The Philadelphia District Attorney said Monday his office will use every resource to ensure that Monsignor William Lynn remains in prison for his involvement in a sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church in Philadelphia.
Seth Williams, the city’s district attorney, said his office filed a petition asking a state appellate court to reconsider its December 22 decision to overturn Lynn’s conviction. Lynn, once a high-ranking Roman Catholic Church official, was convicted on child endangerment charges in 2012. Lynn is in Waymart prison in northeast Pennsylvania, where he has served 25 months on and off.
A three-judge panel of the Superior Court reversed the verdict, which had marked the first time U.S. prosecutors charged a senior church official for failing to stop priests who committed abuses against children. It was the second time the conviction was overturned by the Superior Court.
Williams is seeking a decision on the appeal by the full Superior Court.
The panel ruled the court that convicted Lynn used a high volume of “unfairly prejudiced” evidence related to other acts committed by priests that did not involve or have anything to do with Lynn or his position as secretary of the clergy.
The. Rev. Edward Beck, a religion commentator for CNN, said that as secretary of the clergy, Lynn was the liaison between the archbishop and other priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and was responsible for looking into sex-abuse complaints made against priests.
“He had a senior office in the archdiocese, which is why he was seen as liable,” he said.
Lynn’s lawyer, Thomas A. Bergstrom, said the evidence about other abuse cases presented in the 2012 trial did not relate to Lynn.
“Some of that stuff occurred before Lynn was born or before he was even a priest, and all of it occurred before he was secretary to the clergy,” Bergstrom said.
Bergstrom said 26 days of the 33-day trial were devoted to misdeeds of priests in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s, long before Lynn was able to stop them.
“You talk about a classic scapegoat, he is it,” Bergstrom said.
The prosecutor says the 2012 evidence proved “a pattern and practice of concealment and protection of child-sexual-predator priests by Monsignor Lynn.”
Lynn, who became secretary of the clergy in 1992, was convicted in 2012 for not removing the Rev. Edward Avery from active ministry after learning he had sexually molested a boy in 1978.
When reports of Avery’s abuse surfaced, Lynn sent him to be treated and hospitalized at the St. John Vianney Center, where he spent nine months. The center’s website says it is “the premier facility for behavioral health and addictive disease treatment.” Avery was later reassigned to a different parish, where he reportedly abused another boy in 1998.
Beck said that within the Catholic Church there was a common perception that abusive priests could be rehabilitated or sent for treatment and that this behavior could be contained or monitored. Health experts, according to Beck, now say that is no longer the case and it has been proven untrue.
Avery pleaded guilty in 2012 to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child after admitting that he sexually assaulted a 10-year-old altar boy during the 1998-1999 school year.
Lynn’s attorney said he would respond to the latest appeal and continue to move forward.
“At some point it seems to me that if we have to win this case a third time we will do it.”
Lynn was convicted in July 2012 of one count of child endangerment and sentenced to three to six years. His legal team filed an appeal in April 2013 and Lynn’s conviction was reversed by the Superior Court in September of the same year.
Lynn was released from prison in December 2013 after serving 18 months in prison. The District Attorney’s Office successfully appealed the 2013 reversal, and Lynn was sent back to prison in April 2015.