Priest in abuse case disputes charge

Monsignor William Lynn, the first member of the Roman Catholic Church’s American leadership to be charged with child endangerment for allegedly enabling sexually abusive priests, maintained in court on Monday that prosecutors were mistaken to charge him at all.

Common Pleas Court Judge Lillian Ransom said she would hear arguments on the monsignor’s assertion in July.

According to online court records, Lynn and four other defendants will appear before Ransom in Courtroom 1005 of the Criminal Justice Center, 13th and Filbert streets, on July 29.

Lynn, two other priests, a former priest and a former Catholic school teacher are facing charges in connection with alleged child molestations.

Arrested after a grand jury in February released its report on sexual abuse by clergy in Philadelphia’s Roman Catholic archdiocese were Edward Avery, a defrocked priest; the Revs. Charles Engelhardt and James Brennan; Bernard Shero, a former teacher at St. Jerome’s School in Winchester Park; and Lynn.

The Philadelphia Inquirer and KYW reported the defendants’ lawyers told Ransom on Monday that their clients had been offered prison sentences of 7 1/2 to 15 years in return for guilty pleas, but that all of the men had rejected the deals and pleaded not guilty.

Besides hearing arguments that Lynn was charged in error, Ransom will hear arguments for and against the charge that the defendants had been engaged in a conspiracy, the Inquirer reported.

The newspaper said attorneys for the defendants claimed that some of their clients didn’t know each other and could, therefore, not have conspired.

In 2010, a Philadelphia grand jury was impaneled to investigate Avery and Engelhardt after the Archdiocese of Philadelphia referred information about them to the district attorney’s office. In the course of their investigation, grand jurors began looking at Brennan and Shero, and then at Lynn, who had served as secretary of clergy for Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, the city’s previous archbishop.

Earlier this year the five men were arrested, and all but Lynn face charges of child sexual assault linked to molestations that allegedly occurred during the 1990s. The grand jury alleged that Lynn’s inaction had allowed two of the priests to continue molesting parish youngsters; he has been charged with recklessly endangering the welfare of children.

Lynn’s case is the first in the nation in which a member of a Roman Catholic hierarchy has been accused of fostering an environment for sexual abuse, but not as a child molester himself.

His attorneys, Thomas Bergstrom and Jeffrey Lindy, argued that Lynn’s job of investigating charges of sexual abuse against priests did not put him in direct supervision of children, and, therefore, the commonwealth’s child-endangerment law did not apply to his conduct, as the grand jury concluded it had. ull;•