PHILADELPHIA — Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has explained his decision to provide 10% of the bail money for Msgr. William Lynn, whose conviction for child endangerment was overturned last week.
Msgr. Lynn was secretary of clergy for the Philadelphia Archdiocese from 1992 to 2004 under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. The priest was convicted in 2012 on one count of child endangerment for failing to protect children from a sexually abusive priest.
That conviction was unanimously overturned Dec. 26, 2013, by Pennsylvania's appellate court as “fundamentally flawed.” [See the Register’s story for details.]
He was released Jan. 2, after serving 18 months in prison, on $250,000 bail, and is subject to an electronic-monitoring device, pending an appeal of the appellate court’s decision to the state’s Supreme Court.
“Msgr. Lynn presents no danger to anyone. He poses no flight risk,” Archbishop Chaput wrote Jan. 3 in a letter to the clergy and faithful of his Church.
“The funding for his bail has been taken from no parish, school or ministry resources, impacts no ongoing work of the Church and will be returned when the terms of bail are completed,” he said. “Nor does it diminish in any way our determination to root out the possibility of sexual abuse from the life of our local Church.”
“As a result, I believe that assisting Msgr. Lynn’s family and attorney with resources for his bail is both reasonable and just,” Archbishop Chaput said. “We have acted accordingly.”
He added that the overturning of the priest’s conviction “is not a matter of technicalities but of legal substance,” which is “made very clear” by the text of the appellate court’s decision.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has called Msgr. Lynn’s conviction reversal “disappointing and puzzling” and described the archdiocese’s contribution to Msgr. Lynn’s bail as “disgusting,” according to the Philadelphia Daily News.
Archbishop Chaput stated that “the Superior Court ruling does not vindicate Msgr. Lynn’s past decisions. Nor does it absolve the archdiocese from deeply flawed thinking and actions in the past that resulted in bitter suffering for victims of sexual abuse and their families.”
He said, “Above all, it does not and cannot erase the archdiocese’s duty to help survivors heal. We remain committed to that healing — now and in the future.”
Archbishop Chaput noted that Msgr. Lynn continues to be on administrative leave and so may not function publicly as a priest.
He added that the archdiocese has “worked vigorously” to reform how it protects children and families, noting “new policies and procedures, new standards of ministerial behavior, new Archdiocesan Review Board members, mandated reporter training for thousands of volunteers, clergy and staff.”
The archbishop added that the archdiocese cooperated “fully and honestly with law enforcement and the court” throughout Msgr. Lynn’s trial and that “that cooperation will continue, whatever the final outcome of Msgr. Lynn’s case.”
“We cannot change the past,” he said. “But we can and will do everything in our power to prevent it from being repeated.”
“I understand and accept the anger felt toward the archdiocese by many of our people and priests, as well as the general public, for the ugly events of the past decade,” Archbishop Chaput said. “Only time and a record of honest conversion by the archdiocese can change that.”