Prosecutors never said Monsignor William Lynn ever sexually abused a child, but they claimed his actions allowed other priests to molest minors and charged him with endangering the welfare of children.
A Common Pleas Court judge on Friday refused to make that charge go away.
Earlier this year, Lynn became the first Roman Catholic administrator in America to be charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of children even though it was not alleged he had had any contact with minors.
It was on that point that his attorneys had asked Judge Lillian Ransom to throw out the charges. How could Lynn, who had been head of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office for Clergy, endanger the welfare of children when he had no direct supervision of children, his attorneys had asked the court.
Prosecutors had maintained that Lynn was responsible for molestations they said were perpetrated in the 1990s by two Philadelphia archdiocesan priests he did supervise because he allowed those crimes to continue.
Ransom also refused to quash some conspiracy charges against Lynn, the Revs. Edward Avery, Charles Engelhardt and James Brennan or to give them separate trials.
She did grant a request to throw out a conspiracy charge against Bernard Shero, a former teacher at St. Jerome’s parish school.
Engelhardt and Avery also had worked at St. Jerome. Avery, Shero and Engelhardt all were charged with molesting the same boy. Brennan had been charged with molesting a teenager in the mid-1990s.
Ransom let stand conspiracy charges that involved Lynn, Avery, Engelhardt and Brennan.
Early on in the case, prosecutors had alleged Lynn oversaw the priests, investigated charges of abuse against Avery and Brennan and transferred them within the archdiocese, thus keeping them free to molest more children.
Members of the city’s second grand jury that investigated sexual abuse of minors by clergy stated in a presentment early this year: “The secretary for the Clergy [Lynn] did more than passively allow these priests to remain in posts from which they should have been removed. When victims complained or scandal threatened, he recommended to the Cardinal that abusers be transferred to new parishes, where the unsuspecting faithful would not know to be wary or vigilant. In this way, Monsignor Lynn effectively shielded predator priests from accountability and ensured them a continuing supply of victims.”
Ransom last week agreed to defense attorney requests for the medical records of the two complaining witnesses, but she refused to allow the release of the witnesses’ mental health or alcohol and drug treatment records. Ransom also told prosecutors that the witnesses’ criminal records should be released to defense attorneys.
The Associated Press reported last week that Ransom had ordered that more than 1,000 pages of testimony by Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, the city’s former archbishop, may not be released.
Prosecutors had filed the cardinal’s 2003 grand jury testimony to support charges against Lynn, who had worked for Bevilacqua and his successor Cardinal Justin Rigali, who recently announced his retirement.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office began investigating Avery and Engelhardt in 2009 after the archdiocese notified authorities of complaints against the two men. Avery since has been defrocked.
Engelhardt, an Oblate of St. Francis DeSales who once worked at Frankford’s Mater Dolorosa parish, was accused of molesting a 10-year-old boy in the sacristy of St. Jerome’s Roman Catholic Church in Winchester Park in 1998 and ’99. The grand jury said Engelhardt then told Avery about the boy, and that Avery started molesting the boy. The victim, now an adult, was molested the next year by Shero, the grand jury said.
The grand jurors said Lynn knew of previous allegations involving a minor and had ordered Avery to get therapy. The grand jury said Lynn ignored recommendations that Avery not be trusted around children and had him assigned to St. Jerome’s parish.
During the course of the probe, investigators started looking into allegations Brennan had molested a Chester County boy in 1996. Brennan was assigned to St. Jerome’s parish in 1997. ••
Contact John Loftus at 215-354-3110 or at firstname.lastname@example.org