Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Lynn-Sandusky Verdicts: Three New Statements

Three more statements that catch my eye today, about the Lynn-Sandusky convictions in Pennsylvania: the first two are editorials (or op-eds) from newspapers, the third reflections shared by a parish priest with his parishioners:

In the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Ruth Ann Dailey draws the following lesson from the Philadelphia trial and what it (and the grand jury report) showed us about cover-up of child sexual abuse at the top levels of the Catholic hierarchy:

The failure of a church to eradicate abusers from its ranks is an unparalleled betrayal. The church exists to bring hope and healing into people's lives. When instead it brings abuse and despair, it has utterly betrayed its mission.

The Dallas Morning News is the publication that, as the U.S. Catholic bishops met in 2002, broke the sensational story that a full two-thirds of sitting U.S. bishops had protected a child molester.  Yesterday, the paper published an editorial which reminds us that evidence produced in the Philadelphia trial "offers indisputable proof that Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, an ecclesiastical prince of the Catholic Church and the head of the Philadelphia Archdiocese from 1988 to 2003, was equally guilty of endangering children."

As the editorial points out, testimony in the Philadelphia trial demonstrated "beyond doubt" that Bevilacqua knew of the existence of sexually abusive priests under his pastoral charge and that he that ordered the shredding of a memo listing 35 of these priests.  Two weeks after his death, a copy of that memo turned up just before the trial began.  

The editorial observes,

The significance of this cannot be overstated. Bevilacqua had testified before two grand juries investigating sex abuse by priests in Philadelphia. “I saw no evidence at the time that we did any cover-up,” he said under oath at one point. His actions, now clearly revealed, amount to willful obstruction of justice. That one of those predatory priests on the list then went on to commit more abuse allows — at least in the court of public opinion — for a retrospective indictment of this one-time pillar of the American Catholic Church.

Finally, the analysis of Fr. Liam Murphy of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic church in West Grove, Pennsylvania, following Msgr. Lynn's conviction dovetails with what the Dallas paper concludes.  Thom Curnutte has made Fr. Murphy's remarks to his parishioners available at Thom's Faith in the 21st Century Blog site, with a link to the Radnor Patch blog.  Fr. Murphy has also posted his observations on his Facebook page.

He states:

For some, perhaps many, this verdict brings with it at least some small sense of justice rendered. No doubt, it makes clear that “I was just following orders,” is an unacceptable defense in the face of blatant evil. 
Yet for many with whom I have spoken and with whom I agree, it is only a partial sense of justice. Because the other elephant in the room is the fact that those directly in charge, the bishops, have yet to claim or accept responsibility for their own horrific part in this painful scandal. Not a single bishop has acknowledged or apologized for his decision to put the image of the Church before the protection and care of sexual abuse victims of clergy. Nor have any bishops had the decency or courage to call their fellow bishops to accountability.

And as a result, Fr. Murphy also indicates, the bishops' "latest attempt to exert moral authority" with the shock-and-awe tactics of their bogus "religious freedom" war against the Obama administration and the "Fortnight for Freedom" rings hollow.  Since the bishops have never addressed and appear incapable of addressing their own egregious moral and pastoral failure in the abuse crisis.

Fr. Murphy is, in my estimation, absolutely right about this. 

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