The good and breaking news yesterday came from Judge Teresa Sarmina, who said to Monsignor William Lynn in Philadelphia when he was presented for sentencing, “you know full well what was right, Monsignor Lynn, but you chose wrong”. She sentenced him to three to six years in prison after he was found guilty of child endangerment on 22nd June this year.
He had failed to protect children from predator priests during his time as Secretary of Clergy in the Philadelphia Archdiocese by moving an errant clergyman on to another parish whenever there was a whiff of abuse, where these priests continued to abuse others.
This ground-breaking sentence will send reverberations round the Catholic world when Bishops and Diocesan executives realise what could happen to them in this particular Catholic habit of protection. In fact Lynn’s boss during his period as Secretary, 1992-2004 was Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who would have undoubtedly gone down with Lynn to share a penitentiary cell but he considerately died in January this year.
The judge said yesterday “this will send a powerful message to survivors and to bishops and to Penn State and to every institution that has this problem, that no longer will those in power just get a slap on the wrist. They will go to jail. We have ignored a lot of child abuse and prosecutors are finally stepping up to the point where they are going to go after even the people in power that created the conditions. It is a new day for survivors, no question”. Or it will be a new day when prosecution teams all over the world start punishing the real culprits, the bishops, who even now prefer to continue this policy of protection of abusing priests out of a feeling of presumably misplaced loyalty and certainly leaving integrity to one side.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia lamented the sentence, saying “Fair minded people will question the severity of the heavy, three to six year sentence imposed on Monsignor Lynn today. We hope that when this punishment is objectively reviewed it will be adjusted”. That statement shows that in these abuse riddled times, the Catholic Church has only made a very short journey towards acknowledgement. The sentence that Lynn put on a child when he sent a priest called Avery to a new parish knowing him to be a sexual predator was a lot, lot longer. Avery got hold of a 10 year old altar boy and performed oral sex on him. By the age of 11 the boy was abusing alcohol and marijuana and later heroin and now at 23 has been in dozens of drug treatment centres. That 10 year old boy was sentenced to life. Lynn has only got three to six.
For a real look at that life sentence that childhood victims of abuse have, read Philadelphia man, Peter S Pellulo’s ,Betrayal and the Beast: One man’s journey through childhood sexual abuse. A retired captain from the Philadelphia Police Department, Michael Skiendzielewski, admirably put it when he said ” Many fair-minded people have been questioning, ever since the release of the first Grand Jury Report in September 2005, why archdiocesan leadership and management, both lay and clergy, chose to protect the leaders and institutions at the expense of the innocence, beauty, health, spirit and mind of many young children and young adult victims throughout the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. I know of this life sentence having dealt with childhood victims of the same abuse at St Bede’s College in Manchester. These men are approaching and some over 70 years of age and they are still suffering, they are living abysmal lives 60 years after the event. If my mathematics are correct 60 is a lot more than three to six.
If we jump across the world to the little town of Moree in Northern New South Wales and the horrible case of Father “F”, at last a survivor has come forward. Father “F” admitted to abusing young boys some time ago and was removed from the priesthood and two boys who complained received compensation from the diocese but that did not stop them from committing suicide to escape their sentence. The other boys would not come forward and the police said they could do nothing unless the Diocese or the victims put in a formal complaint. But now one young man, a friend of one of the suicide victims and a fellow altar boy at the time of Father “F’s” abuse, has decided to come forward with the help of his very understanding wife who could see how emotionally immature he was and sensed something was wrong and eventually he admitted his abuse. A very, very strong and supportive woman helping a man whose emotional life stopped when he was 10. The abuse has now been reported to the police and the relief in poor Mark Boughton’s face is palpable. Here is Mark’s own words of his abuse and his testimony and behaviour is so very like Peter S Pullelo’s in Philadelphia, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-07-24/churchabuse/4151926. Let us hope now some justice is done in Moree, not only for the survivors of this abuse but also let justice be done to the three senior priests who knew of Father “F’s” proclivities and chose not to report it.
Why oh why has the Catholic Church to take this stance, why, when the evidence is piled up before them, do they choose to ignore it and try by all means at their disposal to wriggle out of the mess they have created? Why does a christian organisation say one thing and do another? The clerical body and their lay supporters are in a very poor and unhealthy place, God help them.