Attorneys: William Lynn tried to stop church abuse, but couldn’t

Defense attorneys for the former archdiocese official accused of covering up sex abuse by priests claimed yesterday that he tried to stop the abuse but had his efforts rebuffed by higher authorities.

Monsignor William Lynn is on trial with Rev. James Brennan following charges by a grand jury last year. Lynn is the first Roman Catholic official in the U.S. charged with trying to cover up the molestation of children by priests. Brennan, two other priests and a lay teacher were each charged with abusing a boy. One of the accused priests, Edward Avery, pleaded guilty last week.

In opening arguments, prosecutors claimed Lynn was more interested in shielding the church from scandal than protecting children. “You can’t protect the church without keeping the allegations in the dark,” said Assistant District Attorney Jacqueline Coelho. “He kept the parishioners in the dark and he kept the faithful in the dark.”

Lynn’s lead defense attorney, Thomas Bergstrom, insisted that as secretary of clergy, Lynn did what he could to stop the alleged abuse.

“Monsignor Lynn knows that [sexually abusing children] is awful. I think the evidence in this case, by the time we’re done, will show he — and perhaps he, alone — was the one who tried to correct it,” Bergstrom told jurors.

James Brennan’s attorney, William Brennan, argued that the man who accused his client has a long history of deception. The case is expected to take months.

Group hopes trial deters child abuse

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said the trial is a significant development in the wide-ranging priest sex abuse scandal.

“No matter what the trial’s outcome is, we believe that this case will help deter future coverups of child sex crimes, especially in other institutions,” the group said in a statement. “When wrongdoers are exposed and punished, wrongdoing is discouraged. We hope it will also encourage others in law enforcement to focus on both the child molesting clerics who assault kids and the corrupt church officials who enable those crimes.”

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