Saturday, 26 March 2011

Setback for clergy accused of abuse

The Roman Catholic archdiocese of Philadelphia faces the prospect of a hard-fought criminal trial over its handling of the priest-abuse scandal after a judge on Friday upheld child-endangerment charges against a high-ranking church official.

Four co-defendants — two priests, an ex-priest and a former Catholic school teacher — are charged with raping children. The ruling, issued at a sometimes heated hearing, denied lawyers the chance to fight the charges at a preliminary stage.

Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes said a 124-page grand jury report issued last month demonstrates probable cause, even on newly added conspiracy charges. She also issued a gag order, preventing parties from publicly discussing the case.

The case is drawing special attention because prosecutors for the first time charged a church official for allegedly transferring predator priests to new parishes without warning, thereby exposing more children to them.

Monsignor William Lynn, the former secretary for clergy and most recently the pastor at St. Joseph Church in Downingtown, faces up to 28 years in prison if convicted.

The archdiocese will continue to pay his legal fees, even though the judge warned Lynn that his legal strategy may come to conflict with the church's.

Lynn said he understood the potential conflict but accepted the arrangement, at least for now. Friends have offered to help with his legal bills if he later needs it, he added.

Lynn also had counsel provided by the archdiocese during an earlier grand jury investigation of pedophile priests, which culminated with a damning 2005 grand jury report, but no criminal charges.

"Their interests may not align with yours," Cardwell Hughes told him Friday, "if you reach a point where the archdiocese says, 'We don't want you to do X because X exposes the archdiocese to liability, criminally or civilly, or X exposes the archdiocese to negative publicity.'"

"It may be in your best interest to attack certain people," Cardwell Hughes warned the monsignor, who has been put on administrative leave by the archdiocese.

No comments:

Post a Comment