Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Standing Ovation for Msgr. Lynn, Charged with Endangering Children in Philadelphia

Msg. William J. Lynn

And speaking of the new archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles J. Chaput (I'm building here on what I just posted about the Franciscan charism and Mychal Judge): as John Bijarney notes in a comment to my posting yesterday about Chaput, the new Philadelphia archbishop is in the news right now due to a comment he made at a dinner last month at St. Helena's parish in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.  John P. Martin reports this story at today.

The banquet was in honor of Chaput. Those attending included "hundreds of priests."  Among those in attendance was Msgr. William Lynn, who was secretary of clergy for the archdiocese of Philadelphia under Cardinal Bevilacqua.  Lynn is currently on trial on charges of having endangered minors by shielding priests abusing children and keeping these priests in active ministry where they remained in contact with minors.  Msgr. Lynn has stated under oath that he has lied to the grand jury.  (Readers wanting a list of postings here at Bilgrimage on the Philadelphia story can click on the label "Philadelphia" at the bottom of this posting.)

According to sources who attended the recent banquet in honor of Archbishop Chaput, during the event, Chaput singled Msgr. Lynn out, noting what a difficult ordeal he's been put through.  And when Chaput made this observation, Lynn received a standing ovation.

To my mind, this story is a vignette of where American Catholicism finds itself at present.  Though many American Catholics are thoroughly disgusted with the behavior of our pastoral leaders in the abuse crisis, powerful forces within the church in the U.S., with pastoral leaders like Chaput at their helm, treat those seeking transparency, accountability, and justice in the sexual abuse crisis as enemies of the church.  And these forces want to circle the wagons, to fight back against the secular media and even the secular system of justice insofar as these call for transparency and accountability and seek justice for victims of abuse.

So that a highly placed monsignor under indictment for criminal activity, who admits that he has lied to the court, who is charged with very serious crimes of placing children in harm's way, becomes a hero to the clerical club who attend banquets honoring a new archbishop.

And as I read this story, which I find mind-boggling and yet entirely predictable, I wonder precisely how Archbishop Chaput and his priestly confreres who gave Msgr. Lynn a standing ovation at this recent banquet imagine they're building a morally credible church through such behavior.  I wonder how these folks imagine they're contributing to the well-being of the church at this point in history by this defiant gesture that will rightly be interpreted by scores of people in the public square as a defense of criminal behavior.

I don't get it.  I evidently don't see something these folks see.  Evidently, I haven't yet understood that the essence of what it means to be Catholic, and the essence of what the Catholic church is all about, resides in the clerical club.  Which is to be defended and applauded at all costs.  No matter how criminal and morally reprehensible the behavior of members of that club happens to be.

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