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Ex-church official gets trial date days after leaving prison

05 August 2016, 12:31

Philadelphia - A former Philadelphia church official will be retried next year over his handling of priest-abuse complaints even though his child-endangerment conviction has twice been overturned.

Monsignor William Lynn will face a pared-down trial May 1, after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court faulted the trial judge for allowing weeks of testimony from 21 victims to show the alleged cover-up by the Roman Catholic Church.

The court found that testimony prejudiced the jury against Lynn, who was charged with endangering a single boy abused by a problem priest transferred to his parish in the late 1990s.

Lynn, 65, returned to court on Thursday, two days after leaving prison, but did not speak at the brief hearing. The defence hoped prosecutors would drop the case, given that he's served all but three months of his three-year sentence. But Lynn has emerged as a pivotal test case in the move to hold church and institutional leaders responsible for protecting paedophiles.

Two city grand juries spent years investigating child sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The first panel, in 2005, concluded there was no law on the books to charge the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua or his underlings, including Lynn. But a second panel, in 2011, voted to charge Lynn alone with child endangerment. Lynn had been secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004.

Defence lawyer Thomas Bergstrom called Lynn "a pawn" in the church hierarchy, an unassuming man who - as the problem exploded in Boston and elsewhere - reviewed decades of abuse complaints kept in locked, secret files.

"He went to the secret archive and found the names of 35 priests who had abused children. He brought that list to the cardinal for action. The cardinal shredded that list," Bergstrom said on Thursday. "When a cardinal said to move a priest to a designated parish, Lynn would handle the paperwork."

The former altar boy at the heart of Lynn's case said he was raped by two priests and a teacher in the late 1990s. The young man, a policeman's son, said the assaults led to years of drug abuse and more than two dozen stints in drug treatment. He settled his lawsuit against the archdiocese last year, on the eve of the pope's visit to Philadelphia, for an undisclosed sum, and now lives in Florida.

His testimony led juries to also convict the priests and teacher, all of whom denied molesting him. One of the priests has since died in prison.

- AP

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