PHILADELPHIA- The first jurors were seated in a landmark case in Philadelphia of a Roman Catholic monsignor charged with protecting predator-priests who were known to be child predators.
Monsignor William Lynn had asked to have the child-endangerment and conspiracy case against him thrown out based on new evidence found in a 10th floor safe at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which contained evidence that a former cardinal had aides destroy a list of accused priests that Lynn had prepared in 1994.
Lynn is the first U.S. church official ever charged over his administrative handling of the priest-abuse crisis. He is on trial along with Edward Avery and the Rev. James Brennan, who are no longer in active ministry.
In arguing for dismissal, Lynn’s lawyers spoke of a memo turned over by the archdiocese that states that the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua ordered his top aides to shred a list of 35 accused priests still in ministry in 1994. Lynn claimed he made the list and gave it to Bevilacqua after he became secretary for clergy in 1992 and started reviewing secret archives of priest abuse complaints. The complaints were said to have been kept in a secure room rigged with an alarm at the archdiocese’s headquarters.
Bevilacqua had apparently discussed the issue with his aides and ordered all four known copies destroyed, according to a memo signed by the late Monsignor James E. Molloy, who said he shredded them, and a witness. But a copy of the list, and Molloy’s accompanying memo, were found in the locked safe at the archdiocese in 2006.
Defense lawyers said the new evidence shows Lynn was trying to address the priest abuse problem, only to have Bevilacqua quash his efforts. They also said Bevilacqua and Molloy denied to a 2003 grand jury that they had destroyed evidence from the secret archives.
Prosecutors called the 1994 list a “smoking gun” for their side. They say it shows Lynn’s involvement in the child abuse conspiracy. And they argued that the safe belonged to Lynn, who left office in 2004. Lynn’s lawyers argued that Molloy stashed it in the safe.
“They (the documents) show Lynn to be the most active participant in a well-orchestrated conspiracy among Archdiocese officials to cover up the sexual crimes of priests and to keep known child molesters in ministry,” prosecutors wrote in a written motion.
They say the list also shows that Lynn knew co-defendant Avery was a child molester but failed to have him removed. And they say it shows that Lynn perjured himself before the grand jury. Lynn, 61, faces up to 28 years if convicted on all counts.
Two landmark Cases of Childhood Sexual Abuse
- Court filing: Bevilacqua ordered shredding of memo identifying suspected abusers (philly.com)
- Attorneys: Cardinal ordered memo on priests destroyed (religion.blogs.cnn.com)
- Judge rejects dismissal in child sex cover-up case against cleric (cnn.com)
- Bevilacqua, ex-head of Philly archdiocese, dead (seattletimes.nwsource.com)