Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

he said/he said

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Aug 21, 2004

Claiming to have been abused as youths by their Brooklyn pastor, a (Metuchen) priest and his brother insist they were stonewalled by former Bishop Thomas Daily when they asked for justice:

During some wrenching conversations back in 1997, Father Tim Lambert revealed to his older brother that when they were children in St. Anastasia's parish in Douglaston, Queens, Father Byrns had molested him. ... A frustrating dialogue that went on for years between the Lamberts and the diocese ensued, one in which the diocese seemed to proffer therapy to the brothers rather than submit their accusations to rigorous inquiry.

"They told us that they believed us both," the two brothers and Father Byrns, Bob Lambert recalled. Frank DeRosa, a diocesan spokesman, put it this way: "The diocese could not conclude with certainty who was telling the truth. Father Byrns had a strong, aggressive denial, face to face, with the bishop."

Here's a story that epitomizes the ecclesiastical disconnect between faith and practice that exasperates so many Catholics.

Forget for a second the actual merits of the case. Ignore the question of who's lying and who's telling the truth. Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, you know for a certainty that at least one of the priests is really, really sick -- twisted way beyond the point that a bishop could responsibly allow him to continue in ministry. Either Byrns abused Lambert, in which case he should be locked up, or Lambert slandered Byrns in the most destructively malicious way possible, in which case he should be jailed forthwith.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the diocesan spokesman is on the level in saying "The diocese could not conclude with certainty who was telling the truth." If the initial investigation had failed to find whether Lambert or Byrns was lying, how could they -- the bishops of Metuchen and Brooklyn -- fail to yank both until they learned the real story? It's not a matter of dispute that at least one deranged sociopath was at large among the faithful with a roman collar. The one situation that could not possibly obtain is that both priests were objectively suitable ministers.

Put the rosiest construction you want on the bishops' conduct. What does it say about their concern for the more vulnerable members of the faithful? What does it say about the nature of their fellowship with their brother priests?

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