Jury Finds Monsignor Guilty of Child Endangerment

My Fox Philly
June 22, 2012

[with video]

A Philadelphia jury has found a church official guilty of endangering the welfare of a child in the landmark Catholic Church sex abuse trial.

However, the panel reported Friday that it found Monsignor William Lynn not guilty of a conspiracy count and one additional child endangerment charge.

The jury reported that it was hung on both counts concerning the Rev. James Brennan.

The announcement came during the 13th day of deliberations in the case.

On Wednesday, jurors said they were unable to agree on four of the five counts. But Judge Teresa Sarmina spoke with jurors that afternoon and urged them to work through their disagreements to reach a verdict.

Lynn -- accused of mishandling child sexual abuse complaints while he was secretary of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia -- becomes the highest-ranking U.S. church official charged in connection with a child endangerment sex abuse criminal case.

Prosecutors accused Brennan of molesting a 14-year-old boy in 1996.

Walking out of court a free man, Brennan said he leaned heavily on his faith.

Lynn was placed into lockup after Friday's verdict was read. His attorneys said they would seek house arrest for their client and they intend to appeal the guilty verdict on the one count.

One of the biggest questions surrounding the case now is will the district attorney go after more suspected priests?

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams says there is the potential for others to be investigated or tried, but didn't say more than that.

Williams says, as an attorney and a Roman Catholic, he was deeply disturbed by what he heard in court.

"However, there is no verdict that can fix the harm done to the victims of adult predators within the church. There is no apology that can heal the wounds these children suffered," Williams said.

As jurors tried to explain why it took them so long to reach a verdict, the foreman said he believed the Catholic Church was not on trial, but the conviction of Lynn is certain to further rock the church leadership here and in Rome.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, on the other hand, argued for Lynn to be jailed until sentencing.

SNAP said in part in a statement, "This day—and the relief, vindication and healing it gives clergy sex abuse victims—is long overdue. The guilty verdict sends a strong and clear message that shielding and enabling predator priests is a heinous crime that threatens families, communities and children, and must be punished as such. It is also the criminal justice system's 'shot across the bow,' sending a clear signal to all institutions: 'Protect kids, oust predators or go to jail.'"

SNAP went on to praise the victims who came forward, and the group hopes the judge will "impose the stiffest possible sentence."

The archdiocese also released a statement. It read: "This has been a difficult time for all Catholics, especially victims of sexual abuse. The lessons of the last year have made our Church a more vigilant guardian of our people's safety. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is on a journey of reform and renewal that requires honesty and hope. We are committed to providing support and assistance to parishioners as they and the Church seek to more deeply understand sexual violence, and to create an environment that is safe and welcoming to all, including past victims."

"The Archdiocese of Philadelphia offers a heartfelt apology to all victims of clergy sexual abuse," the statement continued. "Now and in the future, the Church will continue to take vigorous steps to ensure safe church environments for all the faithful in Philadelphia."








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