The Catholic prosecutor who made headlines earlier this month — with the shocking sex abuse news out of Philadelphia — remains, despite everything, deeply committed to the faith that he loves.
From the Religion News Service:
For Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, leading the sex abuse prosecution that has roiled this city’s Catholic community is not an attack on the church in which he was raised, and to which he remains deeply committed.
But the Philadelphia native says he is determined to bring to justice the “evil” clergy his office accuses of harming children.
Earlier this month (Feb. 10), Williams announced criminal charges against three priests and a parochial school teacher for allegedly raping boys in the late 1990s. In addition, Monsignor William Lynn, the archdiocese’s former secretary of clergy, was charged with endangering the welfare of a child because he allegedly transferred abusive priests without warning schools and parishes. All four clergy have been suspended by the archdiocese.
Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali has also pledged to reexamine other cases flagged by the grand jury, which said in a scathing report that at least 37 other priests remain in ministry “despite solid, credible allegations of abuse.”
“I tell people that this is not about the Catholic Church. I love my church” said Williams in an interview. “This is not … some form of Catholic-bashing. This is about evil men being held accountable for their evil behavior.”But some Catholics wonder if Williams, who remains active in his West Philadelphia parish and on various church committees, will feel torn between his legal mission and his faith.
Williams said he isn’t troubled by prosecuting the clergy and school teacher for raping children. “All reasonable people would come to that conclusion,” he said.But Williams is bothered by the thought that some parts of the church, such as schools and youth organizations, might suffer because potential contributors grow reluctant to donate.
Adopted at 18 months by devout Catholics Rufus and Imelda Williams, the district attorney worships in the same West Philadelphia church building where he was baptized, served as an altar boy, and married.
The district attorney, who was elected in 2009, is on the board of Catholic Social Services and the St. Martin de Porres Foundation, which supports lay leadership among African-American Catholics, and participated in a study of the future of churches in his neighborhood.
Williams also spent many years on the parish council of the former St. Carthage Church, and was instrumental in helping the church merge with another local parish to become St. Cyprian.