Monsignor On Trial For Child Abuse Cover Up Alleges Cardinal Destroyed List of Abusing Priests

By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Cardinal Bevilacqua Whom Prosecutors Deemed An "Unindicted Co-Conspirator" Testified Before the Grand Jury 10 Times

For the first time, law enforcement officials are taking aim at not just child abusing priests but those who enabled the crimes by covering up. And what a cesspool they’ve uncovered.  Monsignor William Lynn, on trial in Philadelphia on charges of conspiracy and child endangerment has filed a novel motion seeking to dismiss all charges. Lynn alleges that Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, a long-time pillar in the American Catholic Church, destroyed a memorandum written by Lynn’s superior detailing the abuse and the priests who perpetrated it.

“The recent unexpected and shocking discovery of a March, 1994 memorandum composed by Monsignor James Molloy, Monsignor Lynn’s then-supervisor, on the topic of this review, clearly reveals that justice demands that all charges against Monsignor Lynn be dropped,” Lynn’s attorneys said in a filing.

It’s an interesting permutation of the “Just Following Orders” defense, but unlikely to prevail. In this case maybe it should. Lynn claims he took it on himself to reviewed secret church files of still active parish priests charged with child abuse. He presented the list to his superior, Msgr. Molloy. Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua  had Molloy shred four copies of the list, according to a memo signed by Molloy and a witness. But Molloy kept a copy in a locked safe at the archdiocese, where it was found in 2006, after Lynn had moved on, according to his motion.

Molloy’s hand-written memo states:

“On 3-22-94 at 10:45 AM I shredded, in the presence of Reverend Joseph R. Cistone, four copies of these lists from the secret archives.” The action was taken on the basis of a directive I received from Cardinal Bevilacqua at the Issues meeting of 3-15-94 ….”

The trial judge has imposed a gag order on the attorneys and litigants, but the public record is beginning to read like a Mario Puzo novel. Since participants are barred from discussing the case, this motion has landed like a bombshell with no public rebuttal as of now. If true, the Church’s thin defense of deniability by ignorance of the problem is probably shattered.  Charges of civil conspiracy and destruction of evidence are likely in the offing, too.

Lynn’s lawyers charge that he is being “hung out to dry” in their recent attempt to cast off the criminal charges.  Lynn’s defense is that he merely “took orders from Bevilacqua and is being made a scapegoat for the church’s sexual abuse scandal.” Lynn, 61, would faces up to 28 years in prison if convicted on all counts against him. Prosecutors have blasted Bevilacqua in two grand jury reports but never charged him with a crime. They have called the archdiocese and others “unindicted co-conspirators.”

Bevilacqua is now free from any jeopardy having died quietly in his sleep on January 31, 2012. After Bevilacqua’s death, a locksmith was called in to open a safe and inside were copies of both the list of predator priests and the memo that it had been destroyed.

In a statement after Bevilacqua’s death, Pope Benedict XVI praised Bevilacqua’s “longstanding commitment to social justice and pastoral care of immigrants and his expert contribution of the revision of the church’s law in the years following the Second Vatican Council.”

The development raises some other interesting questions: Where are these secret archives that Lynn and Malloy reviewed? Why wasn’t pertinent information of suspected child abuse immediately turned over to police as required by Pennsylvania law? Why was Molloy so careful to exculpate himself in the handwritten memo if the Church officials truly believed they had done all they could as they’ve alleged in various civil suits?

Perhaps most importantly, was the Arch-Diocese of Philadelphia serving God or Mammon in protecting priests and hanging future victims and possibly Lynn out to dry? If the latter, can it ever again claim moral authority over the nations’ 77 million Catholics?  Theological questions to be sure but with a very secular impact if the Church truly was a partner to covering up massive child sexual abuse as the evidence is suggesting in a loud voice.

Tough times for the American Catholic Church but infinitely better that those for its apparent victims.

Sources: CNN ; LA Times ; Reuters quoted in WVMR website.

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

28 thoughts on “Monsignor On Trial For Child Abuse Cover Up Alleges Cardinal Destroyed List of Abusing Priests”

  1. Now we have possible corruption by the judge to deal with, ie not executing an immediate seizure of pertinent records—–thus giving “someone” to make them “disappear”.
    Shall we witness a mysterious sudden death of the defendant also?

  2. Here’s an extraordinary letter to the Delaware County Times written by Sister Maureen Paul Turlish, who seems to know where the “bodies are buried”:

    Letter to the Editor: Lynn’s trial may expose church’s darkest secrets
    Monday, February 20, 2012

    To the Times:

    For the first time in this country a high ranking clergymen — Msgr. William Lynn, the former Vicar of Clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia – will now be tried on criminal charges for putting children in danger because of his alleged mishandling of priests known or credibly accused of the sexual exploitation of children.

    Up until now, while no bishop in the United States has been held criminally responsible for facilitating or enabling the sexual exploitation of a child, deals have been made to avoid prosecution in a number of jurisdictions.

    This will soon change with the March opening of Lynn’s criminal trial in Philadelphia.

    What church officials in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia have done and what they have failed to do over decades has enabled and facilitated the sexual exploitation –including vaginal and anal rape – of untold numbers of children and that is only the beginning of the harm inflicted on the innocent. One has only to read through the hundreds of pages that comprise the 2005 and 2011 Grand Jury reports on the archdiocese to realize the truth of such a statement.

    Ordinary Philadelphians have no idea of the depths of depravity that will be plumbed if Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina allows testimony about prior bad acts at Lynn’s criminal trial. In the meantime the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is doing everything possible to keep this from happening.

    Remember, this is an archdiocese that has vehemently denied that it even had a problem with priests sexually exploiting children within its ranks when the magnitude of the sexual abuse and cover up in the Archdiocese of Boston, Mass., was exposed by The Boston Globe.

    Nor has the Archdiocese of Philadelphia been able to get out in front of its sexual abuse cover-up scandal; not between 2002 and 2005, when it denied it had any problems at all, not in 2005 when the first Philadelphia Grand Jury report came out and it took 76 pages for Stradley, Ronon, Stevens & Young, L.L.P., to help the archdiocese put its foot in its mouth while confirming what many had suspected for years; and not in 2011 when the second Grand Jury report documented how little had been done in response to the recommendations made in 2005.

    On Thursday, Jan. 26, Sarmina told the Archdiocese of Philadelphia “to be ready March 26, the first day of Lynn’s conspiracy and child-endangerment trial, to turn over what could be hundreds or thousands of private records detailing Lynn’s communications with church lawyers about sex-abuse claims between 1992 and 2004, when he was secretary for clergy.”

    The possible exposure of the depth and breadth of the hierarchy’s cover-up of the sexual abuse of children in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia may very well eclipse that of Boston in 2002.

    Sarmina, on making her decision, should have immediately sent officers of the court armed with search warrants and security personnel to the offices of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to secure all the aforementioned records.

    It is not too late to be done. The destruction of such documents cannot and should not be ruled out of the realm of possibility. Should those who have failed so miserably and learned so little since 2002 now be trusted to do the right thing and follow Sarmina’s orders?

    Remember, altruism was never the basis for the 2002 decisions made by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

    Holding those who commit the heinous crime of sexually exploiting children, enable others to do so and then are complicit in covering up such “prior bad acts,” responsible is matter for the criminal justice system because it is society’s responsibility to protect those who could not protect themselves.


    Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, is an educator and an advocate for victims of childhood sexual abuse and legislative reform. She has taught for many years in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and writes from New Castle, Del.

  3. Nobody’s mentioned it. The cardinal did the expected thing. When you rise in the church (not under your habit). you are given a little pillbox.
    In it are pills to be taken at needed moments.

    Late again. But better late than forever.

  4. From a story by blogger Chrislove on Daily Kos:

    “Imagine going to your mother’s funeral, only to be turned away from communion by the priest. Then, imagine the priest literally walking out of the funeral as you read your eulogy. Well this is exactly what happened to Barbara. Why? Because Barbara happens to be a lesbian, and the priest wasn’t too pleased about her personal living arrangements…….”

    Here is the full story:

  5. The “truth” shall set you free. Apparently the RCC remains in a state of captivity.

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