Jurors began deliberating today in Philadelphia in the trial of Monsignor William Lynn, the highest-ranking cleric charged with endangering children by allegedly helping cover up sexual abuse. A co-defendant, Rev. James Brennan, also of Philadelphia, is accused of the attempted rape of a 14-year-old. Both Brennan and Lynn have pleaded not guilty. Closing arguments in the case concluded Thursday.
Lynn is the first high-ranking church figure to be charged with child endangerment for allegedly moving predator priests from parish to parish. His trial marks the first time U.S. prosecutors have charged an official with failing to stop the assaults along with the priests who allegedly committed the abuses. If convicted, Lynn faces up to 21 years in prison.
Thomas Bergstrom, Lynn’s defense attorney said, “The allegation is that he did nothing, but he didn’t do nothing.” Bergstrom attempted to prove at trial that his client repeatedly informed the church’s chain of command about sex abuse. Further, he argued that the Monsignor had no power to remove a priest from the ministry and that all of his actions were taken under strict orders from the late Archbishop Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.
Brennan was removed from active ministry in 2006 after his accuser first came forward, a former Marine, now 30, who was discharged because of mental health issues.. According to testimony given to church investigators Brennan admitted in 2008 that he allowed the then-14-year-old to view pornography and sleep in the same bed with him during an overnight visit in 1996.