Archbishop Charles Chaput confirmed in a letter that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia provided $25,000 to set Msgr. William J. Lynn free on bail from state prison.
The bail amount was taken “from no parish, school or ministry resources, impacts no ongoing work of the Church and will be returned when the terms of bail are completed,” the archbishop wrote in letter to all clergy and people in the archdiocese sent to priests and deacons in parishes Friday afternoon, Jan. 3.
“At my direction,” the archbishop wrote, “the archdiocese has provided 10 percent of Msgr. Lynn’s bail – $25,000 – to assist his release from prison. Msgr. Lynn is free but constrained by a number of court restrictions.”
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has pledged to appeal the Dec. 26 reversal of the priest’s conviction by a three-judge panel of Pennsylvania Superior Court.
The appeal to the full court is expected to be filed before the end of January.
Msgr. Lynn had been convicted in June 2012 for one count of endangering the welfare of a child in the case related to Edward Avery, a former priest who is serving a prison sentence for sexually assaulting a boy.
Msgr. Lynn, as secretary for clergy under then Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua in 1998, supervised Avery at his parish assignment.
The Superior Court panel’s opinion cited the state’s child endangerment statute at that time as covering only the actions of a parent or guardian, not a supervisor as Msgr. Lynn was. The law was amended in 2007 to include supervisors but Msgr. Lynn had been replaced in his role by 2004.
As its basis for throwing out his conviction the panel reasoned that he should not have been charged with the crime that was not included in the law at the time in question.
During the trial and even until the present, Msgr. Lynn remains on administrative leave and may not function publicly as a priest, the archbishop wrote in his letter.
“The Superior Court ruling does not vindicate Msgr. Lynn’s past decisions,” Archbishop Chaput wrote. “Nor does it absolve the archdiocese from deeply flawed thinking and actions in the past that resulted in bitter suffering for victims of sexual abuse and their families. Above all, it does not and cannot erase the archdiocese’s duty to help survivors heal. We remain committed to that healing – now and in the future.”
After reviewing the archdiocese’s new policies and procedures in recent years to reform how it protects children and trains personnel, the archbishop said the church “cooperated fully and honestly with law enforcement and the court” and would continue to do so.
“We cannot change the past,” he said. “But we can and will do everything in our power to prevent it from being repeated.”
Archbishop Chaput acknowledged the intense feelings on both sides – those that support or reject the reversal of the conviction, the setting of bail and the $25,000 posted by the archdiocese – that have emerged among people in recent days, in addition to the years of bitter feelings present at least since 2002 when the clergy abuse scandal exploded in the United States.
“I understand and accept the anger felt toward the archdiocese by many of our people and priests, as well as the general public, for the ugly events of the past decade,” the archbishop said. “Only time and a record of honest conversion by the archdiocese can change that. Msgr. Lynn has already spent 18 months in prison on a conviction which Pennsylvania’s state appellate court has reversed – unanimously – as ‘fundamentally flawed.’”
“This reversal is not a matter of technicalities but of legal substance. That is made very clear in the text of the Superior Court’s decision.
“Msgr. Lynn presents no danger to anyone. He poses no flight risk. The funding for his bail has been taken from no parish, school or ministry resources, impacts no ongoing work of the Church and will be returned when the terms of bail are completed. Nor does it diminish in any way our determination to root out the possibility of sexual abuse from the life of our local Church.
“As a result, I believe that assisting Msgr. Lynn’s family and attorney with resources for his bail is both reasonable and just. We have acted accordingly.”