published Monday, February 21st, 2011

Ex-top Catholic official in Philly placed on leave

PHILADELPHIA — A former top Roman Catholic Church official has been placed on administrative leave following charges of endangering children in connection with sexual abuse by priests.

Parishioners at St. Joseph parish in Downingtown, in suburban Philadelphia, were informed at weekend Masses that Cardinal Justin Rigali had placed Monsignor William Lynn on leave as of Friday, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia said in a statement Sunday. Monsignor Joseph McLoone, pastor of St. Catherine Drexel parish in Chester, has been named parochial administrator pro-tem in St. Joseph, where Lynn has been pastor, the statement said.

Lynn, secretary of the clergy and a top official in the archdiocese from 1992 to 2004, was accused earlier this month in a scathing grand jury report of having endangered children by putting two known pedophiles in posts where they had contact with youngsters.

“The rapist priests we accuse were well-known to the secretary of clergy, but he cloaked their conduct and put them in place to do it again,” the report said.

Prosecutors in the city filed felony charges of endangering the welfare of children against the 60-year-old Lynn, who also was named in a civil lawsuit filed last week against the archdiocese.

Lynn, the first church official in the United States charged with a crime after being accused of keeping problem priests in jobs around children, could get up to 14 years in prison if convicted.

Defense attorney Tom Bergstrom has said that his client, now free on bail, doesn’t concede for a moment that he knew he was putting children at risk. He said Lynn will fight the charges on the grounds that he never supervised children and cannot therefore be charged with having endangered them.

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