More transparency sought from Philadelphia archbishop

Monsignor William Lynn, the first U.S. church official convicted for failing to prevent other priests from sexually abusing children, is awaiting sentencing. The former secretary for clergy for the Philadelphia Archdiocese was found guilty last month.

With the landmark trial over, the church faces calls for transparency.

Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput and many others across the country give the public, including affected parishioners, little information about alleged child sexual abuse by priests, says Anne Barrett Doyle, the co-director of bishopaccountability.org.

“Chaput, though, is even less transparent than many bishops in the category of priests removed for alleged violations of the ministerial code. There we see the archbishop giving absolutely no information,” she said. “Elsewhere in U.S. dioceses, most bishops will say at least whether the ministerial misconduct fell in the category of financial misconduct or sexual misconduct with an adult.”

Doyle said in the wake of grand jury reports and the landmark priest abuse case, this is a significant time for the Philadelphia Archdiocese and area Catholics.

“What’s extraordinary is that Chaput is even less transparent than his fellow bishops at a time when he is obliged to be setting an example of very high and complete transparency in order to win the public’s trust,” she said.

Archdiocese representatives have routinely refused to elaborate on why individual priests were found unfit for public ministry. But, Doyle says, without more information, parishioners may speculate and worry about the details of the priest’s trouble.

In May, Chaput said, he could not provide more details about the cases because he said he needed to “balance the need for transparency with the pain already felt by victims — pain which we acknowledge and do not wish to compound.

“It’s important for the victims themselves to control to whom, when, and how extensively they disclose their accounts, and we support whatever that decision may be,” Chaput said.

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