A scandal in Philadelphia has exposed a number of eye-opening documents that reveal a high-level conspiracy to cover up decades of sexual abuse allegedly committed by members of the Catholic church. The newly revealed ‘Secret Archives files‘ have staggering implications and may prove what many have long suspected – that Catholic church officials not only tolerated the systematic and widespread sexual abuse by priests, but also conspired to hide the crimes and silence the victims. The Clergy Abuse Lawyers at Schmidt & Clark, LLP are currently accepting potential lawsuits on behalf of victims injured by members of the Catholic church.
Clergy Abuse Update 5/25/12: This week, thousands of documents concerning nine Roman Catholic priests who settled a landmark clergy abuse lawsuit in 2006 were made public. The newly-released files provide a detailed look into the accusations, as well as reveal instances when members of the clergy were allowed to interact with children despite their superiors being aware of previous indiscretions. Click here to learn more.
Catholic Sexual Abuse Update 4/12/12: The number of reports of sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests skyrocketed by more than 15% last year, according to a recent audit released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In 2011, there were nearly 500 credible reports filed against Roman Catholic priests or deacons nationwide. Click here to learn more.
Free Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Case Evaluation: If you or a loved one has been abused or molested by a member of the clergy, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a lawsuit and we can help.
What’s the problem?
The five co-defendants in the Philadelphia case include:
- 47-year-old priest Father James Brennan;
- Edward Avery, a priest in his sixties;
- Rev. Charles Engelhardt, also in his sixties;
- Bernard Shero, a former Catholic school teacher in his forties;
- 60-year-old Monsignor William Lynn
Brennan has been accused of raping a 14-year-old boy, while Avery, Engelhardt and Shero are facing accusations of passing a fifth-grade altar boy known only as ‘Billy’ around between them. According to Rolling Stone magazine, the three clergy members allegedly molested and sodomized Billy, sometimes getting him drunk on sacramental wine and forcing him to perform stripteases.
As shocking as these charges may be, the accusations against Monsignor William Lynn carry the most potentially devastating implications for the Catholic church as a whole. Lynn, who reported directly to Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, was the trusted keeper of a vast body of documents that have come to be known was the ‘Secret Archives files.‘ Many believe the files confirm that high-ranking clergy members not only tolerated the flagrant sexual abuse of children by priests, but actively conspired to hide the acts and silence the victims. Lynn is accused of being the mastermind who covered up the archdiocese’s sex abuse complaints, and is the first clergy member to be officially charged for a cover-up.
In systematically covering up for members of the clergy, Lynn was not the rogue sexual predator the church has tended to portray priests who have been accused of molesting children. In fact, protocols for protecting clergy members have reportedly been in place in Philadelphia under several different cardinals for more than 50 years. Lynn did his job well and was encouraged by his superiors, who were in turn given orders from their superiors all the way to Rome. In bringing conspiracy charges against Lynn, the Philadelphia D.A. is stating that the church’s failure to protect children against sexual abuse is the deliberate work of a calculating institution. So, in essence, it’s not just Lynn who is on trial here – it’s the entire Catholic church.
The groundswell of sex abuse cases linked to the Catholic archdiocese first emerged in 1985, when a Louisiana priest was sentenced to two decades in prison after confessing to molesting 37 young boys. However, it wasn’t until 2002 that the extent of the abuse became widely known by the public. That year, civil suits in Boston revealed that Cardinal Bernard Law had covered up for clergy members accused of abuse, and the Catholic church in Germany became inundated with hundreds of alleged victims. Massive investigations are also underway in Austria, the Netherlands, and Ireland.
The case in Philadelphia offers a rare opportunity for the public to attempt to come to grips with why the widespread cover-up of molestation by the church has continued for so long, despite the archdiocese’s repeated promises of reform. According to many familiar with the issues, the answer lies in the mindset of the church’s rigid hierarchy, which promotes those who are willing to do anything they’re told, so long as it is ordained by god.
“It’s almost like the type of stuff you see in cult behavior,’’ says a former Catholic priest who asked not to be identified. “Someone on the outside would say, ‘That’s crazy.’ But when you’re on the inside, you say, ‘It’s perfectly right, because everything is divinely inspired.’ If you have a monopoly on God, you can get away with anything.”
The trial against Lynn and his co-defendants – all of whom have pleaded not guilty – is set to begin later this year. It could include the release of more than 100,000 potentially damning documents, as well as videotaped testimony from Cardinal Bevilacqua himself. It is not clear whether Lynn understands that the church may be using him as a patsy once again in its calculated effort to coverup decades of sexual molestation by clergy members. But his willingness to sacrifice himself – even while facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life behind bars – is what makes Monsignor William Lynn such a devoted servant to the Catholic church, right to the bitter end.
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