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. Brainwashing is not healthy for children and other living things

    I'm glad I don't have the freedom to think for myself.

    June 22, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  2. ozzie

    The Archdiocesan statement says that the Archdiocese is on a journey of reform and renewal. They are still in denial, loaded with arrogance. You all need to repent – publicly, visibly, and over a period of time. Our Catholic moral leaders are a disgrace. They have fallen from grace. Archbishop Chaput, in a spirit of religious freedom and pro-life, must name all Church leaders involved in the perpetuation and cover up of this scandal, which destoyed so many people and devoured so many families. I can't imagine how Bishop Cistone, Bishop Cullen, Archbishop Rigali, and so many Philadelphia Bishops and Church leaders can sleep tonight. Yes, Bill Lynn is guilty. However, there is blood all over the hands and lives of so many others. Like all of us sinners, you people need to repent for your lies, disgust, and outrageous sins.

    June 22, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Thezel

      ..so do all athletic coaches... Sandusky is just one sample of all of them. Their all pedophiles.. yeah right.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      They are wolves in sheep's clothing belonging to your camp.

      June 22, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • HeavenSent 2.0

      Be ware the wool – a – ves, in cheaps clothing.

      June 23, 2012 at 1:59 am |
    • Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

      HS 2.0
      There not wool-a-ves. They're woolufs. Please.

      June 23, 2012 at 2:06 am |
  3. Jerry Sandusky

    Looks like I got into the wrong business! If I were a priest not only would I not face punishment but docile sheep would continue to bring me young boys.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  4. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    June 22, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Let them all go. Religion/religious people can do no harm. I'm brainwashed.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • scientiificpoetry


      June 22, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things

      June 22, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  5. Tim Tebow

    I wish I went to these churches when I was little. Oh well, I can still shower with the new team!

    June 22, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Thezel

      he should have gone to Penn State. Would have gotten plenty in the shower there

      June 22, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      ... as the phallic worshipers reveal their true self.

      June 22, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  6. Ralph

    The clergy was not always celibate. Inform yourselves on Church History. Celibacy came about due to too much Church Land was being given away to biological off springs. Don't know exactly, but I believe it was about 1200 years ago. There have been Popes that were the sons of Popes. It doesn't hurt to be informed, it may even help you make intelligent decisions.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  7. Taco Sommelier

    Why do people keep going to church?

    June 22, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  8. Edward


    June 22, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  9. Claudio

    I simply cannot generalize all Catholics are criminals.
    I am Catholic, my mom is, as all of my family. We have bad seeds within. YES!
    You cannot simply attack the RELIGION because of mistakes made by someone.
    If you do, no religion is good. Judaism, Islamic, Buddhism, etc... All have bad seeds.
    Myself, I condemn this priest's (and many more) actions. But are they alone???
    At the end of the day, I can only say: I BELIEVE IN GOD!

    June 22, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Delusions 3:15

      One attcks religion because it's religion.
      The question is : "why do you tell yourself there is a god" ?

      June 22, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • DaveX

      Alas...crazy people can justify anything. And, I'm sorry you need to believe in fantasy and magic. Let me know when you telepathically ask your sky angels for favors...and they respond. That would be NEAT!

      June 22, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Marty

      I agree, and I believe in God also, anyone who doesn't is lost!

      June 22, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      Why would a 'god' permit such horrors to be conducted in its name...?
      Perhaps a bit more soul-searching is in order.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • James

      Claudio, what people are upset with is the completely irresponsible way the Catholic handles the pedophiles. When there is an accusation molestation the responsible thing to do is call the police and investigate it. Instead of doing that they try and hide it and rather then sending the offender to jail where they should be they counsel the offender and often place them in another position where they usually offend again. The Catholic leadership from the Pope on down have to answer to God like everyone else and I think they are all in serious trouble. Also, ask yourself; Do I worship God or do I worship the Catholic Church. There's a MASSIVE difference. I think many do the latter.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Not all Catholics are criminals. That can be said with any belief/disbelief though.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Claudio, Jesus specifically warned us about men who refuse to teach His truth and instead, teach the lies of man. Read Matthew 23:1-39 to see that Jesus knew man would do this. This goes for the atheists too, the phonies that teach you to be obnoxious are teaching their lies instead of Jesus' truth. None of these false teachers or their students find their way to the narrow gate to enter heaven. Instead they are all on the wide path to destruction.

      June 23, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  10. Jet

    Burn in Hell!

    June 22, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  11. Aristocles

    From what I understand, this is a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania, and it isn't a huge day of reckoning for the church or even that horrible a punishment.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  12. PhillipP

    Most satanic devilish organization in the world is the Catholic Church. Stealing and selling babies and raping little boys is OK but they are against birth control.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  13. DaveInPA

    Boo hoo. There's no excuse for what these people and this church did. Disgraceful on every level.

    June 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  14. MOJO

    The Catholic faith is EVIL on every level!

    June 22, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • OhioMom2

      Former Catholic here, born and brainwashed.


      June 22, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Dennis

      You should know. Your ancestors, the scribes infiltrated it years ago.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  15. The Master

    F*&K Philly I grew up there and I HATE the f*%king low lifes there! That sh-ity can burn to the ground! Make the world a better place! Oh and F&%K the church as well. and F&%K if you don't like me saying that!

    June 22, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  16. DaveX

    Simply being catholic = guilty in my book. A criminal org with only their own interests at heart. I feel sorry for those people who are so afraid of not knowing all the answers they embrace a life of fantasy and call it faith. Seek help. Your fear of the unknown does not justify your support and assistance to child abusers.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Dennis

      What you are saying is scrap the Bible (God's word) and usher in the talmud, (Satan's words). It's true, you are the children of Satan's.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Aristocles

      You are a bigot, you know that.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • DaveX

      @Dennis => Dennis, you are quite clearly insane. There is no god and certianly no devil. Also, someone who is Jewish does not worship the devil...they are just also need the help and confidence to live in the real world.

      Goodness, is your ego so large you think there are both good and evil all-poweful space beings fighting over you? Priceless!

      June 22, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • WDinDallas

      If that is true...then hide, we are coming after all of you!

      June 22, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Robert

      Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

      Revelation 3:9

      June 22, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
  17. carol

    Dear Blaise, Perhaps you should know that a church is a body of people gathering together to offer praise and prayer to God. Without the people, there is no church regardless of your religious affiliation. The people is what the church is all about. Whenever it ceases to remember this it becomes useless.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  18. Yvelyn Martin

    I am also a Philadelphia catholic, but can no longer stomach sitting in church listening to the sermons coming from priests telling me how to live my life, all the while wondering whether the priest in the pulpit ever did anything against a child. It is disgusting, heart-wrenching. I don't think the people have become "numb" from the daily stories on this trial. My only hope is that the prosecutors will go after the other church officials who were mentioned during the trial who are currently in ministry in other parts of the county. Not Guilty does not mean innocent.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • carol

      You speak the truth to power. Kudos!

      June 22, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Kae

      Yvelyn, you can join the agnostics and atheists that worship the devil. You sound just a dumb.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Kae: Agnostics is a statement of knowledge. As for Atheists worshiping the devil...sorry ole'delusional one but in order for that to happen we'd have to believe in your imaginary friends arch nemesis. You're lack of intelligence shows through by your lack of knowledge on us and agnostics. Time to go back to your sand box little girl, it's where all the other children talking to their imaginary friends are...the adults are talking.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Dennis

      She's right. You atheists worship Satan.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      How can an atheist worship something he doesn't believe exists?

      June 22, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Robert

      Buddy, haven't you ever read the bible. Jesus said,

      Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

      Revelation 3:9

      June 22, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
  19. Reality

    I am a former member of said Archdiocese. The pedophilia and cover-ups were the final nails in the RCC coffin. The following encompasses the thinking of those of us who no longer believe.

    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 3:29 pm |
    • Blaise

      If your belief set is predicated on the perfection and sinlessness of human beings, then you are very weakminded person indeed. You should base your belief set on a rational evaluation of the tenets of a particular faith, not the anecdotal shortcomings of some of its members. We don't need you.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Kae

      Atheists, agnostics, whatever else they should be called, all worship the devil. That is why they hate Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. That's why they want Jesus wiped out of every building, every school, every court ... so they can usher in satan's rule.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • jenkoosh

      Blaise, there is no rational basis for belief in a "good" God in a world where such evil occurs. Kae, the men in white coats are coming for you soon.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • God Is Not the Church

      The entire Catholic church should have been charged under RICO (Racketeering In Corrupt Organizations) because the church as an organization abetted and covered up the criminal wide-spread abuse of children by it's priests. The church is a large corporation, just like Exxon, Bank of America, or many others. It is not immune or outside the laws of the country just because it is a religious organization. The church should be brought to account for its actions, but it won't because they are afraid they will offend God or not get into "heaven". Well anyone that refuses to protect the innocent or allow others to abuse the innocent will not get into "heaven".

      June 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Dennis

      Those guilty priests worship Satan, as do the agnostics, atheists, and all the new names for devil worshipers today.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Reality

      Summarizing the situation with today's RCC and Christianity in general. (Only for the new members of this blog)

      The Apostles' Creed 2012 (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
      ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      (References used are available upon request.)

      June 22, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Robert

      Who cares if these satan worshipers fall.

      Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

      Revelation 3:9

      June 22, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • Reality

      "Nineteenth-century agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll branded Revelation "the insanest of all books".[30] Thomas Jefferson omitted it along with most of the Biblical canon, from the Jefferson Bible, and wrote that at one time, he "considered it as merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams." [31]

      Martin Luther once "found it an offensive piece of work" and John Calvin "had grave doubts about its value."[32]

      June 22, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
  20. Kae

    Atheists worship satan.

    June 22, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "Atheists worship satan."

      Lying is a sin. Duh!

      June 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Peter

      @Kae you can't worship something you don't believe exists. 😉

      June 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • derp

      And Kae sucks mule wang.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Kae

      You are the liars, you satan certified blood suckers.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Kae

      Peter, you believe what derp wrote Satan gave birth to you. You are all liars.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • palintwit

      Sarah Palin worships fecal matter. Human or otherwise.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Kae

      Sarah worships the devil right next to you.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • whatsthedif

      Atheists worship NO ONE and NO THING. Obviously, you're hard core, probably Catholic.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Kae: Apparently you do not know what an Atheist is you moron! Hard to worship something that we don't believe exists. We're not weak minded and lazy like you...we don't need imaginary friends. Btw: that computer you're using was designed by an Atheist, as was the internet....run to your cave now...without us you'd be living there anyways.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Scuromondo

      Most thinking atheists I know do in fact look for "meaning" in life. In my opinion, whether you choose to call that meaning "God" or something else is up to you.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      Atheists don't worship something they don't believe in.
      Absolutely absurd...

      June 22, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Watch out Kae, the wolves are and will continue to surround with their babble baloney.

      June 22, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Robert

      ... Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

      Revelation 3:9

      June 22, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
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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.

June 2012