With Msgr. William Lynn out of jail, what now?
First, we should all thank Billy Doe, his family, the police and the prosecutors whose courage made Lynn’s conviction possible. And we should thank prosecutors who plan to appeal this ruling. We of course hope the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will overturn it. And we call on Philly Catholic officials to keep Lynn permanently off the job or at least until this case is finally resolved.
Literally thousands of U.S. Catholic officials have done precisely what Msgr. Lynn did and were never even charged or exposed, much less convicted. And we believe that hundreds or thousands of chancery officials across the U.S. are doing – right now - exactly what Msgr. Lynn did.
Survivors live every day knowing of these horrific injustices. So this one court ruling will not deter us from fighting to protect kids and expose criminals by this one ruling. It’s a setback, no doubt, one of thousands. But the long-term trajectory of this crisis is encouraging.
We remind ourselves that 15 years ago, Msgr. Lynn would never have been arrested, charged or convicted. . (In the last few days, I’ve reminded at least half a dozen survivors that Martin Luther King reminds us that “the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice” and that every single one of us who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes or cover ups must help that arc bend by sharing every single bit of knowledge or suspicion we have with law enforcement.)
We firmly believe that – when it comes to criminal charges against complicit church officials – “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Law enforcement officials, if they have the courage, can often find ways to charge and convict corrupt clerics like Msgr. Lynn and Bishop Finn (even despite weak and archaic child safety laws).
Where that can’t happen, it falls to victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to at least consider civil lawsuits and public exposure. And it falls to lawmakers to reform predator-friendly outdated laws. Kids are safest when those who hurt kids are jailed. But it that’s not possible, those who hurt kids should at least be sued and exposed.
Pennsylvania’s governor just passed a package of 20 bills relating to child safety. Lawmakers refused, however, to make the one most significant reform possible – a civil window, which would enable more victims to expose more wrongdoers and protect more kids through more civil cases. So we renew our efforts to push legislators to remove this arbitrary, archaic, predator-friendly deadline that protects wrongdoers and endangers kids.
And we remind other lawmakers that stronger state RICO laws are critical. We as a society must imprison those who conceal child sex crimes as well as those who commit child sex crimes. And we must fix old, flawed laws that enable enablers to keep enabling.