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. What Dr. McHugh said. There is not much one could add to that. Righteous rant, Doctor.

  2. From my research, there has been corruption in the leadership of the RCC on and off for centuries. In 1870, an English Catholic historian, Lord Acton, opposed the Pope of the time, who arrogantly claimed that he was infallible, for political reasons, at the First Vatican Council.

    Lord Acton said: “I cannot accept…that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men with a favorable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way….All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely….There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.”

    As a Catholic physician who has met many who have been sexually abused by priests, and as one who was sexually assaulted myself when I was a young doctor in Dublin, Ireland by a Carmelite priest, I believe that there will be no change in the culture of the Church until Pope Benedict and the rest of the hierarchy are made accountable by international law for allowing the sexual abuse of innocent children to flourish worldwide.

    Pope Benedict XVI, when known as Cardinal Ratzinger, was the head of the Office of Faith and Morals in the Vatican for 24 years, where cases of priest sexual abuse were brought, and then Pope since 2005. He has not admitted his role in the sexual abuse scandal, in fact he is claiming diplomatic immunity so that he does not have to open the records in the Vatican, on priest and bishop sexual abuse, for investigation.

    There have been at least 19 bishops in the United States who have actually been sexual abusers, according to

    A very useful recent book THE CASE OF THE POPE written by Geoffrey Robertson, Queen”s Counsel and human rights judge for the United Nations for crimes against humanity, challenges the diplomatic immunity of the Pope.

    There are good priests and bishops, but they do not have the courage to speak, because the Pope will not give them a voice, and they do not want to lose their jobs. The Pope has total power and an immature obedience is demanded of the bishops and priests.

    From what I understand, the Pope and many in the hierarchy want to do everything they can to stop President Obama from having a second term.

    It is shameful to me what they are doing. As a physician, I am grateful for all the good the President has done already for our country and for patient care in particular.

    Pope Benedict XVI and the hierarchy have always been their own law. We see that they cannot be trusted. They cannot manipulate Obama like they can manipulate other politicians, especially naive and deferential Catholic politicians and other Catholic professionals.

    Under President Obama, the RCC might finally be made accountable for its corrupt policies and practices, and the victims of clergy sexual abuse will finally get some type of justice.

    I do not believe that the grand juries in Philadelphia would have ever found out that there were 37 predator priests still in active ministry, if it wasn’t for a female, non-Catholic lawyer in search for the real truth. The Cardinal had lied to his people. He told them that Philadelphia had passed the audit and that there was no predator priest in active ministry.

    I agree with Justice Holmes. The Catholic bishops are pushing their own health policy on women and want to replace Obama with someone who will do their bidding. They are like a political action group and we, the taxpayer, are supporting them in their political work, it seems, as well as in some good work that they do.

    I pray that Pope Benedict XVI and members of the hierarchy, who have been complicit in the sexual abuse of innocent children and vulnerable adults, will have their day in court sooner rather than later, for justice in some form to come to the victim/survivors of clergy sexual abuse. In my experience, the predator priests do not seem to have remorse for the damage that they have done to their victims. The damage can last a lifetime.

    Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago, Illinois

  3. Is it any wonder? Unfortunately most of the priests seem to be pedophiles… What a pathetic statement it says about the catholic church……

  4. I just think it is so damned sad that religious prophets did their work to bring comfort to the sufferings of a bittersweet life, only to be followed by power lusting egomaniacs who turn the words of comfort upside down. I mean this for all religions, not just the RCC, though they certainly have blood on their hands.

  5. Blouise,
    It is way beyond the torture matter. The church has been stonewalling for decades and it continues to this day. DonS used the right label: arrogance. They have thumbed their noses at the law enforcement authorities and their is no end in sight. Mark also used a good descriptive word for them: cesspool.

  6. I wonder if this will turn out to be like the torture matter. It’s wrong; we’ve stopped; no one will be held accountable because too many would end up in prison and that … well, that would be bad for the nation as a whole and probably impede our economic recovery … Et cetera, Et cetera, Et cetera

  7. The conspiratorial rot that we knew had to be there was. The arrogance of the Church and the Bishops to push their political agenda in the face of their serious corruption is staggering. Though perhaps it’s just politics as usual in another huge, corrupt institution.

  8. Mark,
    I forgot to answer one of your questions. The Church cannot stand on any moral ground until they admit the criminal actions that it is continuing to make in hiding its own obstruction and hiding perps.

  9. It is a shame that the Cardinal did not live long enough to be brought up on charges. The Catholic Church has hid and is still hiding pedophiles to this day. What is the statute of limitations on obstruction of justice that is continuing to this day? Now that corporations are people, can’t the head of the corporate Church be indicted?
    Great job Mespo!

  10. Now … what would really be interesting is if they decided to look at all those Catholic judges who allowed questionable delays in proceedings resulting in expiration of statute of limitations … the cesspool is very deep.

  11. The comment that the church is driving health policy is interesting. Perhaps when Santo Rum is elected.

    The victims need to get their federal civil rights suit on file now before more of these old farts die.

    The gag order needs to be lifted. The Court is part of the problem with this gag order. If the judge is a cat o lick he/she should recuse.

  12. “The strategy worked because the Church is now driving health policy and may soon be able to pick a President and congress that will do its bidding.”


    This new sexual offensive by the RCC is indeed a way to put these serious pedophilia behind them. However, I think it will backfire because the reactionary leadership, the Pope did head up Opus Dei and the “Inquisition”, doesn’t realize that Catholics are not sheep and are pretty disgusted by the abuse of their children from their “moral” leaders.

  13. Does anyone doubt that the primary concern in the Church sexual abuse scandal was protecting the institutin and it’s power. The strategy worked because the Church is now driving health policy and may soon be able to pick a President and congress that will do its bidding. Americans really need to consider is the really want this closed nondemocratic institutin running their lives. The founders knew the dangers of such an arrangement as they and their predecessors had seen, suffered and fled the religios wars in Europe.
    Churches no matter what denomination should have to follow the law. Further they should not receive taxpayer funds for any purpose.

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