CNN) -- A Philadelphia archdiocese official on trial for allegedly
covering up the sexual abuse of children has asked a court to throw out charges
against him based on a 1994 memo showing Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua ordered a
list of suspected abusive Catholic priests to be destroyed.
Attorneys for Monsignor William Lynn asked a Philadelphia court to dismiss
charges of conspiracy and child endangerment based on documents that Lynn had
informed his superiors -- including the cardinal -- that priests in the
archdiocese were assaulting children.
"The recent unexpected and shocking discovery of a March, 1994 memorandum
composed by Monsignor James Molloy, Monsignor Lynn's then-supervisor, on the
topic of this review, clearly reveals that justice demands that all charges
against Monsignor Lynn be dropped," Lynn's attorneys said in a filing.
As revealed in court papers filed on Friday, Molloy's handwritten memo dated
March 22, 1994, informed Bevilacqua that the secret list of 35 priests had been
shredded per his instructions.
documentary has exposed that Pope Benedict XVI, aka Cardinal Ratzinger, played a
leading role in a systematic cover-up of child sex abuse by Roman Catholic
In 2001, while he was a cardinal, he issued a secret Vatican
edict to Catholic bishops all over the world, instructing them to put the
Church's interests ahead of child safety.
The document recommended that
rather than reporting sexual abuse to the relevant legal authorities, bishops
should encourage the victim, witnesses and perpetrator not to talk about it.
And, to keep victims quiet, it threatened that if they repeat the allegations
they would be excommunicated."
"Five years ago he sent out an updated version of the notorious 1962 Vatican
document Crimen Sollicitationis - Latin for The Crime of Solicitation - which
laid down the Vatican's strict instructions on covering up sexual scandal. It
was regarded as so secret that it came with instructions that bishops had to
keep it locked in a safe at all times.
Cardinal Ratzinger reinforced the strict cover-up policy by introducing a new
principle: that the Vatican must have what it calls Exclusive Competence. In
other words, he commanded that all child abuse allegations should be dealt with
direct by Rome.
Patrick Wall, a former Vatican-approved enforcer of the Crimen
Sollicitationis in America, tells the programme: "I found out I wasn't working
for a holy institution, but an institution that was wholly concentrated on
And Father Tom Doyle, a Vatican lawyer until he was sacked for criticising
the church's handling of child abuse claims, says: "What you have here is an
explicit written policy to cover up cases of child sexual abuse by the clergy
and to punish those who would call attention to these crimes by the churchmen.
"When abusive priests are discovered, the response has been not to
investigate and prosecute but to move them from one place to another. So there's
total disregard for the victims and for the fact that you are going to have a
whole new crop of victims in the next place. This is happening all over the
Bridget Mary's Reflection:
Catholics in Philadelphia must be reeling from this shocking betrayal by the hierarchy. For ten years, I was an Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister. I taught in grade schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and experienced the dedication of the nuns and people up close.
Now, the Archdiocese is closing or merging a large number of schools. What will happen to the next generation of Catholic school children? I feel sorry for the IHM nuns who have given everything for decades to educate the youth of Philadelphia. Now a number of their schools and convents will be closed. How sad! Who will take care of the elderly nuns in the order who are supported by the education ministry of their Sisters? Will the Archdiocese step up to the plate?
Philadelphia is only the tip of the iceberg in the sexual abuse scandal. This is part of a pattern that is global in scope. And it goes all the way to the top. Pope Benedict played a major role (as cited in the news links above) as Cardinal Ratzinger in his position as head of the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith .
It is a disgrace that the Catholic Church has behaved like a crime family by covering up its crimes by threats and punishments.
Catholics worldwide are demanding change. Groups like Voice of the Faithful have been established to hold the institutional church accountable.
This is one of the reasons that alternative faith communities are rising up. More and more Catholics are welcoming a renewed Catholic Church with women-priests-led inclusive communities where transparency and accountability are the norm in a people, empowered church.
Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP
Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests