Monsignor Lynn’s Conviction

By Paul Moses
June 22, 2012

Many will be elated that Monsignor William Lynn has been found guilty of one count of child endangerment. I’m not. It’s a sad day for Lynn, and for the church. And yet, it’s a necessary one.

The Philadelphia jury, which acquitted Lynn on two other counts, worked extremely hard. I hope we’ll see interviews with some of the jurors that explain their decision.

Absent that, it’s a little difficult to interpret the verdict with the information available. Sometimes, juries just compromise – no favor to Lynn, since it only takes a conviction on one count to expose a defendant to prison time and change the course of his life. For a defendant, there is really no such thing as a “mixed verdict,” as this is being called.

The jurors’ questions during the long deliberation indicated that they were very troubled by the conspiracy charge, and the panel passed up the chance to convict Lynn of entering into an illicit agreement with his superiors. So – this is preliminary – it looks like a verdict that focuses on Lynn’s personal responsibility. To reach it, the jury had to reject the so-called “only-following-orders” defense – a weak defense in any case.

Had more bishops resigned in response to the clergy sexual abuse scandal – had there been true accountability from the bishops – I suspect Monsignor Lynn would never have found himself in jail. (He was held pending his Aug. 13 sentencing, a strong indication that he’ll be sentenced to prison time) .

Prosecutors have great discretion over which cases to pursue, and they are sensitive to the public mood. The church has done much to deal with the problem of clergy sexual abuse, but never held its leaders accountable. As a result, the legal system, first in civil cases and now in criminal, has become the mechanism for accomplishing that.

That’s far from over.








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