Two weeks ago, Msgr. William Lynn, a top church official, was charged with endangering the welfare of children for allegedly reassigning abusive priests to parishes where they had access to children. Three of those priests and a parochial schoolteacher later raped two altar boys, prosecutors say. The four men have been charged with rape and other crimes and are free on bail.
Through his lawyers, Lynn has vigorously denied any wrongdoing. He is also free on bail.
The arrests were made at the recommendation of a Philadelphia grand jury that blasted the archdiocese for shielding abusers and putting concern about scandal ahead of the welfare of children. It was the second time a grand jury had criticized the church for its handling of sex-abuse cases. In 2005, another grand jury accused the archdiocese of "an immoral cover-up" for failing to remove abusive priests.
The newspaper's apology, written by its director and general manager, Matthew Gambino, stressed that the archdiocese had taken steps since the first grand-jury report to improve its handling of abuse allegations. In response to the second grand jury's criticism, the church hired an outside lawyer to scrutinize all abuse allegations and recommend action.
At the same time, the editorial emphasized that crimes against children had been reported in public schools, youth groups, and other organizations. It said the church was alone in taking the problem seriously.
"The problem of sexual abuse of minors is being addressed, albeit imperfectly, in only one sector of society, the Catholic Church," the newspaper said. "Youth sports organizations, public schools, community groups, and other faith communities all report incidents of abuse. Few have been forced to look as extensively at the horror of child sexual abuse perpetrated within their organizations and to enact broad policies to prevent it."
Those comments drew immediate and angry criticism from advocates for abuse victims.
"This is, in many ways, worse than no apology at all," said David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. "There might be a few other institutions that have promulgated as many official policies on abuse as the church, but in our experience, over 23 years, those policies are honored in the breach.
"The church hierarchy needs to focus on job one, which is safeguarding kids, not mollifying adults with words."
Gambino said the apology was sincere.
Despite efforts to reform, he said, "the programs have fallen short."
"We are the church. This church is not only the bishops and the priests, it's the lay people," he said. "And we all need to be sorry about this."
Contact staff writer Nancy Phillips at 215-854-2254 or firstname.lastname@example.org.