Catholic Priest Abuse and the Philadelphia Grand Jury

Since Common Pleas Judge Lillian Ransom has lifted her ban on the publication of Philadelphia Grand Jury documents concerning Monsignor William Lynn’s testimony, the media has been reviewing his testimony in anticipation of his pending criminal trial for child endangerment. What they’ve found reveals much about the inner workings of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the mindset of the priest in charge of reviewing and investigating sexual abuse claims for the then Cardinal Archbishop of Philadelphia Anthony Bevilacqua.
In one of his comments, Lynn told the grand jury, “”I just thought he wanted money,” in response to a sexual abuse survivor’s allegation that he had been molested by a priest.
Between 2002 and 2004, Monsignor Lynn made 14 appearances before the grand jury. His testimony is now a matter of public record and among 2,000 pages of grand jury evidence that will play a role in his criminal trial. Lynn’s callous disregard for the welfare of abuse survivors coupled with his protestations that the Vatican made his job difficult will also be on display during the criminal trial. In testimony during which Lynn couldn’t come up with a plausible answer for not doing something to protect children he would answer that the matter “fell through the cracks”. In another instance Lynn stated, “”Like any family, church family, you don’t always put all your dirty laundry out, so to speak.”
One of his colleagues who was also summoned to testify before the grand jury had similar difficulty explaining the Archdiocese’s lack of willingness to protect children. In one instance, now Bishop Cullen was pressed by the prosecutor regarding the veracity of one report. This is back and forth: “When the Rev. Robert L. Brennan was accused of misconduct with boys, the church sent him to a hospital for treatment. Parishioners were told he was on a religious retreat.
Asked about the cover story, Cullen conceded, “It’s not the truth.”
It was a lie, wasn’t it? prosecutors asked.
“You could call it that,” Cullen said.
Philadelphia, like Boston and Los Angeles before, is an archdiocese in extreme crisis. Perhaps they could take comfort with familiar words “The Truth will Set You Free”. However, it won’t be painless or easy.