Roman Catholic leader charged with protecting predator-priests lost a last-minute bid to have criminal charges dismissed Monday as the first jurors were seated in his landmark case.
In arguing for dismissal, Monsignor William Lynn's lawyers referred to a memo found in a safe and turned over by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia this month that states that the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua ordered his top aides to shred a list of 35 accused priests still in ministry in 1994 — a decade before the church's child abuse scandal exploded.
The lawyers argued that the grand jury might not have indicted Lynn on child endangerment and conspiracy charges if it had seen that evidence. But the judge said it was not clear what the grand jury would have done and refused to throw out the case.
Lynn is the first U.S. church official ever charged over accusations of administrative failings in the priest-abuse crisis.
Lynn said he prepared the list and gave it to Bevilacqua after he became secretary for clergy in 1992 and started reviewing secret archives of priest abuse complaints. The complaints were kept in a secure room — rigged with an alarm — at the archdiocese's headquarters.
Bevilacqua discussed the issue at a 1994 meeting with his two top aides and ordered all four known copies destroyed, according to a memo signed by the late Monsignor James E. Molloy, who said he shredded them, and a witness.
But a copy of the list, and Molloy's accompanying memo, were found in the locked safe at the archdiocese in 2006.
Defense lawyers said the new evidence shows Lynn was trying to address the priest abuse problem, only to have Bevilacqua quash his efforts. Bevilacqua died last month at age 88.
Prosecutors argued that Lynn prepared the list not to weed out predators, but to prepare for possible civil suits.Prosecutors argued that Lynn prepared the list not to weed out predators, but to prepare for possible civil suits.
Prosecutors said the 1994 list shows Lynn's deep involvement in the church child abuse conspiracy. And they argued that the safe belonged to Lynn, who left office in 2004.
"They (the documents) show Lynn to be the most active participant in a well-orchestrated conspiracy among Archdiocese officials to cover up the sexual crimes of priests and to keep known child molesters in ministry," prosecutors wrote in a written motion.
Lynn, 61, faces up to 28 years if convicted on all counts.
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