people look at us differently

By Diogenes (articles ) | May 09, 2005

Flashback to June 1998, when St. Petersburg Bishop Robert N. Lynch came in as interim administrator to rescue Palm Beach from its predator prelate. His bumptious condescension was at full throttle (all quotes from a story by Dan Moffett in the Palm Beach Post, 6-6-1998):

"There are no more pedestals left for priests," said Bishop Robert Lynch. "Priests must behave differently now -- even the good priests. Times have changed, and people look at us differently."

When I read this eight years ago, I took Lynch to mean that priestly behavior had to change for the better. A faulty assessment.

Tuesday, Lynch took control of the Diocese of Palm Beach when its bishop, J. Keith Symons, resigned after admitting he sexually molested five boys decades ago.

Symons was followed by Lynch (pro tem) who was followed by Anthony O'Connell. The first and third have admitted to bad business with boys and the second to control problems in the presence of male athletes. There are two ways of accounting for this threesome: 1) the luck of the draw -- that is, in the aggregate, the recreational dispositions of bishop candidates are such that this was a predictable outcome. Or, 2) this outcome was unpredictable, suggesting the men were jockeyed into position because of their sexual inclinations. Which, please, is a dutiful Catholic meant to find reassuring? Which would the optimists have us believe?

Lynch said the church has turned again to symbolism to demonstrate that the priesthood is not deity and not far removed from the faithful masses.

Lynch probably revealed more than he intended by these remarks. His notion that the Church "turned to symbolism" suggests a cynical disconnect between motive and means, and the demonstration that the priesthood is "not deity" -- grotesque as the idea is -- was effected by means far beyond the Church's power to change one way or the other.

Confessionals are now being built with clear glass windows instead of heavy curtains, [Lynch] said. Communion rails no longer separate priests and their altar from parishioners. And more and more, priests are taking off their collars when going to public places.

The first measure was almost certainly proposed by liability lawyers, the second by the men the liability insurance was designed to cover, the third in virtue of the failure of the first two. When Lynch was accused of sexually harrassing triathlete Bill Urbanski, his lawyer explained that Lynch would often "take off his collar and be just Bob" in the Urbanski household. Probably not a coincidence.

"We can't do things the same way we did 30 years ago," Lynch said. "We have to earn the respect of the people through honest ministry."

This from the man who was to award $30 million of no-bid construction contracts to another triathlete and special companion, David S. Herman. The motto on Lynch's coat of arms reads PRO AMICIS SUIS, Latin for "Do I wish I didn't feel his biceps?" Re-read in that light, Lynch's 1998 remarks reveal an entirely consistent character. By the way, anybody know Keith Symons's views on Terri Schiavo?

What, No More Pedestals?

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  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - May. 10, 2005 1:13 PM ET USA

    If Benedict does nothing else but dedicate his pontificate to the cleaning up of this mess that would be quite enough.

  • Posted by: - May. 10, 2005 11:53 AM ET USA

    God forbid if you are heterosexual, orthodox, masculine and normal. You are barred from the priesthood and classified as rigid, narrow, superstitious and fundamentalist. But if you are effeminate, or better yet, openly homosexual, question all orthodoxy, disrespect the pope and sneer at popular piety, then you are surely welcome in seminaries. Surely the gay element is a cancer in the Church (I could be arrested in Canada for saying this).

  • Posted by: Meg Q - May. 09, 2005 7:06 PM ET USA

    Just taking those three words, out of context, as an episcopal motto for Bp Lynch and how he's run his diocese, "pro amicis suis" does make for a pretty hilarious motto, considering everything. Not certain that he himself would lay down his life for anyone in his flock but perhaps I am judging too harshly?

  • Posted by: scunoology - May. 09, 2005 4:38 PM ET USA

    I think that this experience only reflects the prevalence of homosexuality in the priesthood. When I was in the seminary, (ca 1986) I can recall a rather naive seminarian from Nova Scotia flabergasted at the report in "America" that 40% of priests under the age of 45 were homosexuals. A priest/psychaiatrist told several of us, that in his experience, it was closer to 75%. I guess we reap what we sow.

  • Posted by: - May. 09, 2005 3:48 PM ET USA

    Just prior to reading this piece I read an article at titled "Papal pruning?." Perhaps there is hope for the Church after all.

  • Posted by: - May. 09, 2005 3:40 PM ET USA

    Fr. Benedict Groeschal observed a few years ago that the Church is suffering from "loss of faith". He said it is a systemic infection. This infection is satanic and will continue to flourish until the symbol people are silenced. Lack of silence and chaos are the tools used to spread a carnival-like place of worship in our churches. This reinforces the heretical "symbolic" beliefs of many young Catholic-victims. Lynch is probably a perfect example of this infection. He is not the only example.