Sunday, July 22, 2012

Prosecutors Seek Maximum Sentence for "Cold," "Craven" and "Amoral" Monsignor

In a 29-page, scorched-earth sentencing memo, prosecutors assail Monsignor William J. Lynn as a "cold" and "craven" "yes man" who, in his position as secretary for clergy for the Philadelphia archdiocese, functioned as an "amoral" enabler of predator priests.

Although defense lawyers have tried to portray Lynn as a powerless, low-level functionary, the prosecutors in their sentencing memo brand the monsignor as a "central actor" in the archdiocese sex scandals while he served as Cardinal Bevilacqua's secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004. In that job, prosecutors said, Lynn waged a 12-year campaign of "constant deceit," managing to keep both victims and parishioners in the dark, while displaying "a willingness to sacrifice anyone to please his superiors."

"Defendant's apparent lack of remorse for anyone but himself, his refusal to accept responsibility, and his failure to understand the criminality of his actions all demonstrate character in serious need of rehabilitation," prosecutors Mariana Sorensen and Patrick Blessington conclude. "A maximum sentence may be the only way to impress upon defendant that he committed a serious crime, that there are more important rules to follow than instructions from corrupt or misguided bishops, and that protection of children trumps the reputation of abusers and the institution that harbors them."

Lynn is scheduled to be sentenced at a 9 a.m. hearing Tuesday in front of Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, who presided over the monsignor's ten-week trial After being convicted on June 22 of one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a third-degree felony, Lynn faces a jail sentence of between 3 1/2 and 7 years. If the prosecution's sentencing memo is any guide, Tuesday's hearing won't be a spectacle for the faint-hearted.

The prosecutors begin their narrative in September 1992 when a former altar boy at St. Philip Neri Church in East Greenville, Pa., then a medical student, told the monsignor about being repeatedly abused in the 1970s by Father Ronald V. Avery. As a teenager, the victim said, he was one of many altar boys that Avery would take to his Jersey shore house, ply them with liquor, and then wrestle with them.

The victim told Lynn that Avery would "sometimes touch his genitals while they roughhoused." The victim also told Lynn that "Avery molested him in the priest's bed after [the victim] has assisted Avery" while he was working his part-time gig as a disc jockey. The priest subsequently took the victim on a ski trip to Vermont, where he molested him again in a motel bed.

Lynn repeatedly admitted that he was responsible for the archdiocese's predator priests, the prosecutors wrote, referring "to himself as the cardinal's 'delgate' in matters having to do with sexual abuse." Lynn included Father Avery on a 1994 list he drew up of "37 pedophiles and priests" accused or guilty of sexual abuse of minors. On the list, Lynn wrote that Avery was "guilty of sexual abuse of a minor."

Avery was shipped off to St. John Vianney, an archdiocese-owned facility, for nine months of psychiatric evaluation and treatment. The therapists recommended that Avery "not be assigned to a ministry involving adolescents or vulnerable minorities," the prosecutors wrote. At the time, Avery was also the legal guardian for six H-Mong children.

Lynn failed to follow the therapists' recommendations, the prosecutors wrote. He proposed that Avery be assigned as a parochial vicar to Our Lady of Ransom, a parish with a school. "In that position, Avery would have had regular, unrestricted access to children who were altar servers and who came to confession," the prosecutors wrote. Cardinal Bevilacqua, however, rejected Lynn's recommendation and told the monsignor to find Avery a job as a hospital chaplain.

Lynn recommended Avery be appointed as chaplain of Nazareth Hospital, which was approved by the cardinal. The monsignor also granted Avery's request to live in a rectory.

Lynn "permitted Avery to live, serve Mass, and hear confessions of school children at St. Jerome, even though the hospital had an apartment where chaplains could live," the prosecutors wrote. Lynn was  a member of a supervisory team that was supposed to monitor Avery's behavior. The team, however, met only once, "a full year after Avery was assigned to Jerome -- and it was convened by Avery because he hoped to cut back on his therapy sessions," the prosecutors wrote.

The team was supposed to monitor Avery's comings and goings, and make him sign in and out to document his whereabouts. Another priest at the parish had repeatedly warned Lynn that Avery "was not complying with his aftercare program and was continuing to work as a disc jockey," the prosecutors wrote. Rather than alert Avery's therapist that the priest wasn't playing by the rules, the prosecutors wrote, Lynn told the therapist that the priest complaining about Avery's work as a disc jockey was posing a problem, not Avery.

"As a result of Lynn's failure to report Avery's crimes to police, to recommend his removal from ministry, or even to supervise him properly, Avery enjoyed unsupervised access to children at St. Jerome," the prosecutors wrote. "In the sacristy after Mass in 1999, he raped one of those children," a 10-year-old altar boy, the prosecutors wrote. The victim was "orally sodomized and forced to perform a strip tease and sex acts" by Avery, the prosecutors wrote.

Lynn failed to inform Cardinal Bevilacqua in writing that Avery's supervision team was not meeting. He also never informed the cardinal in writing that Avery was continuing to say Mass with children and hear their confessions, as well as  maintain "a full schedule of disc jockey engagements, in violation of his aftercare restrictions," the prosecutors wrote. Maybe Lynn was trying to shield Bevilacqua from legal liability, the prosecutors suggested, or he was "simply hiding his own failure to effectively supervise Avery."

The fallout was that Lynn "alone knew the full extent of the danger Avery posed to children at St. Jerome and to any minors who helped Avery in his disc jockey jobs," the prosecutors wrote. While Lynn at trial claimed that his failure to monitor Avery was a mistake that "fell through the cracks," the prosecutors said it was "part of a continuous, systematic practice of retaining abusive priests in ministry, with continued access to minors, while taking pains to avoid scandal or liability for the Archdiocese."

Apparently, if you're a prosecutor, you get to keep beating people over the head with the same argument, even if nobody buys it.

Let's review the prosecutor's track record on the conspiracy charge: Lynn was acquitted by the jury of conspiring with Father Avery and/or anyone else to endanger the welfare of children. Two charges of conspiracy to endanger the welfare of children by Lynn allegedly conspiring with Father James J. Brennan were tossed by Judge Sarmina, after the prosecution put on its case, as not proven.

Jurors in interviews after the verdict have repeatedly said that they didn't buy that Lynn was involved in a conspiracy with Avery and/or anyone else to endanger the welfare of children.

On June 25, jury foreman Isa Logan went on Fox 29, and said, "None of us understood or believed that he [Lynn] had the understanding that here's a predator priest, I'll help him get to another parish so he can continue to enjoy what he likes to do. None of us believed that."

Most recently, Juror No. 7, Taleah Grimmage, went on this blog last week to state how she and the rest of the jurors didn't buy the prosecution's conspiracy theory:

Hi everyone, This is Taleah Grimmage (Juror #7). I stated before that my stomach was in knots about the conspiracy charge because, almost every single juror believed that there was a conspiracy. We just didn't believe that the conspiracy was to endanger children.
I specifically requested that the foreman send out a question (which he did) asking if the result of a conspiracy was that a child was endangered, did the endangerment also have to be the intent. Judge Sarmina told us that it did, which made it nearly impossible to convict, with the elements that we were given of conspiracy. Once the trial was over, I asked one of the D.A.'s why the Conspiracy was to EWOC (endangering the welfare of children). He stated that every conspiracy has to have a goal. Well why on earth didn't they charge him with Conspiracy to commit fraud, or something like that?
We ALL agreed that they conspired to hide things from the parishoners and keep things hush-hush to continue receieving monies and etc., and as a result kids were endnagered, but we didn't believe the endangerment was the actual goal. 

Undeterred, the prosecutors in their sentencing memo rattled off the cases of 15 abuser priests who they claim were "harbored and protected" by Lynn, so they could continue to harm more chldren. The monsignor allowed these 15 priests, including Stanley Gana, Nicholas Cudemo, and David Sicoli, to continue in ministry and endanger and abuse other children, despite numerous complaints from victims, the prosecutors wrote.

"Even without the authority to remove Avery himself, the defendant had many options for protecting children," the prosecutors wrote. "He could have told Bevilacqua and Avery's therapists the simple truth -- that the priest continued to present a danger to children because of his obvious non-compliance with restrictions."

"If Bevilacqua still would not allow Lynn to remove Avery, the defendant could have called the police, asked to change jobs, or just warned parents to watch their children around Avery because he had sexually abused a boy at a previous parish," the prosecutors wrote. "Fear of displeasing an imperious boss -- even a bishop -- does not excuse leaving children in intense danger or keeping their parents in the dark."

The rape of the 10-year-old altar boy wasn't the only "profound" damage caused by Lynn's behavior, the prosecutors wrote. Lynn's "actions and his dishonesty have caused many to question their faith and trust in the church and their priests," the prosecutors wrote. "Funds that could have been used to keep school and parishes open have been used to defend the actions of a man who lied to parishioners so that sexual predators could remain in their schools and churches with easy access to their children."

"Considering the devastating harm to children that Lynn risked, the number of children involved, the length of time he left them vulnerable, and the impact on the broader community, defendant's EWOC offense [endangering the welfare of a child] could not have been graver," the prosecutors wrote. "It easily merits the maximum sentence."

The prosecutors dwell on Lynn's behavior as secretary for clergy as proof of his bad character.

"For over a decade, [Lynn] demonstrated a cold, hard heart as hundreds of victims told their stories of horrific sexual predation by priests and looked to Lynn for understanding, compassion and action," the prosecutors wrote. "Instead, they found themselves victims again -- this time subjected to the cruel and dishonest practices that Lynn implemented in order to protect the church's reputation and money."

"Lynn heard the gut-wrenching accounts of sexual abuse victims day in and day out, yet he was not moved to make sure the priests who caused all this misery he witnessed be prevented from preying on more children," the prosecutors wrote. "He would tell the victims that their abusers had denied the allegations -- even sometimes when they had not. He routinely told them that the priests who had raped and molested them as children were not diagnosed as pedophiles ... And he would assure victims that the Archdiocese (that is Lynn) was taking appropriate measures to make sure the priests were not around children -- even when it (he) was taking no such measures."

"Lynn worked hard every day for 12 years to carry out a cynical and fraudulent policy designed to make it appear as if the Archdiocese were taking measures to prevent its priests from abusing children," the prosecutors wrote. "Had Lynn actually done nothing, victims might have understood that they needed to go to police. Or they might have gotten angry and exposed their abusers, or sued the Archdiocese."

"Lynn's behavior does not reflect a passive failure to perform a duty regardless of a known risk to children," the prosecutors wrote. "His active, even eager execution of Archdiocese polices -- carried out in the face of victims' vivid suffering, and employing constant deceit -- required a more amoral character, a striving to please his bosses no matter how sinister the business."

"Lynn, on the other hand, proved himself a 'yes man' and an enabler -- not only of predator priests, but also of a Cardinal intent on covering up their crimes," the prosecutors wrote. "Bevilacqua could not, and would not, have protected abusive priests as he did without Lynn ... shielding him from legal consequences by providing plausible deniability."

In one of several parting shots, the prosecutors found more evidence of bad character when the monsignor at trial attempted to defend himself by implicating his former boss, Cardinal Bevilacqua. Maybe Lynn would have gotten a prosecutorial merit badge if he had fallen on his sword and continued to defend the cardinal:

"Lynn's eagerness to please his superiors, should not, however, be confused with obedience or loyalty," the prosecutors wrote. "Lynn's obedience to his bishop lasted only until his own welfare was at risk. Throughout the trial, defendant and his counsel constantly resorting to pointing fingers, blaming others, and asserting that Lynn was powerless to do anything other than what he did. Defendant's attorney argued that others did evil things, just not his client. Lynn testified that the Cardinal made him deceive victims and parishioners."

"Lynn's actions show a hardness of heart, a penchant for deception, and a willingness to sacrifice anyone to please his superiors," the prosecutors conclude. Such behavior should merit the maximum sentence of seven years, the prosectors argue.

Judging from the overheated rhetoric in the prosecution's sentencing memo, Tuesday's hearing may go on for a while. Expect Blessington and company to pull out all the stops, raging from the pulpit against the evil monsignor, but hopefully falling short of comparing him to the warden at Dachau.

The silver lining for the defense is, once the judge sentences Lynn, and makes a ruling on whether he can get out on bail pending appeal, the monsignor will finally be out of Judge Sarmina's court. Lynn's defense lawyers will be free to appeal both Lynn's conviction and possibly the bail decision as well.


  1. Thank God for the prosecutors. The only people who truly recognize the fact that Lynn and his superiors were nothing more than pimps in clerical drag.

  2. Not to go completely off topic, but does anyone know what became of Fr. Avery's 6 adopted H-Mong children? Are they ok? Do they still live in the area? In the states? Does the Archdiocese have anything to do with them and if not, why is ANY priest allowed to adopt children, let alone SIX of them? Lots of unanswered questions.

  3. I hope that after Blessington nails down Lynn's prison sentence that he'll go after Cardinal Rigali and others, who should have known about Pedophile Priests under their supervision.

  4. Waiting and watching with great interest. Again, thanks for your work, Ralph.

  5. A priest should know the Gospel. Father Lynn obviously forgot the Gospel to protect himself and his boss. It does not matter how you define it - he is guilty as sin and deserves the maximum punishment under the law. Apologists for Lynn (and by comparision - Joseph Paterno) need to read the Gospel and understand that nothing is more important than the dignity of the human person - especially those who cannot defend themselves against preditors. Lynn enable preditors. Pure and simple.

    1. In regards to Paterno:

      The reaction of of Penn State (now) is exactly what the Church should have said regarding it's victims. Granted Penn State is attempting to minimize the damages it will have to pay it's victims but still. The clarity of it's denunciation (now) is a great thing to witness.

      Of course the Holy Roman Catholic Church will learn nothing from this and stonewall and continue to attack the people they have raped because after all they are the "People of God".

  6. Prosecutors Seek Maximum Sentence for "Cold," "Craven" and "Amoral" Monsignor

    I agree with the prosecution 100 percent. Lynn deserves to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. It is just too bad that Cardinals Krol and Bevilaequa are unable to be in the docket with him on Tuesday.

    There is the actual sexual abuse of children that has been going on for many, many decades in the AOP and then there is the cover-up conspiracy by the hierarchy - the bishops - that continues.

    Why Cardinal Justin Rigali has not been charged with SOMETHING, especially in light of the 2011 Grand Jury Report and Rigali's missteps right up to his retirement, is beyond me.

    The elephant in the living room continues to be the hierarchy's refusal to admit to the existance of a corrupted culture present in the church - the Clerical Culture - which the bishops past and/or present - were/are a part of and which enabled this tragedy to go on being covered up for so many decades. It's past time to be Accountabile & Transparent.

    It would be wonderful if Archbishop Charles Chaput himself was an example for bishops; if he changed his course and started being accountable and transparent and stopped spending millions and millions (how much now? 11.7 or 20.7 millions) of dollars defending the indefensible.

    It would be wonderful if Archbishop Charles Chaput changed his course relative to LEGISLATIVE REFORM. In Colorado he was successful in defeating child sexual abuse legislation by MISREPRESENTING THE BILL and he's doing everything possible to see that more adequate legislation, INCLUDING A TWO YEAR CIVIL WINDOW, is not passed in the PA Legislature.

    The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has betrayed us. What we must keep in mind is that WE ARE THE PEOPLE OF GOD.

    See you in court on Tuesday, in Chicago this weekend and in Boston in September.


    Sister Maureen Paul Turlish
    Advocate for Victim/Survivors & Legislative Reform

    1. No Sister,

      the elephant in the room is the entire victims' movement.

      A movement (thanks to SNAP and the Church that created it) that just doesn't exist.

      Holograms: SNAP; VOTF; Call to Action; Bishop Accountability, all created to appear "concerned" about the scandal.

      Please notice I say the scandal; not the victims.

  7. masters at deceit and con artists. here in canada you can read about the duplessis orphans ,reform schools,hospitals taken over by the state .

  8. My bet is that Msgr Lynn will receive the maximum sentence. If it's possible for the judge to add anything on top of the max (like the icing on the cake), I would bet on that, too.

    We have the benefit of knowing the players, as the trial's been going on since March.

    Anything less would shock me. Although, in this case, I would like to be shocked by a more lenient sentence.

    However, as Ralph said, once sentencing is handed down the Appeal process can begin. So, whatever will be, will be.


Thoughtful commentary welcome. Trolling, harassing, and defaming not welcome. Consistent with 47 U.S.C. 230, we have the right to delete without warning any comments we believe are obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.