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The rules of the game

Prosecutors in the upcoming Philadelphia criminal trial of Monsignor William Lynn for his alleged role in covering up child sex abuse by archdiocesan priests have filed a motion claiming that Lynn’s behavior was part of a longstanding policy in the archdiocese. The point of the motion is to establish that Lynn’s allegedly criminal behavior (he’s charged with conspiracy and child endangerment) wasn’t a matter of unrelated mistakes, but part of a pattern that indicates intentionality.

What is especially disturbing about these new allegations, if true, is that it shows how Msgr Lynn punished priests who did the right thing and reported to the archdiocese fellow priests who either had child pornography (“One of the videos portrayed ‘an adult male whipping a naked young boy’,” prosecutors allege), or behaved in troubling ways toward children. In that second case, when a Father Picard raised a red flag with the archdiocese about the behavior of one priest, Msgr. Lynn, who was in charge of these matters,

…recommended that Picard be denied more staffing at his parish and be disciplined for disobedience.

Picard then waited 15 years to be promoted to monsignor. When it happened, Lynn allegedly told him, “Everybody deserves to get out of the penalty box at some point.”

See how this works? How likely do you suppose other priests who saw abuse and thought about reporting it to the archdiocese were to do so after seeing what happened to priests who did. Understand, these two priests who were punished did not even go to the police; they called the archdiocese. If prosecutors are correct here, such was the code of omerta in Philadelphia that any priest who ratted out a child abuser in their ranks, even to the proper archdiocesan authorities alone, were made to suffer, or at least had reason to fear that speaking up in confidence would cause them to suffer.

You might wonder, then, why Msgr Lynn reportedly got a standing ovation at a recent gathering of priests when the new Philly archbishop, Chaput, expressed solidarity with him. I am hearing that it’s because the priests believe that Lynn acted on orders from Cardinal Bevilacqua, and is taking a bullet for him.

And by the way, evidence is beginning to emerge that Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, knew a lot more about an abusive priest situation than she has admitted so far — and turned a blind eye at the time (she wasn’t then the PB). Here is an excellent summary of that ugly situation, written by an Episcopal canon lawyer. Excerpt:

Bishop Jefferts Schori, it is time for you to come out of your cocoon of silence on this topic, as well. The entire Episcopal Church (USA) deserves the truth as to why you regarded a Catholic priest with such a prior record —known to you after being “warned” by his Abbot — as morally fit for reception as a priest into your own Diocese.

Particularly, your Church deserves to know how you reconciled the version of the facts which Father Parry admits he gave youwhich was incomplete and admitted only one prior offense in 1987, with the version you heard from his Abbot — and then decided to receive him despite his lies to you.

More particularly, we need to have your own word on the record as to whether or not you received and read the psychological report on Father Parry which Abbot Polan had in his possession and which ended, as Abbot Polan apparently admitted he told you, with a conclusion to the effect that Bede Parry had a propensity to offend again. (This is the same report which the lawsuit filed by one of Fr. Parry’s adolescent victims alleges was sent to you for your information, even though Bishop Edwards of Nevadanow denies that it is in the files he has on Fr. Parry.)

More particularly still, given that Bishop Edwards claims that you gave instructions, following his reception, that Fr. Parry be kept from all contact with minors, we need to hear from you as to why his employers at All Saints Las Vegas stated in 2011 that they had never been aware of any such instructions.

I swear, I’ve been reading these stories about bishops and clerical officials ignoring or covering up for molesting priests for over 10 years now, and I am no closer to understanding the mystery of this evil in the church universal than I ever was.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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