Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"The Defense Calls Monsignor Lynn"

At 11:10 a.m. Wednesday in Courtroom 304 of the Criminal Justice Center, defense lawyer Thomas Bergstrom stood up and made a surprise announcement.

"Your Honor, the defense calls Msgr. Lynn."

The monsignor left the defense table, where he had been held hostage the past eight weeks, and walked over to the witness stand to testify in his own defense.

The courtroom was packed with relatives and men in collars, who turned out to display their support for the archdiocese's former secretary for clergy. Lynn is on trial for conspiracy to endanger the welfare of children by allowing abuser priests to continue in ministry. He is the first Catholic administrator in the country to be charged for allegedly covering up sex abuse of minors by priests.

In three hours on the witness stand, the monsignor appeared relaxed, smiled often, and never raised his voice, even when the prosecutor was tossing fastballs at his head.

He said he stayed on the job as secretary for clergy for 12 years because, "I thought I was helping people." Lynn asserted that he provided pastoral care to fellow priests, as well as aid and counseling to victims of sex abuse.

Lynn, 61, testified that he had been a priest for 36 years. He said he only made recommendations about priestly assignments, and that only the cardinal had the power to move priests, or put them on administrative leave, or restrict their ministries.

Lynn said he decided to compile a list of abuser priests in 1994 after he was asked to investigate Father James Dux, accused of molesting at least 11 boys. Father Dux was encouraged to retire in 1994 by Cardinal Bevilacqua.

"It concerned me that there might be others like him," Lynn told the jury. The monsignor said he wanted "to look and see whether there were any other priests like James Dux out there, and get the names to my superiors."

Lynn told the jury how he combed through 323 secret archive files and compiled a list of 35 active priests accused or convicted of sexually abusing minors. He attached the list to a memo he wrote that talked about Father Dux spurring a search through the secret archive files.

Lynn said the last time he saw the list and the Father Dux memo was at an "issues meeting" he attended with his bosses, Bishop Edward P. Cullen, Msgr. James E. Molloy and Cardinal Bevilacqua. The cardinal ordered the list of 35 abuser priests shredded in 1994. Lynn said he didn't hear about the shredded memo until he was preparing for this case, and found out during a visit to his lawyer's office.

When a grand jury was investigating sex abuse in the archdiocese, Lynn was subpoenaed and asked to produce the list.

"I couldn't find it," Lynn testified.

Lynn's direct testimony ended in a flourish, when Bergstrom asked the monsignor why he didn't just quit his job as secretary for clergy, as some critics have suggested.

It's "not in my nature to do that," Lynn said. He explained he had a "simple faith" that "the will of God works through the bishop as far as your assignments are concerned." He said he preaches that belief to fellow priests. It was a belief that provoked classmates in the seminary to call him a fool, Lynn said with a smile. But the monsignor said he sincerely believed it, so how could he quit his job as secretary for the clergy under Cardinal Bevilacqua?

"It's just not who I am," Lynn said. 

"That's all I have," Bergstrom said.

It was time for cross-examination. Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington didn't stand up. From his seat at the prosecution table, he just glared at Lynn.

"You said you were doing the will of God?" Blessington asked incredulously. 

That's not what I said, Lynn told the prosecutor. He repeated his belief that the will of God works through the bishop, when he doles out assignments to priests.

Blessington brought up a passage from the Gospel of Luke, where Jesus warned that if anyone causes "little ones to stumble," it would better if for them they had a millstone around their neck.

What about that will of God, Blessington wanted to know. Did you really think when you were working as secretary for clergy, that you were actually helping children?

"I believe in my heart I was," Lynn testified. 

"Didn't work out that way for Danny," the prosecutor said, referring to a victim who had been raped by a priest.

"I did my best for what I can do," Lynn replied.

Blessington brought up Msgr. James E. Molloy, who taught Lynn how to investigate sex abuse cases. He cited a handwritten note that he thought Molloy had written on a 1991 memo from Lynn. "Unnecessary statement," the note said. "Never admit to victims that there are other cases."

That wasn't Molloy's handwriting, Lynn told Blessington, that was Cardinal Bevilacqua's handwriting. That caused a stir in the courtroom, as Lynn dropped the dime on his dead boss. Bevilacqua was found dead on Jan. 31, a day after Judge M. Teresa Sarmina ruled the cardinal was competent to testify as a witness at this trial.

You did whatever the cardinal told you to do, Blessington asked.

"I did do what the cardinal asked," Lynn said. 

Blessington asked if Lynn had ever lied to victims of sex abuse. Only once, Lynn said. Blessington sneered at that. The prosecutor charged that Lynn had also routinely lied to parishioners by not usually telling them the real reason that abuser priests were being removed from parishes, so they could be shipped out to sex clinics for psychiatric evaluations. But parishioners were told the priest had Lyme disease, Blessington said, or that Father was leaving for health reasons.

"The cardinal wouldn't allow me to announce why someone was leaving," Lynn responded. And the dead cardinal took another hit.

And as far as the one priest Blessington mentioned, "He did have Lyme disease," Lynn said.

As for protecting children, "I was doing that every day," Lynn said. 

So why didn't he do more? "I didn't have any power," Lynn told the jury. "I could only make recommendations." Unless a priest confessed that he sexually abused someone, Lynn said. Then he had the power to remove a priest.

Blessington brought up several instances where the priests that Lynn shipped out for psychiatric evaluations had a pattern of abusing more children when they were transferred to new assignments. So you were harming kids with your actions, Blessington said.

"At that time, I had no knowledge that I was hurting kids," Lynn claimed. 

Don't you know that pedophilia is incurable, the prosecutor asked.

"I did not," Lynn said.

Blessington brought up the shredded memo, and asked if it would be helpful to Lynn if that list of 35 abuser priests disappeared.

"No," Lynn said.

Blessington asked Lynn if he remembered who typed the list. "I believe I did," the monsignor responded. But he did not remember doing it. In previous testimony, Lynn's assistant. Msgr. James Beisel had told the jury he did not remember who typed the memo either.

Blessington suggested that Lynn's memory lapse showed how he didn't care about the safety of children.

Lynn disagreed, but didn't raise his voice. "It doesn't show I don't care," he said.

When court adjourned for the day, at 4 p.m., it appeared that Blessington was just getting warmed up. The cross-examination resumes Thursday morning. 


  1. Excellent reporting Ralph, thank you. I have been following the blog since the beginning.

  2. Curious about what time the cross started today? And if it was late afternoon, wouldn't it have been better to keep the direct going until end of day so that any positives that came out of Lynn's testimony in direct would have been the only testimony to ring in the jurors' heads till morning?

    Interesting that Lynn indentifies the note handwritings as the cardinal and not Molloy.

    Hadn't any prior witness already confirmed that?

  3. Cross started about 2:45. No, prior witnesses had said the note was Molloy's handwriting.

  4. Bevilacqua isn't on trial here. Lynn is. He knew children were being brutalized. He had the option of calling police, confronting the Cardinal, and/or quitting his job. But that's just not who he is. No person in America has to commit crimes of omission or commission because our employer asks us to. The person that Lynn is is a person who needs to go to prison for endangering children. Bevilacqua may be a bigger criminal, but that's neither here nor there. Bevilacqua is not on trial here.

  5. I would like these questions to be put to Lynn
    " Did you tell the cardinal that Avery and a teacher at the same parish molested the same 10 year old? What did the cardinal say and what did he tell you to do? and whatever answer .."Did you do it?"

  6. If these ae truly followers of Jesus, they would confess to their sins, and take their punishment. That they are placing the blame on others only compounds their sins. I am incredulous that they are no acknowledging their failings.
    They SUCK!

    1. They are just doing WWSD.

    2. PatO: Maybe Lynn is doing a WWCBD! *What would Cardinal Bevilacqua do?"

  7. funny ... who were the sexual abuse victims that Lynn aided and counseled for 12 years? what was he doing aiding and counseling victims if he was not trained? or did he think he was trained since he also thought he was helping them? did the cardinal tell him to provide counseling and aid to victims as well? for that matter why does the catholic church ever need to get advice from other professionals when the abuse, investigating and counseling of victims AND perpetrators are all provided under one roof by the same person and directed by "the man at the top" no matter his morals or ethics? certainly if Lynn counseled even one victim he would have know these victims lives and souls were forever affected? 12 years of helping to make a difference ... how was that working? wonder how many he would still be aiding and counseling if the GJ didn't happen? and finally ... counselling and aiding priest? what was that about? effective? painfully sad and frightening. When do Cullen and others go to trial?

    1. It is totally ludicrous to think that Lynn could have been placed in a position to counsel victims, whether trained or not, because of his alleged collaboration, or at least silence consent, in the coverups. Being in the position to counsel victims, Lynn could find out more about the victims case and not work in that victims's best interest (not that he would, anyway)! Maybe that is why SNAP tells Survivors to go to the police, FIRST, rather than to a Church counselor!

  8. The Church thinks they are above the law. They can operate in our cities, influence politics, claim to be protecting children, yet they don't have to obey our laws?

  9. In this post, it is evident that Lynn believed his actions were correct.This is evidence of how the structure and culture of the catholic leadership enables corruption.

  10. Crazy risk putting Lynn on the stand. There is way too much bad stuff out there with the other cases. On the prosecution side, there is a risk in cross examining him too harshly. Nobody likes rats, but if you see a kid torturing a rat, you start to root for the rat. The same thing happens if you are too tough on a respectful witness. The ADA has to be careful to respectfully dismantle his Nuremberg defense without being so aggressive that the jury feels bad for Lynn. Knowing Bergstrom, Lynn has been through a lot of mock cross examination and is prepared to deal with very aggressive questions. We will see how folks thinks he does. The blame it on the Cardinal defense after so much grand jury testimony where he did not implicate the Cardinal might not fly.

  11. If Avery has been brought up in Lynn testimony why can't he be subpoenaed to testify?? kopride?

    1. You can be sure in every diocese in the US they are cleaning out files and creating ways to cover their ass.

    2. "If Avery has been brought up in Lynn testimony why can't he be subpoenaed to testify?? kopride?"

      The defense could subpoena Avery to testify but he has already pleaded guilty to conspiring with Lynn so the Prosecution could then use the plea if the defense opened the door. If Lynn testifies that he investigated the Avery allegations and concluded that they were false, then the Prosecution could put him on for rebuttal.

      But it sounds like Lynn, on direct, is simply saying that he was just following orders. Unless the prosecution calls Avery to testify that Lynn advised him that Lynn was making the decisions rather than Bevilacqua, its probably not true rebuttal. And remember the prosecution cannot cross examine Lynn about Avery and then call a rebuttal witness to impeach him on what would be a collateral or credibility witness.

      Subpoena is merely the tool that allows a party to compel a witness to appear at trial. The trial judge still has to rule on whether it is relevant and admissible in rebuttal. Rebuttal witness have to rebut a contention advanced by the defendant during their case in chief. If the defense contends that Avery did not abuse anyone, or that the accusers were lying, then it is rebuttal. If it is offered for a new contention by the prosecution, or a contention that could have been advanced during the prosecution case, then it is not true rebuttal and should have been offered during the prosecution's case. Also the 403 standard still applies to rebuttal and that is the probative value of the evidence has to outweigh the danger of undue prejudice. So at this stage, there are multiple hurdles: it has to be truly rebuttal evidence, it has to be relevant and admissible on a rebuttal issue; and it must be more probative than prejudicial.Listen, I was flabbergasted that they put Lynn on the stand to testify so nothing will surprise me now, but I would be shocked if Lynn opened the door to an appearance by Avery.

  12. "You can be sure in every diocese in the US they are cleaning out files and creating ways to cover their ass."

    There is always a Malloy who keeps a copy, or data resides somewhere on a hard drive or network. It is more difficult than you think to make something truly disappear forever.Pirates are essentially correct: two can keep a secret if one is dead. Remember these memos and files are copied or forwarded to general counsel, outside law firms, experts, and internally. A cover up effort always looks worse than the actual documents destroyed. Most judges will issue a spoliation charge, ie, adverse inference, if there are documents that existed that were destroyed to prevent discovery.

    1. Keeping a copy will not always absolve the copy keeper.

  13. Lynn is like the mafia lieutenant who gets an order from the Don of the mafia, and sends out a hit man to kill another mobster. The difference is that Lynn sent out known child rapists to rape innocent children, and Lynn is blaming his despicable, demonic dead boss.


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