The District Attorney’s office has chipped in another state Supreme Court brief in a historic case tied to the sex scandal in the Catholic Church.
Monsignor William Lynn, who was never accused of molesting a minor, was, indeed, guilty of endangering children, the DA’s office told the state’s high court last week, and again argued that the 2013 reversal of his conviction on that charge should itself be reversed.
Lynn, who as secretary for clergy for the Philadelphia archdiocese in from 1992 to 2004 investigated molestation accusations against priests, had “a duty to protect children from sexual predator priests,” the DA’s office wrote in a reply to a defense brief filed earlier this month.
Further, “He was aware that children were in danger of sexual abuse by such priests. He not only failed to take protective action, he affirmatively placed children in danger,” wrote Assistant District Attorneys Hugh Burns Jr., Ronald Eisenberg and Edward McCann Jr.
Lynn was arrested in 2011 along with four other men, three of whom were priests. The others were charged with molesting minors, and Lynn was accused of keeping the three priests in ministries or residences that gave them access to those children.
Prosecutors charged that Lynn was responsible, therefore, for the crimes the three priests committed after the monsignor had investigated allegations against them.
Defense attorneys had countered that Lynn couldn’t be charged under Pennsylvania’s child endangerment law because he didn’t directly supervise children and, therefore, couldn’t endanger them. He couldn’t be charged, his lawyers said, because the law simply didn’t apply to him.
The charge, lawyer Thomas Bergstrom said, “didn’t make any sense and never made any sense.”
That’s essentially what Superior Court judges agreed with when they reversed Lynn’s mid-2012 conviction on one count of child endangerment late last year.
Prosecutors have stated again and again that Lynn most certainly was covered by what’s called the EWOC (endangering the welfare of children) statute. They said the statute clearly applied to Lynn’s conduct and does not contain modifiers like “direct” or “actual.”
Lynn’s lawyers had said that, not only was their client not covered by EWOC, he was not the ultimate authority in giving out ministerial assignments or deciding where priests lived. That was the job of the man who was Lynn’s boss, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who was then Philadelphia’s archbishop.
Not so, the ADAs wrote in their latest brief.
“[Lynn] himself testified to his official duty to prevent sexual abuse of children by priests under his authority. He needed no additional authority to contact police about child molesters for whom he was responsible.”
Lynn didn’t tell police about a minor’s claims that Edward Avery, now defrocked, had molested him. Lynn testified during his 2012 trial that he had sent Avery for evaluations and treatment, but said he never got a diagnosis that Avery was a pedophile. In their Supreme Court brief, Lynn’s lawyers said the monsignor didn’t know Avery was a molester so he couldn’t be held responsible for what he later did.
That’s also not so, the ADAs wrote.
“He himself designated Avery ‘guilty of sexual misconduct’ with a child.”
A man who said he was molested by Avery, another priest and a teacher when he was a pupil at the Northeast’s St. Jerome parish school in the late 1990s testified at Lynn’s trial. Avery, who was to go on trial with Lynn, pleaded guilty to molestation charges before that trial began. It was in relation to his case that Lynn was convicted of one count of EWOC.
Even if the high court finds that Lynn didn’t himself endanger children, prosecutors wrote, he is guilty as an accomplice in that crime for participating in an archdiocesan coverup of the pedophile priests.
Lynn’s lawyers maintained that was pretty much an exaggeration since they said their client couldn’t know of the intentions of those priests. The ADAs maintained last week that they had no burden to prove that Lynn had “specific knowledge that Avery was planning or preparing to molest children.”
The ADAs maintained that Lynn knew Avery was dangerous to children and should be kept away from them. They said Lynn’s own investigation of Avery confirmed that.
“He himself found that Avery committed sexual misconduct with a minor.”
During the trial of two other defendants, Avery testified he had pleaded guilty to molestation charges to avoid a long prison term, but he said he didn’t plead guilty to specifically molesting the St. Jerome pupil. He said he didn’t even know him.
So far, Lynn’s case before the state Supreme Court has been a paper debate. A glance at the court’s crowded calendar indicates live oral arguments might not take place anytime soon, and probably not this year.
Lynn, who served 18 months of his three-to-six-year prison term, has been out of prison while the case proceeds, but is restricted to living in the rectory of St. William parish in Lawndale. ••