The Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia has handed down a landmark conviction that holds Roman Catholic officials and others criminally responsible for enabling or knowingly overlooking child molesters in their midst.
Monsignor William Lynn, 61, of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was convicted on Friday of child endangerment for allowing priests who were believed to be involved in pedophilia to be near children while serving in the 1990’s. His convictions especially regarded two priests, James Brennan and Edward Avery. While Brennan’s case is currently deadlocked, according to the Wall Street Journal, the priest did admit to allowing a young boy to look at pornography on his computer. Avery pled guilty to deviate sexual intercourse in 1999 and was sentenced to 2 1/2 to five years in prison.
Prosecutors also presented to the jury a list that Lynn had created in 1994, which outlined nearly 40 active priests that were suspected of child sexual abuse. It had been found locked away in a safe.
As head of priest personnel, Lynn was responsible for assigning clergy to their various duties. While he claimed that he did not have the authority to fire the priests, and therefore did all he could, prosecutors told the court that Lynn should have at least reported the matters to police.
During Lynn’s trial, approximately 20 individuals who claimed to have been abused by priests serving under the Archdiocese of Philadelphia gave heart-wrenching testimony.
After deliberating for 13 days, the jury released its verdict, holding Lynn responsible for enabling the priests to commit crimes against children. Judge M. Teresa Sarmina then revoked bail for Lynn, who was led away by police. His sentencing is scheduled for August 13th, and faces 3 1/2 to 7 years in prison.
“The guilty verdict sends a strong and clear message that shielding and enabling predator priests is a heinous crime that threatens families, communities and children, and must be punished as such,” said Barbara Dorris of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
“Many in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia hierarchy had dirty hands,” explained Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. “I can assure you, as Monsignor Lynn sits in a holding cell right now, he got the message, and others will get the message as well.”
Lynn is the first priest in American history to be convicted of knowingly covering up child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic establishment.
Pedophilia is a growing moral pandemic in the world today, including in Roman Catholicism. While sex abuse scandals first broke into the national spotlight at the turn of the 21st century, they only served to uncover an enormous dark secret that had been brooding in parishes nationwide.
Since 1990, seven high-ranking Catholic clergy have resigned due their connection with child sex scandals, including the famed Bernard Law of Boston, who stepped down over alleged cover-ups of priests that were believed to be pedophiles.
In 2004, James Porter of Fall River, Massachusetts was found guilty of abusing 28 children. According to news reports, he had admitted to molesting over 100 youth over a 30-year period. In 2007, the Society of Jesus in Anchorage, Alaska paid $50 million to over 100 individuals who claimed to have been abused by area priests. The following year, the Archdiocese of Denver paid $5.5 million to 18 individuals who stated that they had been molested from 1954-1981.
Currently, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is set to settle approximately 500 sexual abuse cases in the amount of $600 million. Many more Catholic diocese nationwide have either been sued or their representatives have been taken into custody.
Countries such as Kenya, New Zealand, Germany, Chile and Croatia have also documented sexual abuse cases by Catholic priests. In 2002, a diocese in the Phillipines apologized for alleged acts of adultery, homosexuality and pedophilia by two hundred priests over a course of 30 years. Sources also state that the number of youth that have been molested in Italy is impossible to pinpoint, since the Italian government has “a state-church treaty that guarantees areas of impunity to Vatican officials, including bishops and priests.”
The verdict against Lynn was handed down on the same day as that of disgraced assistant football coach Jerry Sanduky, who was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse. The Philadelphia Archdiocese had been under investigation for nearly a decade.
“This monumental case will change the way business is done in many institutions,” Williams said. “Many people of many generations have unclean hands when it comes to this silence.”