Archive of June 22, 2012

Scholars defend findings of difficulties among same-sex parented children

Waco, Texas, Jun 22, 2012 (CNA) - A group of social scientists has lamented the “sustained and sensational criticism” from news media about a study that showed  increased difficulties and negative outcomes among young adult children of parents who have had same-sex relationships.

The 18 social scientists said that the research of University of Texas sociology professor Mark Regnerus is “not without limitations” but much of the criticism he has received is “unwarranted.”

They noted that sociology professor Paul Amato, chair of the family section of the American Sociological Association and president of the National Council on Family Relations, said that Regnerus’ study was “better situated than virtually all previously studies” to detect differences between different family groups in the U.S. population.

“We are disappointed that many media outlets have not done their due diligence in investigating the scientific validity of prior studies, and acknowledging the superiority of Regnerus’ sample to most previous research,” the social scientists said June 20 in a statement posted on the website of Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion.

Regnerus’ research found “statistically significant” differences in 25 of 40 outcomes between adult children who grew up with married, opposite-sex parents and those who grew up with a mother who had a same-sex relationship.

Households led by parents of either sex who engaged in same-sex relationships also showed greater household instability.

Children from same-sex female households showed more physical and mental health problems, more instability in romantic relationships, and lower average income as adults. They also showed higher levels of unemployment, smoking, need for public assistance and involvement in crime.

Regnerus published his findings in the July issue of Social Science Research. He used data from the New Family Structures Study, which measured differences in 40 social and personal indicators among 3,000 Americans ages 18 to 39 who were raised in eight different types of households.

Many prominent media outlets criticized the research as “anti-gay” and “sloppy.”

However, the social scientists who defend Regnerus said he used a “large, random and representative sample” of more than 200 children raised by parents who have had same-sex relationships.

By contrast, the “vast majority” of studies on the subject before 2012 have used “small, non-representative samples” unrepresentative of children in typical same-sex families in the U.S.

Regnerus’ findings of family instability are consistent with other studies of homosexual couples in countries like the Netherlands and Sweden, the social scientists said.

His findings also find a “parallel” in a new paper from American Institutes for Research sociologist Daniel Potter. Potter’s research on same-sex parenting and children’s academic achievement, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, found that children in same-sex parent families scored lower than their peers in married households with both biological parents.

Regnerus’ defenders said they do not think the new studies settle the debate about “gay parenting, same-sex marriage, and the welfare of children.” Backers of “same-sex marriage” could use the data as evidence same-sex relationships need legal supports for social stability, they noted.

They said Regnerus has “helped to inform the ongoing scholarly and public conversation about same-sex families in America.”

The social scientists who signed the letter defending Regnerus include Christian Smith of the University of Notre Dame, Rodney Stark of Baylor University and W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia.

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Legal experts say HHS dispute pits government against God

Indianapolis, Ind., Jun 22, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The HHS contraception mandate shows the federal government asserting its own authority as a “rival” to God, legal scholars warned, as the U.S. Church began two weeks of action for religious freedom.

“Power hates a rival, and allegiance to an all-embracing, monotheistic God poses a significant threat to power,” University of Oklahoma law professor Michael Scaperlanda said during a June 21 panel discussion on religious liberty at the 2012 Catholic Media Conference in Indianapolis.

“We are told today that our nation is too diverse to be influenced by religious moral principles. But history reveals a deeper and darker reason for marginalizing religion,” Scaperlanda said. “Simply put, the state is jealous of the rival source of authority.”

The University of Oklahoma professor offered his thoughts on the mandate, and related threats to the free exercise of religion, alongside Canon Law Society of America President Rita Joyce, and Professor Carter Snead of the University of Notre Dame Law School.

Their remarks to journalists and other media came as the U.S. bishops began the June 21-July 4 “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign. The initiative seeks to rally Catholics against the mandate requiring religious employers to offer objectionable services, including sterilization and abortion-causing drugs.

Joyce spoke about the 23 pending lawsuits that have been filed against the mandate by 56 different plaintiffs, including many Catholic dioceses. The canon law society president is also general counsel for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, which is among the local churches suing to block the mandate.

She stressed that the Church had been forced to defend itself by the Obama administration's denial of conscience rights. While the Church's own internal laws normally require compliance with civil law, the contraception mandate forces the Church to choose between obedience to God, or to the state.

“Canon law defers to civil law in those matters where it doesn't conflict with 'Divine law' – or God's law,” Joyce said. “Civil law, here, is conflicting with our law. It's conflicting with God's law, with the Church's law.”

“We do need to resist it, from a canonical point of view, because civil law here is coming in conflict with canon law.”

Snead, who specializes in public policy and bioethics at Notre Dame, stressed that the Obama administration had not followed through on a promise to “accommodate” employers with moral objections to contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs.

“This is one of the great myths of this debate. There is no accommodation,” Snead said.

Instead, he explained, the president had made a “promise to try to find some form of accommodation by August 2013” for groups with moral objections to the mandate.

“Those of you who pay attention to politics might notice that that's significantly after the presidential election,” Snead remarked.

Even “non-cynical” observers, he said, should ask themselves why the president would wait until after the election “to resolve this very vexed controversy” that involves the “very important voter population” of U.S. Catholics.

He summed up the administration's message to concerned Catholics: “Don't worry about this very serious problem that you're concerned about; I'll deal with it after the election's over, in a way that I'm sure you'll find satisfying.”

The Notre Dame professor described the mandate as a “radical form of coercion” against religious groups. He also rejected the notion that Catholics were seeking to restrict access to contraception, an objection raised by some activists who have sought to shift the debate away from religious freedom.

“The very definition of 'coercion' has been perverted in this debate,” Snead objected. “People are saying that it's 'coercion' on the part of the religious institutions, to not pay for something that is available through other means.”

“It's not coercion for me not to pay for something for you that violates my religious tradition.”

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Catholic group launches 'virtual vigil' for religious freedom

Washington D.C., Jun 22, 2012 (CNA) - A Catholic grassroots organization in the nation’s capital is organizing a virtual march for religious freedom to accompany the Fortnight for Freedom that is currently underway throughout the country.

“Our goal is to unite those standing for our liberties in a national way by their attendance at the virtual vigil in Washington, D.C.,” said Matt Smith, president of Catholic Advocate.
He explained on June 20 that the bishops “have urged us all to consider the 'Christian and American heritage of liberty' during this time,” and said that he believes “participating in our virtual vigil is one great way for people of faith from across the United States to come together.”

Catholic Advocate, a non-partisan lay Catholic group that encourages the faithful to be politically active in a way that is consistent with Church teaching, has announced the launch of a Virtual Vigil for Religious Liberty to coincide with the current Fortnight for Freedom.

The fortnight was announced by the U.S. bishops' religious freedom committee in response to growing threats to religious liberty within America.

Chief among these threats is a recent mandate by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that will require employers to offer health insurance plans that include contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.

The mandate has drawn widespread criticism for its infringement upon the religious liberty of those who object to it.

Bishops from every diocese in the U.S. have spoken out against the regulation, warning that it could force Catholic schools, hospitals and charitable agencies to close rather than act against the convictions of their faith.

In addition, more than 50 dioceses, schools, states, nonprofit organizations and private business owners have filed lawsuits challenging the mandate.

The Catholic bishops in the U.S. have called for a “Fortnight for Freedom” from June 21 to July 4 in order to support the restoration and protection of religious liberty in America.

The 14-day period has been designated as “a time of prayer, education, and action in support of religious liberty” and a means of highlighting the rich heritage of freedom of both Christians and Americans.

Through its Virtual Vigil for Religious Liberty, Catholic Advocate will urge the faithful to join in this national campaign of teaching, prayer and witness.

The group will encourage unified prayer, sharing of facts through social media and contacting Congressional representatives. It will also provide information about ways that people can take part in the fortnight within their local communities.

Those who wish to attend can do so via Facebook or by entering basic information online. They will then receive daily updates on activities to unite with others throughout the Fortnight for Freedom.

Attendees choose an avatar to represent them at the virtual vigil. Options are available for laity, as well as priests and women religious. The avatars are visible on the vigil website, gathered near the Washington Monument for a virtual March on the National Mall in D.C.

In addition, a section entitled “Got 5 Minutes – Do More to Help” allows vigil participants to engage in further prayer, education and advocacy activities.

The Virtual Vigil for Religious Liberty is one of numerous initiatives at both the national and diocesan levels that invite the faithful to get involved in the Fortnight for Freedom.

“We also encourage participation in the various activities being hosted in dioceses across the country,” Smith said. However, those who are unable to attend such events “can be a part of the fortnight through the vigil.”

The vigil will be hosted at

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Youngest bishop to attend Vatican II dies at 84

Lima, Peru, Jun 22, 2012 (CNA) - Archbishop Emeritus Alcides Mendoza Castro of Cusco, Peru, who at 34 was the youngest bishop to attend the Second Vatican Council, has died at the age of 84.

According to the Archdiocese of Lima, he passed away on June 20 after suffering “a painful bout with cancer with heroic strength.”

The wake and funeral Mass for Archbishop Mendoza were held at Sacred Heart Parish in Lima and his remains will be transported to the city of Cusco, where he wished to be buried.  

The burial rites will take place at the Cathedral of Cusco.

Archbishop Mendoza was born in 1928 in La Mejorada, a small village in the Andes of Peru. At seven years of age he began learning the faith from the Redemptorist Missionaries and soon discovered his vocation to the priesthood.
He entered the Minor Seminary of Ayacucho at the age of 12 and was ordained a priest in 1951 at the age of 23. Pope Pius XII appointed him bishop of Abancay, Peru in 1958 at the age of 30, making him the youngest bishop in the world. From 1962 to 1965 he attended the Second Vatican Council.
In 1967 Pope Paul VI appointed him Vicar of the Military Diocese of Peru, a post he held until 1983, when Pope John Paul II appointed him Archbishop of Cusco. He served there for the next 20 years until he reached the age of retirement.
In 2008 he celebrated his 50th anniversary as a bishop and was given a special award by Peruvian President Alan Garcia for his service to the country.

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Mexico to host contemporary art exhibit on Our Lady of Charity

Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 22, 2012 (CNA) - A contemporary art exhibit highlighting the relationship between the Cuban government and the Archdiocese of Mexico City will open on June 24 at the Cathedral of Mexico City.

According to the archdiocese, the exhibit – featuring images of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre – was on display in Havana in December of 2011 and was later shown in cities across Cuba as part of the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the Marian devotion.

The collection of art created by Cuban artists will be on display at the Cathedral of Mexico for one month.

Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City, as well as representatives of the Cuban embassy in Mexico and the Mexican government, is expected to attend the inauguration.

Our Lady of Charity is the patroness of Cuba and was a central focus of Pope Benedict XVI’s recent visit to the country in March of this year.

Church leaders in Cuba have underscored the importance of this Marian devotion in the formation of the identity and faith of the Cuban people throughout their history.

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Pope examines why Latin American Catholics join evangelical churches

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict believes that Catholics who convert to evangelical Christianity often do so because they experience a lack of fervor, joy and community within Catholic parishes – rather than for doctrinal reasons.

“Often sincere people who leave our Church do not do so as a result of what non-Catholic groups believe, but fundamentally as a result of their own lived experience; for reasons not of doctrine but of life; not for strictly dogmatic, but for pastoral reasons; not due to theological problems, but to methodological problems of our Church,”he told a delegation of Colombian bishops at the Vatican June 21.

The Pope’s comments were specifically focused on Latin America, where“the increasingly active presence of Pentecostal and Evangelical communities … cannot be ignored or underestimated.”

Despite statistics indicating that more than 90 percent of Colombians still identify themselves as Catholics, in recent decades the rate of conversions to evangelical Protestantism has increased across Latin America, particularly in poor urban neighborhoods.

Such a trend, the Pope said, suggests that increasing numbers of Christians feel called “to purification and the revitalization of their faith.”

In response to this, he urged Catholics to become “better believers, more pious, affable and welcoming in our parishes and communities, so that no-one feels distant or excluded.” The Pope also offered some practical advice, calling for better catechesis – particularly to the young – carefully prepared homilies during Mass and the promotion of Catholic doctrine in schools and universities.

If Catholics strive to follow this path, the Pope said, it will help awaken in them “the aspiration to share with others the joy of following Christ and become members of His mystical body.”

Similarly important, he said, is social solidarity with those who suffer most due to poverty or violence. A 2009 survey by polling company Gallup found that nearly 1 in 5 Colombians has had a close friend or relative murdered in past 12 months.

The Pope called for increased help for those people “whose fundamental rights are trampled underfoot and are forced to abandon home and family under the threat of terror and criminality,” as well as“those who have fallen into the barbarous networks of drugs or arms dealing.”

Such“generous and fraternal” help, he said, is not born of “any human calculation” but from “love for God and neighbor: the source from which the Church draws the strength she needs to carry out her task.”

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Archbishop Lori kicks-off Fortnight for Freedom with call to action

Baltimore, Md., Jun 22, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholics must fight against forces seeking to remove the influence of religion from American culture, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore told over 1,000 Catholics at a Mass beginning a 14-day campaign for religious freedom.

“In differing ways, both the Church’s teaching and our nation’s founding documents acknowledge that the Creator has endowed individuals with freedom of conscience,” said Archbishop Lori. “Such freedom goes to the heart of the dignity of the human person.”

The archbishop delivered the opening homily for the Fortnight for Freedom, the two-week period leading up to the Fourth of July that the bishops have dedicated as a time for prayer, education and advocacy for religious liberty.

The June 21 Mass took place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption in Baltimore, the nation’s first Catholic cathedral.

Archbishop Lori, who leads the U.S. bishops’ religious freedom committee, was met with standing applause when he entered the overflowing cathedral, as well as after the homily and at the conclusion of Mass.

In his homily, he observed that the date chosen to kick off the fortnight was the eve of the feast day of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, 16th century English martyrs who were beheaded because they would not comply with a law that made King Henry VIII the head of the Church and broke communion with the Pope.  

He explained that these two saints symbolize the “two aspects of religious freedom” that the Fortnight for Freedom is striving to protect and foster.

An accomplished lawyer who served as the Chancellor of England, St. Thomas More was willing to accept martyrdom courageously rather than “to betray his principles and his conscience.”

Archbishop Lori said that More represents the conscientious private employers and employees who simply seek to “go about their daily work in accord with their faith” and the demands of social justice, while avoiding “doing or facilitating moral evil in course of daily work.”

While perhaps less well-know, St. John Fisher also witnessed courageously as the Bishop of Rochester in Kent, he added.

Fisher helped renew the Church from within while opposing external state interference. After his martyrdom, royal forces seized churches, monasteries and learning centers, either destroying them or forcing them to break ties with the Catholic Church.

The archbishop explained that St. John Fisher symbolizes for us the “struggle to maintain religious freedom for church institutions and ministries such as our schools and charities.”

While we are not met with the “dire brutality” that these two saints faced, the U.S. Church today is in “perilous waters,” he said.

He pointed to a federal mandate that will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. While the mandate includes a religious exemption, it applies only to non-profit organizations that exist to inculcate religious values and that primarily serve and employ members of their own faiths.

Religious organizations such as Catholic hospitals, inner-city schools and charitable agencies do not qualify for the exemption because they are committed to serving all in need, regardless of their faith.

Thus, the Church is only “religious enough” for a religious exemption if it “confines itself to the sacristy,” but not if it attempts to reach out “by hiring those of other faiths and by serving the common good,” Archbishop Lori observed.

He warned that this very narrow definition of church and religion that is embedded in the mandate “is likely to spread throughout federal law” if not swiftly removed.

With the mandate scheduled to go into effect on August 1, private employers will be forced to “violate their consciences” in less than six weeks, he said.

Recalling how religious freedom – in both private worship and public life – drew many people to America from its very beginning as a nation, the archbishop called on the faithful to “defend the Church’s freedom to fulfill her mission” through proclaiming the Gospel and manifesting God’s love in organized works of education and charity.

He stressed the need to defend the religious freedom of both individuals and church institutions, which find both their identity and their mission in firmly-held religious convictions. It is important to protect both, because the two are “inseparably linked,” and a threat to one poses a risk to the other as well, he said.

Even if the mandate is overturned, Archbishop Lori cautioned, Catholics must still fight forces of secularism that are seeking to prevent religious faith from having any impact on culture.

He urged the faithful to act courageously “throughout this Fortnight and beyond,” to defend freedom and bear witness to the moral values and truths that serve as the foundation for “a society that is just, peaceful and charitable.”

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Supreme Knight urges Catholics to put faith first while voting

Indianapolis, Ind., Jun 22, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic voters must demand respect for their moral convictions and the Church's freedom in 2012 and beyond, the head of the Knights of Columbus said in a June 22 speech.

The faithful “must have the courage to act boldly,” by insisting that candidates “respect the integrity and mission of the Catholic Church and its institutions,” Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson told journalists gathered for the 2012 Catholic Media Conference in Indianapolis.

As they cast their votes, Catholics “must have the courage to tell candidates that if they want Catholic votes they will have to respect the fundamental principles of Catholic social teaching,” the head of the Catholic fraternal order said.

Anderson said the faithful should seek to “debate and vote on the full range of Catholic social teaching – including prudential issues that raise serious moral questions.”

But this can only be accomplished if Church members stop supporting “candidates who advocate policies that are intrinsically evil.”

Only by withholding the vote from unacceptable candidates, will Catholics eventually become able to “choose between candidates who are in agreement on the fundamental social teaching of the Church.”

The Supreme Knight began his address on Friday evening by acknowledging the “sad state of today's political environment,” characterized by “the intransigence and the partisanship” that “make the search for solutions virtually impossible.”

Catholics, he said, “are uniquely positioned to offer a solution” to this dilemma, through fidelity to the Church's teachings.

This transformation, Anderson suggested, requires a commitment to civility in the discussion of controversial issues. Since Christians hope for the salvation even of their “most strident adversaries,” they must seek “the conversion, not the destruction” of political opponents.

Catholics can also change American society by implementing the Church's vision of charity, which is “not simply a mechanism for the more efficient or cost-effective delivery of social services.” Rather, it is rooted in the value of solidarity, “the Christian vision that we are our brother’s keeper.”

Alongside these commitments to civility and charity, Anderson called on U.S. Catholics to make a “consistent commitment to the social teaching of our Church” for the good of the nation.

The Supreme Knight, who was directly involved in national politics during the 1970s and 1980s, recounted his decision to leave the Reagan administration “to serve a higher calling and to promote key elements of Catholic social teaching beyond the political realm.”

“As I told President Reagan then,” he recalled, “I believed these issues could not simply be limited to – or dismissed as – the domain of a single political party.”

During the 1980s, however, key principles of Church teaching were abandoned by a generation of Catholic politicians – beginning with former New York Governor Mario Cuomo – who proclaimed themselves “personally opposed” to abortion, but unwilling to restrict it in law.

But Cuomo's argument, Anderson noted, had a “fatal flaw,” since science proved the full humanity of the unborn child “irrespective of one’s religious conviction.” The pro-life movement did not seek to impose religion, but to extend the protection of innocent life found in “every civilized society.”

Nonetheless, the “Cuomo doctrine” spawned “a generation of 'pro-choice' Catholic politicians.” The result, according to the Supreme Knight, “has been a political stalemate on the abortion issue for nearly three decades.”

“But there was also another effect,” he said. “Governor Cuomo’s rationale created an environment in which it became easier for candidates to dismiss other principles of Catholic social teaching.”

“So every election year many Catholic voters see their choice as between the lesser of two evils. They face candidates who argue that while they may not be consistent with Catholic values on all issues, they are consistent on some and that should be good enough. But it is not good enough.”

“And as bad as this situation is, it has produced an even worse result. It has blocked the potential of Catholic social teaching to transform our nation's politics.”

America's political parties have been dramatically transformed in the past, Anderson noted, as in the case of the Democratic Party's rejection of segregation during the 1960s.

At present, he suggested, a similar change in American politics is not just possible, but necessary.

The supposed “truce” between Catholics and a hostile culture – brokered by Cuomo and other “personally opposed” politicians – has been shattered by the Obama administration, Anderson said.

“This year many Catholics sense that this 'peaceful co-existence' with secular culture has ended as a result of the HHS mandate,” the Supreme Knight said, pointing to the federal rule forcing virtually all employers to cover contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs in their health plans.

The mandate threatens “the autonomy and the integrity of our Church and its institutions,” and could “dramatically change the mission of the Catholic Church in the United States.”

For this reason, the contraception mandate “confronts us with a challenge which is a very different one from that of social issues such as legalized abortion. It is different because it is a challenge to the integrity of our Catholic institutions and our own lives as Catholics.”

While the abortion issue raises questions about Catholics' public policy choices, the mandate dispute involves a more direct threat to the Church – through the “re-definition of religion itself and the reduction of the role of religion in America's public square.”

In light of this threat from the HHS Mandate, Anderson said, Catholic voters  “should no longer accept politics as usual.”

“Catholic voters should insist that candidates measure their political platforms by Catholic social teaching – especially if those candidates are Catholics,” the Supreme Knight declared.

“Catholic voters should have the courage not to settle for anything less than this. And they should have the courage to withhold their vote from candidates who fail this test,” he advised.

The Supreme Knight urged the faithful to consult the U.S. bishops' “Faithful Citizenship” document, which “tells us that there are some actions that are intrinsically evil and must always be opposed.”

Having formed their consciences according to these non-negotiable principles, Anderson said, Catholics must “exercise our right to vote on our own terms, as Catholics, and not on the terms of others.”

“If we do, America will be a better place. I believe that as Americans and as Catholics, you and I have a responsibility to try and make this happen.”

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Philadelphia archdiocese apologizes after conviction in abuse case

Philadelphia, Pa., Jun 22, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - In response to the jury decision in the trial of former Archdiocese of Philadelphia official Monsignor William J. Lynn, the archdiocese has offered a “heartfelt apology” to all abuse victims and expressed commitment to child safety and “reform and renewal.”

“This has been a difficult time for all Catholics, especially victims of sexual abuse,” the archdiocese said June 22. “The lessons of the last year have made our Church a more vigilant guardian of our people’s safety.”

A Philadelphia jury on Friday convicted Msgr. Lynn, the former secretary of clergy under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, on a count of child endangerment for failing to protect children from abusive priests.

Prosecutors argued that Msgr. Lynn's actions showed a pattern by Church officials to cover up the abuse, but the jury found him not guilty on a conspiracy charge and a second count of endangerment.

The 61-year-old priest faces up to seven years in prison. He was not accused of abuse himself.

“Now and in the future, the Church will continue to take vigorous steps to ensure safe church environments for all the faithful in Philadelphia,” the archdiocese said in response to the jury’s decision.

The jury deadlocked on charges of attempted rape and endangerment against Msgr. Lynn’s co-defendant, Father James J. Brennan, who allegedly attempted to rape a 14-year-old boy in 1996.

Msgr. Lynn faced accusations that he recommended Fr. Brennan and then-Fr. Edward Avery be allowed to live or work in parishes in the 1990s even though the two showed signs they might abuse minors.

Avery, who was laicized in March 2006, pled guilty to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy in 1999. He is currently serving a 2 1/2 to 5 year sentence in state prison.

Msgr. Lynn served 12 years as an advisor to Cardinal Bevilacqua and was chief investigator of clergy misconduct.

The prosecution argued that his response to claims of abuse against over 20 priests showed he focused on protecting the Church instead of children. They said he lied to some victims and did not seek out others. The prosecutors also said he suggested to some sexually abusive priests that they may have been seduced by their accusers.

Msgr. Lynn said that prosecutors misconstrued his words and memos. He said medical experts had advised him not to seek out other possible victims because the victims might not want to discuss the abuse.

He portrayed his comments about seduction as efforts to do anything to persuade an abusive priest out of ministry and into treatment.

After the sentence was announced, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina revoked Msgr. Lynn’s bail and remanded him into custody. He is scheduled to be sentenced on August 13.

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