Monsignor: I didn’t put list of predators in safe

Share Button

24 May 2012

Associated Press

A Roman Catholic church official testified Thursday that he typed a list of suspected pedophile priests on his computer, but couldn’t find it 10 years later to show a grand jury.

Monsignor William Lynn endured a second day of searing cross-examination as he fights charges he endangered children by protecting priests. He’s due back on the stand Tuesday.

Lynn denies locking the 1994 list in an archdiocese safe, where church employees say it was found in 2006 and then buried in a lawyer’s files until this year.

The list was turned over to city prosecutors in February, days after Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua died. They’ve made it something of a smoking gun since the trial started in March.

Prosecutors believe it shows the Philadelphia archdiocese knew it had diagnosed pedophiles and other predators on duty, but left them in jobs with access to children.

“They have that collar on. It attracts kids like candy,” Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington said as he peppered Lynn with questions.

Lynn _ the first U.S. church official ever charged for his handling of abuse cases _ insisted he did the best he could as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004 to help victims. He said he prepared the list to get superiors to address the problem.

Bevilacqua ordered the list shredded, although Lynn said he only learned that when the surviving copy and a “shred memo” surfaced this year.

“I’m not perfect,” Lynn said at one point, referring to a seminarian’s 1992 abuse complaint that he admits “fell through the cracks.”

At the time, Lynn was new on the job, juggling a dozen active complaints, and dealing with his mother’s death and father’s illness, according to his testimony.

The seminarian said he had been raped throughout high school by the Rev. Stanley Gana, who Lynn acknowledged “did horrible things” to children. Gana was defrocked in 2006.

“I’m not happy it fell through the cracks, and I’m sorry it did,” Lynn testified.

A phone listing for Gana, who has never been criminally charged, could not be located Thursday. Gana has previously denied accusations against him.

Lynn is charged with endangering two children by leaving the Rev. James Brennan, a co-defendant charged with attempted rape, and former priest Edward Avery, who pleaded guilty to sexual assault, in ministry despite earlier red flags. Lynn surprised some court observers by taking the stand Wednesday after two silent months at the defense table.

During the intense cross-examination, Lynn was forced to backpedal at times and took several long pauses.

At one point, Blessington compared the treatment of a pastor who had complained about a bad apple to the problem priests left in ministry. The pastor’s case went to a disciplinary board, and he had to meet twice with an irate Bevilacqua about his “disobedience.”

“How many priest personnel board meetings were convened because you passed up information about a serial pedophile?” Blessington asked.

“None,” Lynn acknowledged.

Lynn said he never wanted the job and took orders from Bevilacqua and the cardinal’s top aides: the Rev. Joseph Cistone, now bishop of Saginaw, Mich.; the Rev. Edward Cullen, now the retired bishop of Allentown; and the Rev. James E. Molloy, who died in 2006.

On Bevilacqua’s orders, Molloy shredded Lynn’s list of predators in February 1994, an act witnessed by Cistone, according to the “shred memo,” which was shown in court.

Prosecutors have not charged anyone else in the alleged conspiracy to cover up priest-abuse complaints, and did not call Cullen or Cistone to testify. And neither bishop appears waiting in the wings to testify on Lynn’s behalf. They have not returned calls for comment left this month through the diocese or legal counsel.

That leaves Lynn alone to defend the archdiocese’s response to distraught adults streaming into Lynn’s office by the 1990s to report that priests had molested or raped them. The archdiocese never contacted police.

According to Lynn, Bevilacqua wouldn’t let staff tell an accuser that anyone else had accused the same priest of abuse, or tell parishes the real reason priests were being removed.

“I was following the directions I got,” Lynn said Thursday.

Lynn said he prepared the list of 35 accused priests for a February 1994 meeting of Bevilacqua and his top two aides. Lynn, not a regular participant, was called in for the briefing. He said he doesn’t remember much about the discussion, other than the case of a priest accused of having sex with a 17-year-old girl in Venezuela years earlier.

“The cardinal did not consider that pedophilia, because it was a different culture and a different atmosphere,” Lynn recalled. The priest remained in ministry until March, when he was removed from the South Philadelphia parish he led.

Blessington repeatedly called the monsignor a liar.

Asked about his job performance, Lynn said, “I thought I was doing adequately.”

But he conceded that he “forgot” to tell a police officer investigating abuse claims against a notorious priest in the early 1990s that the archdiocese knew of at least eight other victims. Lynn said he did volunteer to the officer that three relatives had once accused the priest of fondling them.

“I did my best for the people that were injured by priests,” Lynn said.

“Your best is nothing,” Blessington fired back.

12 Responses to Monsignor: I didn’t put list of predators in safe

  1. Sylvia says:

    Monsignor Lynn “e said he doesn’t remember much about the discussion, other than the
    case of a priest accused of having sex with a 17-year-old girl in
    Venezuela years earlier. ‘The cardinal did not consider that pedophilia, because it was a different culture and a different atmosphere.’”

    There we are again – this while notion that a predatory priest is fit to continue to function as a priest  – unless he was labelled by someone as a paedophile.

    And what does a different culture and atmosphere have to do with anything?

  2. PJ says:

    “Your best is nothing,” Blessington fired back.

    That statement could apply to the whole church for what they have done for the victims!

  3. Mike says:

    *  “Your best is nothing” pretty well sums up this whole sad debacle. The Vatican appears more concerned at present with the pope’s personal butler leaking “secret documents” than it is with the hundreds of victims of it’s “holy priesthood”. A prime example of this is right here in this absolutely pathetic and screwed up Fr. Lynn.
         He is a glaring example of what has illed the church for so long, and continues to. Until such time as the Vatican addresses it’s major hang-up on human sexuality, and gets rid of this silly state of so-called celibacy, nothing will get better.
        It will only get worse! All this world-wide pressure on the church is just causing the Vatican to stick it’s ugly head even deeper into the sand.     Mike

  4. Mike Mc says:

    When I look at Msgr Lynn’s photo, I see a man destined for a heart attack. Very sad indeed….but I believe this case will set the course for many cases to come. Bishops will be questioned next…and possibly stand trial too. It’s what has to happen world wide. The Church and what Mike above says about the Vatican’s need to address  “its major hangup on human sexuality” is very true. When you have seminarians entering at age 16, don’t tell me there isn’t going to be sexual hangups shown in many different ways.

    Now I have a question for anyone. If Lynn is found guilty, he could face a total of 20 or more years. How many years do you think he should get?

    Or, should the law simply take on the RCChurch itself for crimes against humanity and disband it. Sound radical?


    But like any major corporation found guilty from the CEO on down, should the Church be fined and the CEOs imprisoned?

    What sentence should be given to Lynn?… and his superiors?

  5. Mike says:

    *    Interesting thoughts, Mike. I have often wondered recently if there would be any merit in large class-action lawsuits against individual diocese’ as opposed to the criminal route, and prosecuting individual priests. I suspect this may be coming. Prosecuting individual priests appears to be very expensive and time-consuming, both for the plaintiffs and for the church.
        The “slap on the wrist” punishment some of these criminals are getting (take a look at Bourne for instance) is not working.
         I fault the news media agencies a great deal for their apparent lack of coverage on some of these issues as well. I’m sure if there was better, and broader, coverage of these matters here in Canada (see Msg. Lynn’s case) the cases would go ahead much more effectively, and penalties for the guilty party’s would be far more appropriate to the criminal action.
         I am saddenned and angered that the big news headline today is the Pope’s personal butler being arrested for leaking “secret documents” to the news media. Why does this rate national headlines, and the Msg. Lynn/Cardinal Bevilaqua case (which is far more serious) rates nothing?      Mike

  6. Mike Mc says:

    Personally Mike, I think the Catholic people want this to just go away. “Hey, it’s not my priest!” they say. A few bad apples spoiling the rest. No different than the stats on the boyscouts.

    Well, I think all this is just a tip of the iceberg. A site like this shows a worldwide problem that exists and it always seems like the victims are the real ones who suffer as things drag out.

    Yes, a class action to investigate/accuse/reprimand/ the dealings of sexual abuse within the Church and its Bishops and Cardinals (and the Pope for that matter) who allowed it to happen and flourish is a must! 

    When this  Msgr Lynn/Pennsylvania court battle is over and others start to unfold world wide, I think the Catholic people will react.

    In the meantime, the collection plates will be full as usual.


  7. Sylvia says:

    We had the Cornwall Public Inquiry right here in Canada.  The CPI started calling witnesses February 2006.  Final submissions by the 16 parties with standing were given February 2009.

    Eugene Larocque, the former bishop of the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall testified.    It was a disgusting perfomance.  Did you hear a boo about that? 

    The coverage of entire inquiry by the mainstream media was next to nil.  Look at the list of witnesses who testified, with countless “I don’t recall”s as the stumbled and bumbled along.  Unfortunately, aside the local Cornwall media – scant coverage.

    If that’s the coverage we get of scandals in our own back yard we are not going to get coverage of the Philadelphia inquiry.  Granted Philadelphia is a trial and Cornwall was an inquiry, but, nonetheless Cornwall was surely worthy of better coverage than it got.

  8. Mike Mc says:

    Has a Canadian Magazine like Macleans or any magazine for that matter covered the issue for Canada? You’d think a complete coverage would be an eye opener.

    This site……how well has it been covered in the media? Is there a way you can facebook this site? Or is that too personal. Seems like the way to go.

  9. Mike Mc says:

    One further question re Msgr Lynn trial……what are personal friend priests saying? His family? Local people?

    I don’t think when he got the call from God to the priesthood he ever thought he’d be facing this. It’s like he walked into this mess. I’m not making excuses for him…..but it’s not the final years of priesthood he expected. Are other priests coming to his rescue and taking a communal blame along with him? Or do they believe him to be innocent?

  10. Mike says:

    *Mike Mc/Sylvia;
         This is great dialogue! Unfortunately, I feel that it may be for naught. You guys, myself, and most others on Sylvia’s site are feeling the very same emotions and needs.
         We are all heart-broken and angry that the church that we grew up in and worshipped now appears to not be the supreme authority in godly matters.
        For myself, I feel that these matters are serious breaches of trust (insitutionally). and can only be remedied by the supreme leader. It’s not happenning.
         We are all looking for solutions to the problem of clergy sexual abuse, and it would be really nice if we had some help from the catholic church itself.
         All sorts of efforts are being made toward this end (media coverage, civil action, criminal prosecution, etc.)
          Will it ever happen?       Mike

  11. Mike says:

    *     In the wake of a published report indicating that the Catholic Church has paid out in excess of 2 billion dollars over the last 10 years  (in the U.S.A.) to settle sexual abuse claims, yet Philadelphia has only paid out approx. $200,000, I have two more comments to make.
        First is the quote from Msg. W. Lynn during his appearance before the Grand Jury in 2004. He wanted to “forstall the possibility of a matter becoming public” in response to his personal knowledge of wrong-doing by his fellow priests in Philadelphia! This is almost an exact copy of deceased Bishop J. R. Windle’s letter to the Vatican regarding Msg. Prince. These people just don’t get it! A criminal act must be reported to police, and investigated properly by an un-associated official!
         The people involved here are supposed to be our spiritual leaders, our representative of God here on earth. I am absolutely devastated to know that these people, or priests of God, are so disordered and warped in their thinking that they would even attepmt to hide a Criminal act to save face!
         My other comment concerns Msg. Lynn’s statement to his lawyer just in the last few days that he feels this prosecution indicates a very solid “anti-catholic bias” !!!!!
         Like I said earlier, THEY JUST DON’T GET IT! It’s got NOTHING to do with anti-catholic bias. What it does have to do with is CRIMINAL ACTS perpetrated by a large number of priests in Philadelphia!
         Dear Monsignor, for God’s sake man up and tell the truth!!!       Mike

  12. Sylvia says:

    Mike Mc. 

    Re Sylvia’s Site and the media.

    First, I decided several years ago not to ‘do’ Facebook, so Facebook is out.  As for other media coverage of the site, for a number of reasons, I don’t look for media coverage of the site. Many reporters follow the site.  If they can get information from it which helps them to understand the magnitude of the problem, the impact on clerical sexual abuse on victims and/or a few other details which they might not otherwise know, I believe the site is serving a vital function.  I do occasionally assist reporters who are seeking information and am happy to do so.

     In essence I have allowed the site to take it’s course and grow by word of mouth.  That has had a benefit which I never foresaw, specifically in that it has allowed me to move at a pace which I can handle while allowing me to learn, for example, how to manage the blog.  As you know, I am still working on that 🙂 

    Re other priests coming to Monsignor Lynn’s rescue and what kind of support he is getting.  I haven’t seen anything on that in the media.  It would be interesting to know.

    You also mention feeling a bit sorry for him.  That I think I can understand.  I think that unfortunately  the Crown has charged at Monsignor Lynn with weapons brandished.  I get the sense of a disdain and utter contempt for Monsignor Lynn which come through in the manner in which the prosecutor poses questions or makes comment.  Whether or not that is the case I don’t know, but I do I fear that the manner in which some of the Q & A’;s have been handled will backfire and cause the the jury to sympathize with Lynn. I hope and pray that doesn’t happen.

    Yes, true enough Lynn probably never envisaged ending his days like this, but I do have trouble with the repetitive  ‘I was only following orders line.’   He knows that Cardinal or no he can not be ordered to commit a sin, or be complicit in the sins of others.  Why, if he was troubled by any of the cover-up and recycling,  did he not get out of the ‘ job’?  True he would have been hauled on the carpet alongside the other priest who complained, but at least he could get up each day and look himself in the mirror, and perhaps he could have been shuttle off to some little parish out in the boonies where he could set about the priestly business of saving souls, instead of sticking it out in the diocesan centre where he was placing not only his own soul, but the souls of countless others in jeopardy? 

    Rest assured however that Monsignor Lynn has been well prepped by diocesan lawyers and canon lawyers to be on the stand and to field anticipated questions. 

    Mike, I think Monsignor Lynn’s statement about anti-Catholic bias is playing up on the manner in which he is being cross-examined.  I don’t see it as an anti-Catholic bias per se, but I do feel that the prosecutor has laid ground for some to say he harbours an animus against Lynn.   The diocesan damage control spin on the cross-examination may well be to put out the word that there is an ‘anti-Catholic bias.’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *