PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – The highest ranking cleric charged in a Philadelphia pedophilia scandal asked a judge on Friday to dismiss his case because his boss – the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua – ordered a list he made of predator priests be shredded.
Lawyers for Monsignor William Lynn, 61, filed the motion to dismiss conspiracy and child endangerment charges as jury selection in the case was underway in Common Pleas Court.
Lynn, who served the Philadelphia Catholic Archdiocese as secretary of the clergy during Bevilacqua’s time as archbishop from 1987 to 1998, would be the first church official to stand trial in a child sex abuse case if opening arguments begin as scheduled on March 26.
As clergy secretary, Lynn on his own initiative reviewed secret church archives and created a list of 35 priests who had been involved in abusive conduct or were classified with a sexual disorder, Lynn’s lawyers said in court documents.
He handed the list over to Bevilacqua in 1994. Bevilacqua soon afterwards, in a handwritten note, ordered the document destroyed, apparently by Lynn’s then supervisor Monsignor James Molloy, the lawyers said. Molloy died in 2006.
The motion to dismiss charges was made based on “the recent unexpected and shocking discovery of a March, 1994 memorandum” composed by Molloy, the defense lawyers said.
“I shredded… four copies of these lists from the secret archives,” Molloy said in the 1994 memorandum, according to the court documents filed on Friday.
Bevilacqua, 88, who was to have been a witness in the trial, died last month after suffering from dementia and cancer.
After Bevilacqua’s death on January 31, a locksmith was called in to open a safe and inside were copies of both the list of predator priests and the memo that it had been destroyed.
“Unbeknownst to anyone else and in violation of the cardinal’s directive, Monsignor Molloy preserved a copy of this list in a different place – a safe to which no one else had a combination,” the court documents said.
“Both documents only became available to the parties last week, a mere week after the passing of Cardinal Bevilacqua,” the court filing said.
The jury that indicted Lynn for covering up the abuse also indicted two priests, a former priest, and a former archdiocese school teacher on charges of sexually abusing children between 1996 and 1999.
(Editing By Barbara Goldberg and Paul Thomasch)
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