Sunday, July 15, 2012

Lucia Philadelphia priest not found guilty of covering up child abuse

Contrary to what has been reported in the media, the Catholic priest found guilty of covering up child abuse wasn't actually found guilty of covering up child abuse as the media would have you believe.  He was only found guilty of "endangering the welfare of a child", one of the four charges against him.

In the end, Msgr. Lynn was found guilty of only one of the four charges he faced. The cleric acknowledged that he knew that Edward Avery was ministering at a parish in the vicinity of children even though Avery had received a credible complaint years earlier of sex abuse. Avery was then accused of abuse in his new assignment, and it is because of this episode that Lynn was found guilty of a third-degree felony of “endangering the welfare of a child.”

What's more, this verdict will most likely be easily overturned because the statue under which he was charged shouldn't have been applied to him.

Again, the crime for which Lynn was convicted was endangering the welfare of a child (EWOC). On the surface, it would appear that Lynn did indeed endanger children by allowing an abusive priest to remain in an assignment in which the cleric had access to children. But this Pennsylvania statute had historically only been applied to those who had direct supervision of children (e.g., parents, coaches, teachers, etc.), not to those who simply managed employees.

Indeed, Msgr. Lynn did not directly care for children. Here merely acted as a liaison for priests from his diocesan office.

Most surprisingly, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office actually admitted in its 2005 grand jury report that Pennsylvania’s endangerment statute did not apply to Msgr. Lynn. In the 2005 report, Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen and attorney Marci Hamilton, representing the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, wrote:

The [EWOC] statute confines its coverage to parents, guardians, or other persons “supervising the welfare of a child.” High-level archdiocese officials [like Msgr. Lynn], however, were far removed from any direct contact with children.

In other words, Philly prosecutors publicly admitted in 2005 that they were unable to prosecute Msgr. Lynn under the EWOC statute. The law simply did not apply to him.

Therefore, an obvious question remains: why did the District Attorney’s Office prosecute Msgr. Lynn under the EWOC statute in 2011 when it already acknowledged in 2005 that it could not charge him with it?

I would say the answer to the last question would be to keep Catholic priests as child molesters in the the news media, even if the conviction will be overturned in the future. Meanwhile, real child molesters breathe easy, knowing that their activities are escaping this level of scrutiny.

* ~ * ~ *

As a personal note, I'm finding writing about this subject incredibly difficult, especially when I've read about the actual cases of abuse of children - they are horrendous. I'm sure that all those who abuse children have a special place in Hell reserved especially for them, but that's probably not particularly consoling for their victims.

Related link: Philadelphia Postscript: Will the Guilty Verdict Lead to Lawsuits Elsewhere?

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