Ten years ago tomorrow, Cardinal Bernard Law resigned as head of the Boston Archdiocese after mountains of evidence proved that he repeatedly protected predators, deceived parishes and endangered kids.
Law has been called “the first US bishop to experience personal consequences for concealing abuse.”
Sadly, he’s also the only one.
Recently, two high ranking church officials – Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn and Philadelphia Msgr. William Lynn – have been found criminally guilty of refusing to report known or suspected child sex crimes to law enforcement.
But that’s the secular justice system, not the church hierarchy, imposing a penalty on wrongdoers. Despite their convictions, both men have retained their positions within the church. In the case of Bishop Finn, he has steadfastly refused to step down from his post, despite the calls from parishioners and priests within his own diocese to do so.
Some thought these two convictions would be the crucial one-two knockout punch that would finally end the sick and self-protective clerical culture at the root of this awful crisis. Some thought “Surely, now that two members of the hierarchy have been found criminally guilty of endangering kids, things will change.” But that has yet to happen.
(Just last month, Miami’s archbishop finally suspended an accused predator priest after the fourth lawsuit was filed against him. The month before that, the head of the bishops’ child abuse committee tried to put a suspended, credibly accused priest back on the job.)
Rather than being denounced by other church officials across the country, Finn and Lynn have largely - and often publicly - been supported by bishops and rank-and-file priests. Virtually every Vatican official has been silent. So too has the National Review Board and the head of America's Catholic bishops, Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
The same Catholic officials who readily inject themselves in a wide range of issues and concerns absolutely refuse to denounce – much less discipline, demote or defrock - one of their own. They refuse to do this no matter how often or egregiously he protects predators, hides evidence, misleads parishioners or endangers kids.
If children are to be safer in the church, church officials must publicly speak out against their colleagues and supervisors who still protect the guilty and jeopardize the innocent. Sadly, it seems that bishops only denounce their clerics who favor women’s ordination or gay marriage. On the issue of child sex abuse, they continue to stand silently as one.