Philadelphia archdiocese apologizes after conviction in abuse case

Philadelphia, Pa., Jun 22, 2012 / 04:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In response to the jury decision in the trial of former Archdiocese of Philadelphia official Monsignor William J. Lynn, the archdiocese has offered a “heartfelt apology” to all abuse victims and expressed commitment to child safety and “reform and renewal.”

“This has been a difficult time for all Catholics, especially victims of sexual abuse,” the archdiocese said June 22. “The lessons of the last year have made our Church a more vigilant guardian of our people’s safety.”

A Philadelphia jury on Friday convicted Msgr. Lynn, the former secretary of clergy under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, on a count of child endangerment for failing to protect children from abusive priests.

Prosecutors argued that Msgr. Lynn's actions showed a pattern by Church officials to cover up the abuse, but the jury found him not guilty on a conspiracy charge and a second count of endangerment.

The 61-year-old priest faces up to seven years in prison. He was not accused of abuse himself.

“Now and in the future, the Church will continue to take vigorous steps to ensure safe church environments for all the faithful in Philadelphia,” the archdiocese said in response to the jury’s decision.

The jury deadlocked on charges of attempted rape and endangerment against Msgr. Lynn’s co-defendant, Father James J. Brennan, who allegedly attempted to rape a 14-year-old boy in 1996.

Msgr. Lynn faced accusations that he recommended Fr. Brennan and then-Fr. Edward Avery be allowed to live or work in parishes in the 1990s even though the two showed signs they might abuse minors.

Avery, who was laicized in March 2006, pled guilty to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy in 1999. He is currently serving a 2 1/2 to 5 year sentence in state prison.

Msgr. Lynn served 12 years as an advisor to Cardinal Bevilacqua and was chief investigator of clergy misconduct.

The prosecution argued that his response to claims of abuse against over 20 priests showed he focused on protecting the Church instead of children. They said he lied to some victims and did not seek out others. The prosecutors also said he suggested to some sexually abusive priests that they may have been seduced by their accusers.

Msgr. Lynn said that prosecutors misconstrued his words and memos. He said medical experts had advised him not to seek out other possible victims because the victims might not want to discuss the abuse.

He portrayed his comments about seduction as efforts to do anything to persuade an abusive priest out of ministry and into treatment.

After the sentence was announced, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina revoked Msgr. Lynn’s bail and remanded him into custody. He is scheduled to be sentenced on August 13.

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