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Tim ReidyAugust 15, 2012

This guest blog comes courtesy of the Rev. Michael P. Orsi, research fellow in law and religion at the Ave Maria School of Law:

Monsignor William J. Lynn, former Secretary for the Clergy, in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, has been sentenced to 3-6 years in prison for child endangerment. A jury found him culpable in reassigning predator priests to unwary parishes.

Bill Lynn was my classmate. I have known him for forty years. He is a good man and a good priest. Unfortunately, he was also a good soldier who did what Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, his archbishop at the time, told him to do.

This essay is not designed to exonerate Monsignor Lynn. It is however an attempt to help people understand why he acted as he did. It is also a proposal to prevent such behavior from happening again.

Bill is part of a hierarchical church that imposes obedience to the diocesan bishop on Her priests. It encourages priests to be team players. And it forces priests to seek affirmation and support within a diocesan structure. This system does not encourage challenges. As the old seminary saying goes, “You keep the rules and the rules will keep you.”

From the moment of ordination a priest becomes intimately bound to his bishop and the presbyterate of his diocese. The bishop has complete control over a priest’s life, materially – for sure, and often times spiritually on account of the decisions he makes in the priest’s regard. Because of this priests look to their bishop as a father figure. They want to believe that his decisions are wise.

A great sign of success for a priest is to be invited to join the Diocesan Curia, the bishop’s circle of collaborators in the administration of the diocese. The position of Vicar for the Clergy, the post held by Lynn from1990 – 2002, is just such a sinecure.

In this elite environment there are few priests who are willing to oppose the bishop’s wishes for fear of falling out of favor.

Being a team player is important for any organization. It is a vital part of the clerical lifestyle. Camaraderie is strongly impressed upon priests. We often refer to our fellow priests as our brothers. The fact is that we do have a real dependency on each other since we do not have an immediate family of our own. Priests rely on each other for acceptance, for sharing the work load and even living arrangements. If a priest deems any of these to be inadequate or unjust he may be, rightly or wrongly, labeled a malcontent or a problem. This perception can follow him throughout his priesthood.

Very often a priest, may have some very serious concerns, yet simply “Go Along to Get Along.”

Because a priest’s circle is often limited to fellow priests his vision may also be limited. Therefore, if there is a problem, in certain cases, the advice he receives from them does not always come from fresh or unbiased eyes. Defense mechanisms can also easily set in; denial, rationalization and silence for self preservation. As one wizened old priest said about speaking up or speaking out, “Who needs the aggravation?”

Monsignor Lynn is not innocent. He failed in his duty of care to children. His punishment is harsh, and I pray that it will be reduced. It serves, however, as a necessary message to bishops throughout the country that the system needs fixing.

Therefore, I make the following suggestions:

First, that Diocesan Pastoral Councils be given greater prominence in dioceses. This group is comprised of clergy, consecrated religious and laity elected by the people of the diocese.

Second, that Diocesan Boards of Consulters (BOC), a canonically established group of priests who advise the bishop on administrative matters, include men and women religious and laity. Presently the BOC is comprised of a representation of priests chosen by the bishop who are elected by their peers to serve on the Diocesan Presbyteral Council (Priests’ Council).

Third, that the priests and lay people of the diocese have recourse to the BOC in areas of concern.

Fourth, that all administrative positions in a diocese should be filled with the advice of the BOC.

Fifth, that diocesan and ecclesiastical honors, clerical or lay, should also be recommended and approved by the BOC.

Sixth, that lower clergy and laity have a greater role in the selection of diocesan bishops. This will produce a leadership more open to dialog and criticism.

These recommendations will allow a diversity of input regarding diocesan matters; encourage shared responsibility in decision making, and foster a more mature bishop - priest relationship. Priests will feel freer to raise concerns with this model of administration and will no longer be able to use the excuse “I was only a functionary.”

I believe this type of system will create an adult culture of mutual respect. It can restore confidence in the episcopacy, help protect priests, and strengthen the church.


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Gerelyn Hollingsworth
11 years 8 months ago
''Being a team player is important for any organization.''


Sports metaphors are inappropriate when talking about the Church.  It's not a game.  The ordained men are not players.  Ditching their costumes would help them understand that.


''Unfortunately, he was also a good soldier who did what Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, his archbishop at the time, told him to do.''

A lengthy profile of Bill a couple of years ago  pointed out that even among the  mediocre men who comprise the priesthood, Bill's mediocrity stood out.  He was a passive tool.  Making excuses for him without mentioning his low intelligence level, his emotional aridity, his vacuous personality, etc., is . . . . what it is.


''Because a priest’s circle is often limited to fellow priests his vision may also be limited.''

Ya think?  Does Bill have friends?  Will they visit him in the penitentiary?


''Bill is part of a hierarchical church that imposes obedience to the diocesan bishop on Her priests.''

Are the feminine pronouns ordained men use to refer to their all-male club now meant to be capitalized?  This essay does little or nothing for Bill. 

It's as limp and weak and clueless as he is. 


Mike Brooks
11 years 8 months ago
The hatred of the hierarchy here distorts the reality of the situation; that is, that the pedophile scandal is water under the bridge.  The pedophile priests and their protectors are on notice:  you commit a crime, you are going to get caught, and you are going to jail.  The time for councils and boards to protect children has passed; they were needed before the abuse.

Going forward, I think Amy has it right.  The system already exists to proesecute the perpetrators, and now that we know what was going on, people will be on guard to assure that it will not happen again.  Parents will teach their children about inapprorpiate touching and the importance of telling them about anything that makes them uncomfortable in the presence of a priest or any adult.  Would-be shufflers of accused pedophiles will forego this practice after everything that has transpired, at least inasmuch as they would under the beaurocratic soluions proposed here.  With the cover-up exposed, the Church is like any other organization in which children are under the direction of adults, be it public schools, camps, community sports teams, or a company that offers summer jobs to teens.  That is, unless one believes that there is a special problem in the priesthood with pedophilia....

People here, of course, will continue to look for a solution to a problem that has already been solved, with the underlying intent of destroying the hierarchy and trying to turn the Church into another protestant democracy where secular pressure drives religious practice and belief.

Amy Ho-Ohn
11 years 8 months ago
I propose a simpler solution:

First, that people who suspect a priest is committing crimes should report it to the police, just as they would if it were a layman.

Second, that when the police find evidence a priest has committed crimes, they should report it to the public prosecutor (instead of the bishop), just as they would if he were a layman.

Third, that when judges and juries find that a priest has committed a crime, they should lock him up in jail, just as they would if he were a layman.

In addition to its simplicity, this solution has the added virtue that it does not require the consent or permission of any bishops or other Church authorities.
Paul Johns
11 years 7 months ago
Orsi is right about the way the system ''worked'' (past tense)... but I think his solutions are flawed.

I think that the court fixed the problem - as every ''middle man'' priest now knows he can be imprisoned for enabling priests who are a danger to children!! No priest in his right mind is going to risk a 3-6 year prison term to protect a priest whom he knows is a molester!

Bishops should take note also... If Cardinal Bevilacqua had not died during the court case, he could easily be beside Msgr. Lynn in prison!!
David Pierre
11 years 7 months ago
I am taken aback by some of the mean-spirited and angry attacks at Fr. Orsi.
In fact, many of the comments are quite misinformed.

1. Fr. Orsi has forwarded a thoughtful proposal as a way to move forward from the Philadelphia verdicts. Yet most of the responses here are attacks on Fr. Orsi and Msgr. Lynn.

2. Most people are incredibly misinformed on the Philly case. Very few people are aware of the fact that one result of the trial is that much of what was written in the much-yelled-about grand jury report was debunked. The claims of a Church "conspiracy" by the DA's Office were so ludicrous that Judge Sarmina - who sided with the prosecution on just about everything during the trial - actually dismissed most of the conspiracy charges, probably in order not to embarrass the DA with acquittals by a jury.

3. The media has not reported that there is quite likely that Msgr. Lynn's conviction will be overturned on appeal, as the chrges against him were a blatant misapplication of the law.

3. Yes, Msgr. Lynn's punishment was too harsh. Almost any reputable lawyer (outside of the SNAP-friendly Philly DA Office) will tell you that a conviction of the man of Lynn's age and ties to the community for the crime he committed would not merit the draconian punishment that Lynn received.

Stephen SCHEWE
11 years 8 months ago
Bishop Finn and the Kansas City Diocese are going to trial in September for failure to report child abuse in 2010.  Finn and his staff deliberately withheld information from the lay review board that had been put in place to observe the 2002 Dallas accords and to deal with accusations of sexual abuse.  The situation in Kansas City was only exposed because a computer service technician found child pornography on the offending priest's laptop and reported it to police.  The scandals that continue to emerge in other countries suggest that the Church's problems with abuse and coverup are far from over.

Every institution, not just the Catholic Church, that deals with children and wants to keep the transgressions of their clergy, employees, or volunteers secret remains vulnerable.  Specific orders and dioceses have made tremendous progress.  But it's not hatred of the hierarchy to note that the Catholic scandals are deeply rooted in clericalism.

If I were to add to Amy and Michael's suggestions, I would reform the system of seminary education.  There was a period when candidates for the priesthood were ''co-educated'' with lay candidates for masters degrees in theology, pastoral ministry, divinity, etc.  In the last ten years, many seminaries began resegregating candidates for the priesthood into a separate track; this should be reversed.  Seminaries could use more oversight from laity.  Clericalism could be rooted out without compromising the charism of those called to be priests.  For those bishops like Finn disinclined to battle clericalism, the ''secular pressure'' of the press, the tort bar, and the D.A. offer the best protection for lay Catholics and their children.
Patrick OMalley
11 years 8 months ago
Great – some new laws.  How bout the 10 commandments & What Jesus Would Do.
Lynn signed an oath of obedience to his bishop to override God’s laws, since, in the Catholic church, bishops are smarter than God and have figured out things that God & Jesus couldn’t.  If Lynn had followed the commandment to not have “false idols”, Bevilacqua’s orders wouldn’t have mattered.
If Lynn had done What Jesus Would Do, he would have saved the children, not the child rapists.  Catholics always forget the second half of John 20:23, but when Jesus said that not all sins were forgiven, he was including organized child rape in God’s name.
Anyone who defends these pedophile priests, or defends the Catholic church’s practice in hiding them, lying about it, fighting the victims, will never see the light of heaven.
Thank God.
Jeanne Linconnue
11 years 8 months ago
I'm not sure what your point is, David - the photo is not important, but the facts of the matter are - he kept quiet and let sexual molesters be transferred to new parishes. He protected the institution and the criminal priests (and yes, himself and his own status) instead of kids. If he were movie-star handsome, it wouldn't change the facts of the ugliness that he facilitated.

The photos brought up by google are not all of the same man, I assume you noticed that -many of them that came up with Google Images are of Deputy Sec. of Defense, William J. Lynn. 

Most of those of the man under discussion here are similar to the one used in the article about him.  He's an aging man, overweight, with jowls. and a double chin. Not uncommon among men his age.  Should they have shown one from his seminary days instead?
Vincent Gaitley
11 years 8 months ago
Msgr. Lynn was my pastor. His nonfeasance brings him to justice at last proving that he is not a good man, priest, or soldier.  He is a coward who could not even pick up the phone to call the police, he lied often to the abused including "managing" their concerns by stonewalling their efforts to work within the Church.  Nearly 800 years after King Henry and Thomas a Becket, the Church is still looking for an exemption to civil law-there are none-and there will never be one regarding sexual crimes.  We don't need new Church rules, we need new bishops.  Every serving bishop should resign or be fired in this country.  Heads should roll.  Start over.  I have more faith in the first fifty names in the phone book than in the local bishops.  Since I live in the Philadelphia area this trial was daily news.  The Archdiocese used a strain defense and plotted every trick to escape justice-the defendant's right, to be sure-but is this the Church we want?  Not me.  I pray for a Church that stands up, admits wrong doing when wrong, pleads guilty, and sacrifices for the common good. The convict Lynn barely qualifies as an identifiable Chrisitian let alone a Catholic priest. His weasel defense is what convicted him, and the jury saw it too. 
Anne Chapman
11 years 8 months ago
The problem, David (#18), is the enabling.

By staying active and putting money into collection plates, we enable the perpetuation of the system and the corruption within it that resulted in the tragedy of bishops protecting sexual abusers instead of kids - we in the pews have no voice in the church, no way of moving towards positive change. The root of the problem lies in the church's very structure - the clericalism and the mis-definition of ''authority'', which both arise from Rome's misunderstanding and mis-definition of ''church''. Unfortunately, Fr. Orsi's ''defense'' of Msgr. Lynn reflects this problem - and he doesn't even realize it. And THAT (the inability of clergy to see the reality) is part of the problem!
Anne Chapman
11 years 8 months ago
LOL! Actually, David, I do go to the Anglican (Episcopal) church these days, not because it's "perfect" but because it is humble enough to admit that it's not only not perfect, it isn't infallible! Not every Catholic who goes to church is an enabler in a deliberate or considered sense, but  that may be because of ignorance. They are supporting the structure and simply don't think about the implications of their support. If every Catholic closed his or her checkbook for even one month, I suspect the PTB might decide it's time to talk - not just talk, but ''dialogue'' which implies an equal two-way process of talking and listening (not to be confused with the CDF's confused definition of ''dialogue'').  Without the people in the pews, the bishops in their chanceries couldn't live like little lords of the manor, not deigning to consort with the ''little people'' as some have referred to the laity (I think that includes Benedict).  

You have lived in Rome - so you know how the high level church men ensconced there often live - enjoying la dolce vita at the expense of the ''little people.''  It's shameful on so many counts.  The people in the pews have power - if only they would choose to use it.  They can still support the work of THE church - they could stop putting it in collection baskets (and definitely should not participate in the bishops' and cardinals' appeals nor in Peter's Pence) and send money directly to those who are doing the work of Matthew 25 and bypass rectories and chanceries. They could pay the parish bills directly by setting up a group that collects the money and pays the salaries and electric bill and whatever, without the tax taken out to be sent to the bishop.  Money talks in Rome (and in chanceries), I'm sure you know that better than most.
William Atkinson
11 years 8 months ago
Seems as yu, espesially bishops and administrators have forgotten Jesus's commandment to those in authority.  
'And whosoever shall lead astray one of these little ones that believe in me; it were better for him that a millstone were hanged around his neck, and he were cast into the sea."    Such is the most unforgiveable Sin that Jesus preached to the future leaders of His church.

These church leaders presuppose they know better than Christ Himself; A few years in prison is nothing compared what awaits them (leaders and administrators) when the courts of heaven award justice to them for their lack of action while stewards of their sheep, under the quise of Christianity.
david power
11 years 8 months ago
Amy ,

I am not so sure that it goes that far.
John Paul Lennon is the founder of Regain and he was one of the first guys to take on Maciel and the Legion and he did so for many reasons but he said that in his tewenty plus years in the Legion he never saw anything wrong sexually.
Not even a trace of abuse.
This guy swings a mighty axe and he would have no qualms about grinding it.Given that the Legion is perhaps the most perverted of catholic cliques you would imagine that he would have seen all sorts over the years.
It is sure that every bishop knew of it.In 1990 all of the Irish bishops discussed it at a meeting.Every one of them knew that there were thousands raped in Ireland alone.In America we know that Law ,Mahoney and Bevilacqua knew as probably most other bishops.Pope Wojtyla knew about it for decades.
The only ting we know that Priests knew was that their's was a lonely existence and that many of their colleagues were oddballs.
Helen Deines
11 years 8 months ago
At this sorrowful time (has it ever been different?), I find it useful to hold my bishop accountable to the same standards that apply to me.

Does the archdiocese model the spiritual and corporal works of mercy?  Are these values reflected in the archdiocesan financial statement and my bank atatement?

Are principles of Catholic social teaching reflected in the archdiocese's actions and in my life?  Is financial aid distributed in a way that demonstrates race equity?  What about the closing of parish schools...is the archdiocese chasing wealth?  And am I, also?  Who, and what, is the God reflected in my calendar and check book?

How does the archdiocese demonstrate reflect respect for life?  Does it do more than mouth anti-abortion rhetoric and blame women for all life's problems?  And what about me?  How do I respect life from conception through the end of life...in words and actions?  Who do I disrespect, and how?

I find the institutional church full of flaws, many of them indefensible.  Regrettably, I too have not yet attained sainthood, although on my bad days my self-righteousness challenges the clericalism of the chancery in its offensiveness.  May the Spirit bring wisdom, healing, and justice to us all. 
Carolyn Disco
11 years 8 months ago
How utterly disappointing Orsi's comments are! I see repeated excuses and rationalizing about the clerical culture.

"priests look to their bishop as a father figure"

It is past time for any priest to stop looking at a bishop as his daddy. Grow up and relate to others as one adult to another. But that's not seminary formation as we know it.

"We often refer to our fellow priests as our brothers...Priests rely on each other for acceptance, for sharing the work load and even living arrangements. If a priest deems any of these to be inadequate ... (he may be) labeled a malcontent or a problem. This perception can follow him throughout his priesthood." 

The "brothers" idea is a real distortion in the sense that anyone who strays from the party line gets shunned or treated maliciously. Ask priests who have won the Priest of Integrity Award from Voice of the Faithful.

There is nothing brotherly in sight anywhere. Priests who speak out for abuse victims endure sharp censure and harassment from the chancery on down. The claustrophobic culture of clerical exemption and privilege breeds arrogance and the exact opposite of charity. There are tragic consequences for such brave priests.

Creating an "adult culture of mutual respect" as Orsi suggests is unlikely as long as all legislative, judicial and administrative power resides in the person of the bishop per canon law. Absolute power is still absolute power.

Give BOC's decision-making authority instead of only a consultive function and maybe some attitudes can change. The whole system infantilizes adults, including the laity. Stayiing below the chancery radar using creative insubordination is a skill most effective priests learn. Great job; lousy employer.

Ave Maria Law School does not recommend itself for incisive scholarship, at least in many circles. Orsi's descriptions of clericalism touch lightly on accurate points but where is the substantive redress? 

Essentially, the priest shortage is a gift of the Holy Spirit to force changes that would not otherwise occur.

Great post, Gerelyn #1. 
Jim McCrea
11 years 8 months ago
My mother always ensured that I understood that, in may cases, the road to hell was paved with good intentions.

Is loyalty in this case a good intention? Really??

We can see where this kind of "loyalty" has led the good Msgr.
Catherine Kelly
11 years 8 months ago
Am I missing something?  At top of the page, it says the article appeared on Fr. Orsi's blog BUT WAS WRITTEN BY TIM REIDY.  Thus, if one wishes to find blame, should he/she not address TIM?  Right now, I'm wondering if Fr. Orsi wishes he never shared the article.
Jim McCrea
11 years 8 months ago
"At the moment we are backseat drivers but the day will come when we have to put up or shut up."

I think that by that time those willing to "put up" will be dead and gone, or will have walked away (like Ann and so many other).  Those left?  If the lace doilies and silk jammies on display in the Magical Mystery Show aren't just right, they will huff out and look for something even more retrograde to sooth their stilted sense of Awe and Majesty.
Jeanne Linconnue
11 years 8 months ago
#29, Kathy I believe you are misinterpreting this.

Tim Reidy has access to the site to upload blog posts since he is the editor - hence his name appears as "author" because he uploaded the article on behalf of the guest blogger.

Fr. Orsi is the"guest blogger" who is the actual author of the article.
Catherine Kelly
11 years 8 months ago
Oops!  My mistake.  Just discovered Tim is America's blogging editor.  This senior is new at internet lingo but what a wonderful way to find the sorely needed dialogue (when it stays with the point).  I doubt I'll live long enough for a new Pope to reverse the situation and claim "As Holy Mother Church always taught.. dialogue is a necessary blessing between hierarchy and sensus fidelium."
William McGovern
11 years 8 months ago
I think many responses are unduly harsh on Fr. Orsi.  What he is suggesting is revolutionary for our Catholic culture which is to add a more democratic (small d) process of governing the Church.  Frankly I don't think his proposals go far enough but it is a start.   In my opinion, we will only heal ourselves when the autocratic, clergy-centered governing approach is replaced by one that is truly inclusive of all Catholics. 
Kevin Lee
11 years 8 months ago
Fr Orsi reflects the attitude that has infected even our Australian clergy. They defend the indefensible and blame it on the system. While its true the system has been flawed for decades, its no reason to claim that Mons. Lynn is a good man. Evil thrived because ''good men'' did nothing. The evil of child abuse also perpetuated because the anachronism of priestly celibacy is constantly claimed to be the best way of being a minister in the Catholic religion. In order to perpetuate the celibacy myth we continually see new willing participants who pretend to be what the system wants them to be. The dramatic growth in awareness of child sexual abuse by clergy is only testimony to the willingness of victims to speak out now where as they have been silenced for over 30 years and some have taken their dark secrets to the grave. Untill the church admits that celibacy is against God's law of love and procreation, we will continue to hear about abuses and assaults on the most vulnerable: children, single mothers, young homosexuals who are unable to admit their victim status against a well-protected and beloved priest. Yes it is true Fr Orsi that the priests are formed in a system that rewards turning a blind eye to fellow ''brothers'' who sin, its a BAD man who does it. There is no way you can say this man who was devoid of moral consciousness and allowed his fellow brothers to be free to assault children is a good priest. What kind of priest is he who does not have the fortitude to call child abuse an evil? Our own situation in Sydney is testimony to the ubiquitous nature of pedophilia in the clergy. We also experienced the cover-ups and protection of the 'brothers' who abused. The lack of activity by those in authority has led to the dramatic decline in Mass attendance and an exodus from catholic schools in favour of non-denominational Christian schools. It has also contributed to the stigma around the vocation of priesthood, which if not reversed will lead to the extinction of the Catholic Church. To not allow married men to be ordained the church is self-destructing and will eventually die out. It is the equivalent to cutting off your nose to spite your face.
For more information about the current Australian situation, just google me ''Father Kevin Lee''.
11 years 8 months ago
I am glad that AMERCIA posted this blog from Father Mike Orsi. Unfortunately too many here are not bothering to read what he wrote— he is describing – not defending- a priestly culture that, unchecked, led to the disaster of “don’t challenge the Bishop/ don’t ask too many questions/ follow orders/ protect your brother priest, etc. “ While he rightfully points out that fraternal support and obedience is and can be a good thing among the clergy - checks and balances are needed to avoid a repetition of what happened in Philadelphia and elsewhere. He proposes some changes that for some may be not enough but I do believe would be revolutionary in most Chancery offices. I don’t always agree with Father Orsi’s opinions but I do find them well written with strong logic, fidelity to the Church and charity to those who disagree. Tim- he would be an excellent voice to add to these pages on a regular basis.
Anne Chapman
11 years 8 months ago
#36 - Actually it is likely that posters DID read Fr. Orsi's article. That is why so many responded the way they did.

Yes - he describes the clerical culture quite well, and offers a few suggestions for improvement, but he too falls short in truly comprehending in his very DNA what was done to those kids. Maybe because he's not a mom - or a dad. He too looks at the whole ''scandal'' in abstract terms. This is among the many reasons why mandatory celibacy can sometimes lead to so much damage in the church. Make it optional - those who are called to it in a healthy way can respond. Those who are not and marry might develop the souls and hearts that are formed in fire because of living real lives with real people instead of living a sheltered and very privileged life, supported by others in every way (including by those who clean the toilet and cook the meals and change the sheets on the bed) whose interactions are mostly with other celibate males. The development of heart and soul are essential to wholistic moral growth - they are absolutely needed to correct the head's proclivities towards cold analytical detachment, the kind of detachment that leads to a moral calculus that is anything but moral. 

But, after admitting that there are problems, Fr. Orsi then goes on to defend Fr. Lynn by saying that the punishment was (too - implied) harsh and that he prays it will be reduced. And therein lies part of the problem - he seems to believe that Fr. Lynn is a victim of some kind - helpless to do the right thing because of the church's clerical culture.

Clericalism and abuse of authority all the way to the top are indeed the roots of the problem. The immoral abuse of the concepts of authority in the church feeds the clericalism that allowed evil to run unchecked, causing incalculable harm to tens of thousands - maybe hundreds of thousands - of young people and children.

How are ordinary people in the pews supposed to respond to this? Are we to assume that our own individual circumstances should govern our actions and moral decisions in response to moral challenges? Isn't that what the hierarchy of the church condemns regularly?

Are we supposed to follow their unspoken teaching-by-example (including lying to protect a criminal but calling it ''mental reservation'') that tells us that if doing the right thing will cause us to suffer in some way - lose a job, lose a friend, lose status of some kind - then we should then save our own skins and choose the immoral path?

Is this not more than just a bit of moral relativism that the pope is constantly harping on - except when it comes to the hierarchy and himself?

Why should a man who is well into late middle age, a man who is highly educated, including years of seminary education that supposedly teaches priests how to think morally, how to form one's conscience properly be given a pass because he was just going along to get along, as the saying goes, with no concern whatsoever as to the evil that was being done with his help - his help being following orders and maintaining silence?

Fr. Orsi ''gets'' part of it, but he is a very long way to true ''gut'' understanding of what is so very, very wrong in the clerical culture.
11 years 8 months ago

I contend that too many who posted here did not read or address the following statement made by Father Mike:
This essay is not designed to exonerate Monsignor Lynn. It is however an attempt to help people understand why he acted as he did. It is also a proposal to prevent such behavior from happening again.

The punishment- You don’t have to excuse Lynn or minimize what he did or did not do to note that his sentence and especially his lack of bail while appealing or awaiting the start of his sentence is not even close to similar situations in the kangaroo court system that is Philadelphia. It is not debatable that the same system lets rapists, attempted murderers, recidivist felons, and even child sex offenders walk out on bail regularly and with impunity (this is not an exaggeration- see http://www.philly.com/philly/news/special_packages/79211302.html) He is being treated completely differently then any other similar first time offender convicted of child endangerment. He may prevail on his request for bail on appeal for this reason. Some, in fact many, will say this is not a problem. They believe that Lynn should not be treated the same as similar people in the justice system, that since they did not get a cardinal or other church administrators he should pay far more severely. Many of these same would argue that drawn and quartered was too lenient. Fine- but anyone who disagrees – including Lynn’s friends, are not automatically excusing Lynn’s accountability or justifying what he did. Yet we must have 20 posts here that suggest that because Oris questions Lynn’s sentence he is de facto minimizing or excusing Lynn’s crime.

I read Orsi saying that a culture of secrecy, of protecting and not challenging the boss, of non-transparency, of no checks and balances can lead people who may be otherwise good people to commit crimes. This can happen in many human endeavors without proper checks and balances and the Church is obviously not immune. All of those people are guilty and are rightfully prosecuted. Part of the answer is rigorous governance and oversight.

Orsi offers some constructive suggestions to reform Chancery oversight in a meaningful way (which includes lay participation in areas until now where only favored priests participate) to correct the culture that helped create and cover up this horrendous scandal. I think his recommendations are worthy of serious debate and consideration. Unless you have read or spoken with Father Mike, it seems uncharitable to me to assume from this short blog that he doesn’t comprehend just how horrific, gut wrenching and painful the Church’s failure to protect children from predator priests is for those impacted and the entire church. In my conversations far more priests get it then you seem to allow.
Carolyn Disco
11 years 8 months ago
''Unless you have read or spoken with Father Mike, it seems uncharitable to me to assume from this short blog that he doesn’t comprehend just how horrific, gut wrenching and painful the Church’s failure to protect children from predator priests is for those impacted and the entire church. In my conversations far more priests get it then you seem to allow.''

Perhaps people are unaware of priests' true responses because beyond a few pro forma statements their dominant silence on the matter is so deafening.

Moreover, ''the actions of men are best interpreters of their thoughts'' (John Locke).

Since when have we seen priests in word or deed stand up for survivors by advocating on their behalf? I can count those names on one hand. Priests who acted by reporting abusers to authorities have been removed from their postitions, intimidated, and otherwise persecuted. 

Many more priests need to find their voice in the public square. But given the current power structure, that is a very dangerous move. When will that change? 
Gerelyn Hollingsworth
11 years 8 months ago
Orsi offers some constructive suggestions to reform Chancery oversight in a meaningful way (which includes lay participation in areas until now where only favored priests participate) to correct the culture that helped create and cover up this horrendous scandal. I think his recommendations are worthy of serious debate and consideration.


The ''suggestions'' by the defender of the indefensible are fatuous.  Which, iyho, has a snowball's chance of being implemented or even considered by the men who rule the Church?  Insulting of Orsi to believe his fellow Catholics are so easily gulled.

Your attempt to defend the defender of the indefensible is also insulting.  Accusing others of  ''not bothering to read what he wrote'' is just one more example of how the priests have gotten away with it all these centuries. 

(Hey, editors, why DID you publish Orsi's pathetic little whimper?)
Paul Johns
11 years 7 months ago
Orsi is right about the way the system ''worked'' (past tense)... but I think his solutions are flawed.

I think that the court fixed the problem - as every ''middle man'' priest now knows he can be imprisoned for enabling priests who are a danger to children!! No priest in his right mind is going to risk a 3-6 year prison term to protect a priest whom he knows is a molester!

Bishops should take note also... If Cardinal Bevilacqua had not died during the court case, he could easily be beside Msgr. Lynn in prison!!
Monica Doyle
11 years 7 months ago
I work for a major retail organization that is involved in healthcare. (A chain drugstore).  My employer absolutely wants all the employees to be team players.  But not at the expense of our integrity, and certainly not at the expense of breaking the law. Twice yearly all employees must complete training that we are fully aware of what we should do if we ever witness any unethical or illegal behavior from colleagues. We are well versed in this now, but no matter, twice a year we MUST complete, and document we completed, training in what to do if we are aware of unethical or illegal activity.  There are numerous confidential avenues, from notifying supervisor to Confidential Ethics Hotline.

Why aren't the same standards used in the clerical world? 
Mark Wonsil
11 years 7 months ago
Actually, I think our judicial system contributes to hiding the actions of abusers both inside and outside the Church. One can bring the truth forward, tell the police and you'll get sued for large sums of money or you can wait until you're caught and still get sued for large sums of money. The system does not promote disclosure and encourages organizations like the Church, Universities, Youth Organizations to keep children in precarious situations. I think if we had a self-whistle-blowing rule that encouraged organizations to weed out offenders and not get punished for doing so would vastly reduce the abuse.
Molly Roach
11 years 8 months ago
The failures of Msgr. Lynn and the rest of his colleagues in the hierarchy in the matter of the sexual abuse of children are indefensible.  Cases of group think or penalties for not being a team player are utterly lame in comparison to the wounds inflicted on the victims.   The hierarchy needs to stop looking at their outmoded self-justifications and face the fact that lives were trashed to support such delusional thinking.
Theresa Maccarone
11 years 8 months ago
I see a lot of good coming out of the Church's sex abuse crises and Fr. Orsi"s blog post is one of them. 

Sometimes it takes a scandal for an organization to reform itself. I believe that all reform begins with respectful dialogue. Many Catholic scholars like Fr Orsi are encouraging the Catholic community to openly discuss issues that were either rarely discussed or only talked about behind closed doors by a select few.

It's not enough to implement national lay review boards or internal "guidelines" on how to deal with sexual misconduct by priests or other church workers.  The Catholic Church must create some type of formal mechanism that brings all of the faithful together at the same table in order to openly discuss the institutional failures that lead to the clergy sex abuse crisis.

I guess some will argue that an ecumenical council is an example of a formal mechanisim that the Church already has at its disposal to solve or discuss problems.  But as we all know, only a pope can call an ecumenical council (this wasn't always the case) and unless the Holy See experiences a sudden epiphany that the laity and religious should be part of the decision making process in the Church, you can be sure that they will only serve as quiet observors at the next church council.

Marie Rehbein
11 years 8 months ago
It might have been the system that led to Msgr. Lynn to fail to do the right thing, but the fixes proposed do not seem to address the problem adequately, in my opinion, given that councils are likely to be made up of lay people who pander to religious authority.  In my opinion, a married clergy would be less affected by the pressures that make clergy vulnerable to failing to do the right thing.  The first loyalty would be to God, of course, the second, to the spouse and family, and the third, to the hierarchy.  In the Protestant world, the pastor is the employee of the congregation, not part of a mafia-esque organization that imposes it's will upon those it claims to serve.
Jim McCrea
11 years 8 months ago
If loyalty trumps integrity, then this church is in much larger trouble than I have ever imagined. Much, much larger trouble.

"Never ascribe to malice what can be sufficiently explained by stupidity."  Mark Twain
Francis Flynn
11 years 8 months ago
Yes, Father Orsi. For more than 40 years you have been acquainted with “Inmate” or “Convict Lynn” – for that he what he is called now. (I know; I worked for eleven years in a maximum security prison.) But, truly, you do not know him. Or you are blindly self-deceiving when you say that he is “a good man and a good priest… a good soldier.” He lacked the personal integrity, the courage of Faith and Hope, that a true Christian, a genuinely “good priest” would exercise in refusing to be “a good soldier.” Rather, whether from blatant cowardice or because he had already sold his soul – and the souls of priests’ victims – he settled for “a sinecure.” History is replete with examples of individuals who lacked the personal fortitude, the courage, the integrity, indeed the spiritual and personal strength, necessary to say NO to those in authority. He is now a convict, condemned by a jury of his lay/civilian peers to a prison sentence he richly deserves. Unfortunately, you have missed the point. A cowardly and self-serving man, who was afraid to lose the benefits of rectory and health insurance, of cooks and housekeepers who do his bidding, deluded himself – and, perhaps, others – into believing that he was serving the institution to which he had sold his manhood and his soul. Unless he had completely given in to his delusions, he knew in the depth of his soul that he was guilty of the crucifixion of the Christ who dwells within the souls of victims and the families of the victims of “predator priests.” Father Orsi, Convict/Prisoner/Inmate Lynn is where his choices have brought him. His punishment is not “harsh.” If, as I have, you have spent not a few but hundreds and hundreds of hours talking with and counseling adult male survivors of childhood sexual abuse, you would know that Convict Lynn’s punishment is not “harsh.” Three years, even six years of incarceration – with “three hots and a cot” – is miniscule when compared to the uncountable decades of pain lived by the victims of those whom Convict Lynn unleashed upon them. Do not pray that his punishment “will be reduced.” If you pray for Inmate Lynn, if his bishop and his fellow priests pray for him at all (and, I can tell you that “out of sight is out of mind” for inmates), pray that at the end of his sentence he emerge from his deserved incarceration as a man of new found integrity, who will no longer remain silent about the injustices of those to whom he has sworn undeserved loyalty. Father Orsi, your “attempt to help people understand why he acted as he did” does little more than illustrate the deplorable pathologies to which the priesthood has devolved. Your “suggestion” does little to excise the cancer that is the clericalism that you described and seemingly justified. If you truly wish to encourage a new and healthy priesthood cut out the malignancy completely. Begin by encouraging the American Church to require that all candidates for the priesthood enter formation/religious life only after having established themselves in professional careers and lives through which they can sustain themselves – without having to surrender “complete control” “materially – for sure, and often times spiritually.” Sure, this will mean that more mature men will enter the ministry, but, hopefully, they will be men who will not sell their souls for a sinecure. Pay priests honest salaries equivalent to that of the average salaries of teachers in their diocesan Catholic high schools. Provide them with the same health insurance as a Catholic grade school teacher. Abolish the enforced mechanism of slavery that is rectory living – at every level of clerical life from diaconate to episcopacy. Let priests and bishops learn to cook their own meals, wash their own clothes, struggle to pay their own rents and car expenses. In short, make the Priesthood of Service a vocation rather than a source of entitlements. And, yes, this will mean an ever decreasing number of priests to serve an ever increasing number of parishioners. As a result, if the hierarchy truly prizes the Eucharist as it says it does, it will be forced to honestly reconsider the very nature of our priestly vocations. Here is my promise to you. I will periodically pray for Convict Lynn. I will pray that he emerges incarceration as a truly independent, free, honest and courageous man. If he does so, he will have earned the right to speak the truth and “to oppose the bishop’s wishes” without “fear of falling out of favor.” Rev. Francis J. Flynn, Psy.D., Miami, Florida
Jeanne Linconnue
11 years 8 months ago
Thank you, Father Flynn, for your comments. It is so good to hear them from a priest - all too often what we hear from the clergy is defensiveness and excuses.
11 years 8 months ago
I have tried to understand Fr. Michael Orsi’s twisted logic.  He admits that Msgr. Lynn is guilty of failing to protect innocent children.  However, his sentence is too harsh, and Fr. Orsi prays that it will be reduced.  But this too harsh punishment does serve as a wake-up call to our bishops that the system needs fixing.  
Yes, Msgr. Lynn is guilty of failing to protect children.  Section IV of the Grand Jury Report of 2012 provides evidence that he was indeed guilty of endangering children.

    As Secretary for Clergy, Msgr. Lynn was responsible for protecting the welfare of children entrusted to the Archdiocese’s care.  Yet, time after time, Msgr. Lynn abdicated this responsibility.  He did so, moreover, not through negligence or simple incompetence, but purposefully.  The only consideration was sparing the archdiocese public exposure or costly lawsuits. 
    Msgr. Lynn did more than passively allow the molesters to remain in positions where they could continue to prey on children.  When victims complained or scandal threatened, he recommended that the abusers be transferred to new unsuspecting parishes. 
    Msgr. Lynn could have taken positive steps to ensure predator priests were brought to justice.  Protecting children was just was not his priority.  He showed no interest at all in defending the archdiocese’s children, but instead consistently endangered them.

No, Msgr. Lynn’s punishment is not too harsh. He was found guilty by a fair-minded jury of his peers.  No longer could the clerical culture protect him.  He committed criminal acts for which he was found guilty and received a sentence which conformed to the sentencing guidelines by which the judge made her decision.  His too “harsh” punishment echoes the too “severe” punishment of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s statement after Msgr. Lynn was sentenced.   How does Msgr. Lynn’s “harsh” and “severe” punishment of three to six years compare to the punishment which the survivors of abuse have had to deal with over years and years of needless suffering and pain?  As the kids say, “Get real.”
Yes, Fr. Orsi is right that the system needs fixing.  However, he uses that system as a not too subtle defense that Msgr. Lynn had no other choice than to conform to his archbishop’s directives.  Actually, he did have a choice: he could have listened to and followed his conscience to do what he knew was right.  Instead, as the judge said at his sentencing, Msgr. Lynn chose to do what was wrong.
david power
11 years 8 months ago
I have read with great surprise the commments by Geralyn,Rev Flynn and finally by Vincent Gaitley.My initial reaction on reading the article by Fr Orsi was to imagine a Spencer Tracey type priest caught out by a system.
I imagined a man of goodness and intelligence as the article portrayed him.This despite my knowledge that Priests tend to laud other priests .  
Any priest that says his prayers daily is termed "Holy" and any priest who can quote a bit of latin is erudite.
In my life I have known lots and lots of Priests and of them all I can say only three stood out to me as disciples of Christ.The rest were outstanding only in mediocrity.Some of them were nice guys, some of them were above average intelligence but their way of thinking was as predictable as the day is long.I am sure that others have more experience of good priests than I do or else they have the gift of projection.
Rev Flynn's words are so refreshing to read. I felt that the original article was written by a Priest trying to come to terms with the sickness in the Church and then Rev Flynn's words were those of a Priest who had more than come to grips with such sickness.
The cunning and calculation that is bound up with the Roman Priesthood rings so hollow when held up to attacks of the sort above. I hope that Rev Flynn comments more often in future.I learn so much from others on here but his comments are manna.   
sandra griffith
11 years 8 months ago
I was a Vatican II era convert and I have recently left the church. During this difficult time I am often troubled and sad. And then I come across yet another article like this one and my decision is yet again confirmed. There is no room in the inn.
david power
11 years 8 months ago

There is room in the Inn.
The doorkeepers these days may be quite hostile but the greater catholic tradition prevails.
There is room for everybody in the catholic Church.
I know people may feel unloved and distant from the Church with all of the corruption and other problems but these things do not define the Church.In the Church "C'e Tutto" there is everything.
As much as you have Lynn,Rigali,Wojtyla,Law,Maciel etc you still have modern Francis's and Ignatius's.There are still modern St Clares and St Catherines.
I am a heterosexual male so maybe I don't feel the cold that much but I think Pope Roncalli would tell you to go an extra round .
The Lord Jesus is purifying His Church day by day.Don't be the baby that goes out with the bathwater.
You may have left the house but don't throw away the key.God moves in mysterious ways!
david power
11 years 8 months ago
Anne, I think that there is a great deal of enabling in the Church but we cannot accuse every catholic who goes to Mass or prays to God to be an enabler.
To be catholic is a far more numinous reality than what we can sometimes allow for.
Recently Fr Thomas Reese proposed that Catholics will have to be a lot more DIY in the future and I agree with that.
At the moment we are backseat drivers but the day will come when we have to put up or shut up.
It is disturbing of course when we see some of the things that  have happened even in the last eighteen months , it is clear that the pathologies are so rife that there is no way back for the model of church that has been pushed since October of 78.
People still have a spiritual hunger though, and the Church still has the resources to help them.We should not reduce the Church to men in collars.
That is a clerical definition.
So many who have suffered over recent decades stayed with the Church.Think of Oscar Romero who faced his murderers after leaving Rome in tears.
God corrects the nonsense of men.My point was that all are welcome in the Church.Those who leave do so of their own accord and should accept that .The Church as Oscar Wilde said is "For Saints and sinners alone,everybody else can go to the Anglican Church " :)
Gef Flimlin
11 years 8 months ago
In the fourth paragraph the church is referred to as "Her", a common modifier for Holy Mother The Church. However, a real mother would never have acted like Lynn did regardless of the consequences. A Mother protects her children. Lynn did not. Simply wrong even if there is the hierarchy of good ol' boys in the diocese.
Amy Ho-Ohn
11 years 8 months ago
Blaming the bishops for the "cover-up" and calling for their heads (as Mr. Gaitley, #14 does) always sounds like a weak self-serving dodge to me.

In dioceses in which full disclosure seems to have been made, the proportion of priests "credibly accused" is about 10%. Most of the pedophilic/ephebophilic misconduct took place in rectories, seminaries, schools, homes for the disabled and other places where many clergy were present.

The unpleasant but inelectable conclusion we should all have reached by now is that virtually every priest in America was part of the "cover-up." That dear little old fellow your grandmother used to have over for tea, that favorite teacher who taught you to conjugate verbs, the cool young guy who used to play basketball in the parish parking lot with you and your friends, the polite charming little old relic who just heard your eight-year-old's first confession, even my pastor, whom I like a lot but who managed to rise quite high in a religious order during these last few decades; all of them have heard screams and walked away shrugging their shoulders.
Catherine Kelly
11 years 8 months ago
Thanks, Jeanne.  Found your kind reply after sending mine.
david power
11 years 8 months ago
Beautifully said Jean.
 I concur with your every word.
In a church that has run from the truth for so long Fr Orsi has at least made tentative steps back towards it.
 For some that is not enough.
The failings of the article are visible to all here but asking a Priest of todays church to see that is like asking a colourblind person to appreciate Van Gogh.
The terrible thing is that it took the exposure of the rape of children for catholics to begin to grapple with reality without filtering it first through a roman lens.
The mendacity  about homosexuality  is still hanging on by it's fingertips and also that of sanctity.
Not even the usually hostile media is willing to question the process by which we deem people saints.
The idea of bishops as fathers is problematic due to the a priori nature of the thinking.
Some men have a paternal nature ,some don't.
A Priest is supposed to be a man and a spiritual father himself.Infantile  paternal figures do not exist.If the Priests of the past decades had more hair on their chest they would have stood up for the children abused.
I say unto you no man can serve two masters, a house divided against itself will fall.To each and very Priest:Choose Jesus.
Carolyn Disco
11 years 7 months ago

''If the Priests of the past decades had more hair on their chest they would have stood up for the children abused.''

Amen, Amen! What comes to mind are those who walked in on abuse, did not say a word to rescue the victim, just closed the door, and never said anything. Then they denied it later when the victim came forward. Or the appallingly convenient loss of memory by many priests and bishops in depositions.

A telling example of attitude was at a workshop for 40 new Jesuit superiors in 2000 where a recently installed bishop who had often defended priests in court offered the following quip to loud laughter by attendees: ''He described how, as he was walking into court, he would recite to himself, 'I'm sorry, Your Honor, but I do not remember.'  

What a corrupt clerical system bought the silence and passivity of so many.

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