by Pat Ciarrocchi
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Tuesday morning, 61 year old Monsignor William Lynn will be back on the witness stand at the Criminal Justice Center testifying in his own defense.
Lynn, a priest for 36 years and the one time Secretary of the Clergy, is the highest ranking Catholic Church administrator to be tried for his handling of clergy sex abuse.
“There are some hard questions he’s got to answer,” says John White of Downingtown. On Thursday, White had traveled to Philadelphia and spent the day in Courtroom 304, praying for his pastor.
“We’re very concerned about how he is being treated. He’s probably the nicest gentleman I’ve ever known and I think that will come out in the end.”
The jury, which begins its tenth week on duty, won’t be judging nice.
Assistant D.A. Patrick Blessington has staged a blistering cross-examination of the priest who is charged with endangering children by re-assigning priests known to have abused children and teenagers. Lynn’s office investigated allegations, interviewing accusers and the accused clerics. Unsuspecting parishioners or potential victims were not informed.
Blessington asked: “How many times did you pick up the phone and call the police?”
Lynn’s answer, “None.”
Lynn testified he wasn’t permitted to reveal an accused priest’s history, on orders of his boss, the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who died in early 2012.
The Philadelphia clergy scandal cracked open nearly 10 years ago, with the first of three grand jury investigations and reports.
Will Spade, who is now a criminal defense attorney, was one of the prosecutors who met victim after victims, as adults, decades after the abuse.
“When you saw all of these broken lives and the victims really opened up to us,” said Spade, “And then, you see it could have been prevented, it makes you angry.”
Though murder has not statute of limitation for prosecution, sexual abuse against a child does. That statute was named as one reason the Archdiocese never reported abuse allegations to the authorities. The cases were many years after abuse, so could not be prosecuted. The Church opted to handle the cases “inside” the Archdiocese.
Spade believes any limitation on prosecuting sexual abuse of a child should be lifted.
“What happens to a child when he or she is sexually abused is the murder of a child’s soul,” said Spade.
He wondered where is the justice for the victim? Where is the closure?
“The guy who abused you is out there and maybe still is wearing a collar, but the law says you can’t go after him. That’s just devastating to (the victims).”
The cross-examination of a priest who prosecutors say could have done something resumes Tuesday morning.