By Ralph Cipriano
After more than 18 months in prison, Msgr. William J. Lynn is a free man.
Shortly before 10 a.m. this morning, Lynn walked out of the Currann-Fromhold Correctional Facility on State Road in Northeast Philadelphia, where he was greeted by family members and some friends in collars.
He doesn't look the same. In prison, Lynn lost some 80 pounds.
"He looks good," said his lawyer, Thomas A. Bergstrom. "He was on the treadmill every day and [in prison] the food is not that great."
Lynn was wearing an electronic ankle bracelet when he walked out of jail. On Monday at 12:30 p.m., he has to report to Courtroom 507 in the Criminal Justice Center, where Judge M. Teresa Sarmina will personally review her conditions for paroling Lynn.
"He's prepared to go in Monday and tolerate whatever he has to tolerate," Bergstrom said. "He has no problem abiding by the court's rules."
Lynn will remain on administrative leave with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, according to a letter issued today by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.
"As such," Chaput wrote, "he may not function publicly as a priest."
The archbishop's decision to keep Lynn on administrative leave is fine with the monsignor, his lawyer said.
"He's not looking to serve in ministry right now anyway," Bergstrom said. So the issue of him being on administrative leave "is academic."
Lynn, the archdiocese's former secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, was the first Catholic administrator in the country to be convicted and jailed for the sexual sins of the clergy. Lynn never touched a child; instead he was charged with failing to prevent an abusive priest under his supervision from harming another child. Lynn was convicted by a jury of one third-degree felony count of endangering the welfare of a child.
On Dec. 26th, the state Superior Court reversed Lynn's conviction, saying Judge Sarmina's handling of the law in the case was "fundamentally flawed." The state's original child endangerment law only applied to adults who had direct contact with children, such as parents, teachers and guardians, the Superior Court found. The law did not apply to Lynn, who was a supervisor of other priests. The state child endangerment law has since been amended to include supervisors.
District Attorney Seth Williams has announced he will appeal the Superior Court's reversal of Lynn's conviction to the state Supreme Court. If the state Supreme Court decides not to take the case, Bergstrom said, Lynn hopes to be taken off administrative leave by the archdiocese, and to return to active status as a priest.
Bergstrom said Lynn was not bitter at anyone, and was grateful to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for putting up a $25,000 bail deposit.
In his letter "to the clergy and faithful of the church in Philadelphia," Archbishop Chaput defended that decision.
"At my direction, the Archdiocese has provided 10 percent of Msgr. Lynn's bail -- $25,000 -- to assist his release," Chaput wrote.
"The Superior Court ruling does not vindicate Msgr. Lynn's past decisions," Chaput wrote. "Not does it absolve the Archdiocese from deeply flawed thinking and actions in the past that resulted in bitter suffering for victims of sexual abuse and their families."
"Msgr. Lynn has already spent 18 months in prison," the archbishop wrote. The reversal by the Superior Court "is not a matter of technicalities but of legal substance. That is made very clear in the text of the Superior Court's decision."
"Msgr. Lynn presents no danger to anyone," Chaput wrote. "He poses no flight risk. The funding for his bail has been taken from no parish, school or ministry resources, impacts no ongoing work of the Church, and will be returned when the terms of bail are completed. Nor does it diminish in any way our determination to root out the possibility of sexual abuse from the life of our local Church."
"As a result, I believe that assisting Msgr. Lynn's family and attorney with resources for his bail is both reasonable and just," Chaput concluded. "We have acted accordingly."