24 May 2012
By Dave Warner
PHILADELPHIA | Thu May 24, 2012 5:28pm EDT
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – A senior church official on Thursday defended his response to a child abuse victim who was told that a predator priest could not be punished because he had sex with women too and therefore was “not a pure pedophile.”
Under intense cross-examination by the prosecution, Monsignor William Lynn of the Philadelphia Archdiocese testified in his own defense for the second day at his trial on charges of child endangerment and conspiracy. He is accused of covering up child sex abuse allegations against priests, often by transferring them to unsuspecting parishes.
Lynn, 61, the former secretary of the clergy in the archdiocese, is the highest-ranking U.S. clergyman to go to trial in the Roman Catholic church’s pedophilia scandal. His job was to supervise 800 Philadelphia priests, including investigating sex abuse claims against them, from 1992 to 2004.
The pedophilia scandal has rocked the Philadelphia Archdiocese, with 1.5 million members the sixth largest in the country. Nationwide, more than 10,000 allegations of child sex abuse were brought against priests between 1950 and 2002, according to a report commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
During his trial, now in its ninth week in Common Pleas Court, Lynn has maintained that he was powerless to remove pedophile priests and his efforts to do so were often overruled by his boss, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who died in January at age 88.
On the witness stand on Thursday, Lynn was asked about a delay in his response to a child sexual abuse complaint filed in 1998. In the complaint, a former seminarian, identified only as Tim, said he was repeatedly sexually abused by Reverend Stanley Gana, who was removed from the ministry in 2002, according to a scathing 2005 grand jury report about the widening church scandal.
“Monsignor Lynn asked the victim, who had been forced to have oral and anal sex beginning when he was 13 years old to understand that the archdiocese would have taken steps to remove Father Gana from the priesthood had he been diagnosed as a pedophile,” the grand jury report said.
“But Father Gana was not only having sex with children and teenage minors, Monsignor Lynn explained, he had also slept with women, abused alcohol and stolen money from parish churches,” the grand jury report continued.
“That is why he remained, with Cardinal Bevilacqua’s blessing, a priest in active ministry. ‘You see, Tim,'” said Monsignor Lynn, ‘he’s not a pure pedophile.'”
At the trial, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington hammered away at Lynn over his response to the 1998 complaint.
“You did not care about pedophile priests being out there?” Blessington asked.
“Yes, I did care,” Lynn testified.
Lynn is accused of covering up the abuse of priests including Gana, who was never charged with a crime and who was reassigned from parish to parish as complaints surfaced.
“Father Stanley Gana, ordained in the 1970s, sexually abused countless boys in a succession of Philadelphia Archdiocese parishes,” the 2005 grand jury report said.
“He was known to kiss, fondle, anally sodomize and impose oral sex on his victims. He took advantage of altar boys, their trusting families and vulnerable teenagers with emotional problems … He molested boys on a farm, in vacation houses, in the church rectory. Some minors he abused for years,” the grand jury said.
Lynn, who is not accused of any molestation, faces the possibility of 28 years in prison if convicted.
(Editing By Barbara Goldberg and Eric Walsh)