Allegations Pile on Priest

By Mensah M. Dean
Philadelphia Daily News
January 25, 2012

Msgr. William J. Lynn is charged with child endangerment.

CITY PROSECUTORS yesterday continued to pile on the allegations that a former high-ranking official of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia facilitated the sexual abuse of church children by repeatedly looking the other way when confronted with jaw-dropping crimes of predator priests.

"Time and time and time again, they lie to victims because they are not concerned about the victims; they are just concerned about the almighty dollar and mother Church," Chief of Special Investigations Patrick Blessington said of the Archdiocese, which once employed the four defendants who are to stand trial in March.

Defendant Monsignor William Lynn, 61, at times appeared red-faced during the second day of a "prior-bad-acts" hearing at the Criminal Justice Center.

Lynn, secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, is charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child and conspiracy for allegedly shuffling dangerous priests among parishes instead of calling the police.

Among his co-defendants, priest James Brennan, 48, is charged with raping a 14-year-old altar boy in 1996, and priest Charles Engelhardt, 65, and defrocked priest Edward Avery, 69, are both charged with raping a 10-year-old altar boy beginning in 1998.

Blessington and three colleagues from the District Attorney's Office spent much of yesterday - as they will today - trying to persuade Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina to allow into evidence decades of allegations against dozens of priests who have not been charged, to show the jury Lynn's alleged pattern of behavior.

Lynn's Archdiocese-paid attorneys protested the inclusion of every old case, typically on the grounds that the crimes happened long before Lynn was in office, or because he had done all that he could in his capacity to keep problem priests from children.

"How do all these cases relate to the [endangering the welfare of a child charges]?" defense attorney Jeffrey Lindy snapped at one point. "What they're talking about is the Archdiocese as a whole."

The prosecutors, however, used church memos and other documents to try to demonstrate that Lynn was protective of predator priests and less than sympathetic to their victims.

In 1994, after Father Thomas F. Shea admitted molesting two altar boys from 1972 to 1977 and told Lynn that one boy had been fooling around with other children, Lynn wrote: " 'It is possible that Shea was seduced into it.' " Blessington said. Shea retired in 1995.

Also in 1994, while investigating allegations that Father Joseph P. Gausch had masturbated a 12-year-old boy multiple times in the early 1980s, Lynn asked the victim if he could have misinterpreted Gausch's actions, Assistant District Attorney Jacqueline Coelho said.

Documents also indicate that Lynn told Gausch that the boy came from a dysfunctional family, that he wanted money and that his background needed further investigation.

" 'We're behind you, we're on your side,' " Lynn told Gausch, according to Coelho.

By the time Gausch died in May 1999, the Archdiocese had received more than 12 sexual-assault complaints against him from boys that spanned from 1945 to the early 1980s. Many of the complaints were made after his death.



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