Philadelphia Monsignor William Lynn has been found guilty of one count of child endangerment, but was acquitted of conspiracy in what has been called a groundbreaking clergy-abuse trial, and is now the first U.S. church official who has been convicted of a crime for the way he handled abuse claims in the church.
The Huffington Post reports that the Monsignor helped the Philadelphia Archdiocese keep predators serving in the church without the public knowing, by explaining to parishes that their priest was being removed for “health reasons,” then sending them to a different church, according to prosecutors.
According to The Chicago Tribune, the jury started deliberations this month, after witnessing 10 weeks of testimony in a trial, which brought more focus into the sex abuse scandal which has rocked the Catholic Church, costing them billions of dollars in settlements, driving prominent U.S. dioceses into bankruptcy and, worst of all, testing the faith of Roman Catholics.
Lynn served mostly under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua between 1992 and 2004, serving as secretary for clergy. His job, according to The Chicago Tribune, was to supervise 800 priests, including investigating sex abuse claims. In the trial, prosecutors have argued that Monsignor William Lynn decided to protect the church at the expensive of children, in order to avoid scandal and potential loss of the church’s financial support.
The defense has said that Lynn was only able to make recommendations, but ultimately had to do what Cardinal Bevilacqua, who died in January at 88, decreed, which according to the Monsignor’s testimony, meant that he was forced to cite health reasons for any priest’s move from a parish, and never mentioning the accusations.
The testimony also showed that Bevilacqua ordered a list destroyed, which contained the names of accused priests, though one copy has been found in an Archdiocese safe.
The charge of child endangerment for Monsignor William Lynn could carry a sentence of 3 1/2 to 7 years.