Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why do church leaders continue to be more concerned about protecting their brotherhood than protecting children?

Yesterday the Archdiocese of Philadelphia put 21 priests on administrative leave due to credible claims against them for sexual misconduct with children.  Events leading to these actions are summarized as follows:

In 2005 the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office publicly issued a Grand Jury report from a 2003 investigation.  The report revealed that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia permitted priests with credible child sexual misconduct claims against them to remain active priests with access to children. 

I cannot summarize the report better than the report does in its opening paragraph.  The report states, “…how dozens of priests sexually abused hundreds of children; how Philadelphia Archdiocese officials – including Cardinal Bevilacqua and Cardinal Krol – excused and enabled the abuse”.  The report continues, “Some may be tempted to describe these events as tragic. Tragedies such as tidal waves, however, are outside human control. What we found were not acts of God, but of men who acted in His name and defiled it.”

As a result of the 1st Grand Jury report, the Archdiocese changed its policy and committed to report credible sexual misconduct claims to public authorities for criminal investigation.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s office launched a 2nd Grand Jury investigation and that report was made public February 10, 2011.  This 2nd report indicated the Archdiocese did not follow their new directives with at least two victims’ credible allegations made since the 1st report was published.   Furthermore, the 2nd investigation revealed Msgr. Lynn, responsible for priest assignments in the Archdiocese, willfully and knowingly enabled priests with credible allegations against them to remain in active ministry with access to children.  As a result of the 2nd Grand Jury investigation, five perpetrators were charged in February, 2011 including Msgr. Lynn for 3rd degree child endangerment.

The day the 2nd report was publicly released, Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia issued a statement saying that, “There are no archdiocesan priests in ministry today who have an admitted or established allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against them.”

Evidently, that was a false statement.  In fact, until yesterday’s move placing 21 priests on administrative leave, 37 priests with credible allegations still were active in ministry.


Why did Cardinal Rigali make a statement that was so far from accurate?

Why did it take one, much less two Grand Jury investigations to remove these priests from ministry?

Why did it take almost a month after publishing the 2nd Grand Jury report to place these priests on administrative leave?

Why did church officials require intervention from secular bodies to tell the truth and do the right thing?

Why didn’t the Archdiocese follow its own directives?  Are the USCCB’s norms and the policies in all U.S. Catholic dioceses merely eyewash as in the Archdiocese of Philidelphia?

Are church leaders who behave this way fit for leadership, especially in the church?  Are they valid leaders?  According to Canon law, those who cause great scandal to the church are not.  Is there greater scandal than enabling pedophile priests and then lying to the public about it?

What responsibilities do laypeople have in addressing unfit church leaders?  Will laypeople take action towards insisting upon leadership accountability, leave the church in disgust, or passively enable inept leadership to continue by remaining silent?

As an aside, yesterday I also received an invitation to hear Fr.Roy Bourgeois speak.  Fr. Bourgeois is threatened to be defrocked by church leaders.  Why?  He committed the very “dangerous” act of publicly supporting the ordination of a woman in 2008.   Thirty days after attending the ordination of a woman, Roy Bourgeois was ex-communicated.  Evidently the church was too busy protecting people from the likes of Fr. Roy to have time to protect children from 37 pedophile priests in Philadelphia.

Why do church leaders continue to be more concerned about protecting their brotherhood than protecting children?

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