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Catholic church official sentenced in abuse case

Monsignor William J Lynn was sentenced to three to six years in prison after decades of playing down allegations of clerical sexual abuse.

Monsignor William Lynn before verdict reading
Monsignor William Lynn before verdict reading
Image: Matt Rourke/AP/Press Association Images

THE FIRST ROMAN Catholic church official in America to be convicted of covering up claims of sexual abuse by priests under his supervision was sentenced to up to six years in prison yesterday.

Monsignor William J Lynn was found guilty of child endangerment after a three month trial that reveled decades of glossing over accusations of sexual abuse to avoid scandal, the New York Times reports.

As the Philadelphia judge imposed the sentence which will see the Monsignor serve at least three years before he is eligible for parole she said, “You knew full well what was right Monsignor Lynn, but you chose wrong”.

From 1992 to 2004 Lynn’s role as secretary for clergy for the 1.5 million-member archdiocese involved recommending priest assignments and investigating abuse complaints.

Prosecutors put forward evidence that he shielded predatory priests, sometimes transferring them to unsuspecting parishes and lied to the public to avoid bad publicity and lawsuits.

In a pre-sentencing statement Lynn said he had always done the best he could in his 36 years as a priest. To the family of an abuse victim, a former alter boy,  sitting in the courtroom he said “I hope someday that you will accept my apology”.

Lynn’s defence argued that he tried to handle cases of paedophile priests, making a list of 35 accused priests in 1994 and writing memos suggesting treatment and suspensions.

Defence lawyer Thomas Bergstrom said Lynn was being punished for “things he did and did properly” and confirmed the Monsignor will appeal and is seeking bail.

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