In 1975, Father Sean Brady had no idea what to do when an 11-year-old boy told him that an adult man had had sex with him, because “no State or Church guidelines for responding to allegations of child abuse existed in Ireland”. Apparently none of the Church hierarchy above Father Brady, now Cardinal Brady, had any idea what to do either.
According to Monsignor Charles J. Scicluna, speaking in 2010 as the “promoter of justice” or the prosecutor of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was once called the Holy Office or the Inquisition, very clear guidelines had existed since 1922, republished and distributed in 1962: the responsible clerical authority should order an investigation and if the accusation of delicta graviora was proved well-founded (the Congregation’s job is to investigate delicta graviora, which include sexual crimes committed by a cleric against a person under the age of eighteen) then the clerical authorities should refer the priest to the Congregation.
Reading Cardinal Brady’s statement exculpating himself, I was reminded of Monsignor William Lynn, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Downingtown, Philadelphia, who was arrested in February 2012, indicted in mid-March and is now on administrative leave.
From Rolling Stone:
At 60, Lynn is portly and dignified, his thin lips pressed together and his double chin held high. In a dramatic fashion statement, he alone has chosen to wear his black clerical garb today, a startling reminder that this is a priest on trial, a revered representative of the Catholic Church, not to mention a high-ranking official in Philadelphia’s archdiocese.
“To suggest, as the programme does, that I led the investigation of the 1975 Church Inquiry into allegations against Brendan Smyth is seriously misleading and untrue. I was asked by my then Bishop (Bishop Francis McKiernan of the Diocese of Kilmore) to assist others who were more senior to me in this Inquiry process on a one-off basis only;
Lynn thrived in seminary, where he made an impression as an affable guy who always toed the line. At his ordination, he took a solemn oath of obedience to the bishop, sealing himself into the church’s vertical framework, in which everyone is bound to the strata above them. He was assigned first to a parish in Philadelphia, then to a wealthy church in the suburbs. His parishioners liked him, and Lynn’s deference to his senior pastor made an impression on the archdiocese.
“The documentation of the interview with Brendan Boland, signed in his presence, clearly identifies me as the ‘notary’ or ‘note taker’. Any suggestion that I was other than a ‘notary’ in the process of recording evidence from Mr Boland, is false and misleading;
Every Catholic diocese has Secret Archives files – it’s mandated by canon law as a repository for complaints against priests so scandalous that they must be kept out of the regular personnel files. Few outsiders know the secret archives exist, and only the most trusted clergy have access to them. In Philadelphia, the sole keyholders were the cardinal and his closest aides. The files were kept in a row of unlabeled, gray-green cabinets in a windowless room on the 12th floor of the archdiocese’s Center City office tower. Inside was an exhaustive compendium of scandals dating back more than 50 years: priests with drinking problems, priests who had gotten women pregnant, aging stacks of confiscated pornography. Then there were the reams of carefully typed memos that discussed priests with what the archdiocese delicately referred to as “unnatural involvements” or “unusual patterns.” Priests, in other words, who had sexually abused the children in their care.
“I did not formulate the questions asked in the Inquiry process. I did not put these questions to Mr Boland. I simply recorded the answers that he gave;
When the secret archives were finally unlocked, prosecutors were stunned to find thousands of documents that detailed the hundreds of victims who had allegedly been abused by 169 priests. “There was so much material, we could still be presenting information to the grand jury today if we followed every lead,” says Charles Gallagher, a former Philadelphia deputy district attorney who supervised the investigation. “We ultimately had to focus.”
“Acting promptly and with the specific purpose of corroborating the evidence provided by Mr Boland, thereby strengthening the case against Brendan Smyth, I subsequently interviewed one of the children identified by Mr Boland who lived in my home diocese of Kilmore. That I conducted this interview on my own is already on the public record. This provided prompt corroboration of the evidence given by Mr Boland;
With victims, Lynn was smooth and reassuring, promising to take their allegations seriously while doing nothing to punish their abusers. Kathy Jordan, who told Lynn in 2002 that she had been assaulted by a priest as a student at a Catholic high school, recalls how he assured her that the offender would no longer be allowed to work as a pastor. Years later, while reading the priest’s obituary, Jordan says it became clear to her that her abuser had, in fact, remained a priest, serving Mass in Maryland. “I came to realize that by having this friendly, confiding way, Lynn had neutralized me,” she says. “He handled me brilliantly.”
“In 1975 no State or Church guidelines existed in the Republic of Ireland to assist those responding to an allegation of abuse against a minor. No training was given to priests, teachers, police officers or others who worked regularly with children about how to respond appropriately should such allegations be made;
In his very first year on the job , Lynn received a letter from a 29-year-old medical student that would trigger the events that led to his arrest 19 years later. The student – whom the grand jury would call “James” – reported that as a teenage altar boy he had been molested by his priest, Father Edward Avery. The popular and gregarious Avery, nicknamed “The Smiling Padre,” was considered hip for a priest; he moonlighted as a DJ at weddings and invited lucky boys for sleepovers at his house at the Jersey Shore. The med student included a copy of a letter he had written to Avery. “I have let too much of my life be controlled by this terrible wrong you committed,” it read. “You had no right to hurt me the way you did. You have no right to hurt anyone else this way.”
“Even according to the State guidelines in place in the Republic of Ireland today, the person who first receives and records the details of an allegation of child abuse in an organisation that works with children is not the person who has responsibility within that organisation for reporting the matter to the civil authorities. This responsibility belongs to the ‘Designated person’ appointed by the organisation and trained to assume that role. In 1975, I would not have been the ‘Designated Person’ according to today’s guidelines. As the Children First State guidelines explain (3.3.1):
In the thick file devoted to Father Raymond Leneweaver, who had been moved to four different parishes after admitting to molesting at least seven boys, officials fretted in 1980 that they had run out of places to send him “where his scandalous action would not be known.” Scandal is a word that pops up throughout the Secret Archives files. The officials writing the internal memos almost never express concern for the victims – only concern over the risk to the church’s reputation. If the risk was deemed low, an offending priest was simply reassigned to a different parish. If the risk was high, priests were shipped to a far-off diocese with the permission of the reigning bishop, a practice known as “bishops helping bishops.”
“The commentary in the programme and much of the coverage of my role in this Inquiry gives the impression that I was the only person who knew of the allegations against Brendan Smyth at that time and that because of the office I hold in the Church today I somehow had the power to stop Brendan Smyth in 1975. I had absolutely no authority over Brendan Smyth. Even my Bishop had limited authority over him. The only people who had authority within the Church to stop Brendan Smyth from having contact with children were his Abbot in the Monastery in Kilnacrott and his Religious Superiors in the Norbertine Order. As Monsignor Charles Scicluna, Promoter of Justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith confirmed in an interview with RTÉ this morning, it was Brendan Smyth’s superiors in the Norbertine Order who bear primary responsibility for failing to take the appropriate action when presented with the weight of evidence I had faithfully recorded and that Bishop McKiernan subsequently presented to them;
One day, when Avery [a priest whom Msgnr Lynn knew to have abused children] failed to show up at the hospital while on call, Kerper wrote the archdiocese to express his concern. He addressed his letter to Monsignor Lynn. Lynn surprised Kerper by calling him directly and telling him to mind his own business. “You’re not going through the proper channels,” Lynn snapped. “You’re not his supervisor.”
“The following statement from Monsignor Scicluna had been made to the BBC programme makers six weeks in advance of its broadcast but was not acknowledged by them in any way: ‘It is clear to me that in 1975 Fr Brady, now Cardinal Brady, acted promptly and with determination to ensure the allegations being made by the children were believed and acted upon by his superiors. His actions were fully consistent with his duties under canon law. But the power to act effectively to remove Brendan Smyth from priestly ministry lay exclusively with the Abbot of Holy Trinity Abbey in Kilnacrott and his superiors in the Norbertine Order. This is where the sincere efforts of Bishop McKiernan and others like Fr Brady to prevent Brendan Smyth from perpetrating further harm were frustrated, with tragic consequences for the lives of so many children. I know that in his role as President of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Brady has worked tirelessly with his fellow bishops to ensure such a situation could never occur again and that the civil authorities in Ireland are now promptly informed of allegations of abuse against children. We have all learned from the tragic experience of the Church in Ireland but also from the sincere efforts of so many lay faithful, religious, priests and bishops to make the Church in Ireland an example of best practice in safeguarding children.’;
Interview of Msgr. Charles Scicluna conducted by Gianni Cardinale on the Strictness of the Church in Cases of Paedophilia in 2010:
It may be that in the past – perhaps also out of a misdirected desire to protect the good name of the institution – some bishops were, in practice, too indulgent towards this sad phenomenon. And I say in practice because, in principle, the condemnation of this kind of crime has always been firm and unequivocal. Suffice it to recall, to limit ourselves just to last century, the famous Instruction Crimen Sollicitationis of 1922.
A poor English translation of that text has led people to think that the Holy See imposed secrecy in order to hide the facts. But this was not so. Secrecy during the investigative phase served to protect the good name of all the people involved; first and foremost, the victims themselves, then the accused priests who have the right – as everyone does – to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. The Church does not like showcase justice. Norms on sexual abuse have never been understood as a ban on denouncing the crimes to the civil authorities.
Nonetheless, that document is periodically cited to accuse the current Pontiff of having been – when he was prefect of the former Holy Office – objectively responsible for a Holy See policy of covering up the facts…
That accusation is false and calumnious. On this subject I would like to highlight a number of facts. Between 1975 and 1985 I do not believe that any cases of paedophilia committed by priests were brought to the attention of our Congregation.
What happens when a priest is accused of a delictum gravius?
If the accusation is well-founded the bishop has the obligation to investigate both the soundness and the subject of the accusation. If the outcome of this initial investigation is consistent, he no longer has any power to act in the matter and must refer the case to our Congregation where it is dealt with by the disciplinary office.
“In fact, I was shocked, appalled and outraged when I first discovered in the mid 1990s that Brendan Smyth had gone on to abuse others. I assumed and trusted that when Bishop McKiernan brought the evidence to the Abbot of Kilnacrott that the Abbot would then have dealt decisively with Brendan Smyth and prevented him from abusing others. With others, I feel betrayed that those who had the authority in the Church to stop Brendan Smyth failed to act on the evidence I gave them. However, I also accept that I was part of an unhelpful culture of deference and silence in society, and the Church, which thankfully is now a thing of the past;
The archdiocese retained a consultant to help it improve the handling of victim complaints. A centerpiece of the reform was an independent clergy-review board that evaluated accusations of abuse. It was a terrific idea, one that would inject transparency and accountability into the process by taking cases out of the shadowy archdiocese and putting them into the unbiased hands of others. In practice, however, the archdiocese simply cherry-picked cases to send to the board – a fact that board members themselves learned only after the secrecy was revealed by the grand jury last February. “The board was under the impression that we were reviewing every abuse allegation received by the archdiocese,” board chair Ana Maria Cantazaro complained in an essay for the Catholic magazine Commonweal.
“As to other children named in the evidence recorded during the Inquiry process, I had no further involvement in the Inquiry process once I handed over the evidence taken. I trusted that those with the authority to act in relation to Brendan Smyth would treat the evidence seriously and respond appropriately. I had no such authority to act and even by today’s guidance from the State I was not the person who had the role of bringing the allegations received to the attention of the civil authorities. I was also acutely aware that I had no authority in Church law in relation to Brendan Smyth or any other aspect of the Inquiry process;
Lynn’s lawyers, citing a gag order on the parties in the case, declined to allow him to comment for this article. The archdiocese also refused to comment, citing its emphasis on what it calls “moving forward.” So far, Lynn’s attorneys have simply argued that the case should be dismissed: Because charges of child endangerment are normally reserved for people directly responsible for kids – parents, teachers – Lynn’s remove from the victims means his prolonged efforts to cover up the crimes were not technically illegal.
“Today, Church policy in Ireland is to report allegations of abuse to the civil authorities. It recognises the Gardai and HSE as those with responsibility for investigating such allegations and that any Church investigation should not take place until the investigation by the civil authorities has been completed. I have fully supported this policy and have worked with my fellow Bishops and the leaders of Religious Congregations to put this policy in place;
Monsignor William Lynn:
In the few cases that were actually submitted to the panel, the grand jury found that “the results have often been worse than no decision at all.” Using lax standards developed in large part by the canonical lawyers, the board dismissed even highly credible allegations. The results of those decisions could be devastating. In 2007, a man named Daniel Neill complained that he had been abused as an altar boy by Rev. Joseph Gallagher. According to a lawsuit filed against the archdiocese, Neill gave three statements to an archdiocese investigator – only to be informed that the review board didn’t believe him. Devastated, Neill killed himself in 2009. After the grand-jury report, the archdiocese finally reversed itself by suspending Gallagher.
“The programme made reference to a statement I made in the course of an RTE interview in which I suggested that if my failure to act on an allegation of abuse against a child led to further children being abused, that I would then consider resigning from my position. The programme failed to point out, however, that I gave this answer in response to a question specifically about someone in a position of ‘Management’, someone who was already a Bishop or Religious Superior with ultimate responsibility for managing a priest against whom an allegation has been made. In 1975, I was not a Bishop. I was not in that role. It was misleading of the BBC programme to apply my response to the RTE interview on a completely different situation to my role in the 1975 Inquiry.
Bill Lynn understood that his mission, above all, was to preserve the reputation of the church. The unspoken rule was clear: Never call the police. Not long after his promotion, Lynn and a colleague held a meeting with Rev. Michael McCarthy, who had been accused of sexually abusing boys, informing the priest of the fate that Cardinal Bevilacqua had approved: McCarthy would be reassigned to a “distant” parish “so that the profile can be as low as possible and not attract attention from the complainant.” Lynn dutifully filed his memo of the meeting in the Secret Archives, where it would sit for the next decade.
“It is my view that the ‘This World’ programme has set out to deliberately exaggerate and misrepresent my role in these events. The programme suggested that no response to their questions had been provided before the programme was completed, whereas in fact a comprehensive response had been provided to the programme six weeks in advance and only days after the ‘door-stepping’ interview with me in Limerick.
“All rise,” the court crier intones as the judge enters, and Lynn stands, flanked by his high-powered lawyers, whose hefty fees are being paid by the archdiocese. The implications of the trial are staggering for the church as a whole. In sheltering abusive priests, Lynn wasn’t some lone wolf with monstrous sexual appetites, as the church has taken to portraying priests who have molested children. According to two scathing grand-jury reports, protocols for protecting rapists in the clergy have been in place in Philadelphia for half a century, under the regimes of three different cardinals. Lynn was simply a company man, a faithful bureaucrat who did his job exceedingly well. His actions were encouraged by his superiors, who in turn received orders from their superiors – an unbroken chain of command stretching all the way to Rome. In bringing conspiracy charges against Lynn, the Philadelphia district attorney is making a bold statement: that the Catholic hierarchy’s failure to protect children from sexual abuse isn’t the fault of an inept medieval bureaucracy, but rather the deliberate and criminal work of a cold and calculating organization. In a very real sense, it’s not just Lynn who is on trial here. It’s the Catholic Church itself.
“I deeply regret that those with the authority and responsibility to deal appropriately with Brendan Smyth failed to do so, with tragic and painful consequences for those children he so cruelly abused. I also deeply regret that no guidelines from the State or the Church were available to guide the sincere and serious effort made to respond to the allegations made by the two boys interviewed in the Inquiry process. With many others who worked regularly with children in 1975, I regret that our understanding of the full impact of abuse on the lives of children as well as the pathology and on-going risk posed by a determined paedophile was so inadequate. It is important to acknowledge that today both the Church and the State have proper and robust procedures in place to respond to allegations of abuse against children. I fully support these new procedures which include the obligation to report such allegations promptly to the civil authorities. I have worked with others in the Church to put these new procedures in place and I look forward to continuing that vital work in the years ahead.”
Battered by civil suits and bad press, the church has responded with a head-spinning mix of contrition and deflection, blaming anti-Catholic bias and the church’s enemies for paying undue attention to the crisis. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops helped fund a $1.8 million study of sex-abuse cases against priests, but the results read like a mirthless joke: To lower the number of clergy classified as “pedophiles,” the report redefines “puberty” as beginning at age 10 – and then partially blames the rise in child molesting on the counterculture of the 1960s. The church also insists that any sex crimes by priests are a thing of the past. “The abuse crisis,” the study’s lead author concluded, “is over.”
That echoed statements by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, who went on 60 Minutes declaring the scandal “nothing less than hideous” and then, with a sweep of his hand, announced, “That’s over with!” Dolan, in turn, sounded a lot like Bishop Wilton Gregory, the former president of the USCCB, who framed the lie more eloquently: “The terrible history recorded here is history.” That was in 2004, seven years ago.
I’m shocked, shocked to find that child molestation is going on in here!