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.