October 05, 2011
By John P. Martin, Inquirer Staff Writer
Msgr. William J. Lynn, the former church official awaiting trial for allegedly protecting sexually abusive priests, drew words of encouragement from Philadelphia’s new archbishop and a standing ovation from scores of priests at a private gathering last month, according to people familiar with the event.
During the invitation-only dinner for Archbishop Charles J. Chaput at a parish hall in Montgomery County, Chaput singled out Lynn in the crowd and noted how difficult the ordeal has been for him, according to one priest who attended and two people briefed by others at the gala.
Much of the audience, which included hundreds of priests, then stood and applauded, said the sources, who asked not to be identified.
The exchange, in a banquet room at St. Helena’s in Blue Bell, spanned just seconds in a talk by Chaput on changes and his vision for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. But it reflected one of the strongest signals of support for Lynn since his arrest and suspension from ministry in February.
It came as Chaput, who last month took the helm of the 1.5 million-member archdiocese, strives to bond with his new flock and the hundreds of priests who are the face of the church in the region’s towns and parishes.
Told how sources described the event, Donna Farrell, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, declined this week to discuss what she said was a private gathering for Chaput and the priests. She said Chaput was away at a retreat and would not elaborate on his remarks.
Chaput, who previously headed the Archdiocese of Denver, has spoken only sparingly of the sex-abuse allegations involving the Philadelphia priests, saying he needed time to absorb the facts and issues.
But in an interview with the Associated Press the day before his Sept. 8 installation, Chaput said of the case against Lynn: “It’s really important to me, and I think to all of us, that he be treated fairly and that he not be a scapegoat.”
Jeffrey Lindy, one of Lynn’s defense attorneys, said he was gratified to hear about the ovation for the monsignor. “He’s a real good person,” Lindy said.
Citing a gag order in the case, a spokeswoman for Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said Tuesday that the office had no comment.
Lynn, 60, faces a March trial in Philadelphia, along with two priests, a defrocked priest, and a former Catholic school teacher.