The National Catholic Review

Msgr. William J. Lynn of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was sentenced to 3 to 6 years in state prison today for child endangerment by a judge who said he turned a blind eye while "monsters in clerical garb" sexually abused children and devastated the church and community.

"You knew full well what was right, Monsignor, but you chose wrong," Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina told him.

See the full story here.

Comments

Tim O'Leary | 7/26/2012 - 12:15am
Sandi #10
Maybe you can see into the heart of others, but I doubt it, and it is a dangerous stance since none of us is free from sin or bad judgment at times. The whole situation in Penn State or that developing in the California Public Schools shows people fail in positions of authority more often than not. There are now over 700,000 people on the National Sex Offender Public Registry, so there must be over a million people who knew these perps but avoided doing anything.

Put yourself in Msgr. Lynn's shoes for a minute: Fr. Avery sounded very manipulative (like a lot of pedophiles - see Sandusky), he denied everything, the accusation was 20 years previously with no corroborating evidence, and there was no legal route. Msgr. Lynn, who had a job he didn't want, and had little coercive power, still persuaded him to go to a psychiatric home for treatment. Then, after six months, he received a positive review from the doctors, and, on the advice of the Bishop, he took Fr. Avery out of active ministry. All of these decisions were good. Then he made the fatal mistake of selecting a chaplaincy near the elementary school, instead of far far away from children, with tragic results. Now, instead of serving a parish and doing charity work the rest of his life (which could have been the sentence), the judge thinks he should be locked up in a prison, to make the rest of us feel morally superior.

I agree that sometimes it is useful to use a sledgehammer to nail the message home. And some good might come of this, in that, coupled with the Sandusky case, no one in authority can be weak or indifferent when confronted with an accusation of child abuse. It is not an excuse at all, but, I think it is still more Christian to sympathize with the suffering this priest will now undergo, along with the poor child who was abused by Fr. Avery.


6466379 | 7/25/2012 - 6:14pm
#10, Sandi S., I understand your rage and I too feel enraged by the sexual abuse of children by anyone, especially people like clergy, teachers, family members, whomever. It is definitely not a “priest thing” but rather a sad commentary on how perverse human nature can become. Monsignor Lynn knew better than to get sucked into a corrupt system, corruption that has been greatly corrected and will continue to be corrected. That he was “carrying out orders” does not excuse him but does tend to mitigate his degree of guilt which could still be great. I root this opinion is what I understand to be a fundamental principle in determining moral culpability, namely, “Circumstances alter cases.”

 I am not excusing Monsignor Lynn of all responsibility. He deserves punishment. All I am suggesting is, that due to the complexity of his involvement, I would have sentenced him as he was sentenced, then because his case was altered by the circumstance of being scapegoated and twisted by what amounts to  years of false indoctination by others who committed the “greater sin” the “greater crime” I would have revoked the sentence. I truly believe that HE does not deserve prison time. Indeed, this whole mess of clergy sex scandal is so morally and legally complex and disgusting, that it does require a case, by case, evaluation and cannot be swept away with one mighty swoosh. But I am neither a moral theologian, or criminal expert, so if I am mistaken I apologize.
david power | 7/25/2012 - 2:30pm
@John O Sullivan,
David Smith is indeed not being serious.He loves to troll on this issue.He has never even said so much that childrape is even a bad thing.
You can scower the America backlog on this issue and all you will see is that his comments revolve around this being a "storm in a teacup".
Pity ,cos on other issues he is a very intelligent man with interesting things to say.
I think that this is a good sign, it may serve as a wake-up call to the church hierarchy.I wonder what the Pope makes of it all.
Monsignor Lynn could look on this as a much needed purification for all of the Church.The favourite greek word of glib clerics is metanoia...Now they will be forced to rethink the omerta policies of the past.
Will this have a bearing on older cases?Will Cardinal Law be called back to face trial?
The statutory time will now be the Bishops last refuge perhaps.Cardinal Brady will no doubt be safe from prosecution but Bishop Finn will most likely serve time too.
I hope that the victims can take a little solace knowing that justice has been served.  
Sandi Sinor | 7/25/2012 - 2:24pm
#9 - where is there any injustice in this sentence? The man, someone who has been extensively trained (professionally yet!) for years and years in morality and correct formation of conscience, freely chose to participate in protecting priests accused of molesting and raping kids. It's PRUDENT to stand aside and keep quiet when you know that priests who have already molested kids are being turned lose to prey on even more kids? What does it take to be CORRUPT in your mind anyway? Are only the perverts who rape kids corrupt? And not the people who enabled them?

He was ''just following orders'' and because he chose to follow orders instead of blowing the whistle on these creeps and calling the cops, a lot of kids became victims. They have suffered well beyond what Lynn has suffered and it was the not the result of their own choices.  He made his choice to be ''prudent'' and try to save his own skin by not being a whistleblower. And now he is reaping what he sowed.

He and his bosses were ''accessories'' to the crimes for all intents and purposes, morally if not legally. 

Fully agreed that he is taking the hit for his bosses who are unfortunately beyond the reach of civil law these days. It's really too bad that these bishops can't be touched - either because they were spirited out of the country like Law, or they have died, or the statutes of limitation are up. 

The judge is sending a much-needed message to the church and beyond it - to all whose silence enables evil to continue when they could have stopped it. Think Joe Paterno.  Don't protect people who rape kids or you too will pay a heavy price.

Good for the Judge. Her upbringing as a Catholic seems to have taught her more about moral right and wrong and forming a conscience than these priests understand. She did her undergrad at St. Mary's and her law at Georgetown. But she also worked in the Illinois Dept of Children and Family services and probably has some real, up close and personal experience with victims of child molesters.
 Maybe if some of the bishops and their underlings had been women and mothers and grandmothers (like Judge Sarmina) they wouldn't have just stood by and let these sick men damage and sometimes destroy the lives of so many kids.  She didn't give him the max - she could have. And a lot of people think she should have.
6466379 | 7/25/2012 - 1:36pm
It’s my opinion that Monsignor William J. Lynn was scapegoated, for the sins and crimes of his Superiors, which doesn’t mean that he too, does not share a degree of culpability, for refusing to cooperate with a corrupt system, assumed by many at the time to be was prudent, not corrupt. It was however, a corrupt system plain and simple ,that protected priest sex-abusers of children. But because Monsignor Lynn whom many acknowledge to be a good priest and was simply “following orders” once found guilty by a jury, should have received a suspended sentence by Judge M.T.Sarmina, not three to six years in prison.


 Thankfully, the Judge certainly doesn’t fit the mold of Luke’s “Unjust Judge” who, so as to get rid of a troublesome case administered an arbitrary judgment freeing him from a judicial hot potato! But it seems to me the Judge should have acted with greater judicial insight.


 This scenario reminds me of what a priest-friend used to say when questionable judgmental edicts came down from on high, from Religious Superiors – “There had better be a JUDGEMENT!” He was talking about the Final Judgment at the End of Time, when according to Catholic teaching God will set aright all injustice suffered by humanity, for all to see. I sure hope this does happen for Monsignor Lynch and for uncountable billions of people who have endured injustice in any way whatsoever
Matthew Pettigrew | 7/25/2012 - 11:21am
Consorting with witches? The evidence against Msgr. Lynn shows that he was aware of dozens of abuse cases over more than a decade. But he hesitated to press Cardinal Bevilacqua to remove priests, even those who admitted to abusing children. At his sentencing yesterday, Msgr. Lynn claimed that he did his best given his limited power. What possble justification can there be for a man in his position to maintain the perverse belief that his obligation to his archbishop and the institution was more important than his obligation to the children?
JOHN SULLIVAN | 7/25/2012 - 10:22am
 # 6  Surely your comment can't be serious because it lacks any sensitivity to the magnitude of the evil of child abuse in the Church. Clericalism, in the context of this scandal, is sin. The well being of one human being,  vulnerable children in these cases, trumps any consideration of scandal to the Church.
David Smith | 7/25/2012 - 2:50am
This country has been for some years been suffering through a child-abuse witch hunt.  Msgr. Lynn has been branded as consorting with witches.
Matthew Pettigrew | 7/24/2012 - 10:33pm
I care very little about how much time Msgr. Lynn and Jerry Sandusky spend in jail. What I care about is that everyone who has anything to do with children should now understand that when child abuse is discovered or suspected, the very first phone call must be to the police or to the district attorney. Only after assuring that the children are safe, can damage-control phone calls be made to the head coach or the college president or the cardinal. Children first, institution second. It should be a simple thing to remember.
Magy Stelling | 7/24/2012 - 9:33pm
Oh yes a cleric has been found guilty and sentenced to 3 to 6 years.  But judging from some who plead he, Monsignor Lynn, is a good man and a"patsy" seem to miss the point.  That point being that the culture of clericalism which is drilled into all who have hands anointed with holy oil in the sacrament of Holy Orders is to be accepted and obeyed.  And sad to say, despite the promise of Vatican II, many in the laity still cling to a culture that is out dated and draconian when it comes to any who are hurt by a sexual and psychologically challenged clerics and some  outspoken in the  hierarchy who are more interested in protecting themselves at the expense of those truly harmed.

What cleric or member of the laity does not realize  the difference betweenthe harm done to  a sexually abused child, teen age or young adult and the damaged reputation  of the church?  Intellectually I think  everyone  will acknowledge the vast difference. But when it come to an individual,  a class mate, one that you trusted and truly respected be he the abuser, the one  who covered up the  "mess" or the congenial hierarchic who had mastered the intricacies of public relations, the choice becomes much harder if one has chosen clericalism above the human being. Or in other word  one must use an informed conscience in  choosing  between the dictates of the hierarchy above the protection of all  and the needs of the sexually abused ones. Ones conscience must never be brain washed by this culture of clericalism.

I truly feel sad that a monsignor of my Church has been sentenced to prison. I believe most clergy are embarrassed and some might wonder if they will be next! However his choice was not for caring  for the victims and protecting other children but for obeying a power driven cardinal when he ultimately knew it was wrong.  Hopefully this sentence turns into a learning situation for both laity and clergy.
Tim O'Leary | 7/24/2012 - 8:20pm
Since Avery got only 5 years for actually abusing the 10-year child, this sentence for child endangerment seems cruel and unusual to me. Remember that this is not exactly a sex-abuse charge of Msgr. Lynn, but a gross negligence charge. And all charges of an actual conspiracy were thrown out. Oh, and the priest on a charge of pedophilia (Fr. Brennan) actually gets off because of a hung jury (at least he will be re-tried).

My understanding of the case is a man came to Msgr. Lynn's office in the mid-90’s and accused a Fr. Avery of groping and sexually touching him 20 years earlier (in the 1970s). The statute of limitations had expired so there was no legal route. Lynn confronted Fr. Avery, who denied anything had happened. Msgr. Lynn was obviously unconvinced because he persuaded Fr. Avery to go to a psychiatric home for evaluation and treatment, which he did for 6 months.

He was then released by the doctors with the claim of ''encouraging progress'' (no doctors have been charged) and Lynn was going to send him back to work in a parish. But the Bishop refused to let him go back to a working parish and instead wanted to assign him to a chaplaincy. So Lynn did this but picked a chaplaincy that was next to an elementary school. Then Avery abuses 1 child in that school (that we know of). He is defrocked and handed over to the police.

So, the crime Msgr. Lynn was convicted of was the very bad judgment to let him reside near enough to a school.

Jeanne is right in that this sends a strong message to all people in authority who deal with children, not just the Church, but to all teachers, administrators, coaches, parents, etc. All claims of inappropriate sexual contact with children should be promptly reported to the police, the accused abuser should be removed of any position that is proximate to children while the investigation is being conducted (hopefully promptly). If someone is found guilty, they should face prison sentences and be put on the National Sex offender Public Registry when they are released. The child should be financially compensated by the state, or by the institution if the latter was negligent, and the amount should be decided by an impartial state committee (not by the courts) - with no money going to the lawyers for any part of punitive damages. If the accused is found innocent, he should be compensated by the state if he cannot get employment even though innocent.
Jeanne Linconnue | 7/24/2012 - 5:52pm
I'm not so sure that this won't be a deterrance - especially for the lower level clergy employed by hierarchy. The clergy were untouchables for too long, but it seems those days are over.

He may be the fall guy - the one left holding the bag - but it's a good thing he's not skating away with "time served" or "house arrest". It's too bad his cardinal boss wasn't around to stand trial. And it's a sin that Law was whisked away to a safe place untouchable by American legal authorities, but all of these men are now on notice.

It's a powerful and long overdue message - no monsignor or bishop or cardinal is above the law anymore in this country. The police and judiciary will no longer look away as they did for so long. And the lower level people who work for the hierarchy and know what's going on can't hide behind a "I was only following orders" defense. His plea about how much he's "suffered" during the last few months probably was the last straw for the judge, who knew that kids suffered for years (some for life, and some to the point of suicide) because he was too cowardly to do the right thing. Obedience to men cannot trumph obedience to God and doing what's right.

 Let's hear it for the judge.
Amy Ho-Ohn | 7/24/2012 - 4:42pm
This seems like a very Soviet way to run a justice system: to turn a blind eye while everybody breaks a law for decades, then swoop in with guns blazing and grab one guy and blow him to smithereens in front of everybody as a demonstration of the importance of obeying the law. It doesn't deter others from breaking the law. It just satisfies people who like to watch a gory spectacle and makes the authorities feel like they're doing something about crime.

On the other hand, three to six isn't bad. A black teenager in Texas with a court-appointed defense attorney can get three years for smoking pot.