William Lynn was a secretary for the clergy in the Philadelphia archdiocese; among his duties were the investigation of abuse complaints and making priest assignments — which you’d think is a good combination of duties. Unfortunately, he was a little confused and seemed to think his job was to make sure that the priests he was investigating for sexual abuse of children got assigned to fresh parishes with new, unsuspecting children. In the case of Edward Avery, for instance, he had a priest who’d been identified as a sexual abuser, who’d had psychiatric evaluations that said he was a continuing danger, and Lynn sent him off to a new place where he was caught and convicted of raping a 10-year-old altar boy.
Lynn has now been convicted covering up sexual abuse, and sentenced to a minimum of 3 years in prison. He tried to argue that the late Archbishop Bevilacqua had ordered his actions (which I wouldn’t be surprised at at all — it’s what the Catholic church does), but the court wouldn’t stand for his “I was obeying orders” defense. Now it’s time to watch the whole American branch of the Catholic church freak out.
“I think this is going to send a very strong signal to every bishop and everybody who worked for a bishop that if they don’t do the right thing, they may go to jail,” said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. “They can’t just say ‘the bishop made me do it.’ That’s not going to be an excuse that holds up in court.”
It would be nice to imagine that the clergy will now come clean and confess their sins and try to make their little world right, but I don’t believe that for a moment: expect them to clam up tighter than ever.