Article in the Washington Post
By David Gibson| Religion News Service, Friday, June 22, 5:20 PM
A Philadelphia priest was convicted Friday (June 22) of one count of child endangerment, becoming the first cleric in the Catholic Church’s long-running clergy abuse scandal to be tried and found guilty of shielding molesters.
Monsignor William Lynn, 61, was acquitted of conspiracy and a second endangerment charge after a three-month trial that had seemed on the verge of a hung jury two days earlier.
After a day off on Thursday, the jury of seven men and five women returned to deliberations Friday and by early afternoon announced the conviction on a single charge against Lynn. The jurors said they were deadlocked on attempted rape and endangerment charges against Lynn’s codefendant, the Rev. James J. Brennan.
Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina declared a mistrial on the Brennan charges, which means prosecutors could decide to try him again.Lynn, who was head of priest personnel in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for 12 years, was charged with recommending that Brennan and another priest, Edward Avery, be allowed to live or work in parishes in the 1990s despite indications that they might abuse children.Avery pleaded guilty before the trial to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy in 1999 and is serving 2-1/2 to 5 years in state prison.The charges against Lynn drew more intense scrutiny because so much was at stake.Lynn was the first church official to be tried for what many see as an unaddressed crime in the decades-long tally of abuse throughout the church: no U.S. bishops or officials who covered up and enabled the abuse has ever been held accountable in criminal court. Both prosecutors and victims advocates claimed victory.“This day — and the relief, vindication and healing it gives clergy sex abuse victims — is long overdue,” said Barbara Dorris of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “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.”Terence McKiernan, head of BishopAccountability.org, another victim advocacy group, called Lynn’s conviction “a watershed moment in the Catholic abuse crisis.”“It is a warning to other church officials and a model to prosecutors nationwide,” McKiernan said. “Because of the Lynn verdict, bishops and church officials are now accountable — they are no longer immune from judgment and punishment.”Lead prosecutor Patrick Blessington, appearing angry at Lynn’s acquittals, immediately moved to revoked the priest’s bail — a motion the judge approved — and said he would seek the maximum seven-year prison term when Lynn is sentenced on Aug. 13. Sarmina did say she would consider a motion for house arrest.“He deserves to go to prison like the criminal he is,” Blessington said. Lynn sat quietly at the defense table and his face reddened.During the trial, jurors and the public heard graphic testimony form nearly 20 victims of abuse at the hands of priests in the five-county archdiocese, which includes about 1.5 million Catholics. They also saw thousands of church records about clergy abuse that had been hidden away by Lynn and others, mainly during the tenure of former Philadelphia Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.