24 May 2012
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.