JAILED this week for his complicity in covering up Catholic clerical child sex abuse in Philadephia, Monsignor William Lynn, 61, said:
I’ve tried to serve God as best I could. My best was not good enough.
Lynn, the highest-ranking Catholic Church cleric charged and convicted in a landmark Philadelphia child sexual abuse trial was sentenced to 3 to 6 years in prison on Tuesday after was found guilty in June of one count of child endangerment.
This the first time a US church leader has been convicted of such a charge.
According to this report, Common Pleas Court Judge M Teresa Sarmina told Lynn during sentencing:
You knew full well what was right, but you chose wrong.
Although Lynn did not sexually abuse any children, he failed to take the “appropriate steps” to remove predator priests from ministry, the judge said.
He has been sentenced for his own actions done knowingly.
Lynn’s conviction was for not removing defrocked priest, Edward Avery, 69, from active ministry in the 1990s after learning Avery had molested a teenager.
Avery pleaded guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child after admitting that he sexually assaulted the 10-year-old altar boy during the 1998-99 school year. Avery was sentenced to 2½ to 5 years.
The victim, now in his 20s, was in the fifth grade when Avery undressed with him in a small storage room, told him that God loved him, and then engaged in sexual acts with him.
The witness told jurors:
He told me God loves me, this is what God wants, and it was time for me to become a man.
After Lynn’s defence team argued for leniency from the judge, assistant district attorney Patrick Blessington asked for the maximum sentence of seven years in prison, saying:
It was horrible. It was despicable what he did over a 14-year period. He doesn’t get mercy, he gets justice.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said of Lynn’s sentence:
I believe this has sent a message. They (church officials) have to take allegations seriously.Victims have to come first.
Joelle Casteix, of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) said in a statement that the sentence sends a powerful message:
Cover up child sex crimes and you’ll go to jail. Not house arrest. Not community service. Not a fine. You’ll be locked up. It says, loud and clear, that child sex crimes are taken extremely seriously, and will be punished as such.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia released a statement on Tuesday after the sentencing saying that:
There is legitimate anger in the broad community toward any incident or enabling of sexual abuse.
They also said the trial:
Has been especially difficult for victims, and we profoundly regret their pain.
But – and there’s always a “but” from the foul Catholic Church:
Fair-minded people will question the severity of the heavy, three to six year sentence imposed on Msgr. Lynn today. We hope that when this punishment is objectively reviewed [on appeal], it will be adjusted.
Lynn was found not guilty on a second count of endangerment and on a charge of conspiring to protect a priest accused of abuse.
Lynn’s defence team argued during the trial that their client repeatedly told higher-ups about the alleged abuse but, under strict orders from the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, had no authority to remove priests from the ministry.
The same jury that convicted Lynn was unable to bring a verdict against his co-defendant, the Rev James Brennan, who was accused of the attempted rape of a 14-year-old.
The Philadelphia district attorney’s office announced on Monday it will retry Brennan. He is due in court for a status hearing August 14.
Defence attorney William Brennan, who is not related to his client, said he is “disappointed” and “perplexed” by the district attorney’s decision to retry the case against the reverend.
They took their best shot. Enough is enough. Oftentimes we hear about justice for the victims. But what about justice for Father Brennan?
Commenting on Lynn’s sentence, the Irish Times said:
A court’s willingness for the first time to punish not only priestly abusers, but those who sheltered them, will reverberate through the Church, and not least in Ireland where gardaí are still involved in investigating possible charges arising from the Murphy and Ryan reports. The sentence also comes only days after another landmark ruling in the UK courts which has extended church liability for the actions of priests and which is likely also to have important implications for other voluntary organisations.
The paper concluded:
These and other cases all involve uphill battles in which the Church has used all legal means at its disposal (including internationally the dubious notion of ‘sovereign immunity’) to fend off accountability. That is its right, but, particularly to victims, appears a strange form of contrition.
Hat tip: Canada Dave and BarrieJohn