Freed priest gets stern warning from Philadelphia judge
PHILADELPHIA — A judge on Monday told a Roman Catholic church official that she has signed an arrest warrant that she would issue if he violates the term of his release on electronic monitoring following the reversal of his conviction in the priest sex-abuse scandal.
Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina told 63-year-old Monsignor William Lynn to report to a probation officer weekly.
Monday's brief court hearing was the first public appearance for Lynn since he was released from prison on Friday after serving 18 months of a three- to six-year prison term for felony child endangerment.
The pre-signed arrest warrant is standard for defendants released on bail.
Several supporters were there to see the priest, who lost 80 pounds during his time in prison.
Lynn was the first American church official ever convicted in the handling of abuse complaints. But a state appeals court ruled Dec. 26 that the state's child-endangerment law in the late 1990s did not apply to supervisors like Lynn.
During his tenure as secretary for clergy for the archdiocese from 1992 until 2004, Lynn documented hundreds of abuse complaints against priests and then locked them in a secret archives room. Many of the accused priests were transferred to new parishes without warning, although Lynn said he often tried to get them and their victims help.
His lawyer, Thomas Bergstrom, said Lynn is restricted to the two floors of a rectory at St. William Parish in Northeast Philadelphia and has to get permission to leave for appointments with his doctor, lawyer or to attend to anything else. There is no school at the parish.
Lynn remains a priest in good standing, and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia posted $25,000 for bail last week. After the hearing, Bergstrom said there are no plans for Lynn to return to any job in the church for now.
Lynn declined to answer questions from reporters as he left court, saying only, “I'm just taking care of myself.”
The Philadelphia district attorney's office plans to appeal last month's ruling to the state's Supreme Court. If the court decides not to hear the case, last month's ruling would stand and Lynn would remain free.
Either way, it's likely to be at least months before an appeal is resolved.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams last week criticized the archdiocese's decision to post bail for Lynn.
But Bergstrom said it was the right move.
Lynn is “not a threat of flight, he's not going anywhere,” Bergstrom said. “If he abides by all the conditions of bail, the money will go back to the archdiocese, so it's not as if they've lost the money.”