Sunday, February 13, 2011

Material Cooperation in Evil

Please pray for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. For His Eminence, Cardinal Rigali; for all the priests and deacons; for all the religious; for all the lay faithful. Not only were four priests arrested and charged with sexual abuse of minors but one priest (secretary for clergy) was charged with endangerment of the welfare of children by his transfer of known pedophiles. Heinous crimes to be sure. Despicable, deplorable and disgusting. What is very unique about this recent indictment is that of the then Secretary of the Clergy. He committed no acts of abuse but is charged with knowingly and deliberately transferring known abusers and endangering children in the new assignment.

IF it is true that the person who made the decision (or recommendation) to move a pedophile or ephebophile knowingly transferred them, he could be culpable of MATERIAL COOPERATION IN EVIL. It may even be PROXIMATE MATERIAL COOPERATION which is far worse than REMOTE MATERIAL COOPERATION.

The culprits who actually abused the kids are of course not cooperators but actual AGENTS OF EVIL. They did the immoral, evil, sinful deeds. Those who helped or enabled them provided material cooperation. Only someone who agreed and consented to the acts being done can be guilty of FORMAL COOPERATION IN EVIL.

What is taken for granted in many comments and opinions and news reports, is that guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Is that not what a trial is for? American jurisprudence and even Canon Law embrace the principle of innocent until proven guilty. Msgr. Lynn has been arrested and charged but he has not yet been found guilty by a judge and jury. A Grand Jury has decided that there is enough evidence to indict but that is all.

If he did in fact transfer priests he KNEW or even SUSPECTED were abusing children and moved them from one parish to another (where potential innocent children were present as potential victims), then he is guilty of material cooperation in evil on a moral level and guilty of reckless endangerment of the welfare of children at a legal level. Yet, it must be established by corroborative evidence and witness testimony that he knew these abusers were abusers. The mere fact that these alleged perverts did their perverted crimes does not de facto mean the Archdiocese knew about them UNLESS they were reported by the victims or their families to the local church authorities.

On the other hand, there may be evidence of complete or partial incompetence. If Msgr. Lynn did not take into serious consideration credible allegations of sexual abuse when he made assignments of priests, or if he did not investigate these credible allegations or if he did not monitor the activities and progress or lack thereof of known abusers discharged from psychiatric care, then it is a case GROSS NEGLIGENCE.  If he was morally certain these priests were guilty of sexual abuse of a minor, then his decision to do nothing and/or just move them is not negligence but COOPERATION IN EVIL.

What if Msgr. Lynn was simply ignorant of the allegations? Could they have been known only to a few in the Chancery (like the Vicar General) but not known to Secretary for Clergy? Unlikely but not impossible. Only a civilian or canonical trial can ascertain the truth and the culpability of the matter. The news media have given us the CHARGES and ALLEGATIONS but absent a bona fide CONFESSION, guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Was there a Personnel Board involved in the assignments or recommendations for assignments?  That would be relevant, I think.  IF the Archbishop goes by the recommendation of his Vicar or Secretary for Clergy, then you cannot fault the Cardinal for being MISINFORMED by his adviser(s).

I would also like to see the same kind of diligence and commitment to follow the paper trail an indict all MATERIAL COOPERATORS IN EVIL and not just when it concerns the clergy and Church.  What about when bad cops are merely transferred? What about when teachers are credibly accused of abuse are simply moved to another school? If the state is going to make an example of the church it should extend justice to all areas equally and fairly. Church administration should not be an isolated target of investigation. GOVERNMENT, MILITARY, POLICE, SCHOOLS, HOSPITALS, PRISONS, and indeed all institutions should have the same fine tooth comb approach whenever any child is abused, sexually or physically. Abusers often are enabled by someone who is supposedly in a position to supervise their behavior. Yet, as we know, even some spouses and parents are genuinely clueless to the acts of evil perpetrated by their loved ones. Others, however, chose to remain ignorant and others, worse, still, knew and did and said NOTHING. Well, if Msgr. Lynn is charged, then charge all supervisors who may have known about the crimes (or previous crimes or even just alleged crimes) of their subordinates when those under their jurisdiction commit heinous acts of evil. Of course, it will be more difficult to prove in court, but if significant it MUST be done.

I don't think we have enough evidence to render a decision in the court of public opinion.  We know some if not most of the facts but do we have ALL the facts, especially all that a JUDGE and JURY would have? Ascertaining guilt or innocence on soundbites or editorial opinions is not a wise nor prudent course to take. Nevertheless, I agree, child abuse is inexcusable and all acts of it are vile and worthy of severe punishment.

As a pastor, I can verify that there is much we do not know because some hide it from us; others just neglect to share all pertinent facts with us. The same can said for Bishops and anyone in a position of authority. As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once said: "There are KNOWN unknowns and there are UNKNOWN unknowns"


Al said...

"What is taken for granted in many comments and opinions and news reports, is that guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Is that not what a trial is for? American jurisprudence and even Canon Law embrace the principle of innocent until proven guilty."

Padre, you hit on something I have often said. It seems like when it comes to Catholic priests & sex abuse charges it is guilty until proven innocent.
if guilty, yes they should be punished, if guilty. But IMHO much of the guilty until proven innocent attitutde has nothing to do with real guilt. rather it is a convenient way for dissident groups to push their agenda. Sadly, they are making the real victims, victims again in another way.
Know that I am praying.

Anonymous said...

Father, what bothers me is that my brother suffered much to get through the seminary back in the 1980's when dissident theology was taught by heretical professors. Back then, the witch hunts existed to ferret out anyone who was truly orthodox in their doctrine and those who were in any way traditional in their liturgical taste. While he survived, many of his classmates and friends were sacrificed on the pagan altars of liturgical abuse and sacrilegious irreverence.

My family has seen the inside turmoil devout seminarians and priests must endure, before and after ordination. Pretty boys get good evaluations in the sem and they get powerful diocesan appointments after the laying on of hands.

Meanwhile, academic egg-heads or worse, middle management bureaucrats get consecrated bishop and the cycle repeats itself, over and over. That leaves the reverent, obedient and orthodox priest out in the cold.

I urge ALL CATHOLICS to pray to the Holy Spirit to guide the Holy Father, the Nuncio and everyone involved in selecting new successors to the apostles. Administrators, politicians, bureaucrats, and pundits are not what the People of God want or need. We need real PASTORS and SHEPHERDS who teach the truth, celebrate reverent sacraments and who govern like real MEN, not jellyfish. Enough is enough. End the logjam and stalemate in the USCCB, too. FWIW, I would like to see guys like you and Zuhlsdorf get the miter and crozier.

Padre Giovanni Trigilio said...

Dear Anonymous,

Your brother may have been a classmate of mine as my dear old dad used to say: "we went to different schools together." This past Friday, Feb. 11th, Our Lady of Lourdes, was the anniversary of my father's death. He was very supportive of my vocation (as was my mom). I am sure your brother appreciates your prayerful and loving support, too.

We have been blessed not only in two phenomenal pontiffs (JP2 & B16), but also in our recent Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi. He has been instrumental in securing our nation some outstanding bishops. Please pray for him as you know, it is no easy job His Grace has by any means.

Anonymous said...

I think--if you can stomach it--to read the grand jury's report is to agree Monsignor Lynn was not an incompetent, and you'll also discover the jury only reluctantly relented from charging Cardinal Bevilacqua.

When you say "if Msgr. Lynn is charged, then charge all supervisors who may have known about the crimes (or previous crimes or even just alleged crimes) of their subordinates when those under their jurisdiction commit heinous acts of evil," I wonder if you realize what Lynn is charged with. His alleged crime is not inaction despite knowledge, but with activity that was reckless and wonton given the knowledge he had.

Good that he'll have his day in court. If he is guilty of his crimes, let's hope for everyone's sake that he will do the right thing and admit it.

Anonymous said...

"What about when bad cops are merely transferred? What about when teachers are credibly accused of abuse are simply moved to another school?"

Father - I value your opinion and usually agree with you, but the above questions irk me. They irk me not because I think abuser cops, teachers, etc. (and those who aid and abet them) shouldn't be prosecuted fully, but because pointing the finger at other institutions is, well, pathetic.

The Catholic Church is the MORAL authority of the world (institution-wise). All pedophiles/ephebophiles are perverted people who need to be locked up - but there's nothing quite like the molester who wears a Roman collar. This is heinous behavior of the absolute highest order.

Couple that with the fact that we have not seen the disturbing systematic trend of aiding and abetting molesters in police precincts across the nation or school districts across the nation implicating commissioner after commissioner, lieutenant after lieutenant, chancellor after chancellor, principal after principal.... No, we have seen the trend clearly in Diocese after Diocese, seminary after seminary, bishop after bishop, pastor after pastor...

Should justice be brought to all pedophiles/ephebophiles throughout the world? OF COURSE. But we, as members of the Catholic Church must place our attention inside our Home - where this crisis has affected us directly and where we have the power to do something about all this.

As Fr. Corapi once said, "It's a mess out there [meaning the world] because it's a mess in here [meaning the Church]." How true. The Church holds the world together. Let's start following the rules of the Vatican and bar gays from the seminary. Let's start handing criminal priests over to the authorities. Let's push for the swift laicization of criminal priests. Let's clean up this Church!! Pointing fingers at others does no one any good. Let's own up to the evil we've allowed to fester in the Church and put all our energy toward cleaning it up.

I admire you and respect you, Fr., but I really can't stand another day of hearing those inside the Church tell us to look at all the molesters among the police, teachers, doctors, protestant clergy, etc. etc. etc..........

We cannot expect there to be any standards of decency in the world when the standards of decency in the Church are hanging by a thread.

Padre Giovanni Trigilio said...

I did not mean to reduce the severity or magnitude of the abuse done to children by priests. It is absolutely heinous. I also did not intend to throw mud elsewhere in order to get attention away from the church or from the clergy. I was merely making the point that despite the horrible revelation that more clergy sex abuse has been uncovered, there must be objective perspective. 90% of child abuse by adults is still done by family members. One guilty clergy is too much to be sure. But clergy are not the largest group of offenders.

I read the Grand Jury report and was disgusted that a few priests continue to engage in such depraved and atrocious acts of evil. Covering up and merely moving these guys is also despicable.

That being said, before sentence is rendered, a trial still needs to take place unless someone confesses to their crimes. Especially the Msgr. who was the Vicar for Clergy. The report I read merely contained conclusions the Grand Jury came to, namely, there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial. The Grand Jury did not try the entire case, however. That is not their job. They decide if there is enough evidence to go to trial. Then a judge and jury DECIDE guilt or innocence. That has not happened, yet. I would want to know WHAT did the Monsignor know and WHEN did he know it before, during and after the transfers of these abusers.

That is in no way defending abusers. We have a constitutional and natural law right of DUE PROCESS. Canon law and civil law protect EVERYONE who is accused and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty is a hallmark of our jurisprudence.

When the guilty are proven by evidence and testimony, then I say throw the book at them. No parole, no plea bargains.

I agree that anyone who knowingly transfers a pedophile or ephebophile is guilty of material cooperation in evil.

You mention that we have not seen in media case after case of abuse by non-clerics and I think that is because a lot go unpublicized and many are isolated cases whereas in a diocese we have a couple at a time.

Again, I am not trying to diminish the heinous evil or gravity of matter in regards to clerical abuse of children. As a priest, I am angry that colleagues who were the same Roman Collar as I do, then go out and commit these diabolical deeds.

I am on the same page as you more than you realize. My only caveat was that despite the fact that coverups have been going on before and continue to go on, we still must give the accused his day in court and give him the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. If proven guilty, then the full weight of the law should come down. But not before. That's all I'm saying. And I am not the strongest legal system supporter, either. My younger brother was killed by an underage drunk driver whose fancy lawyer got him off with no jail and no fine. The tragedy hastened my dad's death due to the loss and stress of the incident. He died six months after my 33yr old brother. An impeccable blood alcohol test result was suppressed on a legal technicality. Pre-trial motions took years and finally the inept district attorney's office let the whole case evaporate. So without a trial, the accused literally got off completely. Ironically, if you pump gas at a station and drive off, they can and will suspend or revoke your driver's license. Kill someone with a car while intoxicated, whether under age or not, and guess what? Nothing happens to your driving privileges. So, I am not the patron saint for our legal system, however, it is better than what other nations have and it is the only system we have to work with. I have known a few priests who were falsely accused and sadly I have known a lot more who were guilty. The latter were no surprise as most if not all of them demonstrated peculiar behavior in the seminary. But back then, the faculty looked to root out neo-conservatives and traditionalists and anyone who espoused orthodox doctrine.

Anonymous said...


I sincerely thank you for your response and understand what you're saying. You've got a lot of guts to speak the truth so plainly. I appreciate your answer to my post.

I would also like to express my sincere sympathy for what you and your family have had to endure. The story of your brother (and its effect on your father) is a terrible tragedy.

I will pray for you in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

Keep up the great work.

Anonymous said...

Father, God bless you and Fr. Brighenti, Fr. Levis, Fr. Corapi, Fr. Groeschel and all the priests at EWTN. We need priests like you who have been in the trenches, have had to fight to get ordained and to preserve your vocation. The politician and bureaucrat clergy know how to use the system and if they appear to be good managers who can balance books, be UN-controversial, blindly support all diocesan policies, they get ahead of the line when miters and crosiers are being passed out.

My biggest worry, besides the phoney-baloneys who charm their local bishop, are the real undercover sleepers. Besides the small minority of genuine pedophiles, there is a larger group of homosexual clergy who do not just have the disordered orientation, they also act it out physically. Some of these guys are more easily tempted to engage in inappropriate behavior with post puberty and young adult males. These fellows cover for one another and who's to say some of the coverups were not like minded fellows helping their compatriots OR even instances of blackmail where abusers know something about their investigators? Sure, there can be cases of incompetency and actual instances where innocent priests were given false or erroneous information about abusers and therefore moved them NOT KNOWING their guilt or crime. Others may have their own agenda and still others may be sympathetic if not blackmailed to look the other way.

I read about the Lavender Mafia and believe it is real. I also believe MOST of our priests and bishops are devout, holy, chaste and of sound doctrine and behavior. I also fear, though, the powerful and influential minority who have over the past fifty years snuck into the priesthood. These guys sailed through seminary without a hitch while the rosary carrying nerd got constant grief. Then when we get a good and holy bishop, he inherits a web of intrigue in his chancery not to mention an underground group of dissenters. Meanwhile, the ambitious tell him what he wants to hear not what he NEEDS to hear.

Sorry for the diatribe but I know some good priests who got burned as well as some who burned out. Their only crime? Being orthodox and reverent at Mass. Whether it is Ordinary Form or Extraordinary; whether ad orientem or facing the folks, we laity want and need valid and reverent sacraments and we want and need solid, Magisterial teaching (not opinions or speculation). Seeing all the priests at the Vigil Mass for Life along with the many seminarians, I have hope things will get better and improve. The darkness may get a little darker, temporarily, but the light will eventually shine and triumph.

Padre Giovanni Trigilio said...

Thanks for the comments and please keep the Cardinal and all the priests of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in your prayers as we also pray for all the victims and their families, too. This weekend's Gospel challenges us to always practice true justice with genuine mercy.

Shandon Belle said...

Dear Father,

Please add our blog to your blogroll.

Following the great blessings that came from the Year for Priests we thought that a Holy Year for Nuns would be a great blessing to the Church. You are very welcome to adopt the idea and we would be very happy if you would promoted it:

God bless you!

Kelly said...

Father, I am a Philadelphian, and I thank you for your clear statements. There are now more investigations going forward on more than just the original four. My family personally knows one, and we are astounded. I am aware of the priests that have been falsely accused, some are paying dearly, I pray their sacrifices are benefiting the Church. I am just a sheep that tends to trust, and the feeling that I am now not sure who to trust is a sickening one, indeed. But I found your words kind of comforting, because you are not glossing over nor
are you throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The fact that the names of the accused have been released DOES attach a stigma to these men, whatever the outcome, I doubt that they will be able to return to ministry, or have their many years of service remembered with any respect. "Innocent until proven guilty" never works with these kind of
allegations; once someone's name is released with charges of abuse attached, that's it. So very very sad and disheartening. Thank God we have priests like you to go to for counsel.

My Blog List

Blog Archive