At long last, here’s the final installment on Fr. Bryan
Hehir’s next speaking gig on April 30 in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida. In Part 1 we talked about Fr. Hehir keynoting along with another speaker who advocates for gay priests and gay culture, and in Part 2 we talked about him also sharing the podium with a priest who changed the liturgy and communion rite in his diocese in ways that had been previously rejected by the Vatican and USCCB and were outside of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM). Now we’ll finally look at Bishop Robert Lynch’s leadership of the Diocese of St. Petersburg where the talk and conference are taking place.
First a little background on Bishop Robert Lynch. He worked at the National Council of Catholic Bishops starting in the early 1970’s and was associate and general secretary of the NCCB from 1984 until 1995. So, he and Fr. Hehir go way back. There is much that seems wrong happening under his leadership: ending Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, taking no action to prevent the starvation death of Terri Schiavo in 2005, allowing Schiavo’s former husband to have a Catholic wedding after the premeditated murder of his wife, sexual harassment accusations from a male employee (known for his “muscular physique”) settled for $100K and steering $30 million in no-bid church construction contracts to another “muscular triathlete.” So given all that in addition to what we reported in Parts 1 and 2, of course one might just ask the question, does it make sense for a senior archdiocesan official like Fr. Hehir to implicitly endorse all of the above by speaking at his conference? Here are the details:
1. St. Petersburg Diocese ends Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration: Ignoring all of Pope John Paul II’s repeated pleas for the promotion of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, the Diocese of St. Petersburg issued new guidelines which on September 1, 2000 ended the practice of perpetual exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in parishes, and only allows worship of the Eucharist reserved in tabernacles.
For parishes that wish to inaugurate adoration of the Blessed Sacrament the Bishop says they should “reflect on… their commitment of time and money to social services.” Among other reflections, they should ask, “Does the eucharistic bread look like bread?”
2. Bishop Lynch took no action to help save the life of Terri Schiavo in 2005 and instead issued bizarre statements undermining efforts to save her. A must-read is this article from LifeSite News
The Florida Catholic Bishops’ conference has stated plainly that Terri’s means of receiving food and water does not constitute ‘extraordinary’ means of preserving her life, and is a simple requirement of ordinary care. ..Bishop Lynch’s comments are bizarre and shocking given the fact that Michael Schiavo has abandoned his wife and has taken up an adulterous liaison with another woman with whom he has sired two children and has campaigned to end Terri’s life by starving her to death.
Bishop Lynch moves from the bizarre and shocking to the outrageous when he implies that this lack of “peace,” is the fault of her parents for being determined to save her life. ..Lynch goes on to say that the decision to starve Terri to death is one that will be made by ‘a family’ which, incomprehensibly, he identifies as Michael Schiavo alone.
Inexplicable also is the apparent unconcern of the Bishop for saving Terri’s life, an indifference that will outrage Catholics since he also took no action when Michael refused to allow Terri visits from a priest and to receive the sacraments.
According to a report in LifeSite news published after Terri’s death, Fr. Gerard Murphy of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida actually helped Judge Greer make the decision to dehydrate and starve Terri to death. Turns out that Fr. Murphy testified on behalf of Michael Schiavo, and Bishop Lynch supported Father Murphy’s seriously flawed position. Heres more:
The Catholic Media Coalition called Bishop Lynch’s behavior “baffling.”
Cardinal (Renato) Martino issued a stirring appeal from Rome shortly before Terri’s death when he said,
Whoever stands idly by without trying to prevent the death of Terri Schindler-Schiavo becomes an accomplice to murder.
Bishop Lynch did nothing.
Fr. Hehir, just curious, did you ever drop a dime to your pal Bishop Lynch when poor Terri was being starved to death and ask him to use the full influence of his episcopal position to speak out in favor of saving her life?
3. To add insult to injury, Bishop Lynch allowed a Catholic wedding for Michael Schiavo and the mother of his two children after Michael had Terri starved to death. This is in opposition to Canon 1090 which states , “One who, with a view to entering marriage with a certain person, brings about the death of one’s own spouse or of the other person’s spouse, invalidly attempts that marriage.” See:
Then there’s the matter of the St. Petersburg Diocese’s law firm (Divito and Higham) having contributed the maximum amount possible to the reelection campaign of Judge George Greer, the judge at the core of the Schiavo case who supported efforts of Michael Schiavo and his attorney, euthanasia advocate George Felos to end Terri’s life. They made this contribution at about the same time that the late Pope John Paul II issued his statement disallowing death by starvation and dehydration. How can a diocese be pro-life when the Bishop’s own general counsel is giving money to support a judge who agreed to starve an innocent person to death?
4. The story of Bishop Lynch wouldn’t be complete without a few more tawdry incidents. For example, theres the allegation of sexual harrassment against him from a male staff member and friend that was settled for $100,000
William Urbanski, diocese spokesman and former Lynch aide, filed a complaint with the diocese alleging that Lynch had made sexual advances towards him.
He initially appreciated Bishop Lynch’s lavish gifts–stereos, cameras, upscale clothes. But he began to feel increasingly uncomfortable when Bishop Lynch would touch and massage him. He said that Lynch forced him to share a hotel room when they traveled on business together, pressured him to photograph his muscular physique in a speedo bathing suit, and that Lynch had grabbed his thigh as the two drove in a car. He also claimed that on one trip, Lynch had come out of the shower nude to show Urbanski how much weight he had lost. Lynch admitted he may have may have crossed the line between friendship and work and described the matter as a misunderstanding: “I did not intend anything. We were close friends.” A diocesan investigation, led by three close Lynch aides, found no evidence to back Urbanski’s allegations of advances. Mr. Urbanski said investigators never interviewed him.
Nonetheless, the diocese paid $100K as severance under the condition that Urbanski not sue. Is anyone else wondering why a diocese would fork over $100,000 from donations to support the Church if the allegations has zero substance? Here’s some additional reading on that tawdry situation:
The story of Bishop Robert Lynch (a “must read”)
Oh by the way, then we also have Bishop Lynch steering $30 million in no-bid construction contracts to another friend, David Herman, who like Urbanski, is a muscular triathlete. Lynch and Herman had vacationed together to places including Hawaii, Israel, and Rome. The St. Petersburg Times reports:
Lynch had given every construction contract over which he exercised sole control to a friend, David S. Herman, without seeking competitive bids or interviewing other established contractors in the area. According to diocesan figures, Herman Construction Services was awarded contracts totaling $30.3-million since 1996, when Lynch became bishop.
So to summarize, we have a Cabinet secretary of the Archdiocese of Boston going to keynote at a Eucharistic Conference in Florida along with a priest who advocates for gay priests and the gay culture (including gay movies and books) and along with another priest who ordered his diocese to adopt new rules for the sacrament of Communion that had been previously rejected by the Vatican and U.S. bishops. And he’s speaking in a diocese where the bishop banned perpetual Eucharistic adoration, slammed pro-lifers for objecting to the most rabid pro-abortion president in history being honored at Notre Dame, was described by a Vatican official as an accomplice to the premeditated murder of an innocent disabled woman, settled a case of sexual harassment against one male employee for $100,000 and steered $30 million in no-bid contracts to another male friend. This blogger commented, “Would Bishop Lynch chase the money lenders out of the temple or would he have ATMs installed?”
Any readers in the Diocese of St. Petersburg or elsewhere, I urge you to contact the papal nuncio and Congregation of Bishops and ask to have this trainwreck of a conference with its scandal-mired speakers cancelled. (Contact info is here). And if the judgment of a Cabinet secretary like Fr. Bryan Hehir after 44 years in the priesthood is that this conference is where he wants to speak and hang out with his friends, this is yet another reason why his opinions should be ignored.
Should the conference proceed intact, they will no doubt have a lovely time together April 30-May 1.