A trial has begun in the U.S. against a former Philadelphia archdiocesan human resources officer. The public prosecutor's office accuses the Catholic clergyman William Lynn of having covered up for pedophile priests for years as a secret bearer.
The 61-year-old's defense lawyer, however, argued at the start of Monday's trial, according to U.S. media, that Lynn had, on the contrary, tried to fight abuse by drawing up a list of names of accused priests. If found guilty on all charges, Lynn faces up to 28 years in prison.
At the end of February, Lynn had incriminated Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who had died shortly before, in the scandal. Bevilacqua, archbishop of Philadelphia from 1988 to 2003, reportedly had a document prepared by Lynn in 1994 containing the names of 35 priests suspected of pedophilia destroyed. As evidence, his legal defenders cited a handwritten note by then-archiepiscopal secretary James E. Molloy on, who was Lynn's supervisor. Molloy is also already dead.
Lynn has been secretary for diocesan clergy since 1992 and thus responsible for 800 priests in personnel matters. According to the reports, he selectively searched personnel files after allegations of abuse and in 1994 turned over the names of incriminated and still-active clergy to his supervisor, Molloy. Bevilacqua, after learning of the matter, had ordered the four copies of the list to be shredded. Molloy, however, had kept a copy in a safe and created a file note about it. This list was recovered in 2006.
"Thousands of children at risk of sexual abuse"
Lynn's lawyers said in February that it was clear from Molloy's memorandum that Lynn was to be made a scapegoat. Bevilacqua had affirmed in 10 interviews between 2003 and 2004 that he would not interfere with the child abuse investigation in his archdiocese. The cardinal died on 31. January at the age of 88. In light of his advancing dementia, testimony had already been videotaped last fall. This could also be used in the current process.
An investigative committee concluded in January 2011 that Lynn had "put thousands of children at risk of sexual abuse" by entrusting them to the care of known pedophiles. The grand jury called it "unconscionable conduct".
Lynn is reportedly the first member of the leadership of a U.S. diocese to face legal action for handling the abuse scandal. Three other priests and a teacher from a Catholic school are accused along with Lynn. As a result of abuse scandals, eight Catholic U.S. bishoprics have had to file for bankruptcy. Milwaukee and Wilmington recently filed for protection from creditors.