Monday, July 2, 2012

Behold the Men??

   Msgr. Lynn's conviction brought back to me two memories of my time in Rome.  The comparison I will make to the present situation in Philadelphia is not exact but close enough to make my point.

   One: During August, the seminarians at the North American College put on "secular" clothes and vacationed throughout Europe.  In my third year there, I ran out of money.  So I prepared to stay the the College alone.  The Vice Rector instructed me to write a letter to the Archdiocese and ask if they could send me some money. Several bishops were paying for their seminarians' trips.  I wrote the letter.  In return I received a letter telling me that I was in danger of being dismissed from the seminary for my  action.  I showed the letter to the Vice Rector and he wrote to the Archdiocese saying, "This excellent seminarian wrote his letter in obedience to my instructions.  If there is any fault here, it is entirely my own."  My respect for him, as my superior and as a man, soared.

   (A fellow seminarian, Bill Barnett, of Camden, NJ, gave me the money.  His father had recently died and he had come into a very small inheritance.  He adamantly refused to have me pay him back.  Later, a group of officials from the Archdiocese came to Rome.  One of them took me aside and said, "That thing that happened, didn't happen.")

  Two:  Corruptio optimi pessima.  In Rome, all my studies were in Latin, and that Latin sentence especially struck me for its terse balance, directness and truth.  "The corruption of the best is the most evil corruption of all." 

   Now of course, Msgr. Lynn did not write an innocent letter.  He committed a very serious crime.  And he was was left hanging by his superiors, who were part of his crime.  They know this, and Archbishop Chaput knows it.  But I don't expect any of them to "write a letter," and accept responsibility, as the Vice Rector of the North American College did.  So, Corruptio optimi pessima still hangs over them.  As does the curse of Christ:  there are millstones waiting to be distributed.

   We are all sinners and it is hard to "throw a stone" at someone, let alone a millstone.  But in this case, the sins and crimes we are dealing with cry out for justice with the voice of thousands of still suffering victims, parents, families, and Catholics and others in general--a voice of suffering and justified anger.  We all know that the "apologies" and "penance services" were nothing more than mere theatre.  

   We all know what Lynn's superiors should do.  They should present themselves to the civil authorities so that the lawfulness or unlawfulness of their actions can be clearly determined.  And if their actions were unlawful, they should accept the punishment that is due them as just penance for their crimes and sins.  Only in this way will the church be truly purified. But short of another civil investigation, such action is up to these men and their conscience. 

  In the meantime, we have the right to demand that church leaders cease being dissidents and begin to obey all the teachings and laws of the church.  Simple morality demands it!  Vatican II, which represents the highest level of church teaching, shows for example, the role of bishops in running the church with the pope.  The pope is not Christ; he is Peter.  It's O. K. to correct him, as Paul corrected Peter.  And the Council teaches the necessary transparency of the church.  These are not "liberal" or "progressive" teachings that could be "interpreted" or denied by "conservative" bishops.  They are the teachings of the church!

   Church teaching requires that the bishops duly inform the pope of the truth, and even compel him if necessary, to change the criminal and sinful power structure that is at the heart of this calamity, and that is in contradiction to the explicit will of Jesus.  They should tell him, "People are suffering.  Waiting is not an option."  

   As I said above, my respect for the Vice Rector as my superior and as a man soared.  If the bishops want to get back the respect they have lost, the way is clear.  Are they men enough to do what they have to do?    



1 comment:

  1. There was a question on the NCR Facebook page following announcement of Monsignor Lynn's verdict, "Should he be defrocked?" My response was, "only if everyone up the chain is also disciplined."

    Msgr Lynn's part is inexcusable, but we know that others far more senior than he are a significant part of the problem, largely, I believe, because they haven't made the distinction between being Christ and being Peter. They choose to be above the law and not accountable for their actions. They lack integrity.

    Your vice rector did the honorable thing. Thanks for the reminder that there are still good people who will choose to do the right thing, who have personal and spiritual integrity.