Convicted monsignor's lawyer questions law's application
PHILADELPHIA The legal theory underpinning the landmark prosecution of the first Catholic Church official convicted in the clergy sex-abuse scandal came under attack Tuesday before Pennsylvania's Superior Court.
Arguing before a three-judge panel in Philadelphia, the lawyer for Msgr. William J. Lynn said Lynn's 2012 conviction for child endangerment cannot be affirmed either under the state's original statute or the amended version enacted in 2007.
Lynn, 62, was convicted of allowing a priest with a history of sexually abusing children to live in the rectory of a Northeast Philadelphia parish, where he sexually assaulted a 10-year-old altar boy in 1999. Thomas A. Bergstrom argued that the pre-2007 version requires direct personal supervision of a child. But as the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary of clergy - responsible for investigating complaints against priests and recommending discipline - Lynn was only a "supervisor of a supervisor," Bergstrom said.
Bergstrom said the post-2007 law, which enabled prosecution of church officials for crimes committed by priests they supervise, cannot be retroactively applied to Lynn, who left the clergy secretary post in 2004. "We can all still understand and read and write the English language, and it says what it says," Bergstrom told the judges.
Assistant District Attorney Hugh Burns, chief of the office's appeals unit, said Bergstrom's interpretation of the pre-2007 statute was too narrow.