Sunday, June 24, 2012


I want to take a short Post to bring the Philadelphia Catholic clerical-abuse trial up to date. (Very early in the week I will put up my next installment on Roger Lancaster’s book.)

After a months-long presentation of evidence (most of which were stories about priests going back before the tenure of either of the accused (Fr. Brennan, charged with one count of attempted-rape; and Msgr. Lynn, charged with several counts of conspiracy to endanger a child and endangering the welfare of a child) the jury – after a very long two-week deliberation – returned a Guilty finding on only one charge (endangering a child).

You can look at an overview of the findings here and review a professional reporter’s assessment of the whole thing here .

I won’t rehash the case here, since the links I have provided lead you to the two sites that have followed it most closely all along.

 But there are a couple of points that I think are very important to mention.

First is that from the beginning there was clearly a great deal of powerful political pressure hovering all around this case. The current Chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is a former Philly mayor and PA governor (and attorney who still retains membership in a Philly law firm).

My own take on it is that the egregious behavior of the judge and prosecutors and even the weird cobbled-together nature of the case were not simply the result of incompetence or the type of arrogance often seen in SO-Mania cases. Rather, the official participants – from the DA’s Office and on the bench – were aware that they had a great deal of political power supporting them.

That political power had as its objective the familiar playing-to-the-bases: the bases in this case being progressives and secular-minded ‘liberals’ (vital in a state that has now according to the polls switched from a reliable Democratic state to a ‘swing state’), while also attracting perhaps some law-and-order votes from persons who might otherwise vote Republican in the upcoming national elections.

Sex-offenses are here revealed – as they have always been, really – as politically useful ‘issues’ in domestic politics. *

And the ‘victims’ and their advocacies turn out – if my scenario is anywhere near accurate – to be pawns in a much larger political Game, even though the media attention remains riveted to them and the ongoing melodrama of Heroic Innocence vs. Evil.

This has been true since the Republican’s first embraced ‘victimism’ as a counter to the accused’s rights in criminal trials 30 years ago (around the same time as the Satanic Ritual Child Abuse Day-Care trials of the early 1980s) and then as the politically-minded radical-feminist advocacies saw how they too might surf that wave to advantage, leading to the DoVi Regime of the very late 1980s and then, of course, the SO Mania Regime as it blossomed so poisonously starting in the very-early 1990s.

Second is that it becomes clear both from statements made (see the linked articles) by officials after the verdict was returned and by comments made on the various sites, that the trial was envisaged truly as a ‘show-trial’ in the baaad sense of the term: the Charges against the accused were merely pretexts for going-after a larger target.

This is hugely toxic to the integrity and legitimacy of any Western legal system,

The primary and inalienable purpose of a criminal trial is to determine – as best as possibly can be done through presentation, analysis-of, and deliberation-upon evidence – whether the Charges brought by the government against a specific accused are sufficiently grounded so as to justify the deployment of the Sovereign authority against the accused.

To the extent that in the process of achieving this profoundly serious task the public might be educated into the working of the law (wielded in its name and on its authority), then a trial is an educational instrument and in this sense all trials are – in the good sense – ‘show trials’.

If, however, the purpose of the trial is deranged such that the Charges and even the trial are intended to be merely pretexts for some achieving some other objective or other agenda, then the trial is very literally perverted and the integrity and legitimacy of the legal system is weakened. And any such trial becomes a ‘show trial’ in the bad sense of the term.

The third point I would make is to look at the comments people make on these sites. (The Catholic abuse sites such as the ones I’ve linked to above or the National Catholic Reporter site (very ‘liberal’ in its leanings) are useful for SO matters generally because they provide a focused and generally accessible set of sites and comments. I have not gone trolling general victim-specific sites or listservs to observe goings-on there.)

What you see is an awful lot of emotion. And it is emotion driven by an awful lot of wrong-information (but who can forget the hugely wrong information in the legislative Findings that were supposed to justify so many of the SO-Mania laws?).

And yet it is wrong in a very specific way: it supports what they want to believe in the first place anyway.

And they don’t take time to corroborate the information, let alone examine or reason out the implications of their presumptions. Instead, they ‘know what they know’, what they ‘know’ is True, and they don’t want to be confused with facts. Indeed, persons who bring unpleasant or inconvenient facts to the discussion must be ‘defenders’ of ‘pedophiles’ and probably are pedophiles (or some such) themselves.

When you see so much of this stuff in the comments, you realize – I would say – that you are seeing not simply the tics of individual commenters but rather you are seeing  - as if in a brain scan – the mentality that has driven so much of the SO-Mania Regime. These are the folks upon whose numbers and ‘thoughts’ the organized advocacies rely when they sit down with congressional staffers and pols to hammer out their demands for this and that new law or policy.

I have mentioned Theodore Lowi’s seminal March, 1967 article tracing the postwar development of what he called “interest group liberalism”: Washington hit upon the idea of letting various interest-groups (farmers, labor and business were the groups of the day) write the laws, regulations and policies  that Congress would then simply enact. That scheme had the delicious benefits of the government not appearing to ‘impose’ or ‘coerce’ changes, but merely ‘respond to’ the expressed wishes of The People (actually, the expressed agendas of the interest-groups).

He saw huge and fundamental problems inherent in the scheme: pols would no longer have to accept responsibility of passing the coercive impositions; pols would not even have to accept responsibility (their sworn Constitutional responsibility, that is to say) for examining and assessing the value of these laws, policies, and regulations for the general American common-weal; nor would pols have to accept responsibility for enacting all these agendas. And the assorted Beltway interest-groups would be happy (and grateful, politically and monetarily).

The People could be left out of the equation.

What I would say is that this ‘public philosophy’ went supernova starting in the late 1960s and early 1970s when ‘interest group liberalism’ became advocacy-group liberalism (my term for it). Thus, now, so many of the DoVi and SO Mania laws have been written not by sober and detached legislators, but rather have been put together by advocacy-groups to fulfill their particular agendas and dreams, and then simply passed (so often, without public deliberation or even a recorded individual vote) by legislative bodies that anyone who had read even a basic civics-textbook would imagine had done their job and seriously analyzed the stuff before letting it become public law or policy.

And, of course, once the pols started down this road, it became not only addictive but became an iron-trap for the pols: they couldn’t go back and admit (after no matter how many frakkulent toxic consequences) that they were wrong, because actually it would then become public knowledge that they hadn’t even bothered to think about the consequences at all in the first place.

And so they simply pass even more laws, at best trying to ‘refine’ or ‘tweak’ their originally egregious laws (AWA is a perfect example of this).

And the pols are supported in so many cases by courts at all levels that go-along-with and enable these laws by finding them unobjectionable and ‘constitutional’ through the most repugnant and extraordinary contortions of judicial analysis (the Megan’s Law Registry cases are a clear and early example of this).

And among the pols there is no concern for possible or probable ill-consequences, but merely a delusionally-rigid focus on the best-case outcomes abiding in the dreams of the organized-advocacies who worked out the ‘deals’ to begin with. (A habit of mind that migrated to other areas of national concern, such as ‘planning’ the Iraq War.)

The emotions you see in these comments, unchecked by any sustained thoughtful analysis, run the gamut from the snarky to the nasty to the frothy to the outright vicious. And from the ill-informed to the outright primitive.

The webverse is many things to many different types of people. Some use it to think and share thoughts and argue and deliberate; others merely to blow off steam (and garner ‘Likes’ at the bottom of the entry).

I don’t think the former type of comments count for much in ‘advocacy-group liberalism’.

And the latter comments are cat-nip to too much of the media, always looking for the quick-burning and the vivid and the ‘pain’ and the ‘outrage’.

So in this Catholic clerical abuse trial – as so often – the huge and frightening image of some evil Oz wreathed in the smoke of power and cover-up turns out to be something far less, worked with smoke and mirrors and clanking machinery behind the curtain and beneath the stage.

This is not to deny that some genuine cases of abuse happened. But it is to assert that, as so often in the SO Mania Regime, there has been a great deal of manipulative hype designed precisely to delude and stampede the public into overriding common-sense and the prudent assessment and deliberation of wide and well-informed public discourse, in order to accept lethally toxic ‘solutions’ of the most extreme sort to this and that huge ‘crisis’ that is really more of an inflated balloon than it is an actual avalanche of evil and crime.

Nor is it enough to simply forget about it as media interest wanes, as it does from time to time. Because the laws are still on the books and the consequences are still spinning away, eating into the heart of the nation.

So much remains to be done.


*As the ongoing saga of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange reveals, sex-offense charges (or even suspicions) also turn out now to be very useful to the government in silencing critics. Assange’s case against being extradited to (hugely victim-friendly and radical-feminist ) Sweden has now been rejected by (American faithful junior-ally) Britain’s highest court: he must return to Sweden to face ‘questioning’ in highly-dubious sex-offense charges – and there remains every possibility that once in Swedish custody for mere ‘questioning’ he will be extradited to the US, where he may well have been secretly indicted for some form of national-security violations (although he is a Citizen of a foreign country … which happens to be America’s most useful ally in the far Pacific, Australia, whose government has done little to help him). Presently, he has applied to Ecuador for asylum and has been at their London embassy awaiting that government’s decision.


Further information comes out.

The extraordinarily abusive and nastily flamboyant lead-prosecutor, Patrick Blessington, is not actually on the staff of the Philly DA’s Office but rather of the PA A-G’s Office. He was invited by the Philly DA to lead a Philly DA task-force on corruption in that city in the Spring of 2011 because of what the DA called a long-standing “culture of corruption” in that city. Although his outbursts and his outright abusive remarks to defendants in this case would suggest perhaps a young and brash attorney only recently out of law school (and perhaps trained in a victim-friendly in-your-face courtroom manner against any accused), he was admitted to the Bar in 1983, almost 30 years ago. (And it would be interesting to know what other ‘corruption’ cases Blessington’s task-force has identified.) See article here .

Which supports, I would say, my suspicion that he deliberately indulged in his almost-vicious courtroom histrionics because he knew there was political power (from the AG but also higher-up) behind him.

In another glaring oddity, it appears that Msgr. Lynn was prosecuted under a version of the child-endangerment law passed in 2007, although the actions for which Lynn was charged took place years before that, under a much more restrictive version of that state law. This instantly raises an issue of Ex Post Facto and it is impossible to conceive that the any prosecutor would not have realized that at the outset.

Additionally, the Philly DA, whose Office had been unavailable for comment when the verdict (one finding of Guilty out of a total of seven Charges brought against two defendants; and the single Guilty finding is on the Charge that may well be liable to an Ex Post Facto reversal on appeal) was delivered has now admitted that in his view the trial was all about “giving voice to the victims” and he’s therefore pleased with the outcome. See the article here .

But “giving voice” to anybody is not the purpose of a criminal-trial, especially since one cannot know if a person is legally a ‘victim’ until after a trial and a Guilty verdict. Somebody can get to be DA of a major American city and not know this?

Which reinforces my suspicion that all along this trial has been merely a pretext for putting all manner of ‘stories’ into the public arena.

And that on a larger and political level, this trial has indeed been a ‘show-trial’, meant to play to ‘bases’ (victimist, radical-feminist, ‘liberal’) in a dubious electoral swing-state, while perhaps garnering some law-and-order votes that might have gone to the Republicans.

After what the Philly DA recounts as a years-long preparation of this case, and untold amounts of taxpayer money sunk into its preparation and prosecution, all they have to show for it is a single – and hugely dubious and tenuous – Guilty finding that may well be reversed on appeal, and for what may well turn out to be an incredibly obvious prosecutorial ‘error’.

This is of interest to the wider SO community because it indicates just how cavalier prosecutors can be in SO cases, and especially when it appears that there is political benefit to be gained.

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