There's a photo bouncing around Facebook of an adorable child hugging an equally adorable retriever. The caption reads: "There's a special place in hell for those who abuse children and animals."
If there is indeed a hell, and there's any justice in that fiery place, the saying must be correct. And surely those who aid and abet abusers would qualify for the same "special" kind of damnation as the abusers themselves.
A landmark trial is underway in Philadelphia. For the first time, a church official (one not accused of laying a hand or other body part on a child) is charged with child endangerment. Prosecutors in the City of Brotherly Love allege that Monsignor William Lynn knowingly allowed sex-abuser priests under his supervision to remain in roles where they could continue to torture children.
The defense team argues that Msgr. Lynn took action when made aware of abuse allegations. Letters were written, now (conveniently) dead Cardinals consulted. Bad priests were sent, in true fox-watching-hen-house fashion, to rehabilitation programs run by the Church to be "cured" of pedophiliac urges.
The one common sense action that any parent would demand, removal of the accused priest pending full investigation, was never even put on the table.
So much for defense of the defenseless. Msgr. Lynn did what the Catholic hierarchy does with monotonous regularity: he let the interests of his fraternity of priests eclipse the interests of defenseless children.
I'm hopeful the prosecutors chose the closest thing they could find to a slam-dunk case as a test run.
And I hope prosecutors and lawmakers around the country are paying attention.
Civil law suits have cropped up here and there, alleging that the hierarchy ignored abuse. Millions of dollars in settlements have changed hands. Dozens of priests have gone to jail, but those who helped them offend and re-offend have gotten a pass.
If the prosecutors in Msgr. Lynn's case secure a conviction, perhaps other district attorneys will consider charging monsignors, bishops and cardinals who aided and abetted the molestation of minors.
Consider: You can go to jail for child endangerment by turning a blind eye to a seventeen-year-old drinking a beer under your roof. Shouldn't you go to jail for looking the other way while your subordinate sodomizes a nine-year-old?
To date, none of the Church's supervisors or "deciders" have gone to prison.
Nor have the top decision makers made sweeping management changes. The pope's reaction to allegations that Boston's own Cardinal Bernard Law knew his priests were raping little boys? His Holiness gave Cardinal Law a major promotion. He gets to live out his days, fat, happy and far from prosecution in the Vatican. I hope he enjoys his stay, because if the saying at the top of this piece is right, the Cardinal is due for a massive lifestyle downgrade in the afterlife.
As is the pope, whose inaction on child sex abuse within his ranks is breath-taking. God's Rottweiler is obviously too busy reprimanding nuns who support medical care for children with pre-existing medical conditions to worry about child rapists in his Church.
I have to believe there's a hot seat in that special hell for abusers with Benedict's name on it.
Let's not mince words. These are men covering for other men who rape little kids.
Anyone out there really believe in second chances for child molesters?
I have to wonder, would prosecutors demonstrate greater zeal if the majority of the victims were girls? I suspect the reason many priests abuse boys is a simple matter of access: Father So-and-So is more likely to get solo time with a male ten-year-old than a female one.
Nor have any states passed laws specifically requiring members of the clergy to report suspected child abuse.
The Church has had years, decades even, to clean its own house. It has failed abysmally. Every once in a while, a Church official issues a pre-written statement, bemoaning pedophilia in the ranks. To the best of my knowledge, no member of the hierarchy has ever made himself available to answer tough questions about why the Church continues to move so glacially in response to the never-ending complaints of child abuse.
I applaud the DA's office in Philly for finally forcing the issue. I hope its counterparts follow suit, and I hope the newspapers cover each trial, day by day, so the faithful can see the mind-boggling extent of the conspiracy against their children.
Those who help abusers torture their victims may have a special place in hell waiting, but I'm not content to bank on it. Perhaps we should send the guilty Church officials to prison here on Earth, just to make sure.