With Lynn Convicted, Are Civil Cases against Philadelphia Archdiocese up Next?

By Elizabeth Fiedler
June 26, 2012

The jurors have spoken in the landmark priest sexual abuse case in Philadelphia. Now what?

In addition to a spate of civil lawsuits, there are also the upcoming trials of the Reverend Charles Engelhardt and former schoolteacher Bernard Shero. The two are accused of molesting the same altar boy and will be tried in the fall.

The jury found Monsignor William Lynn, a former high ranking church official, guilty of one count of endangering the welfare of a child. Jurors found Lynn not guilty on two other charges.

"The civil lawsuits may well be stayed a little bit longer," said Law professor Marci Hamilton is co-counsel in seven cases brought by plaintiffs who allege abuse and cover-up by Philadelphia church officials. "Because there's a case against Engelhardt going forward in the fall and we wouldn't be surprised at all if there were further grand jury charges arising out of some of what we learned during this criminal trial."

Hamilton said that could include Lynn:

"Monsignor Lynn was tried on specific charges relating to Brennan and Avery," said Hamilton. "He has not been tried with respect to failure to produce documents or obstruction of justice with the grand juries."

Hamilton said the criminal trial was very helpful in producing evidence to bolster the civil cases.

The University of Dayton's David O'Brien said church officials elsewhere have been watching Philadelphia.

"There are other place where to avoid serious criminal charges people have had to allow grand juries to have materials, in Kansas City the Bishop has made a deal with the District Attorney there to allow the District Attorney to oversee Church personnel policy for a period of time and to report to the District Attorney," said O'Brien. "So he avoided criminal charges there...I'm sure there's some anxiety about people being indicted under criminal charges."

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has not said if he's decided whether to retry Father James Brennan who was accused of attempted rape. The jury couldn't reach a verdict on the two counts against Brennan.








Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.