The verdict: On June 22, a Philadelphia jury found Monsignor William Lynn guilty of endangering the welfare of children, making him the first church official in America to be convicted in connection with a church hierarchy’s failures to deal properly with clergy sex abuse allegations. Lynn was acquitted on other charges of endangerment and conspiracy. The same jury could not reach a verdict on attempted rape allegations against another Archdiocese of Philadelphia priest.
Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been haunted by abuse allegations for years: A Philadelphia grand jury first issued a scathing report on sexual abuse by priests, and possible cover-ups by the archdiocese, in 2005. That report produced no criminal charges. A second grand jury’s report, in 2011, triggered the current case landmark case, which has unfolded in a Philadelphia courtroom for the last eight weeks.
Details of the 2011 grand jury: The February 2011 report detailed horrid allegations that two priests and a teacher sexually abused a 10-year-old boy at St. Jerome Parish in Philadelphia, and that another priest assigned to St. Jerome sexually assaulted a 14-year-old boy. The report recommended that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia overhaul its procedures for assisting victims and for removing priests suspected of abuse from ministry. The grand jury also encouraged victims to report their abuse first to law enforcement.
In a landmark step, the grand jury recommended child endangerment charges against Lynn, a former high-ranking archdiocesan official. Lynn, the archdiocese’s point person for investigating abuse charges from 1992 until 2004, is the first American church official to be charged in child sex abuse case for his administrative actions.
The evidence: The abuse case included emotional testimony from alleged victims, reams of documentation, and testimony from Lynn in his own defense. And it produced one central mystery: Who put a list of accused priests in a locked safe in archdiocesan offices? Lynn said he compiled the list to root out predator priests and gave it to his superiors. He denies putting it in the safe. His defense is that he did what he could, but had to follow orders from Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua and other superiors. Also on trial is Reverend James Brennan. Prosecutors sought testimony from Bevilacqua, but he died several months before the trial began.