Posted: Tue, May. 15, 2012, 2:32 PM
By John P. Martin
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
In 1991, Msgr. William J. Lynn wrote a memo outlining his interview with a man who said he had been molested by the Rev. Michael McCarthy, a longtime teacher at Cardinal O’Hara.
But Lynn made a mistake, at least in the eyes of his boss at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Lynn had told the accuser that his was not the first complaint against McCarthy.
“Unnecessary statement,” the Rev. James E. Molloy, then the assistant vicar for administration scrawled in the margins of the memo. “Never admit to victims that there are other cases.”
Both sides highlighted the note Tuesday for jurors at Lynn’s landmark conspiracy and child-endangerment trial. A prosecutor pointed to it as a hallmark of the church’s attempt to minimize scandal and conceal clergy sex abuse. Lynn’s lawyer suggested it was proof of a strict chain of command that limited Lynn as he investigated abuse claims against priests.
By 1992, when Lynn was elevated to the job of secretary for clergy, church officials had logged two complaints against McCarthy.
At Lynn’s recommendation, Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua removed McCarthy from St. Kevin’s Church in Springfield, Delaware County, and made him pastor of Epiphany of Our Lord Church in Norristown, Montgomery County.
Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington suggested that Lynn pressed for McCarthy’s removal the next year only after receiving a different kind of complaint: this one from a travel agent whose husband had donated $25,000 to the archdiocese and who said McCarthy was running a competing travel business from his rectory.
Lynn gave Bevilacqua an extensive memo outlining the woman’s complaint, and disclosing he also found a cache of gay pornography in McCarthy’s rectory closet. He recommended the cardinal remove McCarthy as pastor, send him for inpatient treatment and encourage him to seek laicization, according to memos shown to jurors.
Bevilacqua approved the first two recommendations, but said to delay the third. Lynn’s lawyer, Jeffrey Lindy, seized on the cardinal’s decision not to immediately follow the recommendation.
“And he had the power not to follow it because he was the man at the top, right?” Lindy asked Detective Joseph Walsh, the investigator who read the files to jurors.
“He was the man at the top, sir, yes,” Walsh said.
Lynn’s defense team has argued that he more than any church official tried to identify and remove abusive priests, but that he often lacked the authority to do so.
Lindy pointed to other memos that said Bevilacqua alone had reviewed a psychological assessment of McCarthy, and that, in a meeting with the priest, the cardinal described what he called “my policy” on reinstating or removing priests who had been accused of molesting children or teens.
The prosecutor contended that Bevilacqua delayed a decision on laicization because Lynn proposed the delay, to see how McCarthy responded to treatment and adjusted to life as a lay person. (McCarthy, who was diagnosed as an ephebophile, or sexually attracted to teen boys, never returned to full ministry. He was ultimately defrocked in 2006.)
More broadly, Blessington suggested Lynn’s place in the chain of command was less important than the fact that he was part of the decision-making process.
“Did he participate?” Blessington asked the detective.
“Yes, sir,” Walsh said. “He was one of the major players.”
Contact John P. Martin at 215-854-4774 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @JPMartinInky on Twitter.