At the Catholic sex abuse trial, it was good day to feel like throwing up.
On the witness stand Thursday, an amiable and smiling Monsignor William J. Lynn tried to defend the indefensible, by explaining away the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's criminal conduct of the past fifty years. It's hard to justify how the church could repeatedly offer up its own innocent children as a regular sacrifice to the unbridled lusts of rampaging predator priests, but Lynn gave it a try, with predictable results.
But that wasn't the only sickening sight in Courtroom 304. Over at the prosecution table, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington was a study in fire-breathing indignation, as he pummeled the hapless monsignor for more than four hours, without showing any mercy, or common sense.
Who would want to see Mike Tyson in his prime whaling away on the Pillsbury doughboy? No wonder jurors often looked away as the bloodsport went on unabated, without anyone in Lynn's corner tossing in the towel, or the judge calling the bout.
Blessington could have dissected Lynn on the facts, but instead he chose to repeatedly insult and demean a man in a priest's collar who wasn't fighting back. It seemed like the ideal way to create sympathy for Lynn among jurors. It may be the only way the defense has left to possibly win the case.
Meanwhile, in the courtroom, there was the odd spectacle of at least a dozen of Lynn's parishioners from St. Joseph's in Downingtown who showed up to support their pastor by watching and praying and clutching rosary beads.
So there was a Mass and a Wrestlemania match going on simultaneously in Court 3004, but it was one of those matches that featured a pumped-up superstar pounding away on a scrawny stiff. Not for the faint-hearted.
After nine weeks of trial, no new facts came out. Instead, both sides cited facts already in evidence ad nauseum as justification for their unreasonable positions, without shedding any new light on any subject.
Monsignor Lynn kept saying he did the best he could to protect children under the circumstances, which just doesn't wash. Lynn tried to explain how, during a horrific epidemic of rape and molestation of children, his office never called the police, never went looking for other victims -- even when they were given the names of other victims -- and didn't tell the truth to parishioners, victims and parents, as abusers were transferred from parish to parish, so that they could destroy more innocent lives.
He also tried to claim that the church was more interested in protecting children, rather than keeping predator priests out of jail and the civil courts, and the old archdiocese free from scandal, all of which seems self-evident at this point.
As for the prosecutor, his disdain for the monsignor was spread thicker than chunky peanut butter on a saltine cracker. On both days of his cross-examination, Blessington didn't even say hello to the monsignor, he didn't stand to address him, he just fired away from a seated position at the prosecution table.
On Thursday, Blessington repeatedly called Lynn a liar. In one hour, Blessington called Lynn a liar, or charged him with lying, 14 times, or once every 4 minutes. He usually made these charges while holding his chin in hand, his tone reeking of disgust. And when he got through pointing out all the lies in Lynn's grand jury testimony, Blessington would disdainfully toss another bound volume on a table behind him, as if he was putting out the trash.
"You understand, you can't change the words on the documents," Blessington shouted at Lynn. "You have to admit your lies."
Other Blessington shots at the monsignor:
-- "Clarification, truth lies, It really doesn't matter, does it?"
-- "We can save some time if you admit you lied."
-- "You never lied to anybody, did you?"
-- "More lies!"
-- "You understand you're being caught in lies upon lies?"
-- "You're making it up as you're going along, aren't you?"
Then there were exchanges like this:
Blessington: "You did nothing."
Lynn: "I did my best."
Blessington: "By your standards, your best is nothing."
Blessington: "You think this is funny?"
Lynn [smiling]: "No, I don't know how you want me to answer."
Blessington: "How bout truthfully?"
At one point, Blessington accused Lynn of something new, namely hiding the list he had compiled of 35 abuser priests in a locked safe in a file room in Lynn's old office on the 10th floor of archdiocese headquarters.
"Absolutely not," the monsignor said.
Whose safe was it, Blessington wanted to know.
"I have no idea," the monsignor said.
"You expect this jury to believe this testimony?"
At another point, when Blessington again accused Lynn of lying, the monsignor said, "No, you're twisting the words I said, putting your motives behind them."
"You understand that your motives are on trial here?" Blessington shot back.
"I do," the monsignor said.
Meanwhile, the monsignor was resigned to lines like, "I did not lie," and, "It fell through the cracks." He was talking about a psychiatric evaluation that was supposed to be scheduled for Father Stanley Gana, one of the archdiocese's most notorious rapists.
"I'm not happy that it fell through the cracks," the monsignor said. "I'm sorry it fell through the cracks."
The parishioners from St. Joseph's, however, said the monsignor was a good man.
"We believe in him,"Alfreda "Fritz" DiOttavio said of her pastor. "We heard about the trial, and we all wanted to go."
"He [Lynn] was always there for me," she said. When she was sick, and her husband was dying, the monsignor came calling to offer prayer and comfort.
As for the prosecutor, DiOttavio was not impressed.
"I don't like that man," she said.