Closing arguments Thursday in Pa. priest trial

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Published May 30, 2012

Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA – In opening statements in March, a prosecutor called the alleged cover-up of child sexual assaults by priests a battle between right and wrong within the Philadelphia archdiocese.

But hundreds of church documents aired at trial suggest there was little internal debate among Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and his top men on how to handle the complaints: Ask the priest if he did it. Send him to a church-run hospital. Tell the parish he’s on “health leave.” And unless he’s diagnosed as a pedophile, transfer him to another position.

Bevilacqua made Monsignor William Lynn his point person for the thankless job from 1992 to 2004, when Lynn served as secretary for clergy. Now jurors will have to decide — after closing arguments Thursday — whether the mild-mannered Lynn alone should be held criminally responsible for the sins of the church.

Bevilacqua has died. And none of his other confidantes have been charged.

“No matter how it turns out, it is one of the most significant trials in the United States having to do with this, with sexual abuse,” said psychologist Richard Sipe, a former priest who’s now an expert on priest sexual abuse. “It’s made clear what everybody has known – that the responsibility goes way up. That, of course, is what Lynn is saying: ‘The cardinal is responsible.’ He conveniently died. That was a very convenient death.”

Bevilacqua died in January, just weeks before Lynn’s trial. Two months earlier, he had given a videotaped deposition that prosecutors decided not to use, perhaps because he was by then 88 and suffering from cancer and dementia. The regal, law school-educated cardinal was a shadow of the combative ruler who had tangled with prosecutors in 10 hostile appearances before the grand jury in 2003 and 2004.

Asked back then why one accused priest was kept near children at his parish for two months before he went for treatment, Bevilacqua punted responsibility to Lynn.

“These are the details that I leave to my secretary for the clergy,” the cardinal told the grand jury.

Lynn testified last week that Bevilacqua forbade him from telling parishes the real reasons priests were pulled when they were sent for sexual-disorder treatment and from telling his next parish about his background.

Bevilacqua had conceded the latter point. The priest “would not be able to function in that parish anymore,” Bevilacqua told the grand jury.

After a second grand jury probe, Lynn last year became the first U.S. church official charged with child endangerment for his administrative actions, a conspiracy of silence. Four others were charged with abusing children. They include the Rev. James Brennan, who is on trial with Lynn for an alleged 1996 sexual assault.

Prosecutors unearthed a stunning cache of confidential church documents and moved many into evidence – and therefore into the public domain.

They support notions of cloak-and-dagger intrigue behind the church’s proud facade.

Lynn prepared a top-secret list of 35 alleged predator-priests in 1994, only to have it vanish. He said he couldn’t find it to show the first grand jury. The list surfaced ten days after Bevilacqua’s death — along with a 1994 memo that Bevilacqua had ordered it shredded.

But someone’s copy of the list was hiding in a locked safe at the Office for Clergy that was broken open in 2006. The list was then filed away — allegedly unnoticed in a gray file — in a church lawyer’s office, according to testimony from a string of church employees.

Lynn, who spent three days on the stand, said he didn’t put it there, and didn’t own the safe.

The list would have offered the first grand jury proof that Bevilacqua and his bishops knew as early as 1994 that pedophiles and priests whom Lynn deemed “guilty” of abuse were still working for him.

Sipe said, “This is the pattern in every diocese that I have been involved, and I know this from being a member of the clergy for so many years: The bishops know everything. The superiors know everything.”

Nearly all of Bevilacqua’s other top aides climbed the career ladder to become bishops. Lynn was presumably on that path until the priest-abuse crisis exploded in Boston in 2002.

Jurors must now decide if his actions were criminal. He faces up to 21 years in prison if convicted of child endangerment and conspiracy.

Defense lawyers call him a scapegoat.

Asked Tuesday if it wasn’t immoral to keep predators in ministry, Lynn asked, “You want me to answer for the whole church?”


4 Responses to Closing arguments Thursday in Pa. priest trial

  1. Mike Mc says:

    Asked Tuesday if it wasn’t immoral to keep predators in ministry, Lynn asked, “You want me to answer for the whole church?”

    Yes, damit! Answer for the Church! Why not? You were a possible future Bishop/Cardinal……

  2. Mike Mc says:

    *From a previous thread…from Lina:

    Mike you said to me: “Don’t you just wish the Church would admit defeat, repent, defrock all those involved, make amends to those it has abused, and move into a new era.”

    Yes, I wish they would do that nevertheless these clergy LOVE to live the LIE rather than tell the WHOLE truth.  Just do the right thing is not one of their strong points.

    So true, Lina.

  3. Lina says:

    *Mike Mc   (a reply to your above post May 31, 2012 at 10:43 am)

    In the
    early 1960’s when I was 9yrs.old, I was molested or inappropriate touched by a

    happened during a matinee show in a theater in Sault-Ste-Marie, ON.

    memories started a little to resurface when a priest (now deceased) rumored had
    it that his name was link to young boys, but it was never proven.

    those memories of mine became a little stronger when (ex-monsignor) Bernard
    Prince court case
    went on.

    I did eventually face the sad reality of my situation and got professional help
    while the case Monsignor Robert Borne began.

    My experience
    with priests is not good.

    They have
    this expertise in the role of deception. They are able and do put a spin with their
    words they use to pacify people like me.

    They take
    these wrongs, evil criminal acts and use a toxic band-aid solution approach so
    to make sure the Catholic Church is seen in a positive light.

    One of
    several reasons I’m hurting is that I know somewhat in the near future what
    will eventually happen in the Pembroke Diocese. 
    For obvious reasons I cannot speak about it.

    clergy abuse victims come first. These investigations by the law do take time.
    The law and the lawyers do need to make sure all their;’t’s are crossed and all
    their ‘i’s are dotted.

    I may not
    see it in my lifetime but the clergy in the Pembroke Diocese will eventually
    find out that justice will sure to come in full force.

    When this
    reality hits home to them, this will strike at the very core of every church in
    the Pembroke Diocese.

    You often
    hear this phrase: “the church’s doors swings both ways”.

    doesn’t mean I need to stop using good common sense thinking once I’m inside
    the church.

    last few years were tough on me emotionally and sadly spiritually.

    The deep betrayal
    of trust this past year by two priests (from the Diocese of Pembroke)
    especially by ‘one’ priest, this has left me experiencing a slow mourning death
    of my Roman Catholic faith.


  4. Mike Mc says:

    Lina, I was sent just today …and have been reading it for an hr so far …a book called “Rediscovering Catholicism” – A spiritual Guide to Living with Passion and Purpose,,,,.by Matthew Kelly (NY Times best Seller too)

    He writes well. He recognizes the abuse situation big time….but he says we can still be Catholic. I’ll let ya know what I think over time.

    Just thought you might like to know of this.

    Mike Mc

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