a gang infested area–that’s obvious. Two of my colleagues from my former career in sports pointed me towards this story of Jessica Ghawi, also known as Jessica Redfield, an aspiring sportscaster and prolific tweeter.

Ghawi was one of the 12 killed by a madman who threw tear gas into a movie theater filled with people about to watch the Dark Knight Rises. Sadly, Ghawi also was in Toronto at the Eaton Center Shooting just about a month ago and survived because she “felt funny” and went outside.

She blogged about being at the Eaton Center at the time.

What started off as a trip to the mall to get sushi and shop, ended up as a day that has forever changed my life. I was on a mission to eat sushi that day, and when I’m on a mission, nothing will deter me. When I arrived at the Eaton Center mall, I walked down to the food court and spotted a sushi restaurant. Instead of walking in, sitting down and enjoying sushi, I changed my mind, which is very unlike me, and decided that a greasy burger and poutine would do the trick. I rushed through my dinner. I found out after seeing a map of the scene, that minutes later a man was standing in the same spot I just ate at and opened fire in the food court full of people. Had I had sushi, I would’ve been in the same place where one of the victims was found.

My receipt shows my purchase was made at 6:20 pm. After that purchase I said I felt funny. It wasn’t the kind of funny you feel after spending money you know you shouldn’t have spent. It was almost a panicky feeling that left my chest feeling like something was missing. A feeling that was overwhelming enough to lead me to head outside in the rain to get fresh air instead of continuing back into the food court to go shopping at SportChek. The gunshots rung out at 6:23. Had I not gone outside, I would’ve been in the midst of gunfire.

I walked around the outside of the mall. People started funneling out of every exit. When I got back to the front, I saw a police car, an ambulance, and a fire truck. I initially thought that maybe the street performer that was drumming there earlier had a heart attack or something. But more and more police officers, ambulances, and fire trucks started showing up. Something terrible has happened. I overheard a panicked guy say, “There was a shooting in the food court.” I thought that there was no way, I was just down there. I asked him what happened. He said “Some guy just opened fire. Shot about 8 shots. It sounded like balloons popping. The guy is still on the loose.” I’m not sure what made me stick around at this point instead of running as far away from the mall as possible. Shock? Curiosity? Human nature? Who knows.

Standing there in the midst of the chaos all around us, police started yelling to get back and make room. I saw a young shirtless boy, writhing on a stretcher, with his face and head covered by the EMS as they rushed him by us to get him into an ambulance. The moment was surprisingly calm. The EMTs helping the boy weren’t yelling orders and no one was screaming like a night time medical drama. It was as if it was one swift movement to get the boy out of the mall and into the ambulance. That’s when it really hit me. I felt nauseas. Who would go into a mall full of thousands of innocent people and open fire? Is this really the world we live in?

This is too eerie and ironic to not be true unfortunately. This young woman at the start of her young career could have been gunned down a month ago and then ends up being randomly killed because she decided to go to a movie. I wonder if her “spidey sense” tingled again in the theatre last night only to ignore it this time around?

Some friends on Facebook and I’m sure more around the world are angry and hope to see the killer executed. Colorado reinstated the death penalty in their state in 1975 and three people await that penalty on death row in Carson City. None of their deaths will bring back the lives of those that they have killed (Two are accused of murder and another of conspiracy to one of the murders) and neither will that happen in this case. Capital punishment does not restore justice. What it does do is perpetuate evil. Evil wants us to go to that hopeless place where all that can be present is violence and revenge.

The killer whose name I won’t print because he doesn’t deserve any notoriety, should be punished obviously and I hope he gets put away in prison for a very long time to pay for his crime. That’s justice. But it is unjust for us to kill someone and disguise the same act that was committed as justice.

Today let us pray for the victims and for peace in our streets and in our hometowns and in the world. May we move away from evil and into God’s peace. But let us also pray for ourselves—that we do not let anger get the best of us and that we can move into a world where violence does not beget more violence and where we can learn to offer grace in the face of evil.

And for Jessica, especially, may you rest in the arms of God, who redeems you this day and holds you closely forever. And may our young people one day live in a world where they need not worry about simply going to see a movie or grabbing sushi at a mall.

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.

And Deliver Buffalo from Evil…

A shooting occurred at Eric County Med Center (ECMC) this morning here in Buffalo. Many of my medical students do rotations there, so I’m obviously quite concerned for them.

Some details from the Buffalo News:

Buffalo police are looking for a prominent trauma surgeon in connection with the fatal shooting this morning of a woman on the campus of the Erie County Medical Center.

Timothy V. Jorden Jr., 49, of Lakeview, is described as a bald, black male, about 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds. Police also said Jorden, who served in the Army, could be “special weapons trained.”

The victim was a 33-year-old woman who worked at the hospital, and the shooting was “not a random act,” authorities said.

The shooting death prompted authorities to lock down the hospital as a huge police presence converged on the campus to find the killer. The lockdown was lifted shortly before noon.

People familiar with the case called Jorden a well-known, popular trauma surgeon at the medical center. Two sources, though, said Jorden had experienced some emotional problems in recent months.

Some news outlets are speculating that this was a domestic case involving child custody. An undisclosed school has reportedly been locked down as well. ECMC was on lockdown for some time. The suspect had taught at UB’s Med School for some time but does not have an office there at present so it is business as usual there.

One woman is dead and another unidentified woman was injured. Please pray for them and for anyone who has witnessed this.

Sexism in Hockey and the Church

So recently this one came across my plate since the Stanley Cup playoffs have started. It’s a show called “While the Men Watch” about women whose husbands, boyfriends, etc. watch sports but they’re not too eager to join in the festivities. So they created a show around the minutia that they discuss while their men watch the game. Take a preview and I hope you are as bothered by this as I am.

OK, let me just say, my darling wife, puts up with my sports watching and I don’t abuse the privilege. She’s certainly more interested in watching, say the Bachelorette, than any ballgame. I actually watch with her and play what I call “Mystery Science Bachelorette.” Example: “Dude should be voted off for wearing that ugly shirt and horrid tie.”

OK, so I don’t actually use the word “horrid” but other than that, I’m quite a hit with the girlfriends who get together and watch the show together on Mondays. See, we can co-exist. We all have gifts to share!

But while my wife isn’t a sports fan, she’s not like these ladies either. She doesn’t perpetuate sexist myths and I hope I don’t either. I don’t think she’d appreciate this show which panders to the lowest common denominator and makes women look stupid in my opinion as if they had nothing to contribute, learn, or enjoy about the game.

Ellen Ethcinham over at the Score had this excellent take on just how the show perpetuates sexism.

While the Men Watch participates in an astounding collection of stereotypes about women. Women don’t understand sports. Women don’t care about sports. If women watch sports, they only do so because a man pushes it on them. Women are interested in fashion, cleaning, shopping, and men. The show is essentially the traditional four Fs of pink ghetto journalism- food, family, fashion, and furniture- tangentially tied in to hockey. It is Cosmo with a game in the background.

To understand why this show is so dispiriting and depressing for a certain segment of female fans, you have to understand the role that sports play in many of our lives. For all the substantial progress of feminism, the larger culture is still awash in portrayals of women that hew closely to the long-standing stereotypes, that push us to think about ourselves in terms of our attractiveness, our sexual appeal, our fashion sense, our youth, etc etc. These issues intrude, one way or another, into almost every facet of life- into our work and the beers after, into our family life and our relationships, into our education. There is always someone critiquing our bodies or our style. There is always someone trying to sell us a miracle skin cream or a pair of shoes or f**king yogurt or whatever on the grounds that it will make us more acceptably and attractively feminine. Now, we’re adults and we can handle it, but sometimes, frankly, the cultural stereotypes of heteronormative femininity are a pain in the ass. Sometimes one gets pretty f**king tired of being appreciated, shamed, warned, and appealed to ‘as a woman’.

Now that’s a first-class rant! The rest is pure gold, albeit a bit potty-mouthed, be forewarned.

A question: Do we treat women in the church in the same way?

There seems to be no need to dialogue or even FIGHT with women when problems or disagreements come up (see, LCWR or Elizabeth Johnson) because women aren’t supposed to fight, after all. That’s a man’s role. Beth Johnson rightly said if the Bishops who had a problem with her book had called she could’ve happily cleared up their misunderstanding. I wonder if the LCWR and Cardinal Levada can even have a civil conversation without some backbiting later on at this point?

Some may just want women to be a kind of Stepford Wife. Sure they have a snarky comment or two and they can reduce hockey players to objectified sexual beings (because Men never do that!), but some women have a lot more to offer both sports and the theological world than that! They might actually know a thing or two about both hockey strategy or theology– and it’s insulting for any of us not to consider that.

That said, the attitude that this show presents is also damaging to the way we look at MEN in our society. The message is that men are too dumb to consider anything beyond the sports scores or in the church we often hear that the women really run things and our work is somehow incomplete. Or that much of our attitude toward women is misogynistic machismo that many have had to put up with over the years but that many men find just as offensive, even if they will never feel the hurt in the same way.

A second question: Do women in the church who long for a more inclusive church treat men this way as well?

At times I fear they do. “Oh those men just don’t know what they’re doing. If a woman were in charge…things would be different.”

Well…maybe not. Some women are just as power hungry, pig headed and nasty as their male counterparts.

And all of this seems, well…sinful.

It seems to dishonor the gifts that God has made, both male and female, complimentary to one another to be sure, but also individuals in their own right. Both are capable of autonomy without the other and can and should appreciate the other’s gifts in moments of collaboration.

It seems to dishonor that we all may have different interests, none bad or good, just different. And that when we come together these interests can’t co-exist simply because we say they can’t.

It seems to dishonor, that gifts are not categorized by gender, rather they are the expression of each individual and not owned by any particular collective, nor should it be assumed that a collective male or female gender should correspond to either gender stereotype. Nor does it make anyone who bucks the usual trend “gay” unless they actually are.

Perhaps there’s a lesson there for those at the sports network as well as for those of us who find ourselves mired in gender wars within the church, men, as well as women.

That lesson is simply to believe that we have different gifts but the same spirit, no matter who we are, male or female. And these gifts need to come together for the good of the church, nay humankind.

For we all have gifts to share. And it’s time to stop looking at those gifts and each other as purely male or female.

And time to start looking at one another as Christians.

And when we do, marvelous things will happen. We might just experience who God calls us all to become.

Expert to Vatican: Get Help With Abuse Cases

In today’s NY Times a Vatican-called conference on child sexual abuse is going on and the clearest advice given thus far has encouraged the Vatican to listen to those abused rather than a focusing on those who wronged them exclusively. They were urged to get a lot of help in dealing with the crimes committed.

Monsignor Rossetti said he believed that church leaders — usually called on to deal with their own priests — should not handle such cases by themselves, but should consult legal and criminal experts to conduct investigations and advise bishops. All too often, offending priests have manipulated and lied to their superiors, he said.

But until now the Vatican has not embraced the notion of lay-review boards for pedophilia investigations, reaffirming bishops as the first arbiter in these cases. Last May, the Vatican, through its Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, called on bishops’ conferences worldwide to draft policies on the issue within the year.

Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org , said the conference was intended to “change the subject and look like progress.”

“The Vatican is afraid, and it has reason to be,” he said, in light of recent charges against the church, including a complaint filed against the Vatican with the International Criminal Court.

As cases of abuse prominently emerged in North America and several European countries over the past decade, the church was often slow and clumsy in its reactions. The fallout pushed the Vatican to adopt new responses, including the symposium.

Marie Collins, who was abused by a priest while a patient in a Dublin children’s hospital when she was 13, told the delegates on Tuesday that even though many priests had been brought to justice for their crimes, the church needed to acknowledge the responsibility of their superiors. In many cases, she said, they covered up or mishandled cases.

“I can forgive my abuser for his actions; he has admitted his guilt,” she said. “But how do I regain my respect for the leadership of the church? There must be acknowledgment and accountability.”

It’s an interesting turn of events. I’m not sure I want to say that the church should leave it up to the legal system entirely with regards to priests and others who have abused children while representing the church. I’m not sure that they would receive a fair day in court, even if guilty. But I would laud the advice to listen to those who have been victimized. They can help immensely in preventing this from continuing and furthermore, they are owed as much by the church. It’s the least we can do.

At the height of the abuse cases, I attended a listening session at a local parish. The auxiliary Bishop who led the session and who was very open in listening was battered and bruised by the end of the session. It seemed unfair to me for him to have to take the brunt of this and when the session was over, I walked up to him and asked if he was OK. And he appreciated my thought. He also knew that he needed to take a few lumps for the team, even if he had done nothing wrong personally.

It seems to me that the church could use some legal help as they are not lawyers, but we also need to be assured that all heal from this cycle of abuse that was allowed to be perpetuated. Psychological assistance for priests who have to care for people, apologize to victims and help in healing these wounds should also be addressed.

Penn State Students Are Out of Control

There’s no way that this game can happen on Saturday. If I’m Nebraska, I go nowhere near Un-Happy Valley.

And while Joe Paterno and university President Graham Spanier were removed yesterday here’s a bit of irony from Sports Illustrated:

Penn State interim head coach Tom Bradley said today in a press conference that assistant coach Mike McQueary will be with the team this Saturday in the Nittany Lions’ game against Nebraska.

McQueary, now a full-time coach, was the graduate assistant who allegedly witnessed Jerry Sandusky showering with a young boy in 2002. McQueary has come under fire for not pursuing police action, as have all other involved parties in the Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. As of now, McQueary has not faced any legal charges.

So the guy who witnessed the sodomy is on the sidelines, while Paterno isn’t? That makes no sense. Neither one belongs on the sidelines anymore.

Don’t play this game folks. It’s got nothing but trouble written all over it.