Advocate: Pa. church sentence a wake-up call
A Roman Catholic church official let children suffer at the hands of pedophile priests rather than stand up to his bishop, a judge said in handing down a stiff three- to six-year prison term that the archdiocese called unfair and excessive.
Monsignor William Lynn, 61, is the first U.S. church official convicted of covering up sex-abuse complaints against Roman Catholic priests. Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina gave him nearly the maximum term for child endangerment, noting that he made the choice to stay on the job, unlike the young victims who couldn’t control their fate.
Lynn “enabled monsters in clerical garb … to destroy the souls of children,” Sarmina said Tuesday.
The former secretary for clergy at the Philadelphia archdiocese, he “helped many but also failed many” in his 36-year church career, Sarmina concluded.
Lynn, who handled priest assignments and child sexual assault complaints from 1992 to 2004, was convicted last month of felony endangerment for his oversight of now-defrocked priest Edward Avery. Avery is serving a 2 1/2- to five-year sentence after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting an altar boy in church in 1999.
“I did not intend any harm to come to (the boy). The fact is, my best was not good enough to stop that harm,” Lynn told the judge. “I am a parish priest. I should have stayed (one).”
Lynn’s lawyers had sought probation, saying their client shouldn’t serve more time than abusers. They plan to appeal the landmark conviction and seek bail next month while the lengthy appeals process unfolds.
Sarmina believes Lynn initially hoped to address the problem, and perhaps drafted a 1994 list of accused priests for that reason. But when Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua instead had the list destroyed, Lynn chose to stick around , and keep quiet, she said.
“Monsignor Lynn personally heard the suffering of children,” she said. “Since he was going to obey his bishop, he had to build a wall to steel himself from hearing their pain.”
Lynn was acquitted of conspiracy and a second endangerment count involving a co-defendant, the Rev. James Brennan. The jury deadlocked on a 1996 abuse charge against Brennan; prosecutors plan to retry him.
The archdiocese called the sentence severe and hoped it would be “adjusted.” [more]