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The crimes of Monsignor William J. Lynn

September 7, 2011

There have been two in-depth articles published this week concerning the charges filed against Monsignor Lynn, the former Secretary of the Clergy, in the archdiocese of Philadelphia.  They are each well worth reading.

The first is an extraordinary article published by the Philadelphia Inquirer about the recently released grand jury testimony of Monsignor William Lynn.  Lynn is awaiting trial on charges of child endangerment for his role in the facilitation of child sex crimes in the archdiocese of Philadelphia.  Lynn is the highest ranking member of the Catholic hierarchy to be charged with such a crime.

William Lynn served as Secretary of the Clergy under Cardinal Anthony Belivacqua from 1992 to 2004.  As secretary it was Lynn’s responsibility to supervise the priests of the archdiocese.  In summarizing their findings against Lynn the Grand Jury Report of 2011 noted that it was Lynn’s responsibility to safeguard the children of the archdiocese by ensuring that no priest with a history of sexually abusing children could have continued access to minors.

The Grand Jury found that “evidence presented to the Grand Jury substantiates that Monsignor Lynn repeatedly abdicated this responsibility – and not through negligence or incompetence, but deliberately, over decades…The evidence before the Grand Jury suggests that the Secretary of the Clergy was acutely interested in shielding abusive clergy from criminal detection, the Cardinal from scandal, and the church from financial liability”.

The testimony of Monsignor Lynn, taken between 2002 and 2004, led to the Grand Jury Report of 2005.  The testimony was recently filed in Common Pleas Court as evidence in the conspiracy charges currently pending against Lynn.

Among the more startling findings:

Lynn was asked at one point about a memo that he had written where he recommended that a priest with a history of sexual abuse reports be secretly transferred to a community of nuns. Lynn noted that this would prevent “the possibility of a matter becoming public”.

When asked to elaborate on this Lynn frankly said that “Like any family, church family, you don’t always put all your dirty laundry out, so to speak”.

Lynn was also asked what experience and knowledge he possessed that qualified him to investigate child sex crimes.  Lynn responded that “I didn’t have any specific skills for that kind of work”.

What the Monsignor lacked in investigative skills was made up for with another set of skills, namely the art of lying and deception.

Lynn testified to the Grand Jury that he had intentionally lied to a victim who reported that he had been raped by a priest.  The priest predator was Stanley Gana who the victim reported had raped him on numerous occasions, in places ranging from the church rectory to Walt Disney World.

Lynn informed the victim that Gana denied the allegations, although in reality the priest had admitted to the sexual assaults.  When asked to provide an explanation for this deception Lynn explained that he thought the priest’s admission of guilt was a confidential matter between the priest and his doctor.

He also remarked that “I just thought he wanted money”.

Lynn was asked why he didn’t follow up about earlier reports of abuse that were made against Gana.  Lynn declared “I just didn’t follow up on it. It fell through the cracks”.  In fact reports had actually surfaced from Gana’s own family members who referred to him as a ‘deviate’.

When asked why he almost never contacted the police when notified about a child sexual assault he stated that “I thought I had to have a [victim] sitting in front of me making the allegations”.  Lynn made this assertion even in cases where a parent came to the archdiocese to report that their child had been sexually assaulted.

Lynn’s testimony to the Grand Jury ended when he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination.

The second article is a comprehensive report on the clergy sexual abuse scandal in Philadelphia and the charges filed against  Monsignor Lynn published in the September issue of Rolling Stone magazine.  The article, “The Catholic Church’s Secret Sex Crimes Files” provides a harrowing account of the sexual assaults that the children of Philadelphia suffered as a direct result of Lynn’s willful disregard for their safety.

The article reveals something else; that the cover up of child sex crimes in Philadelphia was not an accident, the infrastructure was put in place long before Monsignor Lynn was appointed as Secretary of the Clergy.  The article notes that the “protocols for protecting rapists in the clergy have been in place in Philadelphia for half a century, under the regimes of three different cardinals.  Lynn was simply a company man, a faithful bureaucrat who did his job exceedingly well”.

That is what makes the case of Monsignor Lynn so disturbing, he is not simply an aberration, a lone cleric who found himself working in the highest levels of the Catholic hierarchy.  His very position within the system required him to protect the church from scandal, to conceal the crimes of priest perpetrators, and to silence the victims.  The crimes that were possibly committed while William Lynn was Secretary of the Clergy did not require that he occupy the office, it just so happens that he did the job amazingly well.

The author of the article points out that “In a very real sense it’s not just Lynn who is on trial here.  It’s the Catholic Church itself.”

William Lynn, from the earliest days in the seminary, was “formed” to be obedient to the hierarchy.  When confronted with reports of child sexual abuse he knew what was required of him.

Rolling Stone discusses a recent court appearance in which Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes asked Lynn if he fully understood the ramifications of his decision to be represented by attorneys for the archdiocese of Philadelphia.  Hughes stated “You have been charged.  You could go to jail.  It may be in your best interest to provide testimony that is adverse to the archdiocese of Philadelphia, the organization that is paying your lawyers.  You understand that’s a conflict of interest?”

Lynn replied “yes”.

Judge Hughes again asks Lynn “Do you understand that you may be approached by the District Attorney offering you a plea deal in exchange for testimony against the archdiocese?  Do you realize that is a conflict of interest for your lawyers?”

Lynn simply replies “Yes, your honor”.

Rolling Stone concludes their article by noting that “Lynn must know on some level that the church could be using him as a shield one last time in its systematic campaign to hide decades of monstrous abuses against children.  But his willingness to sacrifice himself – his unswerving obedience to his superiors, even in the face of criminal charges, is what makes him such a loyal and devoted servant, all the way to the bitter end.”

 

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