I missed this earlier this month, from Philadelphia:
Msgr. William J. Lynn, the former church official awaiting trial for allegedly protecting sexually abusive priests, drew words of encouragement from Philadelphia’s new archbishop and a standing ovation from scores of priests at a private gathering last month, according to people familiar with the event.
During the invitation-only dinner for Archbishop Charles J. Chaput at a parish hall in Montgomery County, Chaput singled out Lynn in the crowd and noted how difficult the ordeal has been for him, according to one priest who attended and two people briefed by others at the gala.
Much of the audience, which included hundreds of priests, then stood and applauded, said the sources, who asked not to be identified.
The Grand Jury also recommended charging Monsignor William J. Lynn, the Secretary for Clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
From 1992 until 2004, Msgr. Lynn was responsible for investigating reports that priests had sexually abused children and for recommending appropriate action to ensure that priests could not reoffend. The Grand Jury found that Msgr. Lynn endangered children, including the victims in these most recent cases, by knowingly allowing dangerous priests to continue in ministry.
Just so you’re clear about precisely what the Grand Jury found, check out the full report; the Lynn material starts on page 43:
It was Msgr. Lynn’s job to investigate any allegations of sexual abuse by priests, and to review the Archdiocese’s secret archive files, where complaints were recorded. He was in a position to make sure that no priest with a history of sexual abuse of minors was recommended for assignments, much less for assignments with continued access to children.
Yet, time after time, Msgr. Lynn abdicated this responsibility. He did so, moreover, not through negligence or simple incompetence, but purposefully. He did so, with Cardinal Bevilacqua’s knowledge and at the Cardinal’s direction, as part of a knowing practice – continued over decades – of placing sexual predators in positions where they would have easy access to trusting minors, just as long as the Archdiocese was spared public exposure or costly lawsuits.
Msgr. Lynn did more than passively allow the molesters to remain in positions where they could continue to prey on children. When victims complained or scandal threatened, he recommended to the Cardinal that the abusers be transferred to new parishes, where the unsuspecting faithful would not know to be wary and vigilant, and where the abusive clergymen could go on exploiting their positions of trust and authority to pursue their criminal depravity. In this way, Msgr. Lynn effectively shielded the predator priests from accountability and ensured them a continuing supply of victims.
The Secretary for Clergy could at any time have referred serious allegations to law enforcement officials, who could have conducted proper investigations. That is certainly what any of us, the Grand Jurors, would have done in Msgr. Lynn’s position. Protecting children was his duty. It just was not his priority.
Based on the evidence before us, it is clear that the Secretary for Clergy was acutely interested in shielding abusive clergy from criminal detection, in shielding the Cardinal from scandal, and in shielding the Archdiocese from financial liability. He showed no interest at all in defending the Archdiocese’s children. On the contrary, he consistently endangered them.
I know, I know, innocent until proven guilty, and all that. But you don’t have to judge Msgr Lynn guilty to refrain from publicly expressing sympathy with him at a public meeting, given the gravity of his alleged crimes, and how badly all this has damaged the trust and morale of Philly’s Catholics. (By the way, has Chaput expressed similar concern with how hard life is for victims of abusive Philadelphia clergy?) It would have been perfectly fine for the new archbishop to have been silent. It may be helpful to Philadelphia’s lay Catholics to have this signal about where their new archbishop’s sympathies lay. It’s interesting to think about this in tandem with what Chaput asked me nine years ago when I told him I didn’t trust the bishops to fix the sex abuse crisis: “If you don’t trust the bishops, why are you still Catholic?”