A Tale of Two Bishops

It all depends on whether they’re alive or dead. Mark Silk at RMS spells it all out, and it’s not pretty, by any definition:

At the sexual abuse trial in Philadelphia yesterday, counsel for the defense contended that Msgr. William J. Lynn, whose job it was to oversee the archdiocese’s 800 priests, should not be held responsible for covering up abuse cases because his boss, the late Anthony Bevilacqua, was the “puppet master.” Meanwhile, at the sexual abuse hearing in Kansas City yesterday, counsel for the defense sought dismissal of the coverup indictment of Bishop Robert Finn on the grounds that Finn wasn’t the “designated reporter.”

Alive, you’re not the “designated reporter;” dead, you’re a “puppet master.” Alive, your defense goes after those puppets of anti-Catholicism … SNAP. Dead, and you get thrown under the bus.

Professor Silk worries about the collective credibility of bishops. I still do too. While lawyer tactics over a thousand miles apart don’t have a legal connection, it’s not hard for people to make the moral connection. Over at dotCommonweal, it was easy enough for commenter  Jack Barry to make the canonical connection:

Can. 480 A vicar general and an episcopal vicar must report to the diocesan bishop concerning the more important affairs which are to be handled or have been handled, and they are never to act contrary to the intention and mind of the diocesan bishop.

It would be nice, sometime, someday, to see a bishop jettison his lawyers and just ‘fess up.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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8 Responses to A Tale of Two Bishops

  1. snapjudy says:

    Isn’t it interesting that in KC-St Joe diocese the bishop is blaming the vicar general, yet in Philly Archdiocese the vicar general is blaming the bishop?

    ALL who enable and empower child predators to abuse more kids, by covering up their sex crimes, need to be held accountable by the law of the land. This is the only way to get this horrific abuse stopped and to protect our kids today.

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511
    “Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests” and all clergy.

    (SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims.
    SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 12,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers and increasingly, victims who were assaulted in a wide range of institutional settings like summer camps, athletic programs, Boy Scouts, etc. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

    • Todd says:

      Thanks for commenting Judy. Of course, KC-SJ is also blaming SNAP. What I find curious in all this is the occasional harping from the hierarchy about a loss of a sense of sin. It’s the nature of human failings to blame others and see oneself as virtuous.

      Christ’s counsel would be to apologize, to acknowledge one’s blame, and to ask forgiveness. Now that Bishop Finn has been indicted, he seems to be favoring the advice of legal counsel above the advice of spiritual counsel.

      • Marilyn says:

        It’s so true – hard to be admonished in the pew after all the denial and attempts at hiding an abuser and betray your own right-hand man! I was hoping, really ready to respect his shouldering the blame and doing the penalty on behalf of all the many guilty cowards involved. What’s the worst that can happen – a little jail time? He could have come out a hero and would have seemed believably outraged about child abuse – and been respected.

  2. Marjorie Osborne says:

    I have been following the cases around the globe concerning The Catholic Church. I am wondering with regard to the action in Philadelphia if anybody has been troubled by the seeming use of “The Nuremberg Defense” {I just followed orders} that seems to be the strategy so far.

    We are quickly losing a bunch of generations of witnesses to the original proponents of that ‘theory of defense’. I think pointing out the history as it played-out after WWII might be helpful as a contextual ground for the immediate trials. Those who have not remembered it from school may be interested in a refresher.

    What do you think?

  3. The Church has thrived for centuries on ambiguity. First of all, it acknowledges other denominations as Christians, but then teaches, “Outside of the Holy Roman Catholic Church There is NO Salvation!” Just as Judy from SNAP mentioned, the Church as a whole, as a corporation, can’t keep Her stories straight, going from one Archdiocese to another. The defense teams always blame the most convenient culprit, either someone dead like a cardinal, or someone totally incompetent as a human being, who just happens to fulfill his position in life and in the Church by reporting to a cardinal! If it weren’t so tragic, it would be laughable!

    • Jimmy Mac says:

      Oh, the church can get its story straight, depending on how you define “straight.”

      “First, get the facts. Then you can distort them at your leisure.” — Mark Twain

      “When I use a word…it means just what I choose it to mean–neither more nor less.” — Humpty Dumpty in “Through the Looking Glass.”

  4. John Shuster says:

    The decades of cover-up have been driven by the secret sex lives of priests who have used their public vow of celibacy to provide cover for their illicit sex while still taking money from a gullible public.

  5. What is missing in these comments and all the discussion surrounding sexual abuse is a recognition that it is only in recent times that Western society has come to understand the long-lasting psychological damage done by such abuse in some victims. Only in the 1980s did it become a legal requirement to report sexual abuse when one was aware of it. Incredibly, it is only this year that legislation has been passed in Ireland. Abuse cases by clergy currently under scrutiny go back to the 1950s, 30 to 70 years before today’s legislation. At that time, it was thought that private counseling was the way to deal with abuse cases and this is what those in authority did, whether school authorities, medical personnel, or bishops. It is grossly unfair to judge the actions of 30 to 70 years ago by today’s knowledge and legal obligations.

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