Archive for February, 2012
“The Archdiocese of Philadelphia, with its roots deep in the soil of a secretive, authoritarian, Irish Catholicism, produced a tightly wound clerical culture unparalleled in this country for its loyalty to itself.”
So begins an article by Tom Roberts of National Catholic Reporter, “A Deep Look into Philly’s Clerical Culture,” which was posted yesterday to ncronline.com and shows how clericalism has helped perpetrate the clergy sexual abuse scandal in Philadelphia. The story bears on the issue of the “conspiracy memo” used by Msgr. William Lynn’s lawyers to argue for dismissal of the charges of child endangerment against him. Their arguments failed to convince the judge to dismiss the case.
The “conspiracy memo” issue was the topic of a Voice of the Faithful blog post yesterday.
NEWTON, Mass. – A newly discovered memo presented to a Philadelphia court by Philadelphia archdiocese’s lawyers proves archdiocesan officials engaged in a conspiracy to cover up clergy sexual abuse in 1994. The memo also proves the Catholic Church reform group Voice of the Faithful’s long-held contention that Church hierarchy have covered up clergy sexual abuse to protect the Church’s reputation and assets at the expense of child victims of clergy sexual abuse.
According to media reports of court documents submitted by the archdiocese’s own lawyers, who called the memo a “shocking discovery,” Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, then archbishop of Philadelphia, ordered a list of abusive priests shredded. Also according to reports, the lawyers assert in the documents, “As this newfound memorandum proves, the District Attorney’s Office is entirely correct in its belief and assertion that an overarching Archdiocesan conspiracy existed in Philadelphia in the 1990s.”
The lawyers are defending Msgr. William Lynn, who has been charged with child endangerment for covering up clergy sexual abuse and transferring abusive priests from parish to parish while in charge of archdiocesan priest assignments.
Media reports of lawyers’ arguments during jury selection said Lynn compiled a list of 35 abusive priests in 1992. Lynn’s attorneys say Bevilacqua ordered Lynn’s supervisor, Msgr. James Molloy, to shred the list. Prosecutors say Lynn kept a copy of the list and memo and placed it in Malloy’s safe. Lynn described the list in 2005 grand jury testimony, but said he couldn’t find it. Bevilacqua and Molloy denied obstructing justice and destroying documents in their grand jury testimony. Although archdiocesan officials had found the memo in 2006, they turned it over to prosecutors only last month.
Lynn’s lawyers argued that their client’s charges should be dismissed because any conspiracy to protect abusive priests came from Church officials above Lynn. Prosecutors portrayed defense arguments as “a combination of the dead-guys-did-it and the I-was-only-following-orders defenses.” The judge ruled that the case would proceed, and the trial is expected to start March 26.
Bevilacqua and Molloy have died, but court documents state the conspiracy also included Bishop Edward Cullen, now emeritus bishop of Allentown, Penn., and Bishop Joseph Cistone, now bishop of Saginaw, Mich. “Appallingly, none of these individuals is on trial,” said reports on the court documents.
“These Philadelphia Church leaders showed a scandalous lack of compassion for abuse victims,” said Mark Mullaney, VOTF’s president, “and attitudes similar to theirs today, plus the fact that two bishops implicated in the Philadelphia conspiracy still lead dioceses, render the Dallas Charter guidelines to protect children worthless. When Church leaders from around the world gathered for the Vatican’s “Toward Healing and Renewal” symposium in February, they talked for four days, showing great concern for abuse victims. VOTF now calls for the Vatican to translate statements of concern into action against bishops who have covered up the truth.”
Towards Healing and Renewal: A Report, is an article by Fr. Paul Smyth, vicar general of the Claretian Missionaries in Rome and is about the recently concluded international symposium in Rome on the clergy sexual abuse scandal. He makes some points about the issue in his article that Voice of the Faithful has been making for a decade. Here’s a pertinent paragraph:
“While the symposium was a good opportunity for providing information about the reality of child abuse by clergy and how the matter should be dealt with, it failed to explore the deeper questions of how and why this situation had been able to occur in the Church. A number of participants alluded to the problem being a symptom of deeper issues in the church. With the focus on sexual child abuse by clergy broader issues such as power and clericalism despite being identified as needing further attention were not followed up on.”
“Toward Healing and Renewal,” the symposium on clergy child sexual abuse held in Rome last week, brought together church leaders from around the world to learn about the scandal so that they could formulate guidelines to protect children before a May Vatican deadline.
Voice of the Faithful will be waiting and watching to see what effect the symposium will have on the way bishops and church leaders handle clergy sexual abuse. To help us, and you, begin the evaluation, we offer two reports:
First, from National Catholic Reporter, we can get an idea of what the bishops heard at the symposium.
Second, from Zenit.org, we have the first of a two-part interview with Msgr. Stephen Rossetti. Msgr. Rossetti is associate dean for seminary and ministerial studies at the Gregorian Pontifical University, which is home to the Centre for Child Protection. The center is an online educational project for teaching best practices in preventing and handling clergy sexual abuse, which was launched during the symposium.
Orations at the clergy sexual abuse symposium in Rome continue.
Yesterday at the symposium, the word was accountability, at least for the Vatican’s “sex crimes prosecutor” Msgr. Charles Scicluna, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s promoter of Justice.
The Associated Press quoted Scicluna in The Boston Globe as saying, “What we need to do is to be vigilant in choosing candidates for the important role of bishop, and also to use the tools that canonical law and tradition give for accountability of bishops,’’ he said. “It’s not a question of changing laws, it’s a question of applying what we have.’’
Scicluna’s remarks about accountability, were put this way in National Catholic Reporter, “To all those critics who have clamored for greater accountability for Catholic bishops who drop the ball on sex abuse cases, the Vatican’s top prosecutor this morning had a simple message: You’re absolutely right.”
According the Catholic News Service, Scicluna told the symposium that the “deadly culture of silence, or ‘omerta,’ is in itself wrong and unjust,” and that “no strategy for the prevention of child abuse will ever work without commitment and accountability.”
Voice of the Faithful wonders whether the Vatican might not start such accountability right away.
Today at the symposium, the National Catholic Reporter and the Associated Press in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported remarks by a major church official in the Philippines, Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila. Tagle spoke about clergy sexual abuse in Asia. He did not talk about accountability for crimes, but rather the culture of silence there that tends to keep abuse within the family and the Philippine church’s desire to avoid the mistakes of the United States and Ireland.
We hope he meant holding perpetrators and abettors accountable and not avoiding the scandal, rather than preventing future abuse.
Towards Healing and Renewal runs through tomorrow at the Jesuit’s Pontifical Gregorian University.
This afternoon, National Catholic Reporter is saying that–
“Yet another financial scandal threatened to engulf the Vatican today, in the form of charges that four Italian priests, none of them Vatican officials, are under investigation by Italian prosecutors on charges of money laundering related to accounts they allegedly held at the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), better known as the “Vatican Bank.”
Click here to go to National Catholic Reporters website for the full story.
The symposium in Rome on clergy sexual abuse scandal, Toward Healing & Renewal, has entered its third day and is drawing worldwide attention. Vatican organizers hope results will inform dioceses around the world to develop effective guidelines for dealing with the scandal in time to meet the May deadline for sending such guidelines to the Vatican for review. Voice of the Faithful remains cautiously hopeful of the outcome. Here is a link to the symposium’s opening statement by Cardinal William Levada, prefect for the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and some of the latest media coverage–
- The Sexual Abuse of Minors: A Multi-faceted Response to the Challenge, Cardinal William Levada in Zenit.org
- Bishops Advised to Heed Victims, Associated Press in The Boston Globe
- Vatican Body Has Dealt with 4,000 Child Sex Abuse Cases, Irish Times
- Sexual Abuse Silence ‘Deadly’ for Church: Vatican Official, Reuters
- Pope Says Renewal Requires ‘Christ-like’ Response to Abuse, Catholic News Agency
- Vatican Urged to Give Priority to Abuse Victims, The New York Times
- Bishops Seek Forgiveness for Clergy Abuse, The Washington Post
- Vatican Abuse Summit: Expert Blasts Denial on Global Dimension of Crisis, National Catholic Reporter