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Catholic priest guilty of covering up child abuse

Published:Sunday | June 24, 2012 | 12:00 AM

PHILADELPHIA (AP):A Roman Catholic church official was convicted of child endangerment but acquitted of conspiracy in a landmark clergy-abuse trial, making him the first United States church official branded a felon for covering up abuse claims.

Monsignor William Lynn helped the archdiocese keep predators in ministry, and the public in the dark, by telling parishes their priests were being removed for health reasons and then sending the men to unsuspecting churches, prosecutors said.

Lynn, 61, served as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, mostly under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.

"Many in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia hierarchy had dirty hands," Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said. "They failed to realise that the church is its people."

Williams said he did not have sufficient evidence last year to charge other officials, including Bevilacqua, who died in January at age 88.

Lynn had faced about 10 to 20 years in prison if convicted of all three counts he faced. He was convicted last Friday of only a single endangerment count, which carries a possible 31/2-to-seven-year prison term.

The jury could not reach a verdict for Lynn's co-defendant, the Reverend James Brennan, who was accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy in 1999.

Despite Lynn's acquittal on the conspiracy charge, the trial exposed how deeply involved the late cardinal was in dealing with accused priests.

Bevilacqua had the final say on what to do with priests accused of abuse, transferred many of them to new parishes and dressed down anyone who complained, according to testimony.

He also ordered the shredding of a 1994 list that Lynn prepared warning that the archdiocese had three diagnosed pedophiles, a dozen confirmed predators and another 20 possible abusers in its midst.