Sun, Jun 24, 2012 - Page 7 News List

US church official convicted over child abuse cover-up

AFP, PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA

A Philadelphia monsignor became on Friday the highest-ranking US church official to be convicted over a child sex cover-up, after he was found guilty of endangerment.

Monsignor William Lynn, who served as secretary of the Philadelphia Archdiocese from 1994 to 2001, was acquitted of two other counts — one of conspiracy and a second charge of child endangerment.

Lynn, 61, who took to the witness stand for three days during his 10-week trial, is not charged with molesting children, but rather with covering up the crimes of priests who did. His sentence is due to be announced on Aug. 13.

The trial, the first in the US involving a senior official in the Catholic Church, also centered on two other Philadelphia priests.

Reverend James Brennan stands accused of sexually abusing boys in the 1990s, while defrocked priest Edward Avery pleaded guilty on the eve of trial. Avery was sentenced to between two-and-a-half and five years in prison.

The jury was hung over the charges dealing with Brennan, saying the jurors did not fully understand them.

“We needed clarity on how to apply the evidence. We needed to learn how to apply the elements of the charges,” jury foreman Isa Logan said.

Lynn was found not guilty of endangering Brennan’s accuser and not guilty of conspiring to endanger that accuser. He was found guilty of endangering Avery’s victim and not guilty of conspiracy with regard to that victim.

“The jury’s decision is not a full reckoning, but the truth is now revealed,” sex abuse trial lawyer Jeff Anderson said. “Until now, no top Catholic officials have been criminally convicted for child endangerment. It gives great hope and promise for a better future now that this precedent has been made and this truth has been revealed through the courage of so many.”

Many Roman Catholics in the US still believe that priests are sexually abusing children, said a report from a lay advisory group released last week by the nation’s bishops.

The National Review Board said there has been a “striking improvement” in the way the Church deals with the abuse of minors by clergy.

However, it acknowledged: “Despite solid evidence [to the contrary], many of the faithful believe that sexual abuse by clergy is occurring at high levels and is still being covered up by bishops.”

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