Pa. priest case points up conscience vs. obedience

By Maryclaire Dale

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, June 23 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

A version of that list became a smoking gun at trial. The list went missing for more than a decade. Lynn told a grand jury about it in 2004 but said he couldn't find it. A copy that had been stashed in a locked, long-abandoned safe surfaced at the archdiocese days after Bevilacqua's death in January. So, too, did a 1994 memo that shows Bevilacqua ordering Lynn's supervisors to shred all copies of the list.

Many institutions try to protect their reputations, but shredding documents takes it to a new level, Schmalz said.

"Shredding documents — especially with Watergate and all this history we have of institutional malfeasance — does have a symbolic significance that goes beyond the view of the Catholic church as being closed and insular," he said. "So it is shocking to think what must have gone on leading up to that decision."

The task fell to Monsignor James Molloy, who died in 2006. But Bishop Joseph R. Cistone signed off as witnessing the list's destruction. He now leads the diocese of Saginaw, Mich. Neither he nor retired Allentown Bishop Edward Cullen, Bevilacqua's top aide, was called to testify.

Nor did they come to Lynn's defense. Few, if any, church officials have stepped forward to share in the blame for the sex abuse scandal, even though District Attorney Seth Williams said Friday that many have "dirty hands."

Walsh said: "The cardinal could have done that a year ago, two years ago, and obviously Bishop Cullen and Bishop Cistone could still do it."

Beisel, overwhelmed by the clergy office job, quit after a year. Lynn stayed for more than a decade. But he was the rare aide to Bevilacqua who was never made a bishop.

By 2004, Bevilacqua had retired, the clergy sexual abuse scandal had erupted in Boston, and a grand jury investigation was under way in Philadelphia. U.S. bishops had adopted a zero tolerance policy for accused priests. And new diocesan panels were being formed to handle abuse complaints, with varying degrees of success.

It was time for Lynn to move on. Submissive to the end, he said he declined to request his next assignment. Instead, he accepted a desirable posting as pastor of a large, upscale parish in suburban Downingtown. He was put on leave after his arrest last year. Loyal parishioners from the parish, St. Joseph's, sometimes attended his trial.

A spokesman for Voice of the Faithful, a Boston-based group formed in the wake of the abuse crisis to try to empower lay Catholics, said it was "obvious that here's this one man sitting (on trial) when there should be scores of people sitting there."

"The moral call to stand when you're guilty and confess seems to have been abrogated by those in power. It was, 'I'm just following orders,'" Voice of the Faithful spokesman Nick Ingala said. "The organization that claims to be the moral authority in the world has given up that moral authority."

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