Thursday, August 9, 2012

Catholic Priest Arrested for Drunk Driving in the Nude (with a Laptop) Versus Convicted Felon Monsignor William Lynn

When I was a priest, there was absolutely nothing that could keep me from celebrating Mass on the weekends.  For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death does one part, a priest had to be at the altar on Sunday so that the faithful could get their communion.

Last weekend, a priest in Michigan, Rev. Peter Petroske of Sacred Heart parish in Dearborn, went above and beyond in his dedication to be at the altar over the weekend.  He performed the "Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist" after having been arrested for drunk driving . . . while in the nude . . . and with a laptop.  

Instead of commending, Father Petroske for his devoted and uncompromising effort to provide his congregation with their weekly dose of Jesus, the Archdiocese of Detroit immediately suspended Petroske from his position as pastor, banned him from church property, evicted him from his living quarters, and stripped him of the ability to present himself as a priest.  In other words, lose the collar, Father.

This seems a bit extreme, as I don't recall learning in my Canon Law courses that naked drunk driving was grounds for being barred from church grounds.  Was there something illegal on that laptop?  If so, where are the child porn charges?  I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, Monsignor William Lynn, the first U.S. Catholic official to be found guilty of felony charges for covering up priest-perpetrated sexual abuse and sentenced to three to six years in prison, has not been defrocked.  The canonical jury is still out.  He's still wearing the collar.  In court.  

Worried that Monsignor Lynn will return to his active priestly duties after serving his sentence, the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has called for Catholic authorities to defrock the ordained felon.  But this is not so easily done.  Because Monsignor Lynn is not guilty of the actual sexual abuse (just covering it up), Canon Law and the U.S. bishops' policies about sexual abuse offer "few provisions."  Also, if Monsignor Lynn were defrocked for his part in conspiring to cover up sexual abuse of minors, what would the Catholic Church do with the large number of bishops and priests who also shuffled sexual predators for decades?  How many bishops would remain?  

So, if Monsignor Lynn is not defrocked, what is his post-prison fate?  Here's one possibility:
Kathleen McChesney, a former FBI agent who was the first head of the Office of Child and Youth Protection at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Lynn might be treated like a priest convicted of drunk driving or a similar crime -- allowing him to continue as a priest after paying his dues but giving him "meaningful work" in another context.
Which brings us back to drunk driving.  Father Petroske is immediately barred from his home, from church grounds, from performing the sacraments, and from even presenting himself as a priest because he drove drunk in the nude.  But convicted-felon and sexual-abuse enabler Monsignor Lynn continues to wear the priestly collar (presenting himself as a priest) and may be welcomed back into the priestly workforce after serving his sentence.  

Maybe Father Petroske should have covered up some sexual abuse cases instead of engaging in an alcohol-induced nude joyride.  At least then he'd be able to keep his Sunday Mass commitments.

Convicted felon, Monsignor William Lynn, presents himself as a priest, 
while a judge denies him bail during his appeal.