Monsignor Lynn sentenced to jail for role in church sex abuse

D.A. Seth Williams (right) talks with reporters after Lynn's sentencing on child-endangerment charges. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
D.A. Seth Williams (right) talks with reporters after Lynn's sentencing on child-endangerment charges. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Posted: July 26, 2012

In a soft and clear voice, disgraced Catholic Monsignor William Lynn stood Tuesday before a packed courtroom and apologized for the years of sexual abuse a young man suffered at the hands of defrocked priest Edward Avery, whom Lynn transferred to the boy's parish despite knowing that he had abused another boy.

"I did my best," said Lynn, 61, who served as secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004.

"The fact is, my best was not good enough to stop" the abuse of the boy, concluded Lynn, a priest for 36 years who never met the boy.

Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina agreed and concluded the sentencing hearing by lambasting Lynn for failing to support and protect not just Avery's victim, but other children who had been abused by priests.

In sentencing Lynn to three to six years in state prison for his conviction last month for child endangerment, Sarmina rejected the notion put forth by Lynn's supporters that he was a scapegoat or victim of circumstances.

Instead, she said, he was an educated man who knew right but chose to do wrong. Sarmina said that Lynn had shielded, protected and aided "monsters in clerical garb" while he "refused to hear and refused to see" their young victims.

Lynn is the highest-ranking U.S. Catholic church official jailed for crimes related to sexual abuse of children. Sarmina could have sentenced Lynn to as much as seven years or as little as probation, which his attorneys had asked for.

"You knew full well what was right, Monsignor Lynn, but you chose wrong," the judge said.

"We're glad for the message that this gives, that covering up child-abuse crimes is not going to be tolerated, and you will serve jail time," said Karen Polesir, of the Philadelphia chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "You're not going to get house arrest or probation — you are going to go to jail."

"This is a very different type of case," said District Attorney Seth Williams. "We held a person responsible who did not abuse children himself but indirectly allowed for many children to be put at risk. He didn't do enough."

Williams asked victims of clergy abuse to call the police before going to church officials and said the investigation into child sexual abuse in the church is ongoing.

Defense attorneys Thomas Bergstrom and Jeffrey Lindy said they would appeal the sentence. A bail hearing for Lynn is scheduled for Aug. 6.

"This is a man who's now been sentenced to three to six years in prison for endangering the welfare of a child that he never saw, never met, never knew and never knew was in danger," Bergstrom said. "That's unbelievable."

The Archdiocese agreed that the sentence was too severe.

"Fair-minded people will question the severity of the heavy, three-to-six-year sentence imposed on Monsignor Lynn today," the Archdiocese said in a news release. “We hope that when this punishment is objectively reviewed, it will be adjusted.

Contact Mensah M. Dean at 215-568-8278 or deanm@philly.com, or follow on Twitter @mensahdean.

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