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.

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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.

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?

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.

Latin Mass Crowd Ousts Cardinal

CNS provides us with a story that allows us to see that while our church is quite diverse in terms of liturgical preferences (e.g. Latin mass vs. post-Vatican II liturgy), that we can all unite over our response to one sad event in our church’s history: The sexual abuse scandal.

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The group organizing the first pontifical solemn high Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington in 45 years announced it was replacing as the main celebrant a cardinal criticized for his handling of a clergy sex abuse case.

Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who was scheduled to celebrate the April 24 Mass, made international headlines when a letter he wrote years earlier surfaced, in which he praised a French bishop for refusing to report an accused pedophile priest to police, even though French law required him to do so.

The Maryland-based Paulus Institute for the Propagation of Sacred Liturgy did not list a specific reason for choosing a different celebrant for the Mass honoring Pope Benedict XVI’s fifth anniversary as pope.

However, the announcement came a day after a Chicago-based group of survivors of clergy sexual abuse had called on the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI and Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl to stop Cardinal Castrillon, the retired head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, from celebrating the Mass.

“This action will help maintain the solemnity, reverence and beauty of the Mass,” the Paulus Institute said in a statement issued April 21. “We are in the process of seeking another bishop to celebrate a Pontifical Solemn Mass on Saturday and are confident that one will agree. However, in any event, a beautiful, dignified traditional Latin Mass will be celebrated.”

Indeed. I almost want to go to this and I actually will be in DC on that day at a wedding.