The only Roman Catholic church official jailed in the U.S. in the sex abuse scandals of recent years has been freed by an appeals court, which reversed his child endangerment conviction Thursday.
A three-judge Superior Court panel unanimously set aside the conviction of Monsignor William Lynn on the three- to six-year prison sentence he had been serving on a child-endangerment conviction last year. Lynn had been charged for failing to protect children in his Philadelphia-area diocese from predatory priests, reassigning them to other parishes rather than reporting them and removing them from contact with children.
The appeals court panels opinion said that the child endangerment law only applied to parents and direct caregivers, and not people in administrative or supervisory roles. Prosecutors may ask a full Superior Court panel to rehear the case.
The decision left church reform advocates reeling. “We’re heartsick,” Barbara Dorris, outreach director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told Raw Story. “We felt that this conviction sent a very strong message that if you protect predators, you would be punished. We hoped it would cause other prosecutors to go after other people protecting pedophiles. We thought it was a trend, a start.”
Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn is the only other American church official convicted in connection with the pedophilia scandals in the Catholic church. Shortly after Lynn’s conviction, Finn was convicted of a misdemeanor for failing to report a priest with child pornography, and sentenced to two years of probation.
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