The first criminal trial against a Catholic official for his oversight of pedophile priests opened yesterday in Philadelphia. The case against Monsignor William Lynn, who handled priest assignments as the archdiocese’s secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, centers around charges of conspiracy and child endangerment. The prosecution is focusing on confidential church files from Lynn’s office that detailed sexual abuse allegations against priests.
The AP reports:
[Prosecutor] Coehlo said dozens of complaints about priests were in the locked files and nothing was done until the church’s sex abuse scandal exploded in Boston in 2002. She called the case “a battle between right and wrong within the archdiocese, and the office of secretary for clergy.”
“Victims are met with skepticism and priests are believed ... at all costs,” Coehlo said, speaking softly to the jury.
[Lynn] has argued that he prepared a list of 37 accused priests in 1994 and sent it up the chain to Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua — only to have Bevilacqua have it shredded. The cardinal died this year, but his videotaped deposition could be played at trial.
Though to first to go on trial, Lynn is not the only Roman Catholic leader to be charged in the sex abuse scandal. Bishop Robert Finn of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese faces a misdemeanor charge of failing to report child pornography found on a priest’s laptop. (Former Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony survived a grand jury investigation without indictment.) But the charges against Lynn are more severe—he faces up to 28 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
And this could be just the beginning.