Philadelphia Monsignor Guilty of Endangerment in Child Abuse Case

Monsignor William J. Lynn, a former archbishop’s aide in Philadelphia, was found guilty of one count of endangering the welfare of children in a sex abuse case. Lynn is now the highest-ranking official of the US Roman Catholic Church convicted in the priest sexual abuse scandal that has engulfed the Church for the past several years, cost billions of dollars in settlements and bankrupted several dioceses.

Lynn, an aide to the late and powerful Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua who died in January, was acquitted on two additional counts, a conspiracy charge and a second count of endangerment. He has been on leave from the Church since his arrest in 2012. After the monsignor’s conviction was announced, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina of the Common Pleas Court revoked his bail and he was led from the courtroom by sheriff’s deputies after removing his black clerical jacket. Lynn could face three and a half to seven years in prison.

As the secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004 in Philadelphia, the US’s sixth largest archdiocese of 1.5 million, Lynn was responsible for some 800 priests. Recommending priest assignments and investigating sexual abuse were among his responsibilities. But prosecutors charged that Lynn had knowingly reassigned predatory priests to parishes and downplayed credible accusations, thereby neither doing enough to keep potential molesters away from children and never notifying law enforcement.

“Smoking Gun”: List of Predatory Priests Kept in Locked Safe

A twelve-member jury deliberated for thirteen days over reams of evidence. But what the New York Times called the “smoking gun” was a list written by Lynn in 1994 with the names of about three dozen active priests who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse. Testimony revealed that, after seeing the list, Cardinal Bevilacqua ordered that all copies be shredded. In February, lawyers for the archdiocese presented a “frayed folder including a copy of the list, saying it had been found in a locked safe.”

One of the names on the list was that of the former Rev. Edward V. Avery. After an abuse incident, Avery spent six months in a church psychiatric facility in 1993 and doctors said that he should be kept away from children and receive “close follow-up care.” Lynn allowed Avery to live in a parish rectory. In 1999, Avery was convicted of sexual assault after an incident of sexual abuse with a 10-year-old altar boy. But Avery was not removed from the ministry until 2003 and remained a priest until 2006. He was to be tried with Lynn but pleaded guilty to the assault just before the trial and was sentenced to two-and-a-half to five years in prison.

Lynn’s protection of Avery was the case behind his conviction of children endangerment. The jury was deadlocked about the two other counts against him: Both of these involved the Rev. James J. Brennan who was charged attempted rape and endangerment. The defense challenged the credibility of Brennan’s accused, who has a criminal record and who had accused Brennan of trying to rape him when he was 14 years old in 1994. Judge Sarmina declared a mistrial in Brennan’s case.

A Victory For Victims and Their Advocates

Victims’ rights advocates, who have long argued that senior church officials should be charged with crimes for covering up for priests with histories of sexual abuse, have hailed Lynn’s conviction as a victory. The monsignor’s conviction portends more charges against senior church officials and more victims’ lawsuits in Philadelphia and around the US:

“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,” said Barbara Dorris, of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

In February of 2011, a grand jury report charged the archdiocese with failing to report or remove as many as 37 priests, all of whom had past accusations but remained active in the ministry. This was nine years after the National Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted a national “zero-tolerance” policy, stating that any priest charged with credible accusations would be removed.

Five months after the grand jury report, Cardinal Justin Francis Rigali, who had succeeded Cardinal Bevilacqua, announced that he was retiring. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, the former head of the Denver Archdiocese, took over the Philadelphia Archdiocese last summer. In May, he announced that five priests, all of whom had been named in the grand jury report, would be removed.


Related Care2 Coverage

Bishops’ Report on Priest Sexual Abuse Scandal Puts the Blame on Woodstock

Priest Scandal Engulfs Philadelphia; Monsignor Among Those Charged

The Sex Abuse Scandal and the Church That Did Not Know Right From Wrong


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DORIS L5 years ago

He got off easy.

Joy L.
Joy L5 years ago

It is such a disgrace that grown folks that are put in leadership roles in order to make us a better person are using their authority to abuse children. These are just the lowest of the low and how sad that as parents we send our children out not knowing and trusting these figures of authority to be abused by these monsters in an effort to make them a better human beings... Sad but these priests and the ones that cover up for them should all be put in jail and they need to be made accountable for thier actions.

Donna B.
Donna B5 years ago

@Juliet D. I must agree, tip of the iceberg and they will never get them all, right?

Terry Vanderbush
Terry V5 years ago


Elaine McAuliffe
Elaine McAuliffe5 years ago

Good for you Grace, they should have lost their tax exemption the first time it was discovered they had covered up for a child abuser.

Charles W.
Charles Wise5 years ago

He should jailed! He is as guilty as the abusers themselves.

Gina H.
Gina H5 years ago

If true justice were to be had, then the top leadership of the the Catholic Church and other religious institutions would all be in prison now. Their vast wealth hidden away in the guise of "the Church" would be taken away to help pay to heal their victims. We only hear about boys being molested these days because of the right wing anti-gay propaganda and society's higher valuation of males. Thousands of girls and women have been and are still molested by "men of god" and barely a peep is heard in the news. The number of female victims still outweighs male victims numberwise although the horror done to both is equally terrible. Justice still favors males over females in our judicial system. Still the "church" claims moral superiority and seeks to politically reduce the female population back to chattel. Time to tax the pr**ks and take their toys away then put them in prison!

Geraldine Ley
Geraldine Ley5 years ago

The words immoral, corrupt and evil come mind when church leaders right up to the Pope deliberately "hide" paedophiles. They become accessories to a crime by their actions so will they too be brought to justice?

Magdalen B.
Magdalen B5 years ago

Looks like it's open season on Catholics today.

Kathy Mullins
Kathy Mullins5 years ago

Well Said, Anne. I know alot of awesome Catholics who share the progressive and liberal values that Jesus taught. It is sad that these bad priests who hurt children, and those who are mixing politics with religion are putting a black mark on the Catholic faith. Religion can be used for the good, such as churches helping with Habitat for Humanity, but it can also be abused by hurting children in the example of the priests, or by promoting hatred against the GLBT community. I am proud of my Episcopal faith which promotes love and acceptance along with helping Habitat for Humanity, local food pantries and more while having FUN as a loving parish family. I grew up in a Catholic parish like that, but sadly, it was closed and at that time I switched to the nearby Episcopal Church and I have been happy ever since.