Catholic Church Official Gets 3-6 Years For Child Abuse Cover-up

Philadelphia Monsignor William J. Lynn, the first and highest-ranking Roman Catholic official to be convicted in the priest sex abuse scandal, has been sentenced to 3 to 6 years in state prison. The monsignor’s trial and conviction surely send a strong message that Roman Catholic Church officials’ failure to protect children from sexual abuse by priests and the Church’s efforts to cover up these crimes will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted.

Lynn had been found guilty of one count of endangering the welfare of children in a sex abuse case on June 22. The monsignor’s sentence was just under the maximum possible, of three and a half to seven years. Last week, his lawyers had asked the judge to spare him a prison sentence, requesting probation and work release or house arrest and arguing that imprisoning him “would serve no purpose at all.” Lynn had “never harbored any intent to harm a child,” the lawyers wrote.

Lynn was the aide to the powerful Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, who died in January. The Philadelphia Archdiocese is the sixth largest in the US with 1.5 millon members; Lynn was the secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004 and therefore responsible for some 800 priests and their assignments to parishes. He was also in charge of investigating sexual abuse. Prosecutors charged that Lynn had knowingly reassigned predatory priests to parishes, covered up credible accusations, never notified law enforcement and not taken sufficient measures to keep potential molesters away from children.

In his trial, the monsignor’s lawyers argued that he had, contrary to testimony given by survivors who spoke of lifelong suffering and trauma, tried to protect children; that he had been following the instructions of  Bevilacqua; that his powers had been limited.  Prosecutors countered that “following orders” was no defense and that Lynn had occupied a central role in addressing complaints against priests. They also said that the monsignor continued to deny any responsibility and showed an “apparent lack of remorse for anyone but himself.”

Lynn’s lawyers will appeal his sentence by arguing that, at the time of the abuse, the child endangerment laws did not apply to supervisors and that judges were in error in “allowing testimony about Monsignor Lynn’s handling of priests who were accused of sexual abuse outside the statute of limitations.”

As someone who has seen the effects of such abuse on friends and loved ones, I think it is important to quote what prosecutors said in their sentencing recommendation for Lynn last week. The monsignor indeed “was no aberration.” Just as officials at Penn State University including late coach Joe Paterno sought to cover up the sexual abuse of children by assistant Jerry Sandusky to protect Penn State’s football program, Lynn’s acts were “part of a continuous, systematic practice of retaining abusive priests in ministry, with continued access to minors, while taking pains to avoid scandal or liability for the archdiocese.”


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Photo by mezone


Suzette L.
Suzette Leleu4 years ago

Let's hope that this is only the beginning in bringing to justice these vile criminals, They are as guilty as the perpetrators. They have broken their vows to God, they have broken the law and they have destroyed many young lives.

Suzette L.
Suzette Leleu4 years ago

Let's hope that this is only the beginning in bringing to justice these vile criminals, They are as guilty as the perpetrators. They have broken their vows to God, they have broken the law and they have destroyed many young lives.

James K.
James K.4 years ago

in reply to Marie Therese H: I was trying to demonstrate that one could (and should) do both - take care of those here and those soon to be born. There is no contradiction in this but actually a harmony. (As for the number of people on the planet: I would hate to be in a position to say who should be allowed to live and who not… And I understand that there are a number of countries in Europe and elsewhere (Japan) having a problem with underpopulation - paying couples to have more babies. O what a tangled web we weave…)

Kellyanne M.
Kellyanne M.4 years ago

I think 36 years would be better.

Marie Therese Hanulak

James K, don't you know that there are already to many humans on the planet?
How about protecting those who are already here.
I hope he does all 6 years.
He allowed lives to be destroyed that makes him as guilty as the pedophile priests he protected.

James K.
James K.4 years ago

I would like to comment on the following question (from a comment box): Why is it the Church is so good at defending the right to life of the unborn, but not of the already born? Why is this fallacy so common? Anyone who has any concern for the truth would know that there is simply no institution on the planet that serves the poor, the sick, the immigrant, the victims of sexual trafficking, AIDS victims… than the Catholic Church. The Church is especially concerned about the unborn because they are the most vulnerable, the poorest of the poor, and because they are being killed in the millions (over a million each year in the US alone). Wouldn't a better question be why so many who profess a concern for the poor have little or no concern for the killing of unborn children? Isn't there a certain hypocrisy there? Any biology textbook will tell you human life is present from the moment of conception, so shouldn't we be concerned about these lives being destroyed?

alex l.
alex l.4 years ago

not sure why it took so long - how many who have admitted to raping dozens of kids, never saw a gay in jail?
still, i am very glad this happened, and i hope all the high ranking vatican men start to sweat. i don't think these entitled men would do well in prison.
this guy will be out in eighteen months, but they will be hell for him.

J.L. A.
JL A.4 years ago

may cover-ups in other large institutions be prosecuted and justice similarly served--like in the fraud investigations with Libor

Mary Latela
Mary Latela4 years ago

as a mandated reporter and as a human being, I cannot support the covering up of abuse/neglect by anyone.

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson4 years ago