Skip to comments.No wonder why Bishop Lynch is Not Helping Shiavo, and getting rid of Perpetual Adoration
Posted on 03/07/2005 10:42:19 AM PST by Cato1
Church paid $100,000 to Bishop Lynch's aide
The Catholic leader denies the man's claims of sexual harassment. His lawyer says the severance pay was not ''hush money.''
By CHUCK MURPHY and WAVENEY ANN MOORE
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 23, 2002 The Catholic leader denies the man's claims of sexual harassment. His lawyer says the severance pay was not "hush money."
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg paid slightly more than $100,000 to a former employee who claimed he had been harassed by Bishop Robert Lynch.
Lynch appeared at a news conference Friday to calmly deny that he had ever made improper advances toward former diocesan spokesman Bill Urbanski. Lynch and his lawyer also insisted that the payment to Urbanski represented severance as Urbanski left his job -- not a settlement or admission of the harassment claims.
Seated at a small table in the diocese's Pastoral Center, Lynch read from a prepared statement in a strong, clear voice.
"I have always denied the substance of the harassment allegation and I continue to do so this afternoon, strenuously," Lynch told a room filled with cameras, 18 priests and reporters.
The denial was followed by an outpouring of support from priests, from throughout the five-county diocese, who insist they could not envision the 60-year-old Lynch making improper advances. It comes as the Catholic Church nationally is swept by scandals involving priests molesting young men and boys.
But the allegations that have surfaced in this case are far different from those that have hit churches in Palm Beach, Boston and elsewhere around the country.
Lynch's accuser, the 42-year-old Urbanski, was a friend and colleague until he complained about the bishop's conduct last August. It was the first time, Lynch said, that Urbanski had mentioned feeling uncomfortable in his presence.
Diocesan attorney Joe DiVito convened a panel to investigate the claims, and he and the other members interviewed Urbanski and witnesses, whose names Urbanski provided, between August and November.
DiVito said they also notified Archbishop John Favalora of Miami, who oversees the St. Petersburg diocese, home to 371,714 practicing Catholics in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties.
"We spoke with all of those individuals (named by Urbanski), none of whom substantiated the allegations," DiVito said. "We concluded . . . that there was nothing to substantiate those allegations. We spoke with his attorney and attempted to restructure his position so that he would not be reporting directly under Bishop Lynch. He refused that restructuring and said that he would be leaving. We then entered into a negotiation for a severance with his attorney."
Urbanski, who agreed not to sue Lynch or the diocese as a condition of accepting the money, said Friday that he stands by his complaint and his belief that Lynch harassed him.
"I'm an honest and forthright person. I didn't fabricate anything," Urbanski said.
Urbanski complained that he was forced to share a room with Lynch when they traveled and that Lynch had made inappropriate advances toward him. Urbanski resisted going on a trip to Santa Fe last year unless he could get his own room, he said. He changed his mind when Lynch promised he had booked a suite for the two of them.
But when they arrived, Urbanski was disappointed to find a small room with a kingsize bed and a sleeper sofa. He took the bed while Lynch took the couch. Then, he said, Lynch shocked him by asking if he could take photos of a shirtless Urbanski so that Lynch could create Christmas cards with his head superimposed above Urbanski's muscular physique.
Urbanski did as he was asked without complaint. Then, he said, he excused himself and vomited in the lobby.
"I called my wife and I just asked her to pray for me so that I could make it the next 36 hours until I got home," Urbanski said Friday night.
There were other specifics in the complaint, but Urbanski declined to discuss them, except to mention an occasion when Lynch reached across the armrest in the car and grabbed Urbanski's thigh.
"If you're riding in a car and a man puts his hand across and starts massaging your thigh would you call that normal?" Urbanski said. "How many men do you know would be comfortable with that?"
Urbanski's attorney said that is about as far as it went, but that a leg massage between employer and employee could rise to the level of harassment.
"There was no sexual relation, not in a typical sense, but there were times when my client felt very uncomfortable with the level of touching," Urbanski's attorney, Geoffrey Bichler of Orlando, said. "He was uncomfortable with the level of physical contact. It made him very uncomfortable as a man, and when you combine that with the repeated requests to travel out of town and spend the night in the same room in very close proximity, my client just felt that the relationship got to a point that was completely inappropriate."
Lynch and DiVito declined to release the complaint Urbanski made or the reports of the investigation unless Urbanski signs a waiver of confidentiality. Bichler said he also would not release the details in a letter he sent the diocese because, "it outlines in too great of a detail the indignities that Mr. Urbanski had to suffer."
The money was meant as payment of a year's salary (about $60,000), plus benefits and pension. It was paid late last year or early this year. It was paid from the diocesan payroll account, said Mary Jo Murphy, who succeeded Urbanski as spokesperson for the St. Petersburg diocese.
Bichler said he originally sought $250,000 for his client. But DiVito said he refused to negotiate a sexual harassment settlement. Instead, DiVito confined the discussion to a severance based on Urbanski's salary.
Asked by a reporter if the payment could be considered "hush money," DiVito said all the evidence was to the contrary.
"I can understand that's what you want to call it. But I have to tell you, that would only be true if we were requiring Mr. Urbanski to hush, and we have never done that," DiVito said. "From day one, he was free to talk to whomever he wanted to talk to."
Urbanski is the son of former Tampa Tribune president James Urbanski. He is a well-known triathlete in the area, who once qualified to compete in the grueling Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii.
Lynch is godfather to both of Urbanski's children, and the bishop had frequently socialized with Urbanski and his wife over the 41/2 years Urbanski worked for the diocese before last August.
"There were many times when the bishop felt he could take off his collar and be just Bob Lynch in their presence, and did so," DiVito said. "There were times when he would have his collar on and be the employer. . . . If anything occurred, it had to do with the blurring of identifying those lines."
The announcement of Urbanski's complaint and the payment to him came in advance of a story being reported by the Tampa Tribune. Lynch said he spoke with a Tribune reporter Wednesday and decided to make the complaint and his denial public before the story was published.
Lynch came to St. Petersburg in 1996 and was ordained fourth bishop in the history of the diocese on Jan. 26 of that year. Lynch was considered a rising star in the Catholic hierarchy. At one time he supervised 350 workers as general secretary of the U.S. Catholic Conference.
While serving as bishop of the St. Petersburg diocese, he also was placed in charge of the Catholic churches in Palm Beach in 1998 and 1999 after the bishop there, J. Keith Symons, stepped down in the wake of a sex scandal.
Symons was followed in Palm Beach by Anthony J. O'Connell, 63, who also resigned earlier this month after acknowledging inappropriate sexual contact with a teenage boy in the 1970s.
That resignation and other cases surfacing across the nation prompted Pope John Paul II to comment in his annual pre-Easter message to priests, issued Thursday in advance of this Sunday's Palm Sunday Masses. The pope called on priests to turn from evil and allow themselves to be "overtaken" by Christ.
Asked if his news conference was in response to the pope's plea for the church to address misconduct against priests and help restore the public's faith, the normally relaxed Lynch cracked his only smile of the day.
"That would be a level of coordination that's not been seen in the Catholic Church for 2000 years," Lynch said, provoking laughter among the gathered clergy.
Lynch denied that he had ever faced a similar allegation as either a priest or before joining the priesthood, or that he had ever violated his vow of celibacy taken as a 37-year-old man. He made it clear that this has taken a toll on him as a person and a priest.
"I did not intend anything. We were close friends. We did a lot of things together," Lynch said of his relationship with Urbanski. "The agony of having the attorney go and ask my other friends if I have transgressed or trespassed . . . done something forbidden, is one of the most painful things of the year 2001. Yet, it had to be done."
-- Times staff writers Wes Allison, Alicia Caldwell, Sharon Tubbs and Jon Wilson contributed to this report. Previous scandals
Friday's news conference was not the first time Bishop Robert Lynch has had to discuss sexual allegations in the diocese. Two months after Lynch became bishop, a priest admitted abusing four boys. Here's a recap of some of the scandals during Lynch's tenure:
JAN. 26, 1996: More than a year after Bishop John C. Favalora became archbishop of Miami, the Most Rev. Robert Lynch is installed as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.
MARCH 27, 1996: Kevin Sidaway files a lawsuit against the Rev. Rocco Charles D'Angelo, accusing D'Angelo of assaulting him in 1967. D'Angelo admitted abusing Sidaway and three other boys but was never charged. Sidaway's suit contends that after his admission, D'Angelo promised to not lead a church or work with children. However, he spent 23 years in the Tampa Bay area at three different churches.
JUNE 1996: The Rev. William Lau of Blessed Trinity resigns after Lynch learned that Lau engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor several years earlier.
AUG. 22, 1996: The Rev. Simeon Gardner, pastor of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Lutz, resigns after it is discovered that he diverted at least $200,000 in church money to a man with whom he had been sexually involved. He was sentenced to two years house arrest, 1,000 hours of community service and 15 years probation, and ordered to repay the money.
OCT. 1, 1996: Lynch reveals that the Rev. Patrick J. Clarke, pastor of Espiritu Santo Catholic Church in Safety Harbor, is on paid leave until he decides to continue as a priest or leave the priesthood for the wife he has been secretly married to for 15 years. Clarke eventually left the priesthood.
JANUARY 1997: The Rev. James E. Russo resigns as pastor of St. Michael's the Archangel Catholic Church in Clearwater after an "episode of misconduct" involving a minor was revealed.
-- Compiled by Times researcher Cathy Wos from Times files and the Diocese of St. Petersburg Web site. In his words
In October 1996, after he had removed Tampa Bay area priests for sexual misconduct, Bishop Robert Lynch spoke extensively to the St. Petersburg Times on the subjects of celibacy, sexual impropriety and accountability:
"In the sexual sphere, I just hope and pray every day of my life for the integrity and honesty of our ministers. They have promised something publicly. They have promised that they would live their life celibately. And it's probably harder in the living than the anticipation of it at the time of the promise.
"I mean, I think that's very, very true that as you get into it, as you get older, as the life gets lonelier, the temptations grow greater. But I hope that they're doing everything they can to live that promise honestly."
* * *
"We certainly get more front page attention than if something happens to a minister of another faith. I mean, they're buried in the back. But we're on the front page. And why is that? . . . First of all we shouldn't be (breaking vows) in the first place. And I'm the first to admit that -- that we ought to be living as far as we humanly can the purity of the life we promised.
"Secondly, I think we're there because of the teaching about human sexuality that's largely disregarded in today's society. It's not very much at home in today's society. People have made up their own minds about their sexual behavior and they basically don't want somebody else standing in judgment on that. So when the judge fails then the jury begins to have its day."
* * *
"I didn't want to duck any of these situations. That's not my nature -- to give bad news and go hide. I wanted to be with them. . . . I wanted to say that the church is bigger than me, it's bigger than Pope John Paul, it's basically about the Lord. And if we put our trust in princes -- whether they're cardinals or bishops -- and we don't put our trust in the Lord, then we are inevitably heading for this kind of tragedy and sorrow because we're defining our relationship and faith in personal terms to people we know. It's got to be bigger than that."
* * *
"You have to trust me by getting to know how I live, what priorities I place in my life. My life kind of has to be an open book. That is to say, there can't be any secret part to it." © Copyright 2003 St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved
Yes.......but at least Rembert resigned (thank God!)
This diocese has had its share of trouble. The Palm Beach Diocese is even in worse shape:
Their list of bishops reads like a bad dream. Frankly, Florida in general has gotten a very raw deal in terms of its Bishops. One would tend to suspect that this may have something to do with its nature as a vaction/resort spot....fun in the sun. Seemingly the perfect place for gay/gay friendly clergy.
Very sad indeed for the good Catholics of Florida.
We briefly considered moving to Tampa until we met Bishop Lynch at a confirmation of a nephew. Between the rumba music at the mass, the lack of kneelers, the hand-holding across the aisles, his homily parade with around the congregation the topic of which featured a divorced mother as the heroine and the consecration of a large glass bowl of hosts... it was too much. Everywhere we went in Tampa...
The crowd at mass really roared for the tune, "We are the body of Christ." (Shaking my head sadly.)
The old Irish priest, of whom there are many, sadly, told me when I complained after mass that it was a "new parish"... I think it was a code word or something...
"rumba music at the mass, the lack of kneelers, the hand-holding across the aisles, his homily parade around the congregation the topic of which featured a divorced mother as the heroine and the consecration of a large glass bowl of hosts...The crowd at mass really roared for the tune, "We are the body of Christ..."new parish"...
Till I read that, I was starting to put some credence in Lynch's denials.
1996. Hmmm. I wonder if he's one of Bernardin's Boys. That would explain a lot.
Biography of Bishop Lynch
Bishop Robert Lynch was born in Charleston, West Virginia in 1941. He received his bachelor of arts degree from the Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, Ohio in May 1963 and his master of divinity degree from Pope John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts in May, 1978. That same month, he was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Miami.
Bishop Lynch is known for his time spent as the General Secretary of the United States Catholic Conference (USCC) and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB). His most recent assignment before coming to St. Petersburg was in Fort Lauderdale as the pastor of St. Mark Catholic Church. Previous assignments include associate pastor of St. James in North Miami, and rector and president of St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. He was ordained a bishop and installed as the fourth Bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg on January 26, 1996.
Bishop Lynch was appointed the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Palm Beach, while remaining the Bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, on Tuesday, June 2, 1998. He remained administrator until Thursday, January 14, 1999.
This is just the background stuff. Anybody see any major red flags, or is this one just caught up in all the hoopla?
BISHOP BANS CATHOLIC ANSWERS LIVE
One of the most popular Catholic radio programs on the air, nationwide is Catholic Answers Live. The format is a call in show that addresses issues both within and without the Church. Answers given to listeners are solidly constructed on the teachings of the Magisterium. Are the people residing in Bishop Lynchs St. Petersburg/ Tampa, Florida diocese allowed to listen to the program. Not any more! The following report is from a Tampa resident.
Dateline: Tampa/St. Petersburg
March 2, 2001
For a good while, several years at least, here in the Tampa Bay Area, the local Catholic Radio station WBVM 90.5 FM has been running a nationally syndicated program called "Catholic Answers, Live," (CAL). The call-in talk show program is hosted by knowledgeable Catholic lay people who choose a topic for the day, give some comment and invite callers to call in and ask questions. It is common knowledge among interested Catholics that the local bishop Robert Lynch, does not care for the Catholic Answers Live opinion. He has gone out of his way to respond to the program and has, according to some, tried to get rid of it all together. The popularity of the show, which by the way runs in the evening drive slot, is the only thing that has kept Catholic Answers Live on the air.
The main problem for Bishop Lynch is call in complaints regarding questionable liturgical practices, rebel theologians and American distortions of what is said by the Pope and the teaching office of the Church, at times, point out the irresponsibility of leadership (i.e. bishops) in correcting wrongs.
Bishop Lynch recently cut Catholic Answers Live air time by putting local people on in the CAL spot reducing the program from five to three days a week. Listeners, upset by the change argued that the local hosts of the new, "Catholic Factor ( the re-placement program) could not deliver the same quality on the air.
On February 26, CAL ran a program which interviewed Deal Hudson, editor of the popular Crisis Magazine. Mr. Hudson has been involved in President Bushs faith-based agencies funding program. Hudson was instrumental in gathering the bishops and archbishops together for the recent meetings with the president. (Miamis Archbishop Favalora was among those at the meeting).
In the February program with Hudson, titled "The Catholic Press: Friend or Foe," among other things, Mr. Hudson and some callers lamented what they believed to be poor journalism by the Catholic News Service (CNS). CNS is the media/news arm of the U. S. Bishops. The gist of their criticism had to do with allegations from callers and concurrence on the part of Mr. Hudson that the CNS stories often times reflect an American slant more in keeping with the bureaucratic structures and position of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops than that of the Pope and the official teaching office of the Church, the Magisterium."
The February 26th program, seems to have exhausted Bishop Lynchs patience as two days later in place of Catholic Answers Live, WBVM ran an announcement from Diocesan Communications Chief, Bill Urbanski, declared that CAL would no longer be broadcast on WBVM 90.5 FM. The reason given focused on the Feb. 26th show and its criticism of the NCCB vis-à-vis the CNS reporting. Urbanski declare this decision to be prudent but left open the possibility for a return of Catholic Answers Live in the future if the program would reflect more balance in its content. (end)
The Official statement of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, which, according to viewers, appeared on the diocesan web site for less than 24 hours stated:
"For some time we have been concerned about the editorial content of the program Catholic Answers Live...The content of recent programs on Catholic Answers Live has raised severe doubts about the loyalty of the National conference to the Pope and his teachings. When the truthfulness of our Bishop and his loyalty to the Pope and the Magisterium is brought into question, it is time to reevaluate the wisdom of broadcasting Catholic Answers Live on Spirit FM . . ."
Bishop Lynch appears to have a habit of taking things away. Some months ago he came under heavy criticism for severely restricting exposition of the Eucharist. It appears he is now determined to eliminate any views which are contrary to his vision of the Church. Heaven help Catholics if they have to rely on the bishops Catholic Factor program. Tapes of the program clearly reveal a modernist agenda has been set for the diocese. Just how much farther will Bishop Lynch, head of the Communications Department of the NCCB, go toward censoring peoples right to free speech?
The March 27th Factor transcript offers a clue. Bishop Lynch was the guest, Mary Jo Murphy, the host, Jim, the caller.
Jim: "...why Catholic Answers was removed totally from the airways? I know Bill Urbanski had said that there were claims that Catholic Answers was saying, you know, that the bishops were unfaithful to the Holy Father and , you know I really, in all my listening, never heard a comment of such and the particular program that was claimed to have that statement that, that was the last straw. It wasnt there, I just didnt see it."
Bishop Lynch: Uh Catholic AnswersSince youve asked the question Ill respond to it. Im probably not going to talk about it as long as youd like Jim, because the station has given its explanation. I affirmed it. I wont back away from it. I would have to tell you from the very inception when it came on the air, -uh, I had difficulty Personally I had difficulties with it because a lot of the things that we were embracing at the local Church and by that, by we, I mean lay people, my priests council, uh, were often called into question and derided. The Renew Program would be one of the things a couple of years ago, but I clinched my teeth and lived through that whole period. Ah, but I also began to see, and it, now some things they did very well and I want to say that up front. If they stuck with the area of apologetics, they did it very wellbut when they ventured into, and Canon Law, the Thursday night programs on Canon Law I also thought very good. But when they got in some controverted areas or got a controversial person like Deal Hudson the editor of Crisis magazine uh-and then they started taking off on the bishops conference as he did that night, and I heard it, and Im not, I mean it pushed the envelope about as far. I just dont think if a radio station is dedicated to building up the Church that you ought to have a program on there that tears down the Church. Now, would I have been assuaged if for example somebody from the Bishops conference, from the Catholic News Service was invited on to give a rebuttal, I certainly would have that would be fairness. I mean we dont, were not infallible as a group of bishops in this country, or as individuals, we dont claim that for ourselves and we can make mistakes and we can also be criticized so please dont misunderstand me, I think that but, I think fairness requires I mean uh, uh, even the St. Pete Times on an issue like partial birth abortion where they editorialized in favor of the presidential veto ran four articles in three days op-ed, uh, saying that, that partial birth abortion was an abomination. I, I didnt get the same treatment from Catholic Answers. Thats my problem with it. So if they achieve that balance, uh, and they see that and they will let some other people come who can either respond or perhaps lead it in a more balanced way, Id be very open to its return. But, let me just end this, Jim. I dont want to go on much longer about it, but just by saying that you dont need the diocesan radio station to basically say bad things about bishops if youre not going to balance some of those bad things...
Jim: What exactly was it...
Bishop Lynch: Well, now I, I just dont want to I just dont wanna, I think you know, Ive answered the thing generically, it was a long thing over many years, and uh, I think Ive just...
Jim: There are several bishops which have been interviewed and backing, backed that program thoroughly.
Bishop Lynch: uh. Yes. But (laugh) theres also some other bishops that have taken it off in their areas as well, or not supported it.
Mary Jo: (in the background) Well
Bishop Lynch: The point Jim, is I think Ive answered your question. My basic answer is we build up the Body of Christ, we dont tear it down, and I found them tearing it down.
Jim: I just dont know, I love you Bis
Mary Jo: Well, thanks for calling, Jim.
Jim: -hop, but I dont agree.
Mary Jo: O. K. Well, thanks for calling, Jim
Bishop Lynch: All right, Well thats your prerogative.
Mary Jo: O. K. Great. And now were going to. . ..
Transcript provided by Faithful Catholics of Gulf Coast Florida. (contents)
I know I can sometimes do a lot of complaining w/o seeing the good that goes on in our parishes and dioceses and most importantly, in us. But there are a lot of problems and it seems to me that these programs serve a purpose - we know the chanceries and the usccb are filled with progressives pushing various agendas and there needs to be somewhere where we can ask questions and get honest answers instead of opinions or 'good' ideas.
Essence of his rebuttal being uh, uh, uh! I love Catholic Answers Live, I learn a lot from the program, and I also have confidence that they're not leading me into the wilderness.
This guy is a thin-skinned girl in a cassock, well, I make a judgement leap regarding the cassock.
The more a cleric praises the fruits of Vatican II, the more likely that he is one.
Lynch should be lynched. I'm thinking large millstone.
How did guys like this become Bishops
That's the $64,000,000 question. The process for selecting and advancing bishops needs to be changed somehow. It's not working. The conference is a sea of mediocrity, at best.
The sad thing is that the solution is so obvious: allow catholic leaders to be married. Peter was married, at least, the Bible clearly states that. His wife was healed by Jesus. This celibacy thing is macabre. It may mean the downfall of the church. (Lacking reason, it falls.)Fewer and fewer men become catholic priests. When will someone get the message? It isn't normal to force people to be celibate.