20-year church abuse probe ends with monsignor’s quiet plea

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

A spokesperson for District Attorney Larry Krasner, who inherited the case from his predecessors, called Lynn’s unannounced Nov. 2 plea ‘the appropriate path for bringing finality and closure to the victims.’

Twenty years after city prosecutors convened a grand jury to investigate the handling of priest-abuse complaints within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the tortuous legal case came to an end with a cleric’s misdemeanor no contest plea in a near-empty City Hall courtroom.

Monsignor William Lynn, 71, had served nearly three years in state prison as appeals courts reviewed the fiery three-month trial that led to his felony child endangerment conviction in 2012. The verdict was twice overturned, leaving prosecutors pursuing the thinning case in recent years with a single alleged victim whose appearance in court was in doubt.

In the end, they said Lynn could end the two-decade ordeal by pleading no contest to a charge of failing to turn over records to the 2002 grand jury. A judge took the plea during a short break from her civil caseload last month, and imposed no further punishment.

“He lost 10 years of his life, 10 years of his priestly life,” said defense lawyer Thomas Bergstrom, speaking of the decade since Lynn’s conviction. “It’s a travesty. It’s an absolute travesty.”

“You’re fighting an uphill battle because the public at large misunderstood what he was convicted of. They thought he was an abuser,” Bergstrom said.

Lynn was the first U.S. church official ever charged, convicted or imprisoned over their handling of priest-abuse complaints.

His trial attracted a packed courtroom full of press, priest-abuse victims and outraged Catholics, along with a few church loyalists. Lynn, the longtime secretary for clergy, was accused of sending a known predator — named on a list of problem priests he had prepared for Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua — to an accuser’s northeast Philadelphia parish.

20-year church abuse probe ends with monsignor’s quiet plea

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