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Priest Takes Bishops To Task in Remarks to Parishoners

A Chester County priest posted his remarks about the Monsignor Lynn verdict and the ongoing rift in the church over the scandal to Facebook.

By now most readers are familiar with the case against Monsignor William Lynn.

Lynn, who served at parish in Wayne in the 1980s, was charged with several counts of endangering children and conspiracy for his alleged role in covering up instances of sexual abuse of children by priests in Archdiocese of Philadelphia. [See this timeline of the case put together by The New York Times.]

On Friday, Lynn, a former aide to Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, was found guilty of endangering children and became the first senior official of the Roman Catholic Church in America convicted of covering up sexual abuses by priests. Lynn was acquited of conspiracy and another count of endangerment by the jury.

Many local Catholics have struggled for years with their faith and loyalty to the church in the face of sexual abuse allegations and cover ups. While it is often the topic of discussion at the dinner table, around the water cooler or on social media sites like Facebook, it is rarely addressed at the altar. 

Father Liam Murphy, who served at in Norristown from 2004 to 2011 and is now stationed at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in West Grove, Pa., planned to do just that in his remarks to his parishoners at Sunday's masses. He's posted his thoughts, in which he takes church leadership to task for its silence on this issue, to his Facebook page:

Dear Friends:
This is a copy of my remarks made at Masses on the weekend of June 23-24:

“I would be remiss if I didn’t say something about the elephant in the room. Yes. As has been reported in the news, Msgr. Lynn was found guilty on Friday of child endangerment. For some, perhaps many, this verdict brings with it at least some small sense of justice rendered. No doubt, it makes clear that “I was just following orders,” is an unacceptable defense in the face of blatant evil.

Yet for many with whom I have spoken and with whom I agree, it is only a partial sense of justice. Because the other elephant in the room is the fact that those directly in charge, the bishops, have yet to claim or accept responsibility for their own horrific part in this painful scandal. Not a single bishop has acknowledged or apologized for his decision to put the image of the Church before the protection and care of sexual abuse victims of clergy. Nor have any bishops had the decency or courage to call their fellow bishops to accountability.

The result? Many Catholics, including fellow clerics, friends who are practicing Catholics and friends who have left a Church they find disingenuous, dismiss the bishops as inauthentic and unworthy of their attention.

Moreover, the bishops’ latest attempt to exert moral authority with their “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign rings hollow for many who wish the bishops had been at least as energetic and enthusiastic with their denunciation of their role in institutionalized evil in the Church concerning abuse, as they are with a perceived threat to religious freedom. Rather than appearing prophetic, to many Catholics this looks like a pathetic attempt to reclaim power and authority.

Now, while all these feelings and observations are completely legitimate, there is one thing left to say:
I preached this weekend on the need to “shut up” as Zechariah was forced to do in today’s gospel, so that we might have time and space and silence to “hear” the voice of God and discern the will of God. Well, in the aftermath of this verdict, I have been called to silence. And in the silence I have been thus far able to discern this much: all of the above may be true and legitimate. And it must be said lout and clear. “But be careful,” I hear God saying.

“Be careful not to become smug and satisfied in your rightful calling to task of cowardly and self-serving bishops. Don’t stop there. Instead remember why you are a member of the Church: not because of the bishops, or the priests, but because of Jesus Christ—because you love Jesus Christ and you know in your bones that he is the Way and the Truth and the Life.’

So this is a time for all of us to commit ourselves ever more intensely to know Jesus even more, to love him even more. And then, above all to LIVE him, with all we have and are. All of us truly LIVING JESUS—that will be the transformation of the Church and of all the world.
Let the Church say, “Amen!”

In Christ’s love,
Fr. Murphy

Larry S June 25, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Might it help if the Clergy were allowed to marry? Perhaps. St. Paul's direction (1 Timothy 3:2, 12, and Titus 1:6) that a bishop or a deacon should be "the husband of one wife" can be taken as allowing clerical marriage. Certainly married Priests were about as late as the First Council of Lateran in 1123. A case can be made for the moral health of some Priests if those who wished to married were allowed to do so, although that cannot be taken as a given. Sandusky was married. In any case, in Abrahamic religions (Jewish, Christian, Mohammadan), the female is always seen as not only less but as threatening to male spirituality ("the world, the flesh, and the devil") -- even been created as a Divine afterthought. This cannot be otherwise, given a monotheistic "He" as God. The recent threatening criticism of the Catholic Sisterhood by the Vatican is a case in point. So, boys will be boys -- but it might help matters if they were allowed to marry -- St. Peter was.
Scott Nault June 25, 2012 at 02:32 PM
I applaud Fr. Murphy's honesty and fearlessness in portraying the bishops' role in the abuse scandal. I hope there is no recrimination for telling the truth as he did.
Ed Carroll June 25, 2012 at 03:59 PM
He's right. The church hierarchy has cowardly dodged responsibility in this evil business and yet with its second face tries to exert moral authority over the flock. Who is still left who thinks that the church controls morality in any adult sense?
Annie Webb June 25, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Amen, Father, God Bless you!
Sally A Ziegenfuss June 25, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Father, your courage is admirable and thank you for speaking the truth. Our Church needs more priest like you. As for the comment: "Might it help if the clergy were allowed to marry?", I don't believe Pedophilia can be "cured" by marriage nor should it be equated with Homesexuality. Pedophilia is a disease, a sickening disease. God bless the victims.
zmama June 25, 2012 at 10:12 PM
@Sally-While I completely agree that pedophilia cannot be "cured" by marriage, perhaps by permitting priests to be married would enable a greater number of more emotionally, spiritually and sexually balanced men to be candidates for the priesthood. The seminaries would then not feel the need or urgency to take whoever knocks on their door, which is partly what I think began to happen from the 1950s onward.
gerald nichols June 25, 2012 at 11:15 PM
Utter nonsense. What would "being married" do for bishops who criminally coverup? Put some thought in b efore psting.
Spring Transleau June 26, 2012 at 12:30 AM
"Quote from the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: “Who is going to save our Church? Not our Bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops like bishops and your religious act like religious”. We, the laity, must contiue to demand accountability and transparency, very loudly.(And let's not forget to include the cardinals and pope in our demand for accountability and transparency.)"
Anthony Wayne June 26, 2012 at 02:47 AM
Fr. Murphy has a lot of guts to say what is on his mind, and on the minds of many others as well. His candor deserves accolades. My bet would be that as far as the top management of the catholic church goes, nothing will change. Further, I believe pedophiles are drawn to occupations and situations which permit trusted access to young children under the guise of an authority figure. Of course there are pedophiles working as priests and brothers, but also as coaches, teachers, scout leaders, librarians, etc. The difference in the case of the catholic church is the mindset that it is better to cover up and relocate than to face the situation, correct it, and move on. This failed policy, like in any large organization, can only come from the top down. Fixing the problem must come from the top down as well. Fr. Murphy is justified in his assessment of blame and I hope more clergy will begin to speak out as well. A clean sweep at the top would do a lot to restore some credibility in my mind also.
JOE GABLE June 26, 2012 at 09:30 AM
I don't know what parish Father Murphy is in but it sure is one I would like to be a member of.................the hierarchy is not following Christ teacing with their silence and actions. JOE GABLE
Nancy Mortimer O'Brien June 26, 2012 at 11:59 AM
I admire Father Murphy's candor and honesty. Our pastor chooses not to comment on any issues concerning priests' child sex abuse. My faith sustains me but it would be nice to received a little help from the local shepherd. Nancy Mortimer O'Brien
dot reilly June 26, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Yes! Yes!! Yes!!!
Miranda Forshaw June 26, 2012 at 07:00 PM
It seems, 50 years on from Vat 2, we are no nearer the true spirit of catholicism, but further indeed from Our Lord and His will. What is faith if not questioning and why are we not encouraged to think and reason without the rules and regulations of the "Roman Powers" who are surely out of line with Jesus' flock. Miranda
Maureen Heron June 27, 2012 at 03:04 AM
Well, there is at least one member of the clergy who has the courage to speak out. Seems like most parishes were promoting the Bishops' freedom of religious liberty on a weekend where a Msgr sits in jail, left to hang out to dry while no bishop takes responsibility and most priests look the other way...so pathetic!
ron shapley June 27, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Pathetic....indeed !!! Had I been in the congregation listening to Fr. Murpny, I would have led a standing ovation for this corageous priest... Truely a man of God in the face of the coward bishops who only choose to turn the other cheek... Dolan, Egan...et. al are unindicted co=conspirators in this scandal... I hope the law is coming for them as well... Sia lodato Gesu Cristo !!
Bridget H. June 27, 2012 at 07:21 PM
This took tremendous courage -- the faith, indeed, to LIVE what Jesus himself would have felt, or said. To LOVE, truly, requires correction, honesty. This priest most certainly has a deep love for the Church at a proper level, as its wounds cause him pain, and his only goal with this sermon, it seems, is for healing, for communion... for reparation. I am personally familiar with a deeply wounded victim of this scandal for whom these words are like salve on a wound... a wound that, even after 40 years, continued to fester. May God bless our priests, and give us all similar courage and love for this faith -- and above all, LOVE for Christ.

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