Posts Tagged “archdiocese of philadelphia”

Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, Philadelphia, PATraditionalists in the Roman Catholic Church have had a difficult time with a lot of what Pope Francis has said and done since he assumed office. They’ve complained about him, dismissed him, ignored him, and otherwise tried to act as though none of his innovations was ever offered.

An example of this, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, comes from Archbishop Charles Chaput (WebCite cached article):

Divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, as well as cohabitating unmarried couples, must “refrain from sexual intimacy” to receive Holy Communion in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has asserted in a new set of pastoral guidelines.

Released Friday, the guidelines instruct clergy and other archdiocesan leaders on implementing Amoris Laetitia, a major document on family that Pope Francis issued in April.

His six-page instruction, which appears on the archdiocesan website, may be the first of its kind issued by the bishop of any American diocese in response to Amoris Laetitia, Latin for “the joy of love.”

Acknowledging that it is a “hard teaching,” Chaput goes on to say that Catholics in same-sex partnerships, those remarried without a church annulment, and cohabitating persons may not serve on parish councils, instruct the faithful, serve as lectors, or dispense Communion.

Allowing persons in such “irregular” relationships, “no matter how sincere,” to hold positions of responsibility would “offer a serious counter-witness to Catholic belief, which can only produce moral confusion in the community,” according to Chaput.

I get that, as a bishop, Chaput is entitled to issue these sorts of directives, and that as a prince of the Church he can govern its affairs and enforce its doctrines as he sees fit; if gay, cohabiting, or remarried Catholics don’t like it, they can leave their Church. That’s absolutely the case. What’s harder to understand is why Chaput, or any leader within the Church, could be so determined to slam the door of the Church in the faces of some of its lay members. The R.C. Church in the US has been on the wane for years. Traditionalists like Chaput are working to push even more folks out. It’s a dysfunctional way to operate.

But hey, what could this cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen possibly know about such important sacred considerations?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and PaulPennsylvania courts made history a few months ago when an official of the Philadelphia archdiocese was convicted for his involvement in covering up abuses of children committed by other clergy in his administration. About six months after the sentencing, the Philedelphia Inquirer reports, the trial of a couple accused abusers in R.C. Church service is underway (locally-cached version):

It’s been almost two years since a Philadelphia grand jury probe of Catholic clergy sex abuse of children resulted in charges against four priests and a teacher.

On Monday — after last year’s landmark, three-month trial ended in the first criminal conviction of a church administrator for covering up the crimes of deviate priests — the last two defendants, the Rev. Charles Engelhardt and former parochial schoolteacher Bernard Shero, are to go to trial.

Prosecutors, defense lawyers, and Common Pleas Court Judge Ellen Ceisler will begin winnowing a large group of candidates down to a jury of 12 plus several alternates.

The article lays out the case against the two priests:

The case against Engelhardt and Shero involves one of the first trial’s most salacious episodes: the serial sexual assault of a 10-year-old altar boy from Northeast Philadelphia in the late 1990s.

Identified in the grand jury report as “Billy Doe,” the boy was a fifth-grader at St. Jerome’s parish.

According to the grand jury, Billy was first abused by Engelhardt after serving at an early-morning weekday Mass at St. Jerome’s.

Over the next couple of weeks, Engelhardt abused “Billy” a couple more times. “Billy” was then abused some months later by another priest, the Rev. Edward Avery, who was charged with the others but pled guilty to the rape. And the boy was again assaulted, later still, by his then-teacher Shero.

It’s clear from the case of “Billy Doe” that abusers within the Philadelphia archdiocese — including non-diocesan religious clergy like Engelhardt and lay teachers like Shero — must have been passing information around amongst themselves over who the more desirable or pliant victims were. It’s not a coincidence that the same boy was assaulted multiple times by multiple abusers. Words like “sickening,” “putrid,” “vile” and “disgusting” leap to mind, but they hardly do the situation justice.

Again, I have to wonder when American Catholics intend to get up off their cowardly little asses and actually do something about the organization to which they belong. How much more of this do you need to hear, before you’ll accept there’s a problem lurking somewhere in your Church? A problem that needs to be solved, but won’t be, until you take action to solve it? What are you waiting for? How many more lives need to be destroyed before you’ll take responsibility for your own Church?

Photo credit: Bruce Anderson, via Wikimedia Commons.

Update: Justice has been done, both defendants have been convicted (cached).

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Monsignor William Lynn walks to the Criminal Justice Center before a scheduled verdict reading, Friday, June 22, 2012, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, via CBS News)A month ago I blogged about Monsignor William Lynn, the manager of clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia who was convicted of child endangerment. As the AP reports via NBC News, he was sentenced today to 3 years in prison (WebCite cached article):

The first U.S. church official convicted of covering up sex-abuse claims against Roman Catholic priests was sentenced Tuesday to three to six years in prison by a judge who said he “enabled monsters in clerical garb … to destroy the souls of children.”

Monsignor William Lynn, the former secretary for clergy at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, “helped many but also failed many” in his 36-year church career, Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina said. …

She believed he initially hoped to address the sex abuse problem and perhaps drafted a 1994 list of accused priests for that reason. But when Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua instead had the list destroyed, Lynn chose to remain in the job and obey his bishop – by keeping quiet – as children suffered, she said.

“You knew full well what was right, Monsignor Lynn, but you chose wrong,” Sarmina said.

And that, folks, is the crux of this whole matter. Here you have a man who knew what clergy in the Philadelphia archdiocese were doing, and who’d attempted to address it, but then caved in to archepiscopal pressure and proceeded to remain utterly silent on the matter for an entire decade thereafter. He had other options: He could have continued to ask his archbishop to deal with the abusers; he could have turned the abusers in to local authorities but remained at his post; or he could have resigned in protest of the archbishop’s refusal to act and then turned them in. But those actions all required a certain amount of courage. Lynn had no courage, so he took the coward’s way out, silently acquiescing to his archbishop’s disgusting abuse-enablement scheme.

Hopefully this won’t be the only conviction of a diocesan official. Msgr Lynn might not have abused any children himself, but he consented (via silence) to the abuse of children by others, and that’s just as evil.

P.S. As an aside, I find the practice of giving out sentences which are a range of numbers (in this case, “3-6 years”) to be confusing, if not dishonest. I assume the sentence Lynn will serve is the lowest end of that range, i.e. 3 years. Why the inclusion of a supposed extra three years which — in all likelihood — he will never serve? What does that accomplish, except to make it seem as though he’ll spend more time in prison than he actually will?

AP Photo/Matt Rourke, via CBS News.

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Monsignor William Lynn walks to the Criminal Justice Center before a scheduled verdict reading, Friday, June 22, 2012, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, via CBS News)I blogged some time ago about the Philadelphia archdiocese being investigated by the state of Pennsylvania for its complicity in child abuse by its clergy. A long trial, followed by a long and apparently contentious deliberation, finally paid off: As CBS News reports, an official of the archdiocese was found guilty of child endangerment (WebCite cached version):

A Roman Catholic church official was convicted Friday of child endangerment but acquitted of conspiracy in a groundbreaking clergy-abuse trial, becoming the first U.S. church official convicted of a crime for how he handled abuse claims.

Monsignor William Lynn helped the archdiocese keep predators in ministry, and the public in the dark, by telling parishes their priest was being removed for health reasons and then sending the men to unsuspecting churches, prosecutors said.

Lynn, 61, had faced about 10 to 20 years in prison if convicted of all three counts he faced — conspiracy and two counts of child endangerment. He was convicted only on one of the endangerment counts, leaving him with the possibility of 3 1/2 to seven years in prison.

Lynn and his attorneys naturally insist he’d done nothing wrong and that he was not responsible for the transfer and redeployment of abusive priests, even though he was the one who had lied in order to cover up for them:

Lynn’s lawyer, Thomas Bergstrom, pledged in opening statements in late March that the monsignor would not run from the sins of the church. However, he said in closing arguments that Lynn should not be held responsible for them.

He suggested his client was a middle manager-turned-scapegoat for the clergy-abuse scandal. Lynn, he said, documented the abuse complaints and did his best to get reluctant superiors to address it.

“And now, now of all things, the commonwealth wants you to convict him for documenting the abuse that occurred in the archdiocese, …. the evil that other men did. They want to hold him responsible for their sins.”

It’s true that Lynn himself abused no one. It’s also true that Lynn himself was not responsible for the duplicitous behavior of his superiors. But that said, he is still responsible for what he did — which was to watch the abuse occur, lie in order to cover it up, and refuse to hand over any of his supposed documentation to police (which he most certainly could have done at any time, had he truly wished to). Instead, he remained where he was, doing what he was, surrounded by abuse he knew was going on, and which was being covered up by his archdiocese …

And he never so much as lifted a finger to try to stop it or see that it was prosecuted. Not once.

As I said, Lynn was no abuser, but he’s still a walking piece of garbage who willingly played along with the Roman Catholic Church’s policy of hiding the abuse rather than allow abusers to be prosecuted. He’s most certainly no hero or unwitting dupe, as his attorneys have portrayed him.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Matt Rourke, via CBS News.

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Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and PaulI’ve already blogged about the slow response of the Philadelphia archdiocese to a grand jury report covering cases of abuse by its clergy. It took an entire month for them to finally get around to suspending some — but not all — those accused in the report of abusing children. This is staggering, since most companies or government agencies will usually suspend employees accused of crimes almost immediately, as a protective measure.

Since the report was issued, and especially after the suspension of some — but not all — the accused, folks have been asking if and when Cardinal Justin Rigali, the archbishop of Philadelphia, would resign. Until now he and his archdiocese have resisted discussing his own fate, and it looked as though he’d remain in place, even though just a short time before the grand jury report was issued, he stated that he knew of no abuse cases in his see. (He must have known about the grand jury’s investigation, which endured for two years, at the time he made that statement … so he had no viable excuse for having made it.)

At long last, the Vatican finally decided to let him resign, as the Voice of America reports (WebCite cached article):

Pope Benedict has accepted the resignation of the leader of the Roman Catholic archdiocese in the U.S. city of Philadelphia — which has faced accusations of covering up sexual abuse by priests.

The Vatican said Tuesday that Cardinal Justin Rigali’s departure was on the grounds of age. The 76-year-old Rigali submitted his resignation when he reached the traditional retirement age of 75, but the pope did not immediately act on it.

As for why the Vatican would hold out for so many months, for Rigali’s benefit, the VoA story offers a clue:

Rigali, a former bishop in St. Louis , spent decades as an official at the Vatican.

Hmm. Yes, it turns out Rigali is a Vatican insider!

I honestly must ask the question posed in the title of this blog post: Was it really so fucking hard to just get rid of Rigali? Seriously?

It seems the Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal just won’t die … because the Roman Catholic hierarchs steadfastly refuse to meet it head-on, like grown men, and continue to try to sneak their way out of it, hoping each revelation is the last and that the world will somehow forget the horrors it has inflicted on so many children around the world. But, as everyone knows, scandals like this never die on their own. They need to be dealt with substantively … and until they do, they just linger on forever. Yes, it takes courage to do so, courage which is rare if not non-existent these days. The Catholic Church is run by cowards … and every minute of every day that they allow this scandal to keep going on, they prove it.

Photo credit: elPadawan.

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Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and PaulThe Philadelphia archdiocese has had a bad time of it, lately. A number of its priests, including one diocesan official, have been accused by a grand jury of abusing children in their care — and in the case of the official, of covering up for them. Yesterday the archdiocese announced it had suspended some of them, as reported by the New York Times (WebCite cached article):

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced Tuesday that it had suspended 21 priests from active ministry in connection with accusations that involved sexual abuse or otherwise inappropriate behavior with minors.

The mass suspension was the single-most sweeping in the history of the sexual-abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, said Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org, which archives documents from the abuse scandal in dioceses across the country.

Wow. Sounds like drastic and definite action, doesn’t it? But really, it’s not. The grand jury report, as the Times explains, was issued about a month ago:

The archdiocese’s action follows a damning grand jury report issued Feb. 10 that accused the archdiocese of a widespread cover-up of predatory priests, stretching over decades, and said that as many as 37 priests remained active in the ministry despite credible accusations against them.

And note, only 21 of the 37 were suspended. It took the archdiocese an entire month to figure out that it should suspend some — but not all! — of the 37. My guess is that almost any other employer, whether a private entity or a government agency, would have immediately suspended anyone on their payrolls who’d been cited by a grand jury of child abuse or obstruction of justice. But clearly, the Roman Catholic Church is not just any other employer … they have rigorous standards to uphold. Apparently. I’m not sure what those standards are … but they must have them. Right?

How many more examples of Mafia-like behavior does one need, in order to understand what a stinking, festering cesspool of criminality and depravity the Catholic Church is?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons / Bruce Andersen.

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