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Pa. Supreme Court Upholds 2012 Conviction Of High Ranking Church Official

By Steve Tawa, Justin Udo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- In a stunning reversal, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court is upholding the 2012 conviction of Monsignor William Lynn, the first Roman Catholic official sent to prison over his handling of priest abuse complaints. The DA's office hasn't said whether it will try to revoke bail and send him back to prison, pending more legal arguments.

Monsignor Lynn was convicted of a single charge of endangering the welfare of a child, and sentenced to three to six years in prison in 2012. As the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's former secretary for clergy, he was the official responsible for investigating and recommending punishment for priests accused of sexual and other misconduct.

After serving about half his sentence behind bars, by late 2013, Superior Court heard his appeal, and reversed his conviction. Since then, he has been on house arrest, living in the rectory of St. William, a parish in Lawncrest.

Now, the State Supreme Court is reversing Superior Court, ruling that Lynn could be held responsible for the welfare of children in the Archdiocese.

His lawyer, Tom Bergstrom, argued Lynn served in his capacity from 1992 to 2004, yet he was prosecuted on an amended child endangerment statute passed in 2007. He says the law did not apply to Lynn.

"It defies logic that one can be convicted of this crime without evening knowing that the crime occurred and not even knowing who the child was or where he was," said Bergstrom.

The Supreme Court ordered that the case be remanded to the Superior Court where Lynn's lawyers and the District Attorney's office will argue remaining factual and legal issues.

The Supreme Court decision to uphold Monsignor William Lynn's conviction has sparked strong reaction from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Karen Polesir with SNAP says, "His actions endangered children in the new parishes. I think that the actions of the Supreme Court are spot on."

Polesir says she hopes child protection laws continue to improve. "A crime is a crime, and a crime against children is the most horrific."

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