Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court pulled a double reversal on Monday, reinstating the conviction of Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s former secretary of clergy who helped cover up molestation allegations against priests in the 1990s and early 2000s.
The high court ruled 4–1 in favor of reinstating Lynn’s June 2012 conviction for endangering the welfare of a child, a conviction that a three-member Pennsylvania Superior Court panel had reversed in December 2013 reasoning that Lynn had no direct contact with the St. Jerome’s Parish boy whose victimization had been the basis for the case against Lynn.
The Supreme Court disagreed on Monday, concluding that Lynn, as the abusers’ supervisor, was responsible for the welfare of the child in question, even if Lynn had never abused the boy personally.
Lynn, now 64, was initially charged in early 2011, when the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office alleged that he had allowed two priests to continue ministering to children although Lynn knew that the priests had been credibly accused of sexual abuse. Those two subordinate priests, James Brennan and Edward Avery, abused other children in their new assignments, according to the prosecutor.
Brennan, now 51, was accused of abusing a youth in a Bucks County parish, but a trial jury failed to reach a verdict in his case. A retrial is scheduled for next January.
Avery, now 72, was accused along with another priest and a lay teacher of abusing a boy from St. Jerome’s in Holme Circle in the 1990s. Avery pleaded guilty in the case and is serving a state prison sentence of 2–1/2 to five years.
As of Tuesday, Lynn remained under house arrest with electronic monitoring at the St. William Parish rectory in Lawndale, where he has lived since his release from prison in December 2013. Despite the Superior Court’s ruling that month, Lynn’s original trial judge, Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, ordered him to remain in custody pending appeals after prosecutors argued that Lynn might flee.
The original trial verdict was considered historic in that it was believed to be the first time that an American clergyman had been convicted criminally for systematically covering up sexual abuse within the church. Lynn was sentenced to 3 to 6 years in state prison one month after the verdict. Lynn’s attorneys may further appeal other components of the original trial beyond the scope of the latest Supreme Court ruling. ••