Deliberations start in Philly priest-abuse trial
By Maryclaire Dale
June 1, 2012
Philadelphia — Jury deliberations have begun in the groundbreaking trial of a Roman Catholic church official charged with endangering children by keeping predator-priests in ministry.
Monsignor William Lynn is the first U.S. church official charged for his handling of abuse complaints. Charged with conspiracy and two counts of child endangerment, he faces about 10 to 20 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
Jurors heard weeks of testimony from more than a dozen alleged victims, including a nun, a former priest and young adults with drug and other problems they link to the alleged abuse.
Lynn said he tried to get the Philadelphia archdiocese to address the growing crisis, only to be rebuffed by the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. But prosecutors say Lynn could have quit or called police.
Lynn's co-defendant, the Rev. James Brennan, is charged with molesting a teen in 1996. His lawyer calls the accuser, who has a lengthy criminal record, a con man seeking a payout from the church. At a related church trial, the accuser withdrew a second allegation that Brennan also exposed himself to the teen in 1999, according to testimony in the criminal trial.
Brennan, 49, was the rare Philadelphia priest to go through a canon or church trial on a sex-abuse allegation. His status as a priest is pending at the Vatican.
Brennan did not testify in the criminal trial, unlike Lynn, who spent three grueling days on the witness stand.
The mild-mannered, white-haired monsignor told jurors he did all he could — within what he called his limited authority at the archdiocese — to help victims. But on cross-examination, he acknowledged that he had not helped the 10-year-old altar boy raped by the Rev. Edward Avery in 1999, seven years after Lynn met with another Avery accuser.
"And I'm sorry about that," Lynn said quietly.
Avery is in prison after admitting the crime. Lynn is charged with endangering that child and Brennan's accuser.
Six men and six women sit on the city jury, along with eight alternates. Many have ties to Catholic schools or parishes, but said they could judge the case fairly. There are about 1.5 million Catholics in the five-county archdiocese.