Lawyers: Bevilacqua ordered memo on priests to be shredded
February 24, 2012
By John P. Martin, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua ordered aides to shred a 1994 memo that identified 35 Archdiocese of Philadelphia priests suspected of sexually abusing children, according to a new court filing.
The order, outlined in a handwritten note locked away for years at the archdiocese’s Center City offices, was disclosed Friday by lawyers for Msgr. William J. Lynn, the former church administrator facing trial next month.
They say the shredding directive proves what Lynn has long claimed: that a church conspiracy to conceal clergy sex abuse was orchestrated at levels far above him.
“It is beyond doubt that Msgr. Lynn was completely unaware of this act of obstruction,” attorneys Jeffrey Lindy and Thomas Bergstrom wrote.
Their motion asks Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina to dismiss the conspiracy and endangerment charges against Lynn, or to bar prosecutors from introducing Bevilacqua’s videotaped testimony at trial….
The revelation is likely to further cloud Bevilacqua’s complicated legacy in the handling of clergy sex abuse and could shape what happens at the historic trial, the first for a cleric accused of covering up sex abuse….
Prosecutors say that Lynn, as the secretary for clergy, recommended priests for assignments despite knowing or suspecting that they would sexually abuse children. Facing trial with him are two former parish priests accused of molesting a boy in the 1990s, the Rev. James J. Brennan and Edward Avery.
In their motion, Lynn’s lawyers argue that the new documents show he was one of the few church officials trying to confront the issue of abuse.
After becoming secretary for clergy in 1992, they say, Lynn began combing the secret personnel files of hundreds of priests to gauge the scope of misconduct involving children. He did it, his lawyers said, because he “felt it was the right thing to do.”