Msgr. Lynn’s Conviction Reversed On Child Endangerment Statute.

Msgr. Lynn’s Conviction Reversed On Child Endangerment Statute

By Ralph Cipriano

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania today reversed the “historic” conviction of Msgr. William J. Lynn on one count of endangering the welfare of a child.

The court said the “plain language” of the state’s 1972 child endangerment law required that Lynn had to be “a supervisor of an endangered child victim” in order to be convicted of the third-degree felony of endangering the welfare of a child. Lynn, however, never even met Billy Doe, the former 10-year-old altar boy who was the alleged victim in the case.

In a 43-page opinion, the Superior Court said Judge M. Teresa Sarmina’s decision to allow the conviction of Lynn under the state’s original child endangerment law was “fundamentally flawed.”

“It’s just absolutely wonderful,” said Thomas A. Bergstrom, Lynn’s defense lawyer. “This whole prosecution was totally dishonest from day one,” Bergstrom said of District Attorney Seth Williams and his staff. “They had to know that that statute didn’t apply to Lynn. And their attempt to justify it just doesn’t wash.”

“The tragedy of this is Lynn should have never been prosecuted,” Bergstrom said. “He’s been sitting in jail 18 months for a crime he couldn’t possibly commit as a matter of law.”


“Now, we’re working on getting him [Lynn] out of jail,” Bergstrom said. “We’re looking for a judge to vacate the sentence. The warden needs more than just our assurances” to let the monsignor out of jail, Bergstrom said.


Lynn’s defense lawyers have long argued that the state’s original child endangerment law didn’t apply to Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s former secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004. Despite the plain language of the law, however, and a 2005 grand jury report that specifically said the law didn’t apply to Lynn, it’s an argument that fell on deaf ears until today.

“This was the defense position from day one,” said Alan J. Tauber, a member of Lynn’s defense team. “It’s a shame that Msgr. Lynn had to spend even a day in jail, much less a year and a half, before the defense argument was vindicated.”

“This is a triumph for the rule of law,” Tauber said. “It’s a complete rejection of the district attorney’s application of the law.”

District Attorney Seth Williams, who does not talk to this blog, told Maryclaire Dale of the Associated Press that he strongly disagreed with the decision, and would most likely be appealing it.

For more than a year, Williams has stonewalled all questions regarding his self-described “historic” prosecution of Lynn and others in the local archdiocese. Lynn was the first Catholic administrator in the country to be sent to jail for the sexual sins of the clergy, even though he never laid a hand on any child.

D.A. Williams’ historic prosecution, however, relied on a flawed interpretation of the state child endangerment law, as well as on the dubious testimony of Billy Doe, a former heroin addict and thief who told an unbelievable and constantly changing story.

Msgr. Lynn, 62, is now serving a 3 to 6 year prison term for his June 22, 2012 conviction on one count of endangering the welfare of a child, namely Billy Doe. The next question is whether Lynn gets out of jail.

“The short answer is he probably will get out but it may take a bail motion to get that accomplished,” Tauber said. Before the Superior Court can free Lynn, Tauber said, the court will have to listen to any further appeal motions from the district attorney’s office.

And although the law is clear, D.A. Williams probably isn’t done grandstanding.

The state’s 1972 child endangerment law says: “A parent, guardian or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if he knowingly endangers the welfare of a child by violating a duty of care, protection or support.”

For nearly 40 years in Pennsylvania, that law was applied to an adult who had a relationship with a child, such as a parent, guardian or teacher who “knowingly endangers the welfare of a child.” Much of the Superior Court opinion reviews the appeal court’s own previous rulings upholding those principles.


In 2005, then-District Attorney Lynne Abraham and a grand jury concluded that the 1972 child endangerment law did not apply to Msgr. Lynn, Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, or any other high-ranking official of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The grand jury issued a report that said although it would like to, it could not legally indict Lynn or Bevilacqua for endangering the welfare of a child:

“As defined under the law,” the grand jury wrote, in remarks quoted today by the Superior Court, “the offense of endangering the welfare of children is too narrow to support a successful prosecution of the decision-makers who were running the Archdiocese. The [1972 child endangerment] statute confines its coverage to parents, guardians, or other persons ‘supervising the welfare of a child.’ High-level Archdiocesan officials, however, were far removed from any direct contact with children.”

In 2011, however, a new politically ambitious district attorney, Seth Williams, and another grand jury looked at the same 1972 child endangerment law and concluded that it did apply, not only to Msgr. Lynn, but also to Fathers Edward V. Avery, James J. Brennan and Charles Engelhardt, as well as a lay teacher, Bernard Shero. The grand jury indicted the four priests and the teacher, and charged them with endangering the welfare of a child, as well as other offenses.

Avery, Engelhardt and Shero are currently in jail as a result of Billy Doe’s testimony and the D.A.’s historic prosecution. Father Brennan, who was accused by another victim, was acquitted on a hung jury, but is scheduled to be retried next year.

After the 2005 grand jury report came out, former District Attorney Abraham launched a state-wide crusade to amend the child endangerment law to include supervisors such as Lynn.
The amended law, which took effect in 2007, applies not only to “a parent, guardian or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age,” but also to “a person that employs or supervises such a person.” 

Bergstrom argued to the Superior Court, however, that Lynn was charged ex post facto,” or after the fact, under the standards of the 2007 law amended to include supervisors.
“Lynn never supervised the child,” Bergstrom told the appellate judges during oral arguments made last September. Instead, Lynn supervised  Father Avery, who pleaded guilty to raping Billy Doe.
The alleged rape of Billy Doe took place during the 1998-99 school year, but was not reported to the archdiocese until 2009. 
“He [Msgr. Lynn] had no knowledge of it,” Bergstrom said, referring to the alleged rape.

The Superior Court agreed. The court ruled that Lynn “did not know or know of” Billy Doe, and “was not sufficiently aware of Avery’s supervision of” Billy Doe, “nor did he have any specific information that Avery intended or was preparing to molest [Billy Doe] or any other child at St. Jerome’s,” where the alleged crime occurred.

“In sum, the evidence was insufficient to demonstrate that [Msgr. Lynn] acted with the ‘intent of promoting or facilitating” an offense of endangering the welfare of a child, the Superior Court opinion states.

“Having determined that the evidence was not sufficient to support [Msgr. Lynn’s] conviction for EWOC either as a principal or an accomplice, we are compelled to reverse [Msgr. Lynn’s] judgment of sentence,” the opinion said. “And, as there are no other offenses for which he [Msgr. Lynn ]was convicted in this cased, [Msgr. Lynn] is ordered discharged forthwith.”



Court reverses decision, orders Philly priest released from prison

Court reverses decision, orders Philly priest released from prison

PHILADELPHIA — A panel of judges for a Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the decision on a priest’s conviction in handling a clerical abuse case and ordered his release from prison.

The decision, announced Dec. 26, involves Msgr. William Lynn, former secretary for clergy in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Msgr. Lynn has served 18 months of a 2012 prison sentence of three to six years after being found guilty of endangering the welfare of a child, a felony.

Prosecutors had argued that the priest had reassigned abusive priests to new parishes in the Philadelphia Archdiocese in his diocesan role as clergy secretary. However, Msgr. Lynn’s attorneys argued that Pennsylvania’s child-endangerment law at the time applied only to parents and caregivers, not to supervisors, which was Msgr. Lynn’s role.

Prosecutors could appeal the Superior Court panel’s decision or ask the full Superior Court to rehear the case.

The priest’s lawyers told The Associated Press they will try to get the priest released from the state prison in Waymart by Jan. 2.

A statement from the Philadelphia Archdiocese said the Dec. 26 decision “does not and will not alter the church’s commitment to assist and support the survivors of sexual abuse on their journey toward healing or our dedicated efforts to ensure that all young people in our care are safe.”

The statement promised vigilance in child protection and said, “The reputation of the church can only be rebuilt through transparency, honesty and a fulfillment of our responsibility to the young people in our care and the victims and survivors who need our support.”

Msgr. Lynn, 62, who recommended priest assignments to the archbishop of Philadelphia and investigated claims of sexual abuse of minors by clergy from 1992 to 2004, became the first official of the U.S. Catholic Church to be convicted of a felony for his responsibilities in managing priests, some of whom abused children.

His conviction was based on the case of former priest Edward Avery, who admitted he had sexually assaulted a 10-year-old altar boy at his northeast Philadelphia parish in 1999. The former priest, laicized in 2006, is serving a sentence of two-and-a half to five years in prison. Earlier this year, Avery said he never touched the boy and only entered his guilty plea to get a lighter sentence.

A statement by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said the group was “heartsick over this decision” and that “thousands of betrayed Catholics and wounded victims will be disheartened by this news.”

Mea Maxima Culpa’ Exposes the Catholic Church’s Most Grievous Sin

On 4 February 2013,  Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, a documentary by Alex Gibney about the clerical sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, aired worldwide on HBO. On 11 February 2013, Pope Benedict XVI (formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) resigned from the papacy, the first pope to do so in 600 years. The timing of these two events could have been a coincidence, but there’s good reason to believe otherwise.
Although the abuse had been regularly covered in the news media since the ‘90s, Gibney’s film delivers convincing proof to a wide audience that the Vatican had known about it for decades, and had refused to take effective action against the offending priests. Even more damning, Mea Maxima Culpaconvincingly establishes that, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1981 to 2005, Ratzinger repeatedly chose not to investigate cases of reported abuse, instead advising that compassion be shown the accused priests.
The heroes of Mea Maxima Culpa are four students who attended St. John’s School for the Deaf in Milwaukee and were among the numerous sexual abuse victims of Father Lawrence Murphy, a priest at the school: Terry Kohut, Gary Smith, Pat Kuehn, and Arthur Budzinski. They speak (in sign language, with voiceovers by Jamey Sheridan, Chris Cooper, Ethan Hawke, and John Slattery) about how much they loved the school and how beautiful it was (“like a castle,” says one)—and also how pervasive and systematic was the sexual abuse perpetrated by Father Murphy.
Not surprisingly, he was a skilled and experienced predator who knew how to select his victims, using the confessional as a recruiting station and screening ground, asking the boys detailed questions about their sexual behavior, and in at least one case telling a boy to “play with himself” right then and there. He also had a network of older boys (at least some of whom were former victims) to help him carry out his crimes.
Father Murphy took advantage of the absolute authority and respect priests were granted in those days, and also the fact that because the students were deaf, they had limited ability to communicate with the outside world. At the time, it was relatively unusual for non-deaf individuals, including the parents of deaf children, to know American Sign Language (one of the four men noted that Murphy never abused children whose parents could sign), and the TTY system that allows deaf people to use telephones was not yet in common use. In addition, some of the students were barely literate in English, which was a second language to them, limiting their ability to communicate in writing.
Despite these barriers, some of the boys did report the abuse to a visiting priest, Father Walsh, in 1963. He reported their charges to the local Archbishop, but the matter stopped there—Murphy was allowed to keep his position at St. John’s until 1974, and then to transfer to another parish in northern Wisconsin, where he continued to abuse children. He remained a priest until his death in 1998.
Mea Maxima Culpa brings several new perspectives to the issue of clerical sex abuse. Richard Sipe, a mental health therapist and former Benedictine monk, reveals that, according to his research, only half of the members of the Roman Catholic priesthood are celibate at any given time. Sipe also offers a potential explanation for why some priests continue to abuse children, a behavior that almost anyone else would deem monstrous: “noble cause corruption”. In this theory, persons in authority may interpret their own violations of a common ethical code as excusable or even meritorious behavior, because it serves some higher purpose. This explanation clearly applies to some of Father Murphy’s proffered explanations for his behavior, including that he was providing the boys with sex education, meeting their sexual needs, and taking their sins upon himself.
Patrick J. Wall, a former Benedictine monk, had the job of containing and covering up the scandals. His method was simple: get the offending priest out of the parish, get a new priest (“another black and white,” in Wall’s words) in there, and pay off those who had been injured. The fact that he was authorized to offer up to $250,000 in return for a confidentiality order, and in 1995 had a total budget of seven million dollars to settle abuse cases, gives some indication of how seriously the Church took his job, and also that they had some awareness of the scope of the problem. When Wall became convinced that Church wanted him not to “uncover the crimes and heal the wounds” as he had presumed, but instead to “snuff out scandal”, he left the priesthood.
Mea Maxima Culpa would have been a stronger documentary had it concentrated on the Milwaukee case, which provides the film with a natural narrative arc. However, Gibney includes a number of other cases that help to establish the global nature of the abuse, and the Church’s common reaction in each country, which are interesting but also make the film more diffuse. These include these are segments on the “singing priest” of Ireland, Father Tony Walsh, who molested perhaps 200 children, and on Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, a Mexican priest who founded the Legion of Christ and was also a serial child abuser and womanizer whose fathered, either of which could serve as the subject for an entire film.
The technical package for Mea Maxima Culpa is excellent, but the film is most successful when it is simplest—such monstrous crimes need no embellishment. The only extras on the disk are seven deleted scenes (interesting but not crucial) and the film’s trailer.


Ex-priest suspended from sex education work for Wright County

Ex-priest suspended from sex education work for Wright County

A former priest, who was named in an internal archdiocese memo about parishes with “some connection to a history of clergy sexual abuse,” has been suspended from his work teaching sex education for Wright County.

Wright County Commissioner Charles Borrell said the county board, acting as the Human Services Board, unanimously voted Monday to suspend and cancel Harry Walsh’s contract with the county effective Jan. 31, 2014. He said the board made its decision “without casting any guilt.”

“We made it clear we’re not saying he did this or did that in the past,” Borrell said. “But there was some concern that one of our large school districts — Monticello — said they didn’t want him working with their district, so that makes it pretty hard to do the job.”

Walsh, 79, had been teaching birth control, sexual disease prevention and human sexuality for the Wright County Human Services Agency in Buffalo for the past 16 years.

Lawsuit accuses Denver Archdiocese of allowing sexual abuse Read more: Lawsuit accuses Denver Archdiocese of allowing sexual abuse.

Lawsuit accuses Denver Archdiocese of allowing sexual abuse

An Albuquerque man has filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Denver, claiming the arm of the Catholic Church turned a blind eye in the 1980s on a priest who molested children across the country.

The federal lawsuit, filed Wednesday, is the latest that Eran McManemy, 35, has brought against the dioceses that oversaw the three priests he has accused of molesting him as a child in New Mexico.

One of the three priests, a notorious pedophile who died in prison in 2008, had practiced Catholic ministry at St. Anthony Hospital in Denver under the local diocese two years before he allegedly raped McManemy in Alamogordo, N.M. Denver was the sixth American diocese to which Father David Holley had transferred.

A judge decided earlier this year that McManemy’s federal court case should be heard in Colorado. He had filed a similar lawsuit on May 6 against dioceses in Massachusetts, Texas and New Mexico.

McManemy argued in the complaint that the Archdiocese of Denver suspected and hid Holley’s sexual abuse, which enabled the priest to prey on him in New Mexico. His lawsuit seeks punitive damages.

“This was an interstate conspiracy that each one of these dioceses willingly joined to harbor a known pedophile,” said Merit Bennett, McManemy’s lawyer.

Karna Swanson, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Denver, said Holley was authorized to say Mass and hear confessions in the Denver region but that there were no records of his wrongdoing in Denver.

“He worked for a year for a hospital here in town, and that’s really all we know about him,” Swanson said.

McManemy said the diocese could have removed Holley from church facilities but chose not to.

McManemy’s lawsuit said that as an 11-year-old, he was raped by Holley in 1990 and sexually, physically and psychologically abused for three years before that by two priests at St. Jude’s Catholic Parish in Alamogordo.

In 1993, Holley was sentenced to 275 years in prison for molesting eight boys in New Mexico.

“Everybody knew who this guy was,” Bennett said. “He was one of the most inveterate predators of children in the United States.”

Bennett said he has represented more than 100 victims of clergy sexual abuse since he began practicing law in 1975.

“This is the worst of the worst,” he said. “They allowed him to roam free — church to church, diocese to diocese, children to children. Not one of them picked up the phone and dialed 911, including Denver.”

Read more: Lawsuit accuses Denver Archdiocese of allowing sexual abuse – The Denver Post 

Wright Co. cancels contract with ex-priest

Wright Co. cancels contract with ex-priest

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A former priest who denies accusations of sexual abuse from the 1960s and 1980s has been suspended from teaching sex education for Wright County.

Harry Walsh, 79, has taught birth control, sexual disease prevention and human sexuality for the Wright County Human Services Agency in Buffalo for 16 years.

County Commissioner Charles Borrell told the Star Tribune ( ) the county board voted Monday to cancel Walsh’s contract effective Jan. 31, 2014. He said the board decided “without casting any guilt.”

“But there was some concern that one of our large school districts — Monticello — said they didn’t want him working with their district, so that makes it pretty hard to do the job.”

Church documents obtained previously by Minnesota Public Radio show he’d been accused in the 1990s of molesting a 15-year-old girl in Detroit in the mid-1960s and a 12-year-old altar boy in South St. Paul in the early 1980s. The archdiocese contributed to a financial settlement for the girl in 1996. Two archbishops allowed him to continue working in parishes until the fall of 2011.

Archbishop John Nienstedt asked Pope Benedict last year to defrock Walsh after he learned of the abuse allegations from church archives. Walsh agreed to leave but has denied the allegations.

Bishop-to-be responds to records allegations

Bishop-to-be responds to records allegations

MARQUETTE – The Rev. John Doerfler, who last week was announced as the new bishop of the Diocese of Marquette, says the destruction of records he oversaw while he was chancellor in the Diocese of Green Bay was in keeping with the recordkeeping policy of the diocese.

Doerfler, now serving as vicar general of the Diocese of Green Bay, responded to reports in the media he destroyed documents relating to priests accused of sexual abuse.

“I certainly believe in transparency and wanted to bring this up right away,” Doerfler said.

Article Photos



Doerfler said the Green Bay diocese began working on a policy to handle recordkeeping in 2001 when a new archivist with related experience was hired. This was before he became chancellor, he said.

The comprehensive policy, which pertains to all kinds of diocese records, was established in 2006, Doerfler said, and those records include priest files.

When he became chancellor, part of his duties involved executing that recordkeeping policy, which, Doerfler noted, received legal review. He also gave input into the policy.

That policy called for priests’ records to be kept until a year after their deaths, after which they would be destroyed.

“The policy does state very explicitly that no records were ever destroyed if there are any pending claims,” Doerfler said.

Also, because of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act the diocese wasn’t allowed to keep psychological records of priests in files, he said.

Doerfler testified in a 2010 deposition in District Court in Clark County, Nevada, involving a lawsuit against the dioceses of Las Vegas and Reno-Las Vegas, Green Bay and convicted pedophile John Patrick Feeney, a former priest who had one time served in the Diocese of Green Bay. He said that during a review of Feeney’s files in 2006 the only documents related to Feeney that were destroyed were psychological reports that were destroyed in 2007.

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said in a news release the group is disappointed with the decision to appoint Doerfler bishop, saying the Green Bay Diocese has a “terrible track record” on clergy sex abuse and cover-up cases.

Doerfler noted a judge in 2011 ruled the diocese’s recordkeeping policy was sufficient to safeguard documents related to sex abuse.

“So, I don’t know why people would think there’s any hint of a cover-up at all when there clearly isn’t,” Doerfler said.

He brought up the subject at a Dec. 17 press conference at St. Peter Cathedral announcing his appointment, saying he will have an open-door policy for victims of sex abuse.

“Know that the doors of my heart are open to you,” Doerfler said.

Doerfler also said he has met with victims of abuse.

“It’s just an awful, horrible thing for anyone to go through,” he said.

Doerfler also is connected with Courage, which he said is a ministry to provide support for people struggling with same-sex attraction.

Doerfler stressed the organization allows participants to provide mental support and encouragement, and promotes chastity and following the teachings of the Catholic Church.

“It’s really a spiritual support group,” he said.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.

Religious leaders invoke ‘selfies’ and new Pope in Christmas messages.

Religious leaders invoke ‘selfies’ and new Pope in Christmas messages

Sydney’s Christian leaders have turned to Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year and Time magazine’s person of the year in their annual Christmas messages.

”What is it about our society that ‘selfie’ is the landmark word for 2013?” said Dr Glenn Davies in his first year as Sydney’s Anglican Archbishop.

”At Christmas time we should remember that there is an ultimate self-image, the image of God, which far outweighs the supercilious picture of a face filling our screen. We are all stamped with the image of God and it is this image that makes us precious in his sight.”

Dr Davies said the Christmas image of Jesus as a ”cute and inoffensive” baby in a stall was only part of the picture.

”Christmas without Easter is not the full story,” he said. ”We fail to appreciate Christmas if we fail to appreciate the reason why he came – to suffer death upon a cross on Good Friday, rise again on Easter Day so that the bonds of death may be broken and new life become a reality for all who put their trust in him.”

In a year marked by inquiries delving into the Australian church’s handling of child sexual abuse, Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal George Pell, urged Christians to keep the faith. ”We acknowledge the wide scepticism and occasional hostility of those around us, but because we know Christ, we should have the courage of our convictions, we should not lapse into timid silence and we should not be frightened to appear as different,” Cardinal Pell said.

He called on Catholics to recall the messages of the man Time dubbed ”The People’s Pope”.

”Our new Pope Francis has warned us of these dangers, urging us not to lapse into small-minded melancholy, not allow ourselves to be submerged by bitterness and fatigue.” Cardinal Pell said ”crimes and sins” could not eliminate the ”good works of the spirit”. ”The cross remains a symbol of victory, especially in our hectic and confused times,” he said.

The Pope claimed the church’s challenge was not atheism, Cardinal Pell continued, but ”how best to respond to the many adults and children thirsting for God”.

”Christians cannot answer this challenge if we look like we have just come from a funeral,” he said.

Reverend Dr Keith Garner, the head of the Wesley Mission, said it would be easy to be overwhelmed by events at home and abroad.

”This Christmas we need to receive God’s love into our hearts, exchange selfishness for forgiveness and breathe peace into a restless world,” he said.


Read more:

American Catholics give a thumbs-up to Pope Francis and his gay-friendly, ‘Marxist’ agenda

American Catholics give a thumbs-up to Pope Francis and his gay-friendly, ‘Marxist’ agenda

It seems that American Catholics love the seemingly liberal Pope Francis and the direction he’s taking their church.

A pair of recent polls found the new pontiff’s approval rating among his U.S. followers to be about as close to full approval as candy, ice cream and puppies.

A CNN/ORC International poll released Tuesday found that 88 percent of American Catholics approve of the pope nine months into his term.

 That’s not far off the survey’s 3 percent margin of error from a Washington Post-ABC pollreleased earlier this month, which found a 92 percent approval rating among American Catholics.

Pope Francis, who has urged Catholics to shift their focus from culture war issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion to care for the poor and vulnerable, was the most talked about person on the Internet this year, and he was named person of the year by both Timemagazine and The Advocate.

The pope drew criticism from American political conservatives for his recent remarks on capitalism and trickle-down economics, but more than 85 percent of American Catholics say he’s neither too liberal nor too conservative.

Nearly two-thirds of American Catholics agree with the pope about capitalism’s effects on the poor, the poll found.

William Donohue, president of the conservative Catholic League, offered a tepid defense of Pope Francis against right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh, who attacked the pontiff’s agenda as “pure Marxism.”

“Catholic League has never, ever, ever been after anybody for criticizing the pope or priest or a bishop,” said Donohue, who is frequently presented on TV as the voice of American Catholics. “We get involved when you hit below the belt, when you start becoming insulting. He didn’t like the pope’s views on economics (and) Rush Limbaugh is entitled to that.”

Regardless of what Limbaugh or Donohue have to say, about three-quarters of all Americans regard Pope Francis favorably, likely making him the most well-regarded religious figure in the U.S., and 86 percent say he’s in touch with the modern world.

By comparison, more than half of U.S. Catholics agreed that Pope John Paul was out of step with the world in 2003, near the end of his 26-year papacy.

The pollsters said it’s difficult to compare the popularity of one pope to another, but Pope Francis has grown more popular in recent months, after making public comments on gays, atheists and economics.

A Pew Research poll found 79 percent of American Catholics viewed the pope favorably, about the same after his March election.

That’s similar to the highest ratings achieved by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who was viewed favorably by 83 percent of U.S. Catholics in 2008 and 76 percent in February 2013.

Pope John Paul II, who will be declared a saint in April, surpassed 90 percent favorability ratings in several polls in the 1980s and 1990s before his handling of the church sex abuse scandal eroded his popularity, including a 64 percent rating in 2003.

Pope Francis is more than twice as popular than President Barack Obama, who recorded a personal low 41 percent approval rating this month, and about eight time more popular than Congress, which earned an 11 percent approval rating – including an astonishing 84 percent disapproval rating – in another poll earlier this month.

Priest Accused of Molestation Suspended As Sex Ed Teacher

Priest Accused of Molestation Suspended As Sex Ed Teacher

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A former priest, accused of molesting two children decades ago, has been suspended from teaching sex education for Wright County.

The county board recently canceled their contract with 79-year-old Harry Walsh.

Walsh was one of five priests named in an internal archdiocese memo about parishes with “some connection to a history of clergy sexual abuse.”

Walsh has denied the accusations, which date back to the 1960s and 1980s.

He had taught about birth control, sexual disease prevention and human sexuality for the Wright County Human Services Agency for the past 16 years.