There’s Much Finger Pointing in Catholic Church’s Child Sex-abuse Trial
Daily Local News
April 2, 2012
The child endangerment trial of the Rev. Monsignor William Lynn resumes in Philadelphia. He has the dubious distinction of being the first Roman Catholic Church official to be charged in the United States in connection with clerical sexual abuse.
While the 61-year-old priest himself has not been charged with sexually abusing children, he has been accused of protecting known pedophile priests from criminal prosecution by not reporting them to civil authorities and instead placing them in assignments where they still had access to children.
Defense attorneys maintain that Lynn, who served as secretary of the clergy from 1992 to 2004 and was responsible for investigating clerical sexual abuse, was just following orders of his two superiors, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and Cardinal Justin Rigali, former archbishops of Philadelphia. Bevilacqua, who was battling cancer, died Jan. 31, the day after a judge ruled that his deposition videotaped last November could be included in Lynn’s trial.
Lynn was charged in February 2011 — along with two other priests, a defrocked priest and a Catholic school lay teacher accused of abusing boys — as a result of a grand jury investigation launched by Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.
The first grand jury investigation on clerical sexual abuse, launched by former Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham in 2003, revealed that 63 priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia allegedly abused children as far back as the 1940s. None could be criminally charged because the state’s statute of limitations, that has since been expanded, had expired.
Four days before Lynn’s trial began, one of his co-defendants, Edward Avery of Haverford — who church officials defrocked in 2006 because they found sexual abuse allegations against him credible — essentially left Lynn in the lurch by pleading guilty to sexually abusing an altar boy in 1999. His sentence of 2? to 5 years in prison pales in comparison to the 28 years Lynn could get if found guilty.
In an effort to establish a pattern of protecting pedophile priests to avoid church scandal, the prosecutor last week presented testimony about known child predators such as Raymond O. Leneweaver, who admitted to archdiocesan officials in the late 1960s that he had sexually abused boys.
Nevertheless, under Cardinal John Krol’s watch, he was allowed to teach at Cardinal O’Hara High School in Marple from 1966 to 1971 and was based at three Delaware County parishes among other assignments until he removed himself from active ministry in 1980.
Leneweaver’s abuse had repercussions beyond the children he molested. According to the 2011 grand jury report, the big brother of a boy abused by Leneweaver was beaten by his father into unconsciousness in 1975 when he told his parents of his little brother’s abuse by the priest.
They finally believed him when they found their younger son bleeding after being raped by Leneweaver. Bevilacqua was informed by Lynn of Leneweaver’s child abuse history when the priest applied to return to active ministry. In 1998, Lynn refused Leneweaver’s request “for his own welfare and the welfare of the church.” No mention was made of danger to children.