Monsignor testifies Lynn's power limited

— Monsignor Joseph Garvin, pas­tor of St. Chris­toph­er's Church in Somer­ton, is the leadoff wit­ness for the de­fense.


A North­east pas­tor was the first wit­ness the de­fense called to the stand on Tues­day in a cler­ic­al sexu­al ab­use tri­al that began in late March.

Monsignor Joseph Garvin, pas­tor of St. Chris­toph­er’s par­ish in Somer­ton, ex­plained the hier­archy of the city’s Ro­man Cath­ol­ic Church arch­diocese, not­ing that de­fend­ant Wil­li­am Lynn had no hir­ing or fir­ing powers as sec­ret­ary of clergy. He re­por­ted to Car­din­al An­thony Bevilac­qua, who did. 

Over the pre­vi­ous eight weeks, pro­sec­utors ques­tioned scores of wit­nesses and went through boxes of doc­u­ments as they worked to con­vince a jury that Lynn had en­dangered chil­dren by al­low­ing pred­at­or priests to con­tin­ue their min­is­tries and, thereby, have con­tin­ued ac­cess to ju­ven­iles.

Lynn’s at­tor­neys, Thomas Bergstrom and Jef­frey Lindy, have main­tained their cli­ent had no fi­nal say in how priests ac­cused of sexu­al mis­con­duct were as­signed. Garvin and the de­fense’s second wit­ness, Monsignor Mi­chael Mc­Culken, test­i­fied that Lynn’s re­com­mend­a­tions about priests ac­cused of mo­lest­ing chil­dren went through two su­per­i­ors be­fore they even got to the car­din­al.

Mc­Culken said Lynn, one of six priests who had the title of  “sec­ret­ary,” oc­cu­pied the bot­tom rung of man­age­ment at arch­dioces­an headquar­ters on 17th Street. He said he had worked for three years in the sec­ret­ary of clergy’s of­fice with Lynn in the 1990s and likened the of­fice to “HR.”

It was Car­din­al Bevilac­qua, said both Garvin and Mc­Culken, who had de­cision-mak­ing power.

Bevilac­qua, the city’s former arch­bish­op who died in Janu­ary, has been men­tioned fre­quently dur­ing the tri­al and the hear­ings that pre­ceded it. He gave video­taped testi­mony months be­fore the tri­al star­ted.

On tri­al with Lynn is the Rev. James Bren­nan, who is ac­cused of at­tempt­ing to rape a Bucks County teen­age boy. He also was ac­cused of con­spir­acy, but Com­mon Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina dis­missed that charge last week.

Garvin, who served as sec­ret­ary for Cath­ol­ic hu­man ser­vices from 1981 to 1997, said Bren­nan was named in a Janu­ary 1995 memo from Jack Smith, who was in charge of arch­dioces­an fa­cil­it­ies for chil­dren and people with men­tal chal­lenges.

Smith told him that a nun who worked at Di­vine Provid­ence Vil­lage, which serves men­tally dis­abled wo­men in Spring­field, Delaware County, had com­plained about Bren­nan, the fa­cil­ity’s chap­lain, be­cause his broth­er had been liv­ing with him in the chap­lain’s suite.

Garvin said he told Lynn about the com­plaint and that Lynn ad­vised him to talk to Bren­nan, then on the Car­din­al O’Hara High School fac­ulty, about ask­ing his broth­er to move out and about mov­ing out him­self. Garvin said he re­por­ted back to Lynn that Bren­nan was agree­able.

Garvin said it was un­usu­al for a chap­lain to have a guest room. When there are such ac­com­mod­a­tions the idea is to provide space to any vis­it­ing priests, not room for per­man­ent guests.

The Di­vine Provid­ence nun also had com­plained about noisy parties and that a young man, iden­ti­fied either as Bren­nan’s cous­in or neph­ew, also had once oc­cu­pied the guest room. Garvin said some nuns had re­por­ted talk­ing to the man and that he had told them he was a former O’Hara stu­dent.

Bren­nan’s law­yer, Wil­li­am Bren­nan, who is no re­la­tion to the de­fend­ant, asked if there had been any sug­ges­tions the de­fend­ant had been sexu­ally as­sault­ing minors. Garvin said there had been none.

Un­der ques­tion­ing by As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Jac­queline Coelho, Garvin con­firmed that Di­vine Provid­ence Vil­lage’s nuns had wanted to get rid of Bren­nan. He also said it was up to Lynn to make re­com­mend­a­tions to Bevilac­qua about Bren­nan.

Mc­Culken, who worked as Lynn’s as­sist­ant, said he and Lynn had been sem­in­ari­ans to­geth­er and were friends. He said Lynn had told him about an open­ing in his of­fice, but it was Bevilac­qua who had to ap­point him.

He said it was Lynn who con­duc­ted in­vest­ig­a­tions of sexu­al mis­con­duct al­leg­a­tions against priests, and that that work oc­cu­pied about 15 per­cent of Lynn’s time. Mc­Culken said he and Lynn had no spe­cial train­ing in in­vest­ig­at­ing child sex ab­use cases. He later said between 10 and 16 people now do the work that just Lynn and he did.

Bren­nan and Lynn were ar­res­ted in Feb­ru­ary 2011 along with an­oth­er priest, a de­frocked priest and a former Cath­ol­ic school lay teach­er. All but Lynn were charged with sexu­ally ab­us­ing minors. The Rev. Charles En­gel­hardt, former priest Ed­ward Avery and ex-teach­er Bern­ard Shero all were ac­cused of mo­lest­ing the same St. Jerome par­ish al­tar boy in the 1990s.

Lynn, however, was nev­er ac­cused of touch­ing a child. Grand jur­ors said Lynn en­dangered chil­dren by al­low­ing Avery and Bren­nan to re­main act­ive priests even though the grand jury said Lynn knew they were child mo­lesters.

Au­thor­it­ies began in­vest­ig­at­ing En­gel­hardt and Avery after the arch­diocese it­self re­ferred their cases. The probe of those two priests led to a grand jury in­vest­ig­a­tion and to the ar­rests of not only En­gel­hardt and Avery, but also of Bren­nan, Shero and Lynn.

Pro­sec­utors had in­ten­ded to try all five de­fend­ants to­geth­er, but at­tor­neys for Shero, and then En­gel­hardt, suc­cess­fully ar­gued for sep­ar­ate tri­als. Avery, who had been de­frocked, pleaded guilty the week be­fore the tri­al began on March 26. Shero and En­gel­hardt are ex­pec­ted to go on tri­al in early Septem­ber.

The pro­sec­u­tion res­ted last week. The tri­al, ori­gin­ally pro­jec­ted to run four months, con­tin­ues in Courtroom 304 in the Crim­in­al Justice Cen­ter, 13th and Fil­bert streets. ••


You can reach at

comments powered by Disqus