Last year, Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy, was convicted of reassigning a priest whom he knew had molested a young boy to a parish that had a school attached to it. That priest, William Avery, later pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting an altar boy at his new parish. To prosecutors' minds, that was child endangerment--and a jury agreed, sentencing Lynn to three to six years in prison. Yesterday, an appeals court threw out Lynn's conviction, saying that the law under which he was convicted didn't apply to him at the time.
In their 43-page ruling, the judges - John T. Bender, Christine L. Donahue and John L. Musmanno - sided with Lynn's attorneys, who argued that the child-endangerment law that was on the books in the state when Avery held his position only applied to people who had direct supervision of children, like parents and other caregivers.
The law was changed and broadened in 2007 to include employers whose employees end up harming children.
"I'm happy. This is very rewarding," Thomas Bergstrom, one of Lynn's attorneys, said yesterday.
"This was a labor of love. We fought long and hard, so it's nice to know that you were right."
Bergstrom said he hopes that Lynn will be released from a state prison in Wayne County in the next few days.
Prosecutors were not so pleased.
"I am disappointed and strongly disagree with the court's decision," District Attorney Seth Williams said in a statement distributed to the news media.
"While we are deciding what our next course of action will be, we most likely will be appealing this decision."
Read the full ruling here
. It found that while Lynn put the archdiocese's reputation above protecting children, it was not enough to prove intent to endanger kids. In essence, it found that while Lynn's actions ultimately ended up putting kids at risk, the law didn't apply to him at the time.
Lynn's lawyer, Thomas Bergstrom, appeared on CNN's New Day earlier, and claimed that the acquittal happened mainly because prosecutors knew they were prosecuting the wrong man. When CNN's Chris Cuomo wondered how Lynn wasn't responsible by way of transferring Avery, Bergstrom said that in order to get a conviction, Lynn said that Williams and his team would have had to prove Lynn was the equivalent of a parent, a guardian or a supervisor--and Lynn was merely a supervisor of a supervisor. Incredibly, though, Bergstrom maintains that Lynn did the right thing--even though he didn't report Avery to the police. Watch here.
Incredibly, church officials are actually considering whether to let Lynn back into the ministry again.
Kenneth Gavin, the Archdiocese's director of communications, said church officials would have to decide whether Lynn will return to active ministry.
"I know the monsignor would like to be able to serve in some capacity," Bergstrom said.
Lynn most recently had served as pastor of St. Joseph Church in Downingtown, which opened a new $9 million facility earlier this year.
Apparently there are some in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia who forget that the bar for acceptable behavior is a much lower one than the bar below which you go to jail. The fact they're even considering letting Lynn preach again shows just how much cleaning up needs to be done in the higher levels of the church.