Philly priest convicted in hiding child sex abuse

Monsignor William Lynn walks to the Criminal Justice Center, Wednesday, June 20, 2012, in Philadelphia.
Monsignor William Lynn walks to the Criminal Justice Center, Wednesday, June 20, 2012, in Philadelphia.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

(CBS News) PHILADELPHIA - For the first time, a senior member of the Catholic Church in the United States has been convicted of concealing sexual abuse of children by pedophile priests. Sixty-one-year old Monsignor William Lynn was the secretary for clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which has 1.5 million members.

Lynn was found guilty on one count of child endangerment. He was found not guilty of a separate child endangerment count and not guilty on a conspiracy charge.The jury came back in the afternoon after 13 days of deliberations.

Lynn was taken into custody and seen weeping when he left the courthouse. Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams said the verdict sent a clear message that anyone who protects pedophiles would be held accountable.

"What happened here was unspeakable," said Williams. "People knew that these were predators -- who were much more concerned with the institution than the victims of sexual assault."

Philly priest guilty of child endangerment, acquitted of conspiracy

For 12 years, Monsignor Lynn was responsible for investigating child sex abuse accusations against priests in Philadelphia and recommending priests' assignments.

Prosecutors said Lynn protected pedophile priests when he transferred them from parish to parish, where they victimized other children.

Lynn denied those allegations. He testified he was powerless to act without the approval from church superiors, including the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.

The lead prosecutor asked Lynn: "Did you or anybody you were associated with, or participate with, ever lie to parishioners about a priest going off into the sunset?"

"The cardinal wouldn't allow us to announce in those days why someone was leaving," Lynn replied.

Prosecutors also grilled Lynn about a secret list he compiled in 1994 of 35 priests suspected of child sex abuse, including three diagnosed pedophiles. A copy of the list was found in a safe in the archdiocese headquarters.

In court, the assistant district attorney asked Lynn: "How many times in your 12 years did you pick up the phone and call police? How many times?"

"None," Lynn said.

Friday's verdict in the Lynn case was the climax of a 10-year investigation of sex abuse by priests in Philadelphia. But Lynn's attorney, Jeff Lindy, said his client is a scapegoat.

"They had a body there, and the body was Msgr. Lynn and he took the conviction."

Advocates for victims of clergy sex abuse say Msgr. William Lynn's case be a model for other investigations and prosecutions.

  • Elaine Quijano
    Elaine Quijano

    Elaine Quijano was named a CBS News correspondent in January 2010. Quijano reports for "CBS This Morning" and the "CBS Evening News," and contributes across all CBS News platforms. She is based in New York.