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. Jean Sartre

    Religion is the source of all evil on planet earth...

    June 22, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Dan

      I doubt Sartre would agree with such a reductive assessment

      June 22, 2012 at 9:05 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 10:26 pm |
    • Runny Softcheese

      I see Robert's hallucinogens have finally kicked in.

      June 22, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • sam stone

      Hallucinogens are not anywhere near as dangerous as what Robert is spewing

      June 22, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Not even marginally true

      June 25, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  2. the voice of reason

    "Maybe we know how to escape death & God is so happy for those that do.
    The safety net is RESURRECTION"

    If this was true, god would forgive everyone and everyone would be resurrected.


    June 22, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • prediction

      Believe, man is capable of good as well as evil. Trust only God and no go betweens.

      June 22, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Matthew 7:13-29 [Jesus speaking to potential Christians in His famous Sermon On The Mount]


      June 22, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  3. Suddenly everything is clear

    Philly is one of the nation's most Catholic cities, eh? That explains a lot.

    June 22, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What does it explain?

      June 22, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • Slurms McKenzie

      The pedophilia.

      June 22, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • Jean Sartre

      Yes, more Wackos in Philly than in any other city in the world!

      June 22, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Jesus told us about the wolves in sheep's clothing ...

      Matthew 7:13-29 [Jesus speaking to potential Christians in His famous Sermon On The Mount].

      Pay close attention # 29.


      June 22, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  4. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things,

    June 22, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • J James

      Not really.

      June 22, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Jean Sartre

      Indeed, it makes you psychotic...

      June 22, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Non-believers true to their destructive ways ... throwing in their insults because they know they have nothing to offer, stand for nothing, get blotted out. No eternity for them.

      June 22, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • sam stone

      HS is a farm animal mounting diseased imbecile. Amen

      June 22, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Sam makes HS' point quite clearly it seems

      June 25, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  5. Happy Days

    Nice verdict, great precident. Archdiocese of Philly, you're out. Penn State, you're up to bat!!!!! US Military, you're on deck!!!! Let's go for a three up, three down inning!!!!!

    June 22, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  6. bmfg

    Turn or burn hypocrites, turn or burn.

    June 22, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  7. Walter

    I'm fine with those who are turning away from the church. As long as instead of praying to a god to provide what they don't have, they don't "pray" to a nanny government to provide those same things.

    June 22, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  8. Patti

    To all the member of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the only way to stop the church from further abuse, is to stop supporting this corrupt organization.

    June 22, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • Robert

      Patti, haven't you read ...

      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 10:28 pm |

    It's really interesting that the people most fervently defending these perpetrators are the same group of people that was preyed upon. Someone they cared about EASILY could have been one of the victims, and yet they defend the guilty. Incredible.

    June 22, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Who are "they" you refer to?

      June 22, 2012 at 6:13 pm |

      Really? You really need help with that? You can't figure that out in an instant, like everybody else? Okay. By "they", I meant the Hindus. Not wait, maybe it's the Mormons. No, Catholic priests just don't have much access to Mormon children. Maybe it is Latvian Rabbit-Tamers. Armenian anchovy merchants? Very small squirrels?

      Gosh this is tough to figure out.

      June 22, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • Thezel

      By, They, I thought you meant Athletic coaches like Sandusky.

      June 22, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Matthew 7:13-29 [Jesus speaking to potential Christians in His famous Sermon On The Mount].

      Pay close attention to who slithered on their bellies in to the churches in # 29 (wolves in sheep's clothing).


      June 22, 2012 at 7:28 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 10:29 pm |

      Nurse Ratched! Robert and HeavenSent are way behind on their shock treatment again! Should I just take them to the lobotomy ward? Yes? Okay!

      June 22, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
  10. 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 6:01 pm |
    • A summary it's not

      1. Presenting the substance in a condensed form
      2. Performed speedily and without ceremony:

      June 22, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      realityNot, never types ... just cuts and pastes his nonsense.

      June 22, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      I forgot to tell you realityNot,

      Matthew 7:13-29 [Jesus speaking to potential Christians in His famous Sermon On The Mount].

      Told us to pay close attention to who slithered on their bellies in to the churches in # 29 (wolves in sheep's clothing).


      June 22, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Reality

      Summarily as in a

      "A Summary Judgment is a final decision in a civil action that does not involve lengthy presentations of evidence. It totally circu-mvents the need for trial because there is no genuine issue of fact concerning specified questions in the lawsuit that must be decided. In such an action, the party who believes that she is enti-tled to prevail as a Matter of Law makes a motion for summary judgment. In deciding such a motion, the court considers the entire record of the case and, if the evidence warrants it, can even grant a summary judgment to the party who did not ask for it. Summary judgment is governed in federal courts by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and in state courts by state codes of civil procedure."

      From Professor JD Crossan in his book, Who is Jesus.

      “My best historical reconstruction would be something like this. Jesus was arrested during the Passover festival, most likely in response to his action in the Temple. Those who were closest to him ran away for their own safety. I do not presume that there were any high-level confrontations between Caiaphas and Pilate and Herod Antipas either about Jesus or with Jesus. No doubt they would have agreed before the festival that fast action was to be taken against any disturbance and that a few examples by crucifixion might be especially useful at the outset. And I doubt very much if Jewish police or Roman soldiers needed to go too far up the chain of command in handling a Galilean peasant like Jesus. It is hard for us to imagine the casual brutality with which Jesus was probably taken and executed. All those "last week" details in our gospels, as distinct from the brute facts just mentioned, are prophecy turned into history, rather than history remembered."

      June 22, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
  11. som

    This is just another liberal government attack in the left wing war on religion. The government imposing its values on the church. Making them provide health benefits to non-church employees of church businesses. Making them stop molesting kids within their own religion. If the abusers were Muslims like Obama, they wouldn't be prosecuted.

    June 22, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Indyswimmer66

      You mean the "Liberal government attack" of prosecuting & convicting pedophile priests?

      June 22, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Jean Sartre

      Yeah, right!

      We haven't even turned our attention to the many convent's that have been torn down, where they are finding the skeletons of babies, born to the sisters', who are married to Jesus...

      Do you think the priests' just might have something to do with this... nah; they only like “little boys...”

      You explain it...

      June 22, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Those pedophile priests are from your camp Indyswimmer66, so of course they won't get prosecuted. Just a big show to continue on your vicious course of destroying Jesus Christ's truth.

      June 22, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
  12. bubbles

    Let them go. Religious people are by definition better than everyone else and therefore should not be held to the same standards.

    June 22, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Indyswimmer66

      You are joking, right?

      June 22, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Yes, we are the righteous ones. Not, unrighteous like you non-believing phallic worshiping campsters.

      June 22, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • sam stone

      HS: Still dreaming of doing the "Lewinski" maneuver on Jesus?

      June 25, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  13. Jerry Sandusky

    I should have been a priest. Religious people are truly gullible.

    June 22, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Slurms McKenzie

      You would have gotten away with it if your were a priest. In fact they would have protected you Jerry. Bad life choice.

      June 22, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Don't worry about a thing Jerry. Your camp of non-believers got your back.

      June 22, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  14. Tim the Enchanter

    Hard to know what is worst – 5% of the Catholic priesthood molested children for decades, if not centuries, that the rest of the clergy actively conspired to cover it up, effectively allowing it to continue hidden from the eyes of the law, or that millions upon millions of Catholics support their church's handling of the matter and think the problem is everyone else.

    June 22, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Tim, did you ever hear of "wolves in sheep's clothing". These priests aren't Christians, but, crept in without notice.

      June 22, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Tim do you know the ratio of child abuse in other organizations? How about in the U.S. population in general? While the moving of priest to different parishes is troubling to us today, try to realize that the Bishops were acting with the best information they had at the time. Today we know more about pedophilia than we did when many of these priests were relocated. Above all, these crimes are devastating to the lives of the victims and a horrible moment in Church history but I have yet to see any one compare the statistics between other populations and the priesthood. It might lend some perspective on the issue.

      June 25, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  15. The Corrector

    Abuse is disgusting.
    All abuse is disgusting.
    Justice brings justice to the victims.
    Agree where the abuse is coming from.
    Agree with me on something very important;
    I have already rapped the Devil's knuckles more than once.
    He's expecting a very serious kick in the butt.

    June 22, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Molestation is not healthy for children and other living things

      You are a disgrace to humanity. Your opinions are dangerously stupid.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      These priests aren't Christians but wolves in sheep's clothing.

      June 22, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  16. Molestation is not healthy for children and other living things

    Mormon people wear "magic underwear" to get into heaven.

    June 22, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • It's karma

      So you lose. Not surprising. Take some marshmallows with you when it's your time. There'll be plenty of heat "down there".

      June 22, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  17. Linda Carrillo

    The Catholic Church should finish its mission of going after the abusive and perverted priests who have victimized thousands of children worldwide. Furthermore, the Church should stay away from dictating policy to our government about women's health coverage. The Church needs to go the distance and resolve their own problems before they continue to create problems for others.

    June 22, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Linda, the fox is guarding the hen house and you want the fox to kill other fox? What planet did you beam in from?

      June 22, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  18. Alien Orifice

    God's plan" is the way that Christians traditionally explain things like amputations, cancer, hurricanes and car accidents. For example, if a Christian dies a painful and tragic death because of cancer, she dies as part of God's plan. Her death has a purpose. God called her home for a reason. Even if something bad happens to a Christian, it is actually good because it is part of God's plan.

    You can see how pervasive "God's plan" is by looking in Christian inspirational literature. For example;
    Because God made you for a reason, he also decided when you would be born and how long you would live. He planned the days of your life in advance, choosing the exact time of your birth and death. The Bible says, "You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book!" [Psalm 139:16]

    There is also this:

    Regardless of the circ.u.mstances of your birth or who your parents are, God had a plan in creating you.

    Under this view of the universe, God plans everything.

    Take a moment and think about this, "He planned the days of your life in advance, choosing the exact time of your birth and death." Let's examine one simple implication of this statement. What this means is that God has pre-planned every abortion that has taken place on our planet.

    If the concept of "God's plan" is true, you can first of all see that God wants us to be aborting children. Every single abortion is planned by God, so God must be doing it for a reason. Second, you can see that both the mother who requests the abortion and the doctor who performs it are blameless. Since it is God who planned the abortion of the child (God chose the "exact time" of the death, the mother and doctor are simply puppets who are fulfilling God's plan, are they not? What about all the Christians who are fighting against abortion? If abortion is part of God's plan, why are they fighting it? God is the all-powerful ruler of the universe, and his plan is for more than a million children a year to die in the United States through abortion.

    If God's plan is true, then each one of those abortions was meticulously planned by God.

    June 22, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • SATCH

      Right on Allen!

      End Religion and Save the World, or ostly the rationl, thinking people on this planet.

      (Believe in a higher power, that's fine. No proof otherwise, though seems very unlikely).
      Besides, I don't need a church to tell me what is moral, right or wrong, not to kill. etc. It had it's place before science, but not in the past 50 years.

      ...Oh, BTW they lost $17 million this year. Wow, they could have used that for feeding hungry children instead of printing a newspaper, buying property (largest landholder in the U.S.). Gold artwork, etc

      "The plain fact is religion must die for mankind to live. The hour is getting very late t be able to indulge in having key decisions made by religious people – by irrationalists – by those who would steer the ship of state, not by a compass, but by the equivalent of reading the entrails of a chicken."

      June 22, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • The Corrector

      Maybe we know how to escape death & God is so happy for those that do.
      The safety net is RESURRECTION.
      Do you love this safety net?
      I do.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      It's satan's and his minions down on earth that lie and destroy.

      June 22, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • HeavenSent 2.0

      Verily I say unto thee, they who think they haveth an escape clause, and telleth verrily unto themselves that it mattereth not cuz they will get the boobie prize, (the resurrection), in reality haveth unto themselves verrily a non-compete clause.
      $50.00 yeaeth for thus thy legalistic opinionseth.

      June 23, 2012 at 1:56 am |
    • Miriam

      You are clearly on this site to transmit but not receive but for the beenfit of anyone who might read your post – you seriously misunderstand theology on this score. Alvin Plantinga, a serious scholar, has the best philosophical argument on the problem of evil. I recommend it to you, but it might take you awhile to get through it.

      June 29, 2012 at 8:04 am |
  19. Molestation is not healthy for children and other living things

    Two weeks probation.

    June 22, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  20. Molestation is not healthy for children and other living things

    Molestation changes things

    June 22, 2012 at 5:02 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