In Historic Verdict, Priest Guilty in Child Sex Abuse Cover up

By Yukio Strachan
Digital Journal
June 24, 2012

[Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. William J. Lynn, Edward V. Avery, and James J. Brennan -]

Monsignor William Lynn, shown here in clerical attire, was found guilty Friday, June 22, 2012, of one count of child endangerment, making him the highest-ranking cleric accused of imperiling children by helping cover up sexual abuse

No top U.S. official of the Roman Catholic Church has been ever criminally convicted for child endangerment –– until now.

After 13 days of deliberations, a Philadelphia jury of seven men and five women found Monsignor William Lynn guilty on Friday (June 22) of one count of endangering the welfare of a child and acquitted of two other counts -- one of conspiracy and a second endangerment charge.

The Washington Post writes that lead prosecutor Patrick Blessington, seemed angry at Lynn’s acquittals. So he wasted no time in asking that the priest be taken right to custody.

The 61-year-old Lynn, face reddened but stoic, slipped off his black clerical jacket before deputy sheriffs led him out of the courtroom and into custody, his family members weeping, Reuters said.

Now, his lawyer Jeffrey Lindy, seemed angry. He called the decision not to let his client remain free on bond prior to sentencing "an unspeakable miscarriage of justice (for) a 61-year-old man with no prior record and long established ties to the community," CNN reports.

“He deserves to go to prison like the criminal he is,” Blessington shot back.

Protected the abuser, never the abused

Before he became a criminal, he served as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, mostly under the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, in the nation's sixth largest archdiocese, with 1.5 million members, the Philadelphia archdiocese.

In that position, according to the grand jury report that sparked Lynn's 10-week trial, he acted as the personnel director for 800 priests. That means it was his job to review all reports of abuse, to recommend action, and to monitor the abuser’s future conduct.

But pretty soon, the grand jury noticed that Lynn took on another role. When it came to victims with allegations of priest sex abuse: "Monsignor Lynn acted as if his job was to protect the abuser, never the abused," the report said.

The jury agreed that this was indeed the case with defrocked priest Edward Avery.

Avery, who was scheduled to go on trial with Lynn, in a surprise move pleaded guilty to two counts in March - one to raping “Billy” a 10-year-old altar boy at St.Jerome School in Philadelphia during the 1998-99 school year, and one of conspiring to endanger the welfare of a minor, CBS Philly reports.

The 69-year-old was sentenced to 2? to five years in prison.

Lynn protected Father Avery while endangering parish children.

Prosecutors argued that Lynn endangered “Billy's” welfare by assigning Father Avery to St. Jerome even though seven years earlier Lynn sent Father Avery for evaluation from November 30 through December 3, 1992, at Saint John Vianney Hospital's Anodos Center, a part of the Archdiocese hospital in which sexual offenders in the clergy are evaluated and treated. At that time, it recommended that any future ministry by the priest not include children.

But that didn't happen. In one instance, Lynn told parishioners — while Avery was secretly sent to a sexual offender program for six months — to disregard any untoward reports concerning Avery’s absence as mere “rumors,” and reassured them that Lynn knew of nothing but compliments about their pastor, the report said.

And when it became time for Avery to leave, Lynn told his parish that the suspected predator was being removed for health reasons. He would then send the Avery to unsuspecting churches, prosecutors said. In doing so, the grand jury said, he concealed from the community "that the man entrusted with their welfare was an accused child molester."

In a September 1997 meeting with Father Avery, Msgr. Lynn told the priest that he had received an e-mail from James, another victim of Avery who reported him in 1992 to Lynn. In the e-mail James wrote:

What in the end happened to [Father Avery]. I’m not

asking for details. What I want to know is – is he

rehabilitated or in a situation where he can’t harm others?

Will the diocese vouch for the safety of its children? For

my peace of mind I have to know.

Lynn wrote in his memo of the September 1997 meeting that he told Father Avery

that he had responded to James “that the Archdiocese had taken proper steps in the


A year later, those proper steps led to a 10-year-old altar boy in the fifth grade at St. Jerome's, a parish with an elementary school, a place Lynn assigned Avery to live.

"Billy" was putting the bells away after choir practice when Father Avery made him do a strip tease to music, undressed with the boy, told him that God loved him, had him engage in oral intercourse, and ejaculated on him.

It wasn't until December 5, 2003 that a new Cardinal removed Father Avery from all ministry.

Five years too late to protect Billy – and who knows how many other children, the report read.

Lynn: the victim

Asked if Lynn was being punished for the sins of the Church, his lawyer, Thomas Bergstrom, replied with one word: "Yes."

Catholic League President Bill Donohue

Others like Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League, agreed. and even saw the verdict as a victory for the defense and a defeat for overzealous prosecutors and victims advocates.

His theory?

"The witch hunt has come to an end, and those who have been clamoring for blood lost big time," Donahue said in a statement, CNN reports. "They wanted the big prize -- they wanted to nail a high-ranking clergyman on conspiracy. ... Looks like their car ran out of gas in Philadelphia."

You may remember that in April Donohue led a little "witch hunt" of his own against Jon Stewart for his April 16 “vagina manger” skit. Donohue called the segment an "unprecedented assault on Christian sensibilities." Asking for an apology from Stewart, but not getting it, Donohue contacted the show's sponsors asking them to to pull their advertising. Delta airlines complied.

But for most others, this verdict was a step in the direction of justice. Marci Hamilton, a victims' rights attorney, told CNN that the jury's verdict Friday -- as well as the decision by now-defrocked priest Edward Avery to plead guilty -- suggests "the picture is now clear that the Philadelphia archdiocese permitted crimes against children."

Ironically, this verdict came hours before another jury in Pennsylvania found former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky guilty of 45 out of 48 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years.

Sandusky, who did not testify, was accused of abusing boys he met through Second Mile, a charity he founded for at-risk youth, that he later, as the testimonies showed, put at risk himself.








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