To a certain degree, Monsignor William Lynn has been convicted of doing nothing, and by doing nothing, putting children at risk. Lynn wasw found guilty of child endangerment, but acquitted of conspiracy in the hotly debated case that pitted the rule of law with the perceived privilege of the Catholic Church. Lynn was also acquitted of the second charge of child endangerment. He now faces three and a half to seven years in prison.
The jury did not reach a verdict for Lynn’s co-defendant, Reverent James Brennan. The Catholic priest was accused of sexually molesting a 14-year-old boy.
Lynn has been on leave from the church since his arrest last year. He served as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, mostly under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.
No matter the verdict, the trial exposed how deeply involved the late cardinal was in dealing with accused priests. Rarely an hour of testimony went by without Bevilacqua’s name being invoked.
Bevilacqua had the final say on what to do with priests accused of abuse, transferred many of them to new parishes and dressed down anyone who complained, according to testimony. He also ordered the shredding of a 1994 list that warned him that the archdiocese had three diagnosed pedophiles, a dozen confirmed predators and at least 20 more possible abusers in its midst. Prosecutors learned this year that a copy had been stashed in a safe.
The jury did not feel that Lynn had conspired to move predator priests around, but that he had endangered the victim of Edward Avery, a defrocked priest, who pled guilty to a 1999 sexual assault. “Lynn helped to steer Avery into an inpatient treatment program run by the archdiocese,” according to the HuffPo, but he did nothing when Avery was later sent to live at a northeast Philadelphia parish. There Avery assaulted an altar boy.
Karen Polesir, a spokeswoman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests stated that the trial was historic because is showed that “the abuse and the cover-ups that have been going on in the Philadelphia archdiocese for a long time. . .I’m brokenhearted for all the victims that were brave enough to come forward, and the whistleblowers that were brave enough to come forward. I’m glad for the one count of guilty, but that is not enough to vindicate the victims and survivors. I feel that there was overwhelming evidence against Monsignor Lynn and that the decision is just heartbreaking.”
An appeal is likely in this case.