Priest gets 3-6 years in sex abuse case

July 24, 2012 at 5:11 PM
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PHILADELPHIA, July 24 (UPI) -- A Catholic cleric found to have endangered children by failing to turn in priests who preyed on them was sentenced to prison Tuesday in Philadelphia.

In giving Monsignor William J. Lynn a three- to six-year state prison term, Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina said Lynn was in a position to prevent "monsters in clerical garb" from sexually abusing children but looked the other way, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

"You knew full well what was right, monsignor, but you chose wrong," Sarmina said.

Lynn, the first Catholic Church official accused of enabling child-sex abuse, had faced a maximum of seven years in prison, which prosecutors had requested. The priest's attorneys had asked for probation or a county jail term. He must serve at least three years behind bars before becoming eligible for probation, the Inquirer said.

Lynn expressed sorrow for his "failings" during the 12 years he was responsible for assigning priests and investigating clergy-sex abuse allegations for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

He said he did his best, "But the fact is, my best was not good enough -- and for that I'm truly sorry."

Lynn -- convicted June 22 of felony child endangerment -- served as secretary for clergy for the 1.5 million-member archdiocese from 1992 to 2004.

Lawyers for the 61-year-old former cardinal's aide had argued he poses no danger to the public and was sufficiently rehabilitated during the legal battle, which began in 2002.

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said it believes Lynn still poses a public-safety threat.

Prosecutors presented evidence Lynn had not acted strongly to keep suspected molesters away from children, let alone to report them to law enforcement -- and often transferred predatory priests to unsuspecting parishes.

Lynn testified he tried to curb abuses, but only Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua -- who died in January -- had the authority to remove priests.

Prosecutors said Monday they would retry a priest originally tried with Lynn on charges of attempted rape and endangerment of a child after the jury that convicted Lynn became deadlocked on the priest.

The Rev. James J. Brennan, 49, is accused of trying to rape a 14-year-old boy in 1996 at Brennan's apartment. Brennan's accuser, now 30, testified in the first trial he was molested while he shared Brennan's bed.

To convict, the jury had to find that Brennan had not only abused the boy but continued to put children at risk during later years of ministry.

Prosecutors were unable to find other victims in the first trial.

"It is extremely important that Brennan be held accountable for his crime, not just for his victim, but for all victims of sexual abuse," District Attorney Seth Williams said in a statement.

The district attorney's office didn't explain the decision to retry the case.

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