As the last prosecution witness in the Philadelphia priest sex-abuse trial took the stand Wednesday, the jury was told about an Archdiocese of Philadelphia document turned over to prosecutors that documented that the late Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua and other Pennsylvania bishops formed an ad hoc committee to "better protect … from civil law discovery" secret-archive files of priests who had a history of problems, including of allegations of sexually abusing minors.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia kept sensitive personnel files in "secret archives," witnesses in the trial have said on several occasions.
The document that jurors were shown Wednesday was the only mention of that committee, and the rest of the day's testimony focused on defendant Monsignor William J. Lynn's compilation of a list of 35 priests who had reportedly abused minors from the archdiocese's secret archives and the discovery of a copy of the list in a forgotten safe in 2006 that was turned over to prosecutors only this year.
Lynn, Bevilacqua's delegate for investigating priests accused of sexual abuse from 1992 to 2004, is accused of endangering the welfare of children supervised by co-defendant the Rev. James J. Brennan and defrocked priest Edward V. Avery. Brennan is being tried at the same time as Lynn on the charge that Brennan sexually abused a 14-year-old. Avery already pled guilty to committing abuse.
Lynn testified in February 2004 before an investigating grand jury that he presumed that the reason another person and he had gone through the secret-archive files in 1994 to compile the list of 35 was to ensure that there were no priests still in active ministry about whom credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors had been made.
Of the 323 files in the secret archives, 35 were compiled into a memorandum sent up Lynn's chain of command memorializing instances of allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in the archdiocese. On one iteration of the list, three priests were labeled as diagnosed pedophiles, 12 were labeled as guilty of sexual misconduct with minors and 20 priests had allegations of sexual misconduct made about them but there was no "conclusive evidence."
Lynn testified to the grand jury that he sent those cases up so his supervisors would know what was in the secret-archive files. He said he received little direction or feedback from Bevilacqua.
A March 1994 memorandum shown to the jury Wednesday depicted that Bevilacqua and then-Bishop-elect Edward Cullen, who later became the bishop of Allentown, had returned their copies of the list so that the material could be shredded by Monsignor James E. Molloy.
The archdiocese's former general counsel, Tim Coyne, testified Monday that Bevilacqua and other top aides lied to him about Bevilacqua's order to shred the list of 35 priests during a time that Coyne was trying to find the list, the Associated Press reported.
It turned out that the list ended up in Coyne's office unbeknownst to Coyne because it was passed onto him after the safe was opened and various iterations of Lynn's list were included in a gray folder found in the safe.