Activists Rally for Gay Priest

By Ellis Henican
Newsday (New York)
May 20, 1988

Several gay and lesbian organizations yesterday rallied to the defense of a Bronx priest accused of taking sexual liberties with two male high school students.

The Rev. Bernard Lynch, a former chaplain of Mount St. Michael Academy, is in Ireland, out of the reach of Bronx prosecutors who want to try him on sexual-abuse charges.

Yesterday, more than a dozen gay activists and Catholic nuns who know Lynch gathered in Greenwich Village to decry the "homophobic witch-hunt" they said has led to accusations against the openly gay priest.

"I cannot believe he would ever exploit or manipulate anyone, especially a young person," said Sister Jorene Cieciuch, a Dominican nun who said she had come to "admire and love [Lynch] as a man of God" because of his work with AIDS patients.

"What Father Lynch is not is a child molester," said Charles Frederick, a board member of Dignity-New York, a gay Catholic organization. Lynch has served as one of Dignity's pastors, a position Frederick said is being held open for him.

Several of those who came to Greenwich Village to defend Lynch yesterday said they believe Bronx District Attorney Paul Gentile is using the case to whip up support for his election bid this fall. Those present also said they detected the hand of the Archdiocese of New York in Lynch's current troubles - an outgrowth, they suggested, of his support of gay-rights legislation before the City Council.

Spokesmen for the Archdiocese and Gentile's office vigorously denied the allegations.

A native of Ireland, Lynch, 41, was indicted May 13 on two counts of first-degree sexual abuse, two counts of third-degree sexual abuse and one count of endangering the welfare of a child. According to law enforcement sources, he is accused of fondling two students, ages 14 an 15.

Yesterday, several of Lynch's supporters denied prosecutors' suggestion that he had fled prosecution, saying that the priest has been on sabbatical in Europe for months.


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