Philadelphia Catholic Priest is 1st Ever Sent to Prison for Cover-Up

By Andrew Lu on July 26, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Monsignor William Lynn was sentenced to three to six years in jail for covering up sex abuse claims at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Lynn is the first Catholic priest to be sentenced to prison for his mishandling of sex abuse claims.

Lynn managed priest assignments and child sexual assault complaints at the church from 1992 to 2004. His child endangerment charges stem from his failed oversight of defrocked priest Edward Avery, who was sentenced to a possible five-year prison term for sexually assaulting an altar boy in 1999.

By not stopping priests like Avery, the judge said that Lynn "enabled monsters in clerical garb ... to destroy the souls of children," reports The Associated Press.

In Pennsylvania, child endangerment is usually treated as a misdemeanor. So a family member or a church official who places a child in harm's way, could face imprisonment, but the penalty is usually not that severe.

However, where the adult engages in a "course of conduct" of endangering children, that person can felony charges and a possible seven-year prison term.

In Monsignor William Lynn's case, his defense lawyers sought probation, arguing that few people actually serve long prison sentences for child endangerment. At the least, they added that Lynn should not receive a longer prison sentence than Avery, the priest who actually did the assaulting, reports the AP.

However, the judge could not get over the fact that Lynn had many opportunities, and several years, to address the sex abuse problem. And so she handed down an almost maximum prison term, one that exceeded what Avery received. The judge told the Philadelphia Catholic priest that he knew full well what was right, but chose wrong in not stopping the child sex abuse.

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