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"

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