America, the Jesuit weekly, carried this report on its blog In All Things last week:
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams was most recently in the national headlines for the arrest of a Pennsylvania abortionist and his staff because of a little house of horrors they were maintaining in West Philadelphia. Today he announced some other alleged horrors out of Philadelphia in the indictment of three priests—68 year old Edward Avery, 64 year old Charles Engelhardt, and 47 year old James Brennan—and a parochial school teacher, 48 year old Bernard Shero. They have been charged with rape, indecent sexual assault and other criminal charges.
Shocking enough, but Williams has also arrested 60-year-old Monsignor William Lynn, the Secretary for Clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. Lynn has been charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the assaults because of his handling of these cases and allegations which stem from assaults on two boys which took place between 1998 and 2000.
Williams said Lynn, who served as Secretary of the Clergy from 1992 to 2004, "supervised two of the abusers . . . knew they were dangerous and chose to expose them to new victims." I'm trying to think of another instance of this, but this may be the first time a diocesan official has been criminally implicated for negligence or obstruction.
Then came this news from Los Angeles:
A priest accused of having a long-term sexual relationship with a teenage girl, writing her decades later to ask for forgiveness and declare that he was a sex addict, is being removed from ministry in a parish, and the diocese’s vicar of clergy has also resigned, officials of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles said Friday.
The priest, the Rev. Martin P. O’Loghlen, was once a leader in his religious order and was appointed to an archdiocesan sexual abuse advisory board, although officials at both the order and the archdiocese knew at the time about his admission of sexual abuse and addiction. He served on the board, which was meant to review accusations of abuse by priests, for at least two years in the late 1990s, according to church and legal documents.
The next day, Tom Beaudoin asked some hard questions:
The deep and ongoing scandal of sexual abuse and its coverup in the Roman Catholic Church raises the most uncomfortable of theological questions: What does sexual abuse say about Catholicism itself, about the Catholic Church itself? And how do those who are or were affiliated with Catholicism live our responses to these questions? ....
One crucial theological question today is: what does such change portend for Catholicism, for faith, spirituality, and religion? Or to return to my basic questions: What does sexual abuse and coverup say about Catholicism itself, about the Catholic Church itself? And how do those who are or were affiliated with Catholicism live our responses to these questions?
The Philadelphia Inquirer, meanwhile, pulled no punches in an editorial published today:
What will it take for Roman Catholic Church leaders to finally stand up and openly and honestly confront the priest sex-abuse scandal that continues to eat away at the very institution its leaders are trying to protect? Do more priests have to be taken away in handcuffs? Does a cardinal or two have to get indicted? Will a judge have to hold the Vatican liable?
How many more boys have to get abused and turn to drugs and alcohol to ease their pain and suffering? Or commit suicide? Does already-lagging church attendance have to plummet even further? Do collection plates have to return to the altar empty?
Given the details in a grand jury report released last week involving the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, it seems clear church leaders are still trying to contain and cover up the scandal.