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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