Trial underway in priest sex abuse case

Opening arguments began this morning in the landmark priest sex-abuse trial for two former Philadelphia officials after a brief delay.

Rev. James Brennan is accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in 1996, while Monsignor William Lynn is accused of endangering children by moving around alleged predator priests. Both pleaded not guilty.

The high-profile case took another twist last Thursday when one of the defrocked priests accused pleaded guilty to charges related to a sexual assault on one boy.

Before arguments began this morning, Common Pleas Court Judge Teresa Sarmina denied a request for delay from defense attorneys after ruling the jury would not be tainted by Edward Avery’s plea.

Prosecutors plan to show that the abuse was well-documented, and that Lynn, who was secretary of the clergy, transferred the priests to other parishes without divulging their past acts. Lynn is the first U.S. official in the Roman Catholic Church to be charged with endangering the welfare of children by covering for alleged predator priests, according to the Associated Press.

Defense attorneys for Lynn and Brennan are expected to attack the credibility of the witnesses and alleged victims.

The trial will be closely followed by Catholic church officials, parishioners and abuse survivor groups like SNAP. Security outside the courtroom this morning was increased, with additional uniformed officers and metal detectors.

There is also a gag order in the case, meaning prosecutors and attorneys are not allowed to comment to the media. The judge has also prohibited electronic devices in the courtroom, including for members of the media.

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