Clerical bloodbath in Philly?

Rocco Palma walks us through the sorry story emerging out of Phillie after a devastating grand jury report and the implications of today's announcement from Cardinal Rigali at Whispers in the Loggia:

Over the six days since a second Philadelphia grand jury released a damning report that charged four priests and alleged ongoing mismanagement of clergy sex-abuse cases by the city’s scandal-rocked archdiocese, the fallout has been viewed as a “nightmare,” a “meltdown” and “a shambles” just within the church’s ranks.

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Now, though, a concerted clean-up effort has begun... and the crisis’ next stage could well end up becoming something more still. 

A bloodbath.

Under the glare of a fury toward the church unparalleled in this heavily-Catholic region's living memory, Cardinal Justin Rigali has set the stage for an occurrence without precedent over the decade since revelations of abuse and cover-up began erupting in earnest on these shores. Earlier today, the Philadelphia prelate ordered an "immediate re-examination" of accusations against "as many as 37" priests who, according to the grand jury, have remained in public ministry into the present despite reports which its investigation deemed “substantial” after the archdiocese ruled them unsubstantiated.

If even a fraction of the allegations to be reinspected are either admitted by the accused or newly judged to be “established” -- the archdiocese’s consistent standard, in line with the Stateside church’s particular law in force since 2002 -- the resulting mass suspension would mark, by far, the largest single banishment of priests on abuse allegations in the long trail of the most seismic scandal ever to shake the American church.

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Juan Lino
7 years 8 months ago
@&*# - a bad typing day!  The last paragraph should read:

Yes, I know we have a priest shortage but I'd rather have a "smaller" Church free from predators.  And no, I am not waving the let's modify the true Faith into one of the various Protestant versions flag - such as the Anglican model which so many think is the new "it" model.  What we need is reform not destruction!  But we need reform NOW.

Vince Killoran
7 years 8 months ago
You seem so certain of exactly one fact Tom, i.e., the Church is under attack by vicious, dark forces. Creating straw men and engaging in speculation and legal mumbo-jumbo doesn't cut it. There is a tautology at work in your thinking each time a lawsuit is filed: the Church is being unjustly accused because the Church is always unjustly accused.  There's a lynch party everywhere you look but what of the many, many cases of abuse, the coverups, the failure of the hierarchy to come to terms with their record and the trust and faith that has been shattered?  

Now that you've kicked up all this dust I wish you'd taken the path you set out in your last sentence earlier. Matt's sobering reminder about the way Grand Juries work makes your over-caffeinated attack on the indictments irrelevant.
Eugene Palumbo
7 years 8 months ago
Tom Maher:
 
Let me try again.
You said that the grand jury report draws “numerous unsubstantiated and highly questionable conclusions.”  I take it you were saying that we shouldn’t accept those conclusions until they’re substantiated.  In other words, we shouldn’t simply take the grand jury’s word for it.
But the same thing could be said about your comment.  If you go back and look at my response to that comment, you’ll see that what it comes down to is me asking you to substantiate your conclusions.  I assume you would hold yourself to the same standard you set for the grand jury.   So if it was fair for you to insist that the grand jury substantiate its views, isn’t it fair for me to ask you to do that, too?  After all, if it’s true that we shouldn’t simply take the grand jury’s word for it, then neither should we take yours.
I don’t understand you when you say, “I do not owe you or anyone else a special explanation of my views. . . I feel no obligation or interest in proving anything to you or anyone else.”  If you’re not willing to explain your views  - that is, to substantiate your conclusions – why should we give them credence?
ed gleason
7 years 8 months ago
Let's get on with a hierarchal cleanup. Let's not hear anymore of the ususal  posts with the usual excuses...  'It's really the teachers' 'It's the greedy lawyers' 'It's false accusations' 'It's the media' "  "defenders of the faith', save your data bits for changing the Catholic culture . It's not going away... the only 'going away' we see is our children and grandchildren.
7 years 8 months ago
"the editor of the Philly fold's most-prominent suburban paper echoed the thought, saying early Thursday that "the faithful have had enough." Amen.
7 years 8 months ago
"Maybe, just maybe, their church leaders have as well". ( Mea culpa. This should have accompanied the end of the statement above in post # 2.)
Tom Maher
7 years 8 months ago
Dear Vince Killorian and Kevin Clarke,

The days where accusations of clerical sexual abuse was meet with disbelief and hostility as would happen in the late 1990s are in past.   Today, 10 to 15 years later, the concept of clerical sexual abuse is readily accepted by most everyone.

My strong objection to the  Philedelphia indictment is not due to a 1990s "shoot the messenger" response.   My response is to a new danger faced by the church where it is now firmly known by all that the church has had decades of problems with widespread clerical sexual abuse.  This give rise to a new dangerous exposure where the church can be readily exploited by fraudulent and exaggerated claims and the danger overreaching District Attorneys and political forces by accusation that are not adequately documented but that are too readily accepted as valid.  This sould start a stream of fraudulent or very exagerrated claims just as real claims are comming under greater control.

Where the church is in time and space in regard to dealing with the sexual abuse crisis needs to be reassessed.  It is almost ten years after the Boston Archdiocese fdealt with the first U.S. clerical sexual abuse crisis with no further problems.  The church is likely to generally be in a new phase where real effective progress has been made in dealing with this problem. 

Generally the church needs to be dealt with fairly or it will countinue to experience suspicion and doubt that it does not deserve.  
Vince Killoran
7 years 8 months ago
There's no evidence that the Church hierarchy and clerics are being mistrusted by the justice system.


There is ample evidence that there was a sexual abuse scandal and a cover up that persist today. As Christians this should be the focus of our attention.
Matthew Pettigrew
7 years 8 months ago
David:  If the thread is still going on when I get back to the office on Tuesday, I'll write more about grand juries, at least in Pennsylvania.
Matthew Pettigrew
7 years 8 months ago
Some readers might find this interesting: http://cst-phl.com/the-painful-process-of-restoring-trust-p2351-84.htm. It is an editorial in today's Catholic Standard & Times, which is the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

 
Juan Lino
7 years 8 months ago
The grand jury report was really really difficult to read and certainly highlights that a certain mindset exists and that it must change!  What ever happened to common sense?!?! - if an investigation (not witch hunt) proves that an allegation is true then the priest should never ever be around children again and should be placed in something like the "rubber rooms" that exist in schools for teachers that have allegedly abused a child.  I would gladly suffer the inconvenience of traveling an hour to attend a Mass knowing that the predators have been purged than wondering if "Joe" is porking little Johnny.

Yes, I know we have a priest shortage but I'd rather have a "smaller" Church free from predators.  And no, I am not waving that we modify the true Faith into one of the various Protestant versions such as the Anglican model which so many think is the new "it" model.  What we need is reform not destruction!  But we need reform NOW.

OK, end of rant!
David Pasinski
7 years 8 months ago
''A clerical bloodbath''? That seems to imply some type of victimhood of clerics! Or the French revolution with innocents being beheaded through lettres de cachet of insubstanial accusations. No, this ''bloodbath'' would not that type... It may be a purging, but not unwarranted or unneccessary. I am no Jacobin, but the heavens do cry out...
Tom Maher
7 years 8 months ago
Robespeierre would have loved the intrigue against the church promoted by America magazine.  The Reign of Terror against the church has begun again fully aided by the one-sided comdemnations of the church from America magazine.  How many years did it take for the church to be re-established itself after the wild chaos of the French revolution?  Thirty or forty years or two or three generations?  How unfortunate that America magaine is exploiting the raw feelings of the moment and useing these feelings to defame the church and  destroy the church's legitimacy.  

The Philidelphia garnd jury report is not a work of science or a technical or legal  wonder of the world.  This report contains many obvious flaws of fact and conclusions.  It goes way beyond the facts, makes numerous unsupported assumptions and makes numerous unsubstatiated and highly questionable conclusions.  Its legal "reforms" recommendations are rediculous.  Satutes of limitation are always needed to protect the innocent and have served humankind well for centuries protecting the public from abuse of a legal process without reliable sure facts. 

Lost in the frenzy of the moment is the ideas and legal necessity under the U.S. Constitution for due process for the church. The church should be fairly dealt with. Did you happen to notice good Jesuits  that this hyper-active grand jury is attacking and attempting to limit the church itself in a open-ended fashion in its recommendations far beyond the competence of the ordinary citizens on this panel or proper consitutional authority?  Apparently the grand jury is carried away without sense of its own limits of authority.  A constitutional right of "freedom of religion" prevents any government panel from imposing its will on the church.  Very alarmingly the grand jury is asserting without proof  a "cover-up" based on previous allegations that have never been proven in court of law.  It then indicts an administrator for cover up of these unproven allegations as validating of the current allegations where both current and previous unproven allegations are a pattern of cover up.  This is a dangerous new twist of guilt by association where   Church administrators are now guilty for being part of the church allegations which have never proven to be criminal.  It should be remebered that clergy have been accused of sexual crimes which later have proven to be false. The "victim" was exploiting the accused.   Accusation by itself does not establish a crime without proof. 

Most of this grand jury's points are highly speculative  and the rest are not conclusive.   The uncritical acceptance of this grand jury report by America magazine distorts what is real and what is not.  The one-sided biased presentation by America magazine is unfair, harmful and destructive to the church.  The open-ended attack on the church itself is a run-away process fueled by destuctive impulses that must be stopped.
Kang Dole
7 years 8 months ago
I agree with Tom Maher. I can say, without fearing in the least that I might sound hysterical and rather silly, that this blog is basically a latter-day Committee of Public Safety.

That crunching sound you hear? That's me clutching my pearls tighter than ever before.

Matthew Pettigrew
7 years 8 months ago
Mr. Maher, you state that the Philadelphia Grand Jury report "contains many obvious flaws of fact and conclusions."  Could you point them out by referring to page numbers from the report, please?
Tom Maher
7 years 8 months ago
Mr. Pettigrew:

The following a representative highlight of the 124 page indictment which consistanly does NOT contain facts to support its conclusions.  So the answer to your question is the facts do not  appear anywhere.  There is a lot of fluff and irrelevacies and digression but no supporting details to support some very drastic conclusions.  For example on page 5 of the overview declares "There is no doubt that Msgr. Lynn's refusal to curb Avery and Brennan, led directly to the rape of Billy and Mark.  We therefore charge William Lynn with the crime of endangering the welfare of a child , a felony of the third degree."  But nowhere in the 124 pages is there details supporting this assertion. 
 
Page 114 contains the following recommendation of the Grand Jury: Prosecute Msgr. Lynn for endangering the welfare of children.  It begins: Our final recommendation is for crimial charges is that Msgr. Lynn be prosecuted on two counts of endangering the welfare of a minor.

The DA/Grand Jury  is assuming the following three elements are all true under Pennsylvania law: 
1) Msgr Lynn was a person responsible for the supervison of a child under 18.

2) Msgr. Lynn knowingly endangered the welfare of a child under 18 years old.

3) Msgr. Lynn violated a duty of care, protection or support.

The indictement attemps to but fails to establish all three elements were present.  Lynn had no direct contact with the two boys. Lynn had no intent of endangering the welfare of a child.  And no duty of direct care, protection or support.

A large part of this indictment denegrates  Msgr. Lynn and his role as Secretary of Clergy for the entire diocese of Philidelphia.  Yet it fails to establish the necessary factual linkage to any crime. 

The indictment failure to establish a criminal basis of fact.  Yet the indictment is cited as a basis as a cover up whcih everyone wants to promote because it is juicy and sensational.  But the fact do not support this conclusion or its sensational implications.  
Eugene Palumbo
7 years 8 months ago
Tom Maher,
 
Tow Pettigrew asked you to specify the “many obvious flaws of fact and conclusions” which, you alleged, were contained in the grand jury report. 
 
While you’re at it, could you also specify the “numerous unsupported assumptions” and “numerous unsubstantiated and highly questionable conclusions” contained in the report?
 
Could you specify where the report “goes way beyond the facts” and tries to “impos[e] its will on the church?”
 
Could you show us exactly how the grand jury’s recommendations go “far beyond the competence of the ordinary citizens on this panel?”
 
Could you demonstrate how “most of this grand jury's points are highly speculative?”
 
If you can prove your points,  fine.  If you can’t, surely you’ll retract your accusations and apologize for having made them.  Right?
Joseph O'Leary
7 years 8 months ago
Tom Maher is right to note that the language of the indictment is not that of a sober legal document. In a time of puritanical witch-hunting, especially against pedophiles, when there have been many startling miscarriages of justice, I think we should try to reserve judgment as much as possible. How many mute inglorious Nora Walls are out there? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nora_Wall How many men are in the same position as the hundred men whose convictions were declared unsound by the British authorities a few years ago? Child rape is an abhorrent crime, but I note a creeping demonization in which far less grave wrongdoing or even fleeting misdemeanors earn lifelong demonization and hounding for the perpetrators. A priest who kissed a 16 year old is put in the same general category as one who raped a 10 year old, etc.
Tom Maher
7 years 8 months ago
Mr. Pulumbo,

I'm not setting up a nursery for you or anyone else to spoon feed you word by word and line by line why this 124 page indictment has problems in not sustaining its many serious assertions. That is not a reasonable request or expectation.  It is more than anyone deserve or should expect to be given a warning that this indictments has many problems throughout.  I do not owe you or anyone else a special explaination of my views.  And I certainly do not owe you or anyone else an apology for expressing my views under any circumstances.  The logic of your tasking me to prove my point to you or anyone else or apologize is highly presumptious and completely escapes me where the  request for proof or an apology from someone you do not know comes from.   I feel no obligation or interest in proving anything to you or anyone else.  I suspect that any furhter explaination over what I have already given and which you have not commented on is probably a waste of your time and mine.  You have not constructively engaged the issue I have already raised.  So why waste my time by asking for further explaination which you will likely also not respond to?  Why bother me when you have not  given any indication of your own views on the issue of this indictment? In other words who are you anyway and where do you do you stand on this issue ?  I do not deal with mysterious strangers making presumptuous claims on my time and effort.
Vince Killoran
7 years 8 months ago
To be fair Tom you have responded on this blog to the sexual abuse scandal purely from a defense lawyer's perspective (e.g., #11) so it's kind of cranky to shut down just now.  This time you spend with us isn't billable hours is it?

To paraphrase the cheesy t.v. courtroom dramas, you opened the door to Gene's questions.

 
Matthew Pettigrew
7 years 8 months ago
It’s possible there’s a little confusion here about the role of an investigating grand jury. As an initial matter, no one who was not present to hear and see all the evidence presented to the grand jurors is in a position to judge objectively the findings of the jury. Furthermore, the job of the grand jury is to consider the evidence presented by the prosecutor and to determine if reasonable grounds exist to bring criminal charges against someone. They’ve done that. People might not like the conclusions drawn by the jurors, but those charges will now be tested in court where the prosecutors must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, a much tougher standard to meet than the reasonable grounds standard. Finally, it’s the grand jury’s 43-page “Presentment” that sets out the facts upon which the jury based its conclusions. That document is available on the Philadelphia District Attorney's web site.
Tom Maher
7 years 8 months ago
Dear Vince,
 

There is a big problems with this indictment for which I gave a fairly extensive  example.  That really should be enough to begin a discussion of the facts . 

But what we have here is no one wants to be limited by the facts.  This indictment ,itself flawed, has started a frenzy of unquestioned hostility toward  the church.  This hostility has taken on a life of its own.  We are no longer dealing with specific few incidents of sexual abuse.  We have graduated with the encouragement of this indictment to believe in a sinister conspiracy within the hierarchy of the church.  Delicious, frothy, juicy, gossipy  that satifies as it entertains. Our cravings for intrigue and general outlet for our emotions are bing well satisfied by this made-up indictment story. A simple story explaining what is wrong with life that everyone can understand and be thrilled by.  

It is now creative accusation time where you can't make up a story too crazy. The wilder the story the better.  The public is ready to believe any accusation against the church.  Coverup. Conspiracy.  Sinister forces at work inside the church.
And good vs. evil is the Catholic school boys and girls special favorite narrative.   

Mass hysteria has frequenctly happened before in America over the accusation of child abuse and it was always fostered by law enforcement and prosecuteres and the press inflamming public opinion with sensastional accusations not based on certain data and a gross lack of critical thinking based on facts.   

So arguing the facts is temporarily futile.  I'll be back after the dust settles and the street have been cleared. 
Jim McCrea
7 years 8 months ago
"The Reign of Terror against the church" is a pittance compared to the Reign of Terror against those abused that was hidden, tolerated and now defended by the clerical Monarchists who think that they have a Divine Right to be in charge of what happens, when it happens and to whom it happens.

Off with their little mitred and birettaed heads, sez I.
Jim McCrea
7 years 8 months ago
"The logic of your tasking me to prove my point to you or anyone else or apologize is highly presumptious -"

Gee, for a minute I thought I was reading a Fixed News editorial disclaimer!
7 years 8 months ago
Well, since everyone seems to be in a relatively civil mood in discussing the credibility of the grand jury report, I just want to remind/inform that there are no defendants nor defense witnesses present during a grand jury proceeding.  These are completely one-sided reports generated by prosecutors and their witnesses.
7 years 8 months ago
One more thing; the "facts" referred to in Matt's post are not facts as a matter of law until the jury - the finder of facts- determines which of them are indeed facts.  Up until the jury decides, they are mere allegations and evidence of facts.
Tom Maher
7 years 8 months ago
Mr. Palumbo,


Getting back to the issues of this post, what is your stand on this indictment ? 

You still have not made know where you stand on the issue of this indictment.  You also have not responded to my extensive comments and examples on why there are technical problems with this indictment.  Do you agree or disagree with my comments and why?  Are you able to make a judgement on the validity of the indictment?  Or are you offended that I make  judgements on this indictment.  You actually suggested that I might have to retract my point of view under some outlandish criteria you made up. Are you trying to say but can not articulate that I do not have a right to express doubt about the grand jurys work? 

Just where are you coming from Mr. Palumbo?   Are you trying to suggest that people do not have a right to question a grand jury's work and conclusions? 

The problem I have with you Mr. Palumbo is??????:?  do you know what your talking? ???a?b?o?u?t?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ? ??Y?o?u?r? ?e?x?p?e?c?t?a?t?i?o?n?s? ??are not standard?s? I have ever heard of.? ??
Tom Maher
7 years 8 months ago
Please note this article quotes the author Rocco Palma in his daily weblog called "Whispers in the Loggia" of Feb. 16, 2011 not Cardinal Rigali.

 Google describes this weblog as " a weblog that covers a wide range of church gossip and new."  So we can not be sure of how much gossip vs. news we can expect at any time. 

The weblog quote is loaded with intrigue, speculation and sensational language. It specualate ".. and the crisis' next stage could well end up becomming something more still."   Sensational language is used such as "bloodbath". 

Plewse note that these quotes are not the direct quotes of Cardinal Rigali but a very sensationlized account and quotes of gossipy weblog.   This weblog unfortunately setup the article on the very serious topic of an indictment agaist clergy of the Philidelpia Archdiocese.  The reader should be aware of the sensational nature of this weblog and its non-authjoritative speculative preentation on the indictment.  The weblog quotes sets up the tone of this article and discussions that follows. 

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