Monsignor Lynn may be off the hook for child endangerment, but that doesn't absolve him of moral culpability
As Catholics, we hold our Church fathers to a higher standard.
Monsignor William Lynn may be released today from a Pennsylvania prison where he has been serving a sentence for child endangerment. The release follows the unanimous overturning of his conviction.
Lynn, 62, was sentenced to three to six years in prison for the conviction.
However, a three-judge Superior Court panel has overturned his conviction saying that under the law, he could not be held responsible for what happened to the abused children.
The judges are right, therefore Monsignor Lynn will be released, possibly as early as today.
Thomas Bergstrom, Lynn's attorney, told the media following the ruling, "He's been in prison 18 months for a crime he didn't commit and couldn't commit under the law. It's incredible what happened to this man."
But is it really?
When Monsignor Lynn served as Secretary of the Clergy from 1992 to 2004, he knowingly reassigned pedophile priests to several different parishes in Philadelphia. He did the wrong thing and children paid the price. Although Lynn may not be legally culpable for what happened, he is certainly morally responsible. As faithful Catholics, we must hold our Church fathers to a higher standard of morality because the trust we have in them is virtually absolute and they are responsible for the most important aspect of our lives, which is our spiritual well-being. We trust these men with our children and our souls.
Abuse, cover-ups, and serious lapses in ethical judgment among Church fathers are matters of tremendous importance to the faithful. Just because Lynn has found a way forward in his criminal case does not mean he is free from moral culpability for his poor decisions.
Of course, we are called to forgive, and most of us will, especially since the courts are correct. Monsignor Lynn did not himself abuse children and since he was not in direct supervision of children, he cannot be accused of endangering them. Nevertheless, we also have common sense and we know that his decisions created dangerous environments.
We hope that Monsignor Lynn will appreciate his freedom and use it to make apology and amends for his choices which harmed so many children. We hope he will seek reconciliation with God. These things may provide little or no comfort to the victims of pedophile priests, but at least it's a move in a moral direction.
Since this case went to trial, the diocese has implemented new guidelines for the Church with regards to reports of child endangerment. Also, Pope Francis has ordered that such cases be brought to the authorities as quickly as possible when they arise. Further reforms are in the works as Pope Francis takes this matter quite seriously.
Monsignor Lynn's case was the first of a Church leader which resulted in a conviction, although it has been overturned on appeal. Let's pray it is also the last.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lord’s invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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