On Friday, after 10 weeks of testimony in a trial that dissected the borders between personal responsibility and institutional constraints, Monsignor Lynn becomes the first senior U.S. Roman Catholic Church official to be convicted over child sex abuse cases. Though the jury acquitted Monsignor William Lynn of the two other counts – that of conspiracy and that of child endangerment, he was held guilty of covering up acts of pedophilia within the church. His black clerical jacket was removed as he was led out of the courtroom. The sentencing has been set for August 13.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said, “This is a monumental victory for the named and un-named victims … This was about evil men who did evil things to the children.” The jury deliberated for 13 days before reaching the decision.
Barbara Dorris, the outreach director for SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) said that the verdict puts the Church on notice that it can no longer get away with shielding and protecting abusive priests. She said, “This is a strong message, and we’re grateful for that message that kid’s safety has to come first.”
The case against Lynn was part of a broader indictment against the clergy where one priest scheduled to go on trial pleaded guilty to molesting and sexually assaulting a 10-year old altar boy before the trial commenced. The jury could not reach any decision against another co-accused, Reverend James Brennan, but there was sufficient evidence against Lynn to prove that he engaged in cover-up of pedophiles within the church.
Martin Guggenheim, a professor at New York University School of Law, who specializes in children’s rights told the media that “A verdict like this has to be regarded as very important … From now on, the Lynns of this world are going to act in the knowledge that there is a real risk of being arrested if they don’t do enough.
Records show that Lynn had compiled a list of 35 accused predators who were pedophile priests and had submitted the same to his boss, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. Lynn’s testimony showed the Bevilacqua ordered the list of accused priests to be destroyed. A lone surviving copy was found by investigators in an archdiocese safe. It proved that the Church was well and long aware of predatory priests and systematically covered up their existence.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia said in a statement, “This has been a difficult time for all Catholics, especially victims of sexual abuse ….The lessons of the last year have made our Church a more vigilant guardian of our people’s safety.”