Northeast Times

Freed from prison, Lynn confined to a NE parish

Monsignor Wil­li­am Lynn re­leased from pris­on, will reside in Lawndale par­ish.

The pub­lic got a look at a much changed Monsignor Wil­li­am Lynn on Monday morn­ing as he entered the Crim­in­al Justice Cen­ter at 13th and Fil­bert streets.

Lynn, the first mem­ber of the U.S. Ro­man Cath­ol­ic hier­archy found guilty of shield­ing a pe­do­phile priest, lost 80 pounds dur­ing the 18 months he was locked up, his at­tor­ney, Thomas Bergstrom, said be­fore his con­vic­tion was re­versed Dec. 26. 

And Monday, that change showed as Lynn walked in­to the court­house to ap­pear be­fore the judge who presided over his 2012 tri­al and had sen­tenced him to three to six years in pris­on. Some news pho­to­graph­ers who were staked out to snap his pic­ture ini­tially didn’t re­cog­nize the formerly stout cler­ic as he walked by.

The monsignor was warmly greeted by friends and fam­ily mem­bers.

He was in Com­mon Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina’s courtroom for a brief hear­ing Monday to go over the con­di­tions of his bail, Bergstrom said.

After Su­per­i­or Court judges had re­versed Lynn’s June 2012 con­vic­tion, they re­fused Bergstrom’s re­quest to or­der the monsignor freed. In­stead, they said Sarmina should de­cide, and on Dec. 30, she said the monsignor could get out of jail while the Dis­trict At­tor­ney ap­peals the re­versal, but only if he could come up with 10 per­cent of bail she set at $250,000. 

The arch­diocese put up that money New Year’s Eve, an act that plainly out­raged Dis­trict At­tor­ney Seth Wil­li­ams, but there were oth­er strings at­tached to Lynn’s free­dom.

Sarmina said Lynn also must be fit­ted with an elec­tron­ic mon­it­or and stay put in a res­id­ence with­in Phil­adelphia. Those con­di­tions were sat­is­fied last week, Bergstrom said, after Lynn was re­leased from pris­on in Way­mart, Pa., and brought to Phil­adelphia. He will reside in the rect­ory at St. Wil­li­am Ro­man Cath­ol­ic Church in Lawndale.

Lynn also must re­port to a pa­role of­ficer weekly. Sarmina ini­tially said she had wanted him to re­port to the court weekly. The monsignor did not talk to re­port­ers after the very brief hear­ing early Monday af­ter­noon.

Out­side the court­house, a few people yelled, “Pe­do­phile!” as Lynn was es­cor­ted away by friends and fam­ily.

DA Wil­li­ams claimed the Church’s de­cision to pay Lynn’s bail was ap­palling, but Arch­bish­op Charles Chaput last week said it was the right thing for the arch­diocese to do.

In a let­ter re­leased to Cath­ol­ics on Jan. 3, Chaput said Lynn re­mains on ad­min­is­trat­ive leave and, there­fore, may not func­tion pub­licly as a priest.

“The Su­per­i­or Court rul­ing does not vin­dic­ate Monsignor Lynn’s past de­cisions,” Chaput wrote. “Nor does it ab­solve the arch­diocese from deeply flawed think­ing and ac­tions in the past that res­ul­ted in bit­ter suf­fer­ing for vic­tims of sexu­al ab­use and their fam­il­ies.”

“First, Arch­bish­op Charles Chaput paid for Monsignor Wil­li­am Lynn’s law­yer. Then, he bailed out Lynn. Now, he’s giv­ing Lynn hous­ing,” com­plained Bar­bara Dor­ris, a spokes­wo­man for the Sur­viv­or’s Net­work of those Ab­used by Priests.

WHY WAS LYNN CHARGED?

Lynn’s ar­rest and tri­al had stemmed from a 2011 Phil­adelphia grand jury re­port of sexu­al ab­use of minors by Cath­ol­ic clergy. It was the second city grand jury to in­vest­ig­ate and re­port mo­lesta­tion al­leg­a­tions against priests and how the Church handled them.

However, the monsignor nev­er was ac­cused of mo­lest­ing minors. In­stead, pro­sec­utors al­leged he en­dangered chil­dren by shield­ing pe­do­phile priests, mak­ing it pos­sible for them to con­tin­ue to have ac­cess to kids in arch­dioces­an par­ishes and schools. 

The monsignor had served from 1992 to 2004 as sec­ret­ary for clergy for the Phil­adelphia arch­diocese. The highly placed po­s­i­tion, akin to a dean of men, put Lynn in con­tact with priests ac­cused of mo­lest­ing minors, the people who made those al­leg­a­tions and the doc­tors who ex­amined and treated those priests. Part of the sec­ret­ary of clergy’s job was to in­vest­ig­ate sexu­al ab­use al­leg­a­tions, re­com­mend treat­ment or ther­apy and also re­com­mend priestly as­sign­ments. He re­por­ted to the city’s arch­bish­op, Car­din­al An­thony Bevilac­qua.

Lynn was charged with en­dan­ger­ing the wel­fare of chil­dren — spe­cific­ally, two chil­dren, who told au­thor­it­ies years later that they were mo­les­ted by two priests whom pro­sec­utors said Lynn knew were pe­do­philes. Lynn also was charged with con­spir­acy.

Those two priests were ac­cused of mo­lesta­tions that oc­curred in the late 1990s. One oc­curred in St. Jerome’s par­ish in Holme Circle. The oth­er al­legedly took place in the sub­urbs. Ed­ward Avery, who was de­frocked, was ar­res­ted along with Lynn and was charged with the St. Jerome crime. He pleaded guilty in March 2012 be­fore he was to go on tri­al with Lynn and the Rev. James Bren­nan, the priest ac­cused in the sub­urb­an crimes. 

After a three-month tri­al, the jury couldn’t reach a ver­dict in Bren­nan’s case, found Lynn in­no­cent of en­dan­ger­ing kids in re­gard to Bren­nan and found him in­no­cent of con­spir­acy.

However, jur­ors found Lynn guilty of en­dan­ger­ing chil­dren in re­gard to Avery’s case.  

FIRST-OF-ITS-KIND VER­DICT

Lynn’s con­vic­tion made U.S. leg­al his­tory be­cause no oth­er highly placed mem­ber of the Cath­ol­ic Church had ever been found guilty of en­dan­ger­ing chil­dren by not re­mov­ing mo­lester priests.

Bergstrom and Lynn’s oth­er de­fense at­tor­neys had in­sisted that the state’s en­dan­ger­ing the wel­fare of chil­dren stat­ute — or EWOC law — didn’t ap­ply to Lynn and that the monsignor had no su­per­vis­ory role with chil­dren. That’s the as­ser­tion Su­per­i­or Court judges agreed with when they re­versed Lynn’s con­vic­tion Dec. 26.

De­fense at­tor­neys also had claimed Lynn had no fi­nal say in how priests were as­signed and, there­fore, couldn’t be held re­spons­ible for de­cisions by the man they main­tained did have that say — Car­din­al Bevilac­qua. The re­tired car­din­al might have been the star wit­ness in the case, but he died a few months be­fore the tri­al began.

Much of the months of testi­mony in the Lynn-Bren­nan tri­al had noth­ing dir­ectly to do with either man. Doc­u­ments were read and wit­nesses test­i­fied about how the arch­diocese had handled sexu­al ab­use com­plaints against priests for dec­ades be­fore Lynn was sec­ret­ary for clergy. In pre­tri­al hear­ings, Lynn’s at­tor­neys had fought to keep those doc­u­ments and wit­nesses out of the courtroom, but Sarmina al­lowed al­most all of what As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Patrick Bless­ing­ton had wanted.

Pro­sec­utors said they wanted to show Lynn was part of a pat­tern of cov­er­ing up ac­cus­a­tions and trans­fer­ring priests rather than re­port­ing them to au­thor­it­ies.

That evid­ence es­sen­tially was put­ting the arch­diocese on tri­al, Jeff Lindy, one of Lynn’s law­yers, as­ser­ted dur­ing one of many pre­tri­al hear­ings. 

That tri­al, if not in a court of law, cer­tainly was heard in the court of pub­lic opin­ion, a fact Chaput ac­know­ledged in his Jan. 3 let­ter.

“I un­der­stand and ac­cept the an­ger felt to­ward the arch­diocese by many of our people and priests as well as the gen­er­al pub­lic for the ugly events of the past dec­ade,” the arch­bish­op wrote. “Only time and a re­cord of hon­est con­ver­sion by the arch­diocese can change that.”

Dur­ing testi­mony at his 2012 tri­al, Lynn said he tried to do what he could to pro­tect chil­dren. However, he said he nev­er re­por­ted any of the sexu­al-ab­use al­leg­a­tions he in­vest­ig­ated to au­thor­it­ies.

The dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice has said the re­versal of Lynn’s con­vic­tion will be ap­pealed, and Wil­li­ams said he hoped Lynn would fin­ish his pris­on sen­tence.

Along with Lynn, Bren­nan and Avery, the Rev. Charles En­gel­hardt and St. Jerome’s par­ish school teach­er Bern­ard Shero were ar­res­ted after the grand jury is­sued its re­port in 2011. Law­yers for En­gel­hardt, an Ob­late of St. Fran­cis De­Sales, and Shero suc­cess­fully ar­gued to have their cases sep­ar­ated from those of the oth­er three men. 

Shero and En­gel­hardt were charged with mo­lest­ing the same St. Jerome school boy Avery had been charged with ab­us­ing. The vic­tim, who test­i­fied at Lynn’s tri­al, also test­i­fied against Shero and En­gel­hardt at their Janu­ary 2013 tri­al. Avery also test­i­fied at Shero and En­gel­hardt’s tri­al, but said he had pleaded guilty to mo­lesta­tion charges only be­cause he wanted to re­duce his pris­on sen­tence. He said he didn’t touch and didn’t even know the vic­tim who had test­i­fied he was mo­les­ted by the three men when he was 10 and 11 years old.

Both Shero and En­gel­hardt were found guilty and sen­tenced to long pris­on terms. Their at­tor­neys are ap­peal­ing those con­vic­tions. Pro­sec­utors de­cided to retry Bren­nan.  

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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