Philadelphia abuse trial has taken toll on very Catholic city
Monsignor William Lynn is the highest-ranking cleric accused of imperiling children by helping cover up sexual abuse.
June 22nd, 2012
03:18 PM ET

Philadelphia abuse trial has taken toll on very Catholic city

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - A Philadelphia sex abuse trial in which a jury reached a mixed verdict on a church higher-up accused of protecting sexually abusive priests was closely watched for its national implications.

Monsignor William Lynn was convicted of one count of child endangerment on Friday, and victims groups hope that conviction will pave the way for prosecutors across the country to go after church officials - and not just accused priests - in confronting sex abuse.

The three-month trial's more immediate effect, though, is the especially acute toll it has taken in Philadelphia, historically one of the nation’s most Catholic cities.

“The Philadelphia Catholic culture holds the priests in great esteem, and this has really destroyed that pristine image of the Philadelphia Catholic priest,” says Jim Martin, a Jesuit priest who was born and raised in Philadelphia.

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Since a grand jury report last year accused dozens of Philadelphia priests of sex abuse, more than two dozen priests have been placed on leave, and a new archbishop has been installed to help turnaround the scandal-plagued archdiocese.

The trial marked the first time that U.S. prosecutors charged not just priests who allegedly committed abuses but also church leaders for failing to stop them.

“The grand jury report here and its fallout signaled the biggest change in Philadelphia Catholicism in 200 years,” said Rocco Palmo, an influential Catholic blogger who’s based in Philadelphia. “There have been decades of malaise and frustration here, but the grand jury report sparked a wholesale call for change.”

At the same time, Palmo - whose blog often breaks news about the Vatican - said that Friday’s partial verdict presents an opportunity for Catholic Philadelphia to move on.

“There’s been a lot of trial fatigue and people are numb after hearing shocking thing after shocking thing for 16 months,” Palmo said. “This is the beginning of turning the corner, of moving on from what has been a cycle of pain.”

While the jury found Lynn guilty on one charge, it was unable to reach a verdict against his co-defendant, the Rev. James Brennan, who was charged with the attempted rape of a 14-year-old altar boy and endangering the welfare of a child.

With nearly 1.5 million members, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is one of the largest in the nation.

Priests, particularly those in high-ranking positions, have an exceptional amount of power within the Catholic Church, especially in Philadelphia because of the church's deep roots in the community.

“Even non-Catholics and even Jews here identify themselves in terms of what parish they grew up in,” Palmo said. “Turning Philadelphia around is going to be an indication of the degree to which the church can move on from the sex abuse crisis and rebuild from the ashes.”

On Thursday, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput announced he's shedding 45 diocesan jobs and pulling the plug on the archdiocesan newspaper in the face of a budget deficit that exceeds $17 million this year.

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“The extraordinary legal and professional costs of the past 16 months, while burdensome, played little role in the current budget decisions, according to the Archbishop,” the archdiocese said in a statement.

“The financial and organizational difficulties facing the Archdiocese are structural and have been building for many years. They can no longer be sustained.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pennsylvania

soundoff (202 Responses)
  1. morris2196

    The article says that this is the first time that U.S. prosecutors charged not just priests who allegedly committed abuses but also church leaders for failing to stop them. The big question is whether prosecutors in other cities will follow. I’ll bet there are a lot of nervous people in the RCC tonight.

    July 4, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
  2. Andy

    This is not about religion, it's about protecting children.
    Penn State officials are properly being held to a standard that requires reporting abuse. Should the catholic church be held to a lesser standard?
    This prosecution and conviction is long over due in the continuing sage of the churches obstructions of justice.
    Clergy are citizens too.


    July 1, 2012 at 7:51 am |
  3. kindness

    For you.
    My personal testamony
    I Follow Christ . I never wanted proof. I just had faith.

    HE WHO follows Me, walks not in darkness,” says the Lord (John 8:12). By these words
    of Christ we are advised to imitate His life and habits, if we wish to be truly enlightened and
    free from all blindness of heart. Let our chief effort, therefore, be to study the life of Jesus
    The teaching of Christ is more excellent than all the advice of the saints, and he who
    has His spirit will find in it a hidden manna. Now, there are many who hear the Gospel often
    but care little for it because they have not the spirit of Christ. Yet whoever wishes to understand
    fully the words of Christ must try to pattern his whole life on that of Christ.

    What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you
    displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous
    life makes him pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it.
    For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the
    philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity,
    except to love God and serve Him alone.

    This is the greatest wisdom—to seek the kingdom of heaven through contempt of the
    world. It is vanity, therefore, to seek and trust in riches that perish. It is vanity also to court
    honor and to be puffed up with pride. It is vanity to follow the lusts of the body and to desire
    things for which severe punishment later must come. It is vanity to wish for long life and
    to care little about a well-spent life. It is vanity to be concerned with the present only and
    not to make provision for things to come. It is vanity to love what passes quickly and not
    to look ahead where eternal joy abides.
    Often recall the proverb: “The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear filled with
    hearing.”1 Try, moreover, to turn your heart from the love of things visible and bring
    yourself to things invisible. For they who follow their own evil passions stain their consciences
    and lose the grace of God.

    See for yourself.

    June 26, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Brian, Detroit, MI

      Your Christ was just a cult-leader with good press. The Romans needed a false messiah to be the focus of the new testament THAT THEY WROTE to fool simple people like you. After weeks of debate, they settled on Jesus. They chose from hundreds of others claiming to be the son of god. THIS IS HISTORY, THIS IS WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. There is no heaven, there is no hell and no matter how much you believe, these are the facts. You can't disprove evolution with the Loch Ness Monster, evolution is what actually happened, we have the proof, we have the fossils to prove that humans evolved from lesser beings. Just because you had religion forced on you as a child does not make it right. It only means that your parents were just as simple as you are. But I don't hate you, I pity you.

      July 1, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  4. Bill Deacon

    Laying aside the wolf in sheep's clothing argument (certainly a viable one), my research indicates 11,000 cases of child abuse credibly charged against the Catholic church since 1950. 290,000 cases charged against U.S. public school districts since 1993. Not to minimize the horrific crimes committed, how does any one account for the vicious hatred against the Church which was also victimized by these criminals. What about the reported 20% child abuse rates reported in Hasidic communities? The only plausible explanation for the outsized outcry is a predisposition towards hatred of the Church.

    June 25, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      I've asked myself this same question. All I can conclude is, yes, there is a predisposition of hatred toward the Catholic church. You can see this in books like The Da Vinci Code in which huge, extremely important aspects of Catholic history, scripture, and theology were simply ignored by the author. I used to think much of anti-catholic bias was coming from the people merely on the outside looking in. General ignorance of Catholicism is so prevalent that people are trying look in not through the windows, but from a different planet entirely.

      June 25, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • chief

      priests have been protected for years, accomplices to the peds like yourself using redirection makes you just as bad..... the school system have their problems... they dont say they are of God or claimed a vocation to God.... priest did..... when school cases come out, people end up in jail.... priests dont .... the guilty jews fall under the same wrath as the catholic church.... however their higher ranking people are the ones wanting to clean it up and expose it.... not the cactholic church

      June 26, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Angrymute

      Link some data to support your numbers, otherwise they're just made up. These offenses didn't just happen in the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church protected the pedophiles and allowed them to continue abusing children. If you have evidence that the public school system did that, then post it. Otherwise, there's your answer right there.

      July 9, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  5. Praying is not healthy for a sound mind

    It is nice to see the Catholic Church get weaker

    June 25, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      the Catholic church has often grown weaker though history. It has always been purified, outlived its enemies, and then buried them. Enjoy the current moment while you can.

      June 25, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • sam stone

      "Enjoy the current moment while you can."


      June 25, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • chief

      re cath engineer.... just another typocial ego centric holier than thou all knowing catholic with ears to hear what they should believe and a brain to defend something thats blasphemy

      June 26, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • SoldierOfConscience

      Amen, Engineer. When impure gold is put into a flame, what comes out is pure gold.

      July 9, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  6. catholic engineer

    It's an odd twist. These pedo trials are going on in civil courts. In a sense, the courts are using a system of law established by the Catholic church. The first systematic body of law in Western civilization was developed by the Catholic church, complete with courts, lawyers, and judges. It began to be established in the thirteenth century. THis system was known as canon law. As the western nations began to emerge, they needed a legal system. For their models they used the legal system already in place – the Canon Law system of the Roman Catholic Church.

    June 25, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • chief

      your about as pathetic with your comments as gerald the priest

      June 26, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  7. PrimeNumber

    The Philadelphia Catholic Diocese. Penn State. What's up with Pennsylvania?

    June 25, 2012 at 9:50 am |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer really changes things.

    June 24, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • The Bird Is The Word

      Forgive me for not taking your word for it. I'd prefer the GodFax.

      June 24, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • truth be told

      The Holy Bible is there as your needed "fax"

      June 25, 2012 at 4:35 am |
    • sam stone

      The "Holy Bible" does not qualify as fax, or facts. Thanks for playing.

      June 25, 2012 at 6:06 am |
    • The Bird Is The Word

      @Sam Stone: YOU are thanking someone for responding to MY post?!? Write your own posts. There are enough ticks around here as it is. What's wrong with you, bub? No, forget I asked. I'd jsust as soon not have to pluck you from my hide again.

      June 25, 2012 at 7:49 am |
    • The Bird Is The Word

      @So-called "Truth" Be Told: I prefer a fax from a reputable firm. Is you god a member of the BBB? I thought not.

      June 25, 2012 at 7:50 am |
    • sam stone

      Fair enough, Birdy. Go fvck yourself

      June 25, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • Praying is not healthy for a sound mind

      truth be told

      The Holy Bible is there as your needed "fax"


      Now that is funny...a fax from man claiming it is from God. lol Man you are as dumb as you sound.

      June 25, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      June 28, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  9. howart Dao

    Don't worry, Mr. D'Evil take cares of his owns 🙂

    June 23, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
  10. AGuest9

    It's time for these "very catholic" cities (and, for sure, the rest of the country) to open their eyes.

    June 23, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Jesus warned us (Matthew 23:1-39) about who sat in the lead roles in the churches, synagogues, any/all false religions in the world ... and specifically told us to read and study His truth (the Bible) so that we can sharpen our knowledge with those that profess to know him whether they are teaching His truth or the lies of man. Now everyone is wondering what happened to the world ... because they got conditioned to being lazy not to hear what they need but, listen to man made lies of what they want. Big difference of hearing what is needed versus what you want.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • JWT

      Religion is not a need.

      June 24, 2012 at 6:42 am |
    • john the guy not the baptist

      Paul Simon got it right "A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest". In your case you know every fire and brimstone/eternal damnation verse in your silly book and dsiregard the love thy neighbour, forgive those that trespass, etc. A true christian you certainly are NOT.

      June 24, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Goat's rectum.

      June 25, 2012 at 9:21 am |
  11. Reality

    Only for new members of this blog:

    The "vomit-inducing" ped-ophilia and coverup will simply hasten the decline of all religions as they finally go extinct from their own absurdity.. It is time to replace all religions with a few rules like "Do No Harm" and convert all houses of "worthless worship" to recreation facilities and parks.

    June 22, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • mickey1313

      Humans, in general, wish to be lead, wish for there to be something to look forward to upon death, so i don't think, unfortunately, that theism is going anywhere

      June 23, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Kebos

      Absence of religion is ok with me.

      June 23, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Reality

      "If ex-Catholics were counted as their own religious group, they would be the third-largest denomination in the United States, after Catholics and Baptists, according to the National Catholic Reporter."

      June 24, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • Casual Observer


      July 1, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  12. sam stone

    "Ho, ho, ho......if it isn't fat, stinking Billy Boy Billy Goat in poison? How art thou, thou globby bottle of cheap, stinking chip oil? Come take one in the yarbles, if you got any yarbles, ya eunuch jelly thou." – Alex DeLarge

    June 22, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
    • Father Alex

      I'm singing in the rain
      Just singing in the rain

      June 23, 2012 at 3:26 am |
    • sam stone

      Oh bliss! Bliss and heaven! Oh, it was gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh. It was like a bird of rarest-spun heaven metal or like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship, gravity all nonsense now. As I slooshied, I knew such lovely pictures!

      June 23, 2012 at 7:30 am |
  13. Bootyfunk

    would anyone on earth leave their child alone with a man wearing a white collar?

    June 22, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • truth be told

      or you for that matter

      June 23, 2012 at 6:19 am |
    • truth be told

      i love to touch children. my priest said it's okay.

      June 23, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  14. Voice of Reason

    Is Sandusky a catholic?

    June 22, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • Jimmy G.

      I would bet that he is, yes.

      June 23, 2012 at 3:39 am |
    • AGuest9

      Ironically, yes.

      June 23, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Be

      actually he is Methodist

      June 23, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Well without Catholics there would be no Methodists so essentially this is still the Pope's fault. Isn't that logical?

      June 25, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  15. floyd

    its getting old people..first it was hippie's then aids then the gays got the blame now its pedos what next???? make up my mind its getting dam old..it keeps going on and on and on...now it will be cow's who knows.

    June 22, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
  16. prophet

    Injection Wells: The Poison Beneath Us

    by Abrahm Lustgarten ProPublica, June 21, 2012, 9:20 a.m.

    Over the past several decades, U.S. industries have injected more than 30 trillion gallons of toxic liquid deep into the earth, using broad expanses of the nation's geology as an invisible dumping ground.

    No company would be allowed to pour such dangerous chemicals into the rivers or onto the soil. But until recently, scientists and environmental officials have assumed that deep layers of rock beneath the earth would safely entomb the waste for millennia.

    There are growing signs they were mistaken.

    Records from disparate corners of the United States show that wells drilled to bury this waste deep beneath the ground have repeatedly leaked, sending dangerous chemicals and waste gurgling to the surface or, on occasion, seeping into shallow aquifers that store a significant portion of the nation's drinking water.

    In 2010, contaminants from such a well bubbled up in a west Los Angeles dog park. Within the past three years, similar fountains of oil and gas drilling waste have appeared in Oklahoma and Louisiana. In South Florida, 20 of the nation's most stringently regulated disposal wells failed in the early 1990s, releasing partly treated sewage into aquifers that may one day be needed to supply Miami's drinking water.

    There are more than 680,000 underground waste and injection wells nationwide, more than 150,000 of which shoot industrial fluids thousands of feet below the surface. Scientists and federal regulators acknowledge they do not know how many of the sites are leaking.

    Federal officials and many geologists insist that the risks posed by all this dumping are minimal. Accidents are uncommon, they say, and groundwater reserves 2014 from which most Americans get their drinking water 2014 remain safe and far exceed any plausible threat posed by injecting toxic chemicals into the ground.

    But in interviews, several key experts acknowledged that the idea that injection is safe rests on science that has not kept pace with reality, and on oversight that doesn't always work.

    "In 10 to 100 years we are going to find out that most of our groundwater is polluted," said Mario Salazar, an engineer who worked for 25 years as a technical expert with the EPA's underground injection program in Washington. "A lot of people are going to get sick, and a lot of people may die."

    June 22, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • Rifnaldy

      Ohh you've given me lots of books to check out!I have some of these books but i haven't had time to read them yet.I desperate to read Saving June after so many ravnig reviews. great post and list!- abbeys bookshelf

      July 30, 2012 at 1:51 am |
  17. Lauren Youngs

    I trusted the Catholic Church 60 years...no more. Over time it is just too much betrayal..it is so sad

    June 22, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • wrong side of the bed

      Welcome to the real world, my friend.

      June 22, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • Topher

      Hi, Lauren. Plenty of room on the Protestant side. 🙂

      June 24, 2012 at 1:33 am |
    • derp

      We atheists will welcome you with open minds, and open arms.

      June 25, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Because no atheist or Protestants are pedophiles?

      June 25, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  18. Fredrick Lickalot

    The next step will be even bigger and better: an international order to capture, arrest, trial, and sentence the leader of this band: Joseph Ratzinger, i.e. Pope Benedict XVI.

    June 22, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Perhaps some war crimes charges, as well?

      June 23, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    June 22, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • squints

      prayer=how to do nothing and still think you're doing something.

      June 22, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • wrong side of the bed

      and it works a lot better if you pray into a hair-brush.Really!!

      June 22, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • John Baker

      Prayer is having a conversation with yourself. If that changes you in a positive way, I guess that's a good thing. Otherwise you're deluding yourself.

      June 22, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • mickey1313

      yes it does, just ask the alter boys that were molested, Im sure that god gave them what, they deserved, you f-ing twit.

      June 22, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • God

      I have a plan. Please stop f-cking it up with your prayers.

      June 23, 2012 at 1:47 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things

      June 23, 2012 at 5:29 am |
  20. Jessica

    Sadly this just makes me turn even further away from organized religion.....May god have mercy on thier souls.

    June 22, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • sam stone

      Why does turning away from organized religion make you sad?

      June 25, 2012 at 6:07 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.