Story of ‘ladies Man’ Priest Turned Molester Unfolds in Court
By Joseph A. Slobodzian
May 1, 2012
Just four years out of the seminary, the Rev. Sylwester Wiejata was rapidly making a name for himself.
Unfortunately for officials of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the reputation of the young, darkly handsome Wiejata was as a ladies man — and one with an eye for married women.
On Tuesday, a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury listened to the grand jury testimony of Msgr. William J. Lynn as he tried to explain his alleged failure to act as Wiejata’s sexual overtures went from married women to single women in their 20s and, ultimately in August 2000, allegations that he had fondled the 13-year-old daughter of a woman with whom he had an affair.
As secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, Lynn, 61, was the Archdiocesan official responsible for investigating allegations of sexual abuse by priests.
Charged with conspiracy and endangering the welfare of children, Lynn is the first Catholic church official to be criminally prosecuted in a landmark trial focusing on the sexual abuse of children by some priests in the Philadelphia archdiocese.
Lynn has denied that his alleged inaction enabled deviate priests to continue preying on children and his lawyers have argued that he was often the first church official here to move against priests accused of sexual misconduct.
Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington read to the jury Lynn’s 2002 testimony before the county investigating grand jury about the Wiejata case.
The reading of Lynn’s testimony during the trial, now in its sixth week, is part of the prosecution’s attempt to portray Lynn as more interested in protecting the church’s reputation than the welfare of priests’ victims.
Under questioning by a city prosecutor before the grand jury, Lynn described his efforts to discreetly discover if Wiejata’s conduct was on the verge of becoming a public scandal.
Lynn said he asked Msgr. John Gillespie, Wiejata’s pastor at Our Lady of Calvary parish in the Far Northeast, to be “looking for gossip.”
“Gillespie did not feel the woman would make things public,” Lynn told the grand jury.
Lynn said he never spoke to the woman who was involved with Wiejata: “I figured she was an adult in a secret relationship.”