Govt: Admitted predator kept in Philly archdiocese

Monsignor William Lynn, the Secretary for Clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child.

March 29, 2012 11:22:33 AM PDT
A witness in a landmark priest-abuse trial in Philadelphia described feeling "helpless and trapped" as a 13-year-old, because her priest was fondling her when she worked weekends at the rectory.

The woman says she didn't tell anyone for years, and later learned the same priest had fondled her younger sisters.

The woman testified Wednesday, the fourth day of the child-endangerment trial of Monsignor William Lynn, the longtime secretary for clergy in Philadelphia. Lynn is the first Roman Catholic church official in the U.S. charged with child endangerment for allegedly leaving predators in jobs around children.

Defense lawyers say Lynn took orders from two archbishops. No other church administrators are charged.

The priest who allegedly fondled the woman at a suburban parish in Bristol around 1970 was removed from ministry after the church sex-abuse scandal broke in 2004. By then, he had admitted to an archdiocesan review board his "longstanding habit" of fondling girls' breasts, according to a 2005 grand jury report. The Associated Press is not naming him because he was never charged.

Prosecutors are showing jurors his personnel files, and those of 20 other accused priests, to try to show that they were left in ministry despite complaints, and some admissions, of child sexual abuse.

A fellow priest had contacted the archdiocese about the Bristol pastor in 1988. Police in Bucks County had received a complaint about him the previous year but declined to press charges. He was once accused of fondling an 8-year-old girl in traction at a hospital.

The woman said her mother had signed her up to cook for priests on weekends for $5. She said the molestation left her deeply wounded, with "an edge" around men.

On cross-examination, she acknowledged that the archdiocese responded when she first reported her story in 2002, offered to pay for therapy, and later informed her that the priest had been removed from ministry.

The trial is expected to last several months as prosecutors outline how the archdiocese handled sex-abuse complaints over several decades. Lynn's sole co-defendant is the Rev. James Brennan, charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in 1996. Both he and Lynn have pleaded not guilty.

Earlier Thursday, jurors heard about a notorious Philadelphia priest who admitted he sexually assaulted three eighth-grade boys in one year alone.

He had become a priest in 1962 and resigned in 1980 after admitting to a string of abuse complaints. But he asked to be reinstated in the late 1990s.

Confidential church files read Thursday show that Lynn felt he should not be taken back, because of the risk to the archdiocese. There's no mention of the potential harm to children or need to contact police, prosecutors noted.

The ex-priest testified before the grand jury investigating priest sexual-abuse in 2005. He was never charged with a crime, because of legal time limits.

By then, he had become a Latin teacher at Radnor Middle School on Philadelphia's Main Line.

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