The Penn State football dynasty and the Roman Catholic Church both for decades have put their own prestige and privilege ahead of the safety of children. The criminal convictions last night are a measure of justice for children whose words were not believed in the face of denials by the these powerful institutions. In both of these cases it was not only the evil of the child predators that was at issue but the abuse of power by the institutions that allowed child rapes to go on for years.
I hope that these cases are just the first step in protecting children and in holding those responsible for child abuse and the cover ups accountable. Monsignor William Lynn of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was the first upper level official of the Catholic Church to be held accountable for protecting child rapists and endangering children. From the evidence in that case it is clear that Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua who was Monsignor Lynn's boss was probably even more culpable. Monsignor Lynn was the vicar for clergy under Cardinal Bevilacqua which means that he was authorized to act for and stand in the place of the Cardinal. Monsignor Lynn was the also the personnel manager of the Archdiocese.
The next significant criminal case pending is the child sex abuse cover up case against Bishop Robert Finn in Kansas City. This case against Bishop Finn is only the second criminal prosecution ever against a high level Catholic priest for covering up for another priest child sex abuser. In spite of this charge and the clear underlying evidence that Bishop Lynn failed or refused to follow Missouri law and report child abuse to law enforcement the Vatican still has not removed Bishop Finn.
Another significant move to protect children and provide justice to survivors of past abuse is the pending legislation in a number of states to extend the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits against child predators and the institutions that protect them. Hawaii recently enacted important legislation that provides a "window" of two years for those who were intimidated or who could not come forward to file their civil cases in past years. New York State has had very good legislation proposed in each of the last few years but it has been defeated primarily by lobbying from the Catholic Council of lobbyists that want to continue the cover up.
The criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits bring some comfort to survivors of childhood sexual abuse and help protect children in the future. These survivors know that they are not alone and that juries in our court system will listen when the prosecutors and witnesses speak truth to the power of institutions that ask people to have blind faith in their authority.
Admitted to both the California State Bar and the Florida State Bar, Joseph Saunders has also practiced in the United States District Court and the United States Court of Appeals. His philosophy is to provide aggressive, quality representation and seek fair compensation for individuals and their families who have suffered injury or death at the hands of insurance companies, large corporations, medical providers or governmental entities.