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7/24/12 | 1 comment |
Former secretary for clergy sentenced to prison
PHILADELPHIA — Common Pleas Court Judge Teresa Sarmina closed the latest chapter in the clergy sexual abuse scandal in Philadelphia by sentencing Msgr. William Lynn to three to six years in state prison.
During the sentencing hearing July 24, after more than two hours of arguments and letters presented from victims and Msgr. Lynn's defense, Sarmina handed down a sentence just shy of the maximum seven years.
The former secretary for clergy, who recommended priest assignments to the archbishop of Philadelphia and investigated claims of sexual abuse of minors by clergy, was found guilty of one felony charge of endangering the welfare of a child June 22.
He became the first official of the U.S. Catholic Church to be convicted of a felony not for abusing a child, or even witnessing it, but for his responsibilities in managing priests, some of whom abused children.
District Attorney Seth Williams said the fact that Msgr. Lynn, 61, was convicted not for abuse made this "a very different case," one that is "unprecedented in American jurisprudence."
"We held responsible a man who did not abuse children himself, but who did not do enough to protect children," Williams said outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia.
The priest's defense lawyer, Thomas Bergstrom, incredulously referred to the sentence as "grossly unfair" and "unbelievable."
"He's being punished for things he did properly: He met with victims, he met with accused priests, he documented everything, he sent it up to the cardinal," Bergstrom added.
Msgr. Lynn's conviction resulted from the actions of a former priest, Edward V. Avery, who last March pleaded guilty to abusing an altar boy in 1990. Avery, who was laicized in 2006, is serving two and a half to five years in prison.
Williams said Msgr. Lynn was "institutionally responsible" for the suffering of victims of sexual abuse by priests.
Evidence at trial showed that months after becoming secretary for clergy in 1992, Msgr. Lynn took the initiative to compile a list from church archives of known or possibly abusive priests spanning several decades. He presented the list of scores of priests to Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who was archbishop of Philadelphia at the time. The cardinal ordered that the list be shredded, but a copy was retained and forgotten in a locked safe at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Philadelphia.
Once he knew of the list and the extent of the clergy sexual abuse problem, Msgr. Lynn should have resigned, Williams said.
Instead, "he locked the list of names away in a vault — names of priests he knew were abusive," Williams said. "Now he will be locked away for a fraction of that time."
Bergstrom said Sarmina in her sentencing "didn't follow the facts of the case," including his contention that priests Msgr. Lynn investigated and sent for treatment "never abused again."