Defense attorneys for the former Archdiocese official accused of covering up sex abuse by priests claimed yesterday that he tried to stop the abuse but had his efforts rebuffed by higher authorities.
Monsignor William Lynn is on trial with Rev. James Brennan following charges by a grand jury last year. Lynn is the first Roman Catholic official in the U.S. charged with trying to cover up the molestation of children by priests. Brennan, two other priests and a lay teacher were each charged with abusing a boy. One of the accused priests, Edward Avery, pleaded guilty last week.
In opening arguments, prosecutors claimed Lynn was part of a culture at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Catholic Church at-large that transferred alleged predator priests to other parishes instead of removing them from the clergy. They say dozens of priests allowed to continue to minister despite allegations of abuse.
Lynn's lead defense attorney, Thomas Bergstrom, insisted that as secretary of clergy, Lynn did what he could to stop the alleged abuse.
"Monsignor Lynn knows that [sexually abusing children] is awful. I think the evidence in this case, by the time we're done, will show he and he alone was the one that tried to stop it," Bergstrom told jurors.
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In 1994, Bergstrom claimed, Lynn even sent a memo to Archdiocese officials, including the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, that listed the names of 35 priests who had been found guilty of abusing children. Bergstrom said Bevilacqua ordered the list to be shredded.
"You will see that Monsignor Lynn did his damndest to try and get a handle on this awful, awful issue," he said.
Brennan's attorney, William Brennan, argued that the man who accused his client has a long history of deception, including an arrest for false reports.
"Once you realize that [the accuser] isn't credible, the case is over," Brennan said.
The case is expected to take months.