PHILADELPHIA (CNS) — Philadelphia archdiocesan officials said a new round of civil lawsuits filed Sept. 18 “are not the best mechanism to promote healing in the context of the very private and difficult circumstances of sexual abuse.”
“We have not received copies of the cases that the plaintiffs have said they intend to file, so we cannot provide more detailed information on those particular lawsuits at this time,” said a brief statement posted on the archdiocesan website the same day.
“We will work to assure all victims of sexual abuse receive appropriate assistance,” the statement said.
A total of nine plaintiffs filed eight lawsuits against the archdiocese and its priests, according to an Associated Press story. The plaintiffs claim the Philadelphia Archdiocese covered up abuse allegations made against seven priests decades ago.
The suits name Archbishop Charles J. Chaput; his predecessor, Cardinal Justin Rigali; and Msgr. William Lynn, former secretary for clergy, who was found guilty of one felony charge of endangering the welfare of a child in June and sentenced to three to six years in state prison.
As secretary, Msgr. Lynn recommended priest assignments to the archbishop of Philadelphia and investigated claims of sexual abuse of minors by clergy.
He became the first official of the U.S. Catholic Church to be convicted of a felony not for abusing a child, or even witnessing it, but for his responsibilities in managing priests, some of whom abused children. He is appealing his conviction.
Msgr. Lynn’s conviction resulted from the actions of a former priest, Edward V. Avery, who last March pleaded guilty to abusing an altar boy in 1990. Avery, who was laicized in 2006, is serving two and a half to five years in prison.
The Associated Press reported that lawyers for Msgr. Lynn say there are reasons to doubt Avery’s guilty plea. They think the former priest claimed he abused a boy he never met because the sentence he received “was a safer bet than going to trial and facing other accusers,” AP said.