“Blessed is the flow of the River of Truth, which helps us wash away the filth.” Old Jewish prayer
The February 2011 Philadelphia Grand Jury report sent shock waves through the Roman Catholic clerical culture. It was not because the sexual abuse of children was (again) being uncovered and publicly exposed, but instead because Vicars for Clergy and Vicar Generals could now be (and were) indicted for child endangerment as “The Bishop’s Man.”
The Bishop’s Man is the priest who confidentially carries out the will of his Bishop or Religious Superior. His duties can involve investigating complaints, replacing a perpetrator, sending the perpetrator to a Catholic-run predator treatment facility, or even functioning as the priest perpetrator’s aftercare supervisor. In the past, if the Bishop’s Man protected the Bishop by containing the scandal, he would someday be promoted. In return, the Bishop offered complete protection.
But this time-tested system was turned on its ear with Monsignor Lynn’s criminal indictment for his actions as Cardinal Bevilacqua’s Vicar.
In seminary spiritual training, many of us had to endure the lecture on the “Rule of Benedict”: “the first step of humility, then, is that a man keeps the fear of God (timor Dei) always before his eyes and never forgets it” (RB 7. 10)
For Vicars for Clergy the rule now reads: keep the fear of the prosecutor always before your eyes and never forget it.
The Philadelphia Grand Jury report found priests in ministry with credible accusations of childhood sexual abuse. Last week the Los Angeles Vicar for Clergy Michael Myers was forced to resign because the press discovered yet another L.A. priest perpetrator still in ministry. This is not an isolated incident. Just a few days later, a Monterey priest was “discovered” in active ministry although there was a credible abuse complaint against him going back 19 years.
The Church has been around two millennia and is not known for change. For the roughly 700 Bishop’s men past or present who functioned as Vicars for Clergy and Vicar Generals, everything has changed.
Blessed is the flow of the River of Truth, which helps us to wash away the filth.
The book The Bishop’s Man by Canadian Journalist Linden MacIntyre is available here.