The man smiling in the picture below is not a monster. But he is the victim of one.
On May tenth, this man, 43 year old William Lynch, walked into the lobby of the Sacred Heart Jesuit retirement home in Los Gatos and asked to speak to Father Jerold Lindner.
Lindner, 65, came down to the lobby and Lynch asked him if he recognized him. The retired priest said no, at which point Lynch beat the shit out of him. Pummeled him. According to defense attorney Pat Harris, “They’re saying it was pretty close to beating him to death. They’re saying he waited all these years and then took out his revenge. It’s sort of the ultimate revenge story.”
Lindner molested Lynch and his younger brother, who were then 7 and 5, during a weekend camping trip.
They were raped in the woods and forced to have oral sex with each other. In 1998, Lynch and his younger brother settled with the Jesuits for $625,000. Lindner denies abusing the boys and has never been criminally charged. The alleged abuse, even if a settlement hadn’t been reached, falls outside the statute of limitations.
Look again at Lynch’s mug shot. Have you ever seen a suspected felon look so serene, content and relieved?
In a 2002 Los Angeles Times article about the erupting priest abuse scandal, Lynch told a reporter, “Many times I thought of driving down to LA and confronting Father Jerry. I wanted to exorcise all of the rage and anger and bitterness he put into me. You can’t put into words what this guy did to me. He stole my innocence and destroyed my life.”
Lynch went on to say that he had battled depression and alcoholism his whole life, and had twice attempted suicide because of the priest’s abuse.
That priest taught me English my junior year of high school.
We regarded Father Lindner as a creepy geek. When the article about Lynch circulated among us Loyola High alums, none of was shocked. A bit surprised, maybe, but not shocked. Lindner was a small, oily man – we thought of him as an impotent joke who would never act on his creepiness – but, of course, when your victims are 7 years old and you have the authority of the white collar, it’s no contest.
No matter how hot it got in downtown L.A., where the Loyola campus is, Father Lindner would show up to class wearing his priest’s collar, a button up cardigan sweater and a jacket. Sometimes a little cap. He wore half-tinted glasses and a thick moustache. He adorned the walls of his classroom with medieval weaponry: clubs, maces, swords. He led the D&D inspired after-school club, “Knights of Fantasy Role Playing” as well as the Archery and Backgammon clubs.
Our standard joke in class was to say to each other, in a high “nerd” voice, “Father, father, lend me your sword.” But we never took our own pervy joke seriously. It was almost as if he looked too much the part. The tinted glasses, the permanent sheen of oil on his face. This was central casting’s version of a priest child molester.
He was a decent teacher, but the only specific memory I have of him is when he bragged to us that he maintained a 3.8 GPA in college. It seemed to us a little odd and sad.
Maybe one of the reasons Lynch looks so at peace in his mug shot is that he knows he will get off. In Baltimore, a man who claimed he was sodomized by a priest a decade earlier shot the clergyman three times after the priest told him to go away when he demanded an apology.
The man was acquitted of attempted murder and served 18 months of home detention on a gun conviction. Basically, he was grounded.
The following year priest John Geoghan was strangled to death in his cell by a fellow inmate who claimed he was chosen by God to kill pedophiles. Geoghan was serving a 10 year sentence for groping a boy and had been accused of molesting as many as 150 – one hundred and fifty – boys.
How can you argue with his cell mate? If the Man Upstairs asks you to do something, you do it.
Father Lindner nearly enjoyed the same fate at the hands of his own brother.
Larry Lindner is a retired Los Angeles police officer. The last time he saw his brother was two decades ago, when he walked in on him molesting his 8 year old daughter. The two were playing a game called “blankie” in which Father Jerry asked the little girl to lie over his lap like a blanket and then wiggled around as if trying to get comfortable.
“I told him he best get in his vehicle and leave,” said Larry. “If I go out to the truck and get my off-duty weapon out of the glove box, you’re a dead man.”
Father Jerry slunk away, retired, and slipped into near anonymity, until Lynch paid him a visit.
I’m not sure what broader point there is to make of this tragic, lurid story. I think Lindner got what he deserved. I think priests should face the same legal procedures and penalties as any other pedophiles. I think the Catholic Church should keep paying and paying for all the cover ups and abuses of power – next to your family doctor, in what other stranger would you place so much trust?
And while I believe some men are just wired for evil, I can’t help but wonder if any of this results from, or is at least exacerbated by, the Catholic priests’ vows of celibacy. It was explained to us in high school that the vow of celibacy was about men devoting their loving energy completely and exclusively to God, rather than diluting it by sharing it with anyone else.
But asking a human being to deny the sex drive is like asking him not to breathe. Mess with a natural urge that much and it’s bound to rear its head anyway – in a hideous way. Maybe it’s time for a serious rethink on this one. The Catholic Church will still exist tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, and anything we can do to keep priests from ruining lives seems, well, awfully Christian to me.