Friday saw the first criminal conviction of an officer of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States for covering up the sexual abuse of children. Monsignor William J. Lynn was found guilty of endangering boys by letting a known pedophile continue to minister to children, a pass that enabled that priest to assault a 10-year-old boy.
The 12-member jury deadlocked on two other counts against Monsignor Lynn after a three-month trial that was widely considered a milestone in the sexual abuse scandals that have shaken the Catholic church.
Still, the trial has already sent a sobering message to church officials and others overseeing children around the country.
“I think that bishops and chancery officials understand that they will no longer get a pass on these types of crimes,” said Nicholas P. Cafardi, a professor of law at Duquesne University, a canon lawyer and frequent church adviser. “Priests who sexually abuse youngsters and the chancery officials who enabled it by allowing a known sexual abuser to remain in ministry can expect criminal prosecution.” The mixed verdict was seen as a victory for the district attorney’s office in Philadelphia, which has been investigating the archdiocese aggressively since 2002. Monsignor Lynn could face a prison term of three-and-a-half to seven years.