Jurors in a landmark priest abuse trial on Monday heard about a priest-turned-camp prowler and another who was accused of bragging about having sex with three boys in a week.
Monsignor William Lynn is on trial on charges of child endangerment and conspiracy. Lynn, 61, is the first Roman Catholic church official in the U.S. charged for his handling of priest abuse complaints. Prosecutors say he helped the church bury them in secret files, far from the prying eyes of investigators, civil attorneys and concerned Catholics.
In the day’s most startling testimony, a detective read internal church memos about a priest who is said to have “joked about how hard it was to have sex with three boys in one week.” The priest’s accuser also stated that the priest had a “rotation process” of boys spending time sleeping with him.
Defense lawyers argue that Lynn tried to address the problem as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004 but was blocked by the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and others in the Philadelphia archdiocese. Bevilacqua died of heart disease on Jan. 31, a day after he was ruled competent to testify at Lynn’s trial.
The testimony Monday also included a 1992 complaint about a different priest accused of molesting boys at a church-owned camp three decades earlier.
Several junior counselors complained in the early 1960s that the priest was on the prowl at night, molesting them in their tents. They said it was a well-known secret among teen counselors for several years.
The priest remained in ministry, working at three archdiocesan high schools and serving as assistant superintendent of Catholic schools through 2004. The priest, confronted after a man complained to the archdiocese in 1992, admitted the “sin” of masturbation and said he had read up on that subject because so many people were mentioning it in the confessional.
Few victims or members of the public have been attending the trial in downtown Philadelphia, but retired Philadelphia detective Arthur Baselice Jr., of Mantua, N.J., turned out Monday.
His 28-year-old son, Arthur Baselice III, died of a drug overdose in 2006 after his civil lawsuit against the church accusing his high school principal of molesting him was thrown out because of legal time limits. The former principal, a Franciscan friar, is in prison for stealing from the school and the Franciscans nearly $900,000, some of which fed the younger Baselice’s drug addiction, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors are detailing allegations made against nearly two dozen priests since 1948 to show that Lynn and other archdiocesan officials kept suspected predators in jobs around children.
On cross-examination Monday, defense lawyers Jeffrey Lindy and Thomas Bergstrom had detectives concede that Lynn promptly interviewed both complainants and accused priests and sent the priests to a church-run hospital for mental health evaluations and treatment.
The man who wrote to the archdiocese in 1992 about the camp prowler was by then a 44-year-old married father of five girls. The priest he accused was chaplain of a suburban Philadelphia girls’ high school.
He remained there until 2004, when a church panel reviewing complaints in the wake of the national priest abuse scandal found the allegations against him credible. He only then admitted molesting three boys and explained earlier denials on the fact he had confessed and moved past it.
The archdiocese restricted his ministry — 40 years after the camp allegations first surfaced.
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