As a Catholic Church official was interrogated by a prosecutor about at least 15 priests accused of sexual abuse whose assignments he handled, the defendant said that he would take any tack that he could to get the clerics to stay in line.
The trial of Monsignor William J. Lynn for allegedly endangering the welfare of two men who testified that they were sexually abused by two priests has taken two months so far, in part, because of the length of time it has taken to read into the record all of the documents that Lynn and others generated about handling the complaints against those 15 priests and others.
Lynn's case is believed to be the first criminal prosecution in the country in which a church official who did not directly sexually abuse children has been charged with causing harm to alleged abuse victims.
Prosecutors are using Lynn's words in their quest to prove to the jury that Lynn was executing an Archdiocese of Philadelphia policy to shuffle sexually abusive priests into new assignments and keep their danger to children cloaked from parishioners.
At least three times on Thursday, Lynn rejected the prosecution's theory by trying to explain that, when he memorialized what he told priests, what he said to the priests was not carrying out a policy to protect priests over children but an effort to control the priests.
In the case of the Rev. Thomas F. Shea, Lynn wrote that it was possible the priest "was seduced into [sexual abuse]" by a fifth-grader. Prosecutors have taken an incredulous tone about that piece of evidence.
But Lynn testified Thursday that he would have done anything to get Shea to admit to the abuse of the boy and to get him out of ministry. Lynn said he was only authorized to remove priests immediately from ministry if they admitted the abuse.
Shea viewed the abuse as a seduction, Lynn said.
The Rev. Nicholas V. Cudemo was a priest Lynn had found to be a pedophile after reviewing Cudemo's file in the archdiocese's secret archives, but prosecutor Patrick Blessington questioned why Lynn would have told Cudemo that Cudemo could help out the archdiocese in the winter.
"I use anything I can to get them to not do anything they're not supposed to," Lynn said, speaking in the present tense even though he has not been the archdiocese's personnel director for priests handling sexually abusive priests since 2004.