As Monsignor William Lynn awaits a Common Pleas Court judge’s decision on whether he will get out of jail and spend some time as a free man at home until he is sentenced in August for his role in the clergy sexual-abuse fiasco, he should thank his lucky stars, and The Man Upstairs, that he was allowed to get away with his sins as long as he did. They were the sins of omission and ignorance.Upon his conviction Friday of one count of endangering children, Lynn officially became an enabler in the clergy abuse scandal. Although he has not been accused of engaging in sexual activity with children, he earned a tremendous amount of blame, for he allowed perverted priests to remain in the presence of children. He is the first official of the nation’s Roman Catholic Church to be convicted in a sex-abuse case, and there should be hell to pay for that.Lynn faces a maximum of seven years in prison when he is sentenced on Aug. 13, but he likely will get much, much less, and that, itself, is a sin. Judge M. Teresa Sarmina hopefully will throw the book at him, and if there is justice, District Attorney Seth Williams will retry Lynn’s co-defendant, the Rev. James Brennan, who was the beneficiary of a jury that was deadlocked on charges of attempted rape and child endangerment.The conspiracy of silence from high-ranking officials in the church is as debilitating as the disgusting, sick acts that Penn State’s former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of the same day. Let all Catholics and non-Catholics be on notice: The days of see no evil, hear no evil, report no evil are over. If you have a heart and/or a soul and you see or know of a child getting sexually abused, you MUST report the evil act to the police. ••Send letters to the editor to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Two verdicts, a single messageAs I See ItBy Marci A. HamiltonOn Friday, June 22, 2012, two systems collided: the good old-fashioned American justice system and the till-now unaccountable Roman Catholic diocesan system of mishandling child sex abuse by priests. It was the first time that a member of the Catholic hierarchy has been held responsible by the criminal justice system for the abuse of children. The system spans the globe, and the pattern of the cover-up is persistent across dioceses. So this lone conviction matters in all states and even all countries with western-style justice.The Northeast was at the epicenter of the historic trial of Monsignor William Lynn of the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Defrocked priest Edward Avery pleaded guilty to sexual assault of a child and conspiracy to endanger children immediately before the trial; Lynn was convicted of endangering the welfare of a child in the context of Avery’s crimes. The Archdiocese knew that Avery had abused boys before, but still placed him at Nazareth Hospital as a chaplain, which meant he lived at the rectory at St. Jerome’s parish. There, he had access to the victim who testified against Lynn at trial.On the same date, Penn State football defensive coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 out of 48 criminal charges for sexually abusing boys, which he snared through his charity Second Mile, and whom he seduced with the wonders of the Penn State football universe. These two convictions on the very same date turned a single-note message into a chorus: If you want to protect children, wake up!All of the adults in these scenarios bear some responsibility for the devastation of these children’s lives. The sexual predators deserve blame, to be sure, but they cannot operate to reach so many children without other adults assisting them. It is sheer naivete or persistent self-delusion to try to lay the blame for these systems of abuse solely or even primarily at the feet of the compulsive pedophiles.Their employers are responsible for the children in their respective universes. In both the Penn State and the Philadelphia Archdiocese contexts, children are expressly invited. In the Archdiocese, they attend parochial schools like St. Jerome’s, participate in CYO, serve as altar servers, and attend Mass. At Penn State, they attended summer football camps and worked out and showered in Penn State facilities. The Philadelphia Archdiocese created the danger for children by plunking known predator Avery smack dab in the middle of one of its arenas where children were expressly invited. Penn State created the danger by giving Sandusky free rein even after he had retired, following the 1998 investigation into charges of sexual abuse, and by not reporting other reports of abuse to the authorities. Both institutions made choices that endangered children. The parents are responsible for vigilance with their children, but until recently few knew that patterns of abuse existed, that children often don’t tell, and that the men in power they idolized could subjugate the welfare of children to the institution’s reputation. Many now suffer the hell of understanding what was done to their children. All parents in the future must understand that they have a responsibility of hyper vigilance for their children, because pedophiles are masters of manipulation and work tirelessly to obtain parents’ trust so that they can get their children alone to abuse. One important lesson all parents must learn from these verdicts is that just because an institution invites children does not mean that institution is taking full responsibility for their protection. Universities everywhere host summer sports camps for childen, but have questionable or no policies for their protection. Penn State is not alone in this scandal. The Citadel is facing similar summer camp issues.The other adults who bear responsibility are our elected representatives. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office stepped up first when D.A. Lynne Abraham convened the first grand jury to investigate the archdiocese’s policies a decade ago. Seth Williams has kept the focus on child safety and welfare with the Lynn trial.Pennsylvania’s legislators are also ultimately responsible for the welfare of children because they pass the laws that create the system of justice. They know full well that the existing statutes of limitations for child sex abuse — until recently — shut out the vast majority of victims. In the Lynn trial, only two victims were within the statute. Evidence regarding 22 others, whose claims fell outside the statute, was permitted, because it was relevant to the conspiracy charge, but criminal charges cannot be filed in any of those 22 cases. Right now, a victim has until age 50 to file criminal charges, and until age 30 for a civil claim.What is needed, though, is a window that would permit the thousands, likely millions, of expired civil claims in Pennsylvania to find their way into court. Expired criminal charges cannot be revived under the federal Constitution, but expired civil claims can be revived and the only way we can catch up on the injustices the system visited on victims is through a window. The Catholic Conference, the lobbyist for Pennsylvania’s bishops, is expending parishioners’ donations on fighting child sex abuse victims in Harrisburg. Rep. Ron Marsico tried to block all statute of limitation reform for their benefit, but felt the heat enough to report out of his House Judiciary Committee a bill that would eliminate the criminal statue of limitations, and extend the civil statue to age 50. Those are great developments, but they leave the vast majority of existing victims in Pennsylvania with no legal recourse. As we learned last Friday, the justice system is the best, and often the only, route to child protection.Marci Hamilton is a resident of Bucks County; a law professor at Cardozo School of Law; and a lawyer for victims of child sex abuse.
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