Not even the chosen 12 can question a dead man. For the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, judgment day is under way. A 12-person jury is deciding the fate of Monsignor William Lynn, charged with covering up alleged pedophile priests. But no matter what the jury decides, Philly Catholics won’t ever get the answers from the man who perhaps knew the most: the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.
The question for the jury isn’t could Lynn have done more, but rather, does law require him to do so?
For any defendant to testify in a case is risky. And Lynn is the highest-ranking church official to have been charged in the scandal. So when Lynn, 61, took the stand in late May, those who have been following the case couldn’t help but wonder if he could handle it.
But this is a man who has, since 1992 when he first learned of a child molestation case, according to court documents, spent more than a decade covering it up. He is a priest, trained at giving vague answers to some of life’s biggest questions. Could he handle court? He was trained for it. Lynn took the stand sporting his black priest gear to cover up his humanness, as Rolling Stone reported.
As any Catholic school grad knows, when priests aren’t giving vague answers to big questions, they’re pointing up to the man in the sky. In true Catholic spirit, Lynn maintains that the man with the answers is one who has died and gone to heaven: Bevilacqua. According to the New York Times, which covered Lynn’s testimony:
[Lynn] admitted that he was responsible for sending information about accused priests to his superiors, including [Bevilaqua].
“The only person who had the authority to send that information up the chain of command was you,” defense attorney Thomas Blessington said.
“I provided them the information, yes,” Monsignor Lynn replied.
Bevilacqua testified twice, in 2003 and 2004, to a Grand Jury. TheInquirer reported and posted his testimony online, but it has since been removed after a judge ordered the testimony sealed. And prosecutors couldn’t cross-examine Bevilacqua during Lynn’s trial because of his declining health. Bevilacqua died January 31st.
And with Bevilacqua’s death, Lynn was resurrected. It’ll take a miracle for a jury to convict Lynn without having heard from the Cardinal. “I thought I was helping people. I thought I was helping priests and in those circumstances, I thought I was helping victims as much as I could,” Lynn testified, according to the Inquirer.
In its defiant defense, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia proved again that it answers to no one—not even the chosen 12.