March 29, 2007
The story of Bishop Robert Lynch
By Matt C. Abbott
Bishop Robert Lynch is in the news again.
The brother of the late Terri Schiavo, Bobby Schindler,recently wrote a letter to Lynch taking him to task "for not doing enough to stop [Schiavo's] death."
The following is an excerpt from chapter 14 of Randy Engel's bookThe Rite of Sodomy: Homosexuality and the Roman Catholic Church.
On June 2, 1998, Bishop Robert Lynch of the Diocese of St. Petersburg took the podium at a press conference staged at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola in Palm Beach to announce the resignation of his colleague, Bishop Joseph Symons. The resignation followed the revelation that Symons had molested at least five teenage boys during the early years of his priesthood. Pope John Paul II accepted Symons' resignation and assigned Lynch the role of Apostolic Administrator of Palm Beach until a successor to Symons was selected.
In his introductory remarks at the press conference, Lynch announced that Symons had entered into a program of "evaluation and treatment" at an undisclosed location. Church officials could not squirrel Symons away at St. Luke's Institute because the bishop's old friend Fr. Rocco D'Angeleo had taken up residency there. So they sent Symons back to his native Michigan where he took up temporary residence at a convent somewhere in the DeWitt area near Lansing.
Within a year, the disgraced Symons was back in circulation in the DeWitt area. At the request of Bishop Carl F. Mengeling of Lansing, Symons presented a daylong program of prayer and meditation on the Virgin Mary at the St. Francis Retreat Center in DeWitt. Apparently, Mengeling failed to see the grotesque irony of his actions.
Let us return to the Lynch press conference.
Bishop Lynch read a prepared text from Symons in which he (Symons) admitted to "inappropriate sexual behavior with minors." He offered his apologies to those he had hurt and asked for the prayers of the faithful for the unfaithful. Typical of the ego-centered mentality of homosexuals, Symons wrote, "At some other time, I hope the People of God in the Church in Palm Beach will be able to appreciate what I have attempted to accomplish while serving as your bishop."
Lynch told reporters that Symons told him that he had not molested anyone in the last 25 years, that is from 1973 onwards, but Lynch added: "I want to believe him, but sometimes people with this disease are in such deep denial that they don't remember what they did." Lynch admitted "we don't know how many victims there were," but he said both he and Bishop John Ricard of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee where the reported molestations had taken place, invited anyone else who had been molested by Symons to come forward.
Following the press conference, the Palm Beach Post reported for eight consecutive days on the Symons scandal. Articles on Symons' resignation were also covered by the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, St Petersburg Times, and Miami Herald. A brief mention of Symons' resignation also appeared in the New York Times, Atlantic Journal and Constitution, Chicago Tribune and Seattle Times.
However, according to writer Mark Silk, the Symons resignation attracted little national media attention outside of Florida because neither the original accuser, a 53-year-old man who told his priest that he had been molested by Symons when he was a 13-year-old altar boy, nor the other alleged victims had ever filed a lawsuit or taken legal action against Symons or the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee. Thus the issue was dead in the water with Bishop Lynch's announcement that Symons had stepped down from his office.
Bishop Lynch got the credit for the quick defusing of the Symons scandal. The local media praised his candor and honesty. The Tampa Tribune called his handling of the case "impressive" and the Miami Herald hailed the Church's new openness as "refreshing." According to Silk, Lynch told reporters that it had taken five weeks from his receiving the complaint to securing Pope John Paul II's acceptance of Symons' resignation. Far from minimizing the malfeasance as long past and limited in scope, he expressed only conditional support for his departed colleague's version of events.
What's Wrong With This Picture?
The only thing wrong with this picture perfect conclusion is that it is largely untrue.