By now most readers are familiar with the case against Monsignor William Lynn. Lynn was charged with several counts of endangering children and conspiracy for his alleged role in covering up instances of sexual abuse of children by priests in Archdiocese of Philadelphia. [See this timeline of the case put together by The New York Times.]
On Friday, Lynn, a former aide to Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, was found guilty of endangering children and became the first senior official of the Roman Catholic Church in America convicted of covering up sexual abuses by priests. Lynn was acquited of conspiracy and another count of endangerment by the jury.
Many local Catholics have struggled for years with their faith and loyalty to the church in the face of sexual abuse allegations and cover ups. While it is often the topic of discussion at the dinner table, around the water cooler or on social media sites like Facebook, it is rarely addressed at the altar.
Father Liam Murphy, who served at in Norristown from 2004 to 2011 and is now stationed at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in West Grove, Pa., plans to do just that in his remarks to his parishoners at this week's masses. He's posted his thoughts, in which he takes church leadership to task for its silence on this issue, to his Facebook page:
This is a copy of my remarks made at Masses on the weekend of June 23-24:
“I would be remiss if I didn’t say something about the elephant in the room. Yes. As has been reported in the news, Msgr. Lynn was found guilty on Friday of child endangerment. For some, perhaps many, this verdict brings with it at least some small sense of justice rendered. No doubt, it makes clear that “I was just following orders,” is an unacceptable defense in the face of blatant evil.
Yet for many with whom I have spoken and with whom I agree, it is only a partial sense of justice. Because the other elephant in the room is the fact that those directly in charge, the bishops, have yet to claim or accept responsibility for their own horrific part in this painful scandal. Not a single bishop has acknowledged or apologized for his decision to put the image of the Church before the protection and care of sexual abuse victims of clergy. Nor have any bishops had the decency or courage to call their fellow bishops to accountability.
The result? Many Catholics, including fellow clerics, friends who are practicing Catholics and friends who have left a Church they find disingenuous, dismiss the bishops as inauthentic and unworthy of their attention.
Moreover, the bishops’ latest attempt to exert moral authority with their “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign rings hollow for many who wish the bishops had been at least as energetic and enthusiastic with their denunciation of their role in institutionalized evil in the Church concerning abuse, as they are with a perceived threat to religious freedom. Rather than appearing prophetic, to many Catholics this looks like a pathetic attempt to reclaim power and authority.
Now, while all these feelings and observations are completely legitimate, there is one thing left to say:
I preached this weekend on the need to “shut up” as Zechariah was forced to do in today’s gospel, so that we might have time and space and silence to “hear” the voice of God and discern the will of God. Well, in the aftermath of this verdict, I have been called to silence. And in the silence I have been thus far able to discern this much: all of the above may be true and legitimate. And it must be said loud and clear. “But be careful,” I hear God saying.
“Be careful not to become smug and satisfied in your rightful calling to task of cowardly and self-serving bishops. Don’t stop there. Instead remember why you are a member of the Church: not because of the bishops, or the priests, but because of Jesus Christ—because you love Jesus Christ and you know in your bones that he is the Way and the Truth and the Life.’
So this is a time for all of us to commit ourselves ever more intensely to know Jesus even more, to love him even more. And then, above all to LIVE him, with all we have and are. All of us truly LIVING JESUS—that will be the transformation of the Church and of all the world.
Let the Church say, “Amen!”
In Christ’s love,
If you'd like to hear Father Murphy's remarks in person, Masses at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 300 State Road in West Grove, Pa., are scheduled for Saturday, June 23 at 5:30 p.m. and Sunday, June 24, at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and noon.
What do you think of Father Murphy's sermon? Are you Catholic? What does Monsignor Lynn's conviction mean to you and your faith? Are you a non-Catholic? Does the conviction mean justice has been served or is there still a threat to children in the church? Tell us what you think.