Philadelphia's top prosecutor said that a jury's verdict Friday on one of four charges brought against the first Catholic Church official to be criminally prosecuted for placing children in proximity with sexually abusive priests when he did not directly abuse the children would change how religious and secular institutions deal with sexual abuse.
The prosecution and conviction of defendant Monsignor William J. Lynn "will change the ways business is done in institutions ... where people will not protect predators at any cost," Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said.
But one of Lynn's defense attorneys, Jeffrey M. Lindy of Lindy & Tauber, said in the wake of Lynn's conviction on endangering the welfare of a child that Lynn was the fall guy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Lynn was the secretary of clergy from 1992 to 2004 under the late Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua with responsibility for recommending assignments of priests and investigating reports of sexual abuse by priests.
When Lynn's counsel were asked Friday if he was the fall guy, Lindy said that "of course he is" and that the archdiocese needed a body to offer up to Philadelphia prosecutors and that body was his client's.
"He's crushed. He's in custody and he didn't want anything other than to help kids," Lindy said.
When Williams was asked why other church leaders, such as Bevilacqua and others in the chain of command above Lynn were not prosecuted, Williams said that his job was to charge "those I believed we could prove guilty beyond reasonable doubt, not just to go on witch hunts, supposition, or a wing and a prayer."
Two years on the job, Lynn had developed a list out of the church's secret archives of priests accused of sexual abuse and other sexual misconduct. Lynn sent the list up his chain of command and Bevilacqua ultimately ordered copies of the list shredded, The Legal previously reported. The archdiocese's former general counsel, Tim Coyne, testified 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.
Copies of the list ended up in a safe and in a filing cabinet in Lynn's old office, and copies of the list were not produced for the prosecution until just weeks before trial and after the Archdiocese of Philadelphia hired new outside counsel, Welsh & Recker.
After 13 days of deliberation, more than two months of testimony and more than 1,900 documents admitted into evidence, the 12 Philadelphia jurors said they were firm in finding Lynn had endangered the welfare of a 10-year-old altar boy when he was sexually assaulted by a priest who the official recommended for his clerical assignment.