Priest’s Jury Is Told How a Complaint Was Scorned
By Jon Hurdle
New York Times
April 12, 2012
A Roman Catholic bishop told his superiors that a church worker was trying to “stir up conflict” after she reported her concern that a priest in her parish was receiving pornography in the mail, a court heard on Wednesday.
Bishop Robert P. Maginnis of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia wrote in 1996 to the office of Msgr. William J. Lynn, former secretary for clergy at the archdiocese, in response to a complaint from a Sister of Mercy about pornographic magazines received by another priest, the Rev. Edward M. DePaoli.
Bishop Maginnis, who as vicar of Montgomery County, Pa., was responsible for the parish, told the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas that he could not remember much about the episode but that he had been trying at the time to establish whether the sister’s assertions were true.
“She was upset about some material, magazines that he was getting,” Bishop Maginnis testified at the trial of Monsignor Lynn. Charged with conspiracy and child endangerment, Monsignor Lynn is suspected of allowing priests accused of sexually abusing children to remain in positions where they would continue to prey on minors.
Jurors were shown a letter from Bishop Maginnis to Monsignor Lynn’s office, which was charged with investigating claims of abuse by priests, after the church worker, Sister Joan Scary, complained about the magazines arriving at the parish. She lived there and worked with Father DePaoli and the parish pastor, the Rev. James Gormley, who was away at the time.
Father DePaoli had been convicted in 1986 of receiving child pornography and sentenced to probation but was allowed to live in church property near Pottstown, Pa.
“She is aware of his past problems, and perhaps she is using Father Gormley’s absence to cast doubt on Father DePaoli’s credibility,” Bishop Maginnis wrote in 1996.
Asked by Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington whether he thought at the time that Father DePaoli should have been removed from the parish, Bishop Maginnis said: “I don’t think I can answer that now. It’s going back too many years.”
Under questioning from Jeff Lindy, a lawyer for Monsignor Lynn, Bishop Maginnis agreed that any decision to remove a priest would have been the responsibility of the archdiocese under Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, who died this year, and not the secretary for clergy.
“Removal of a priest came from the archdiocese — it couldn’t be done by the secretary for clergy, right?” Mr. Lindy asked.
“That’s right,” the bishop said.
Monsignor Lynn is the most senior official of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States to be tried on charges relating to the child sexual abuse scandal that has hit the church in recent years. His co-defendant, the Rev. James J. Brennan, is charged with trying to rape a 14-year-old boy in 1996.