Monsignor Confesses He Wasn't Qualified to Be a Gumshoe

By Ralph Cipriano
Philadelphia Priest Abuse Trial Blog
May 16, 2012

Monsignor William J. Lynn confessed to a grand jury back in 2004 that he wasn't qualified to investigate sexually abusive priests.

The monsignor's admission came in response to a grand jury prosecutor, who asked Lynn if he realized that he needed more training to investigate sex crimes committed by priests against minors in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

"Today I do," the monsignor told the grand jury back in 2004. When the grand jury prosecutor asked Lynn point-blank if he was qualified to investigate sex abuse, he responded simply, "No."

The monsignor told the grand jury that he studied theology and philosophy at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, and also had a master's degree in education administration. But when you're trying to outwit a pedophile, "a degree in psychology, that would help," the monsignor told the grand jury. So would some law enforcement seminars.

Instead, the monsignor testified that he relied upon "on the job" training when he became the archdiocese's secretary for clergy back in 1992. Shortly after he took the job, Lynn found out that a major part of his duties involved investigating priests accused of sexually abusing minors.

"I thought I was dealing with them adequately," the monsignor told the grand jury. But he admitted, "I don't necessarily have the training to do it."

Lynn's 2004 grand jury testimony was read into the record Wednesday at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial by Assistant District Attorney Anthony Pomeranz. Lynn is the first Catholic administrator in the country to be accused of conspiring to endanger the welfare of children by transferring abuser priests from parish to parish, often without any warnings to pastors or parishioners.

In 1994, two years after he had taken over as secretary for clergy, Lynn decided to do an inventory of the archdiocese's secret archive files, to figure out exactly how many sexually abusive priests the archdiocese had on its payroll.

The job was daunting. The secret archives were held in two large file cabinets containing 323 confidential files dating back to at least the 1940s. Lynn told the grand jury that his bosses weren't much help.

"I didn't get any direction," the monsignor told the grand jury.

The secret archive files contained all sorts of allegations from alleged victims, both named and unnamed. Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua helped limit Lynn's focus. During a conversation one day, the cardinal told Lynn, "We can't get into anonymous allegations or complaints,"the monsignor testified.

So when Lynn went through the secret archive files, he compiled a list of only 35 priests who had either been convicted or accused of sexually abusing minors. When the district attorney decided to investigate, a wider net was cast. In response to subpoenas, the district attorney received 140 secret archive files from the archdiocese pertaining to abuser priests.

The monsignor told the grand jury that the list he drew up included only three confirmed pedophiles and a dozen priests credibly accused of sex abuse. For an allegation to be deemed credible, Lynn told the grand jury, he basically needed a priest to confess that he did it.

As to whether he should notify pastors that he was transferring a sexually abusive priest into their parish, "I think it would depend on the circumstances," the monsignor told the grand jury. It would have to be decided on "a case by case basis."

"There wouldn't be a general announcement about what was in a priest's background," Lynn testified.

What little on the job training Lynn received came from his predecessor on the archdiocese pervert beat, the late Msgr. James E. Molloy. Some of Molloy's notes to Lynn were read into the record Wednesday by Detective Joseph Walsh.

Molloy "seems like a meticulous guy?" asked Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington.

"He's very, very detail-oriented," Walsh replied.

Walsh read several versions of Lynn's list into the record. The list was ordered shredded by Cardinal Bevilacqua in 1994, but Msgr. Molloy retained one copy that was found in a locked archdiocese safe in 2006. Several other working versions of the list were also found on diskettes, Walsh testified.

A prominent name on Lynn's list was Father Edward V. Avery, a former defendant in the case who has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy and involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with a 10-year-old child. The other defendant in the case, Father James J. Brennan, was not mentioned in any of the versions of the Lynn memo read into record by Detective Walsh. Father Brennan is accused of conspiracy and attempted rape of a 14-year-old.

The archdiocese sex abuse trial is now in its eighth week of testimony in Courtroom 304 at the Criminal Justice Center. The prosecution is expected to rest its case at the end of court Thursday. There is no court scheduled for Monday. The defense is expected to put on its case during the remainder of next week.


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