THIS week saw the successful appeal of Monsignor William Lynn who, in 2012, had been jailed for shielding an abusive priest. Lynn’s appeal court victory, according to this report, is seen not only as a setback for victims’ advocates:
But one with a substantial and discouraging message for their cause: none of the churchmen implicated in cover-ups during the worst decades of abuse will likely ever face charges.
Lynn’s conviction was seen as a landmark verdict because until then no one in the upper echelons of the Catholic Church had ever faced a trial or been found guilty for shielding molesters.
Lynn, who oversaw clergy and fielded abuse complaints for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004, was sentenced to three to six years on one count of child endangerment.
During the past few decades, a number of abusers have been convicted, and many defrocked. But public outrage was largely directed against the bishops and senior church officials like Lynn who, as the appeals court noted in its ruling on December 26:
Prioritized the archdiocese’s reputation over the safety of potential victims of sexually abusive priests.
But the appeals ruling also said that Lynn’s behaviour, while outrageous to much of the Catholic faithful and the wider public, did not violate the child welfare law in place at the time of the abuse.
The Catholic Defense League’s Bill Donohue was cock-a-hoop over the verdict, and commented:
The guilty parties that worked overtime to convict an innocent man – they include attorneys, judges, newspapers, professional ‘victims’ groups’, activists, TV talking heads – have been disgraced. This is a monumental win for justice, and a tremendous setback for anti-Catholic bigots. Their goal is to “get a bishop’, and if that doesn’t work, then they settle for the next in line. They are fundamentally dishonest, and now they have been disabled.
He accused then Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham of beginning “this witch-hunt”.
She was authorized to pursue sexual misconduct in all religious communities, but instead she selectively chose to focus exclusively on Catholics – and then she passed the baton to her successor, Seth Williams. All of them knew that Msgr Lynn did not know, or know of, the drug-addicted, lying, scheming, accuser, Billy Doe.
They also knew that laws applied ex post facto (eg, the 2007 amendment of the 1972 child endangerment statute) would not stand scrutiny on appeal. But none of this mattered.
So how does the Philadelphia Inquirer feel today? It refused $58,000 from the Catholic League for an ad earlier in the year that told the truth about this subject. How does David Clohessy, the vindictive, weeping, professional ‘victims’ group’ head feel? How do rapacious lawyers like Jeffrey Anderson, Rebecca Randles, and Marci Hamilton feel?
Msgr Lynn spent 18 months in prison because of dishonest people who harbor an anti-Catholic agenda. We expect he will soon be released. God bless him.
And he concluded:
Congratulations to Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput and attorney Thomas A Bergstrom for staying the course. Congrats also to Ralph Cipriano who tenaciously reported on this case. And most especially, congrats to Msgr Lynn’s family for persevering through this unjust trail of events.
Lynn will not be immediately set free. Defence lawyers hoped for his immediate release from the state prison in Waymart, but the appeals court denied their request, instead sending the bail issue back to the trial court. That could put Lynn back before Common Pleas Judge M Teresa Sarmina, who had repeatedly denied defenc efforts to have the case dropped before trial.
Prosecutors vowed to oppose bail and challenge Thursday’s 43-page ruling.
District Attorney Seth Williams said in a statement:
Because we will be appealing, the conviction still stands for now, and the defendant cannot be lawfully released until the end of the process.
His office had argued at trial that Lynn reassigned known predators to new parishes in Philadelphia while he was the archdiocese’s secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004. Lynn’s conviction stems from the case of one priest, Edward Avery, found to have abused a child in 1998 after such a transfer.
Said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests:
We know thousands of betrayed Catholics and wounded victims will be disheartened by this news.
Hat tip: Canada Dave