The main co-defendant in the unprecedented landmark clergy sex abuse case took the stand on Wednesday in his own defense.
"At the time I didn't realize I was hurting children," Monsignor William Lynn said. "I did my best with the parameters that were given to me."
Lynn testified to a courtroom full of family members and reporters. He appeared to be calm and affable while answering defense attorney Tom Bergstrom's questions.
Bergstrom and the other defense attorneys put Lynn on the stand in the late morning. He testified until court was adjourned.
Lynn is charged with endangering the welfare of children by moving suspecting priests to unwitting parishes where many of them had access to children. He stands on trial with Rev. James Brennan who is accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in 1996.
As the Secretary for Clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, from 1992 to 2004, Lynn was in charge of personnel matters for about 800 priests within the archdiocese. His duties included assignment requests, solving disputes and health care for the clerics. Lynn was also responsible for investigating victim allegations of priest abuse.
Lynn went into detail about the strict chain of command he had to follow when making recommendations. He said he would draft memorandums and send them to his superior. Eventually the recommendations would reach the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and await his signature of approval. Ultimately, Lynn said he followed the Cardinal's strict orders, and had no power to remove a priest from ministry.
Under direct examination, Lynn testified he began reviewing the secret archive files in the winter of 1994. The files consisted of information regarding priests with issues like substance abuse and sexual misconduct. Lynn and his then-assistant Monsignor James Beisel drafted a list of 35 priests that were accused or guilty of sexual misconduct. Lynn said he submitted the list to his superiors.
Lynn stated he drafted the list after learning about a priest's sexual misconduct. He said he wanted to ensure that if there were other priests sexually abusing minors, then his superiors would be notified.
A meeting to discuss the documents Lynn drafted was called soon after Bevilacqua received the list. Lynn said he brought his files, including the list, and left them at the meeting. The list was subsequently shredded. He said he did not learn the of the shredding until he was interviewed by his lawyers in 2012.
It was learned last week, that a copy of the list had been found in the tenth floor safe at the headquarters of the Office for Clergy. The list was exhumed in 2006 by a locksmith who drilled the safe open. Lynn said he did not put the list in the safe, nor did he know the combination.
Tensions gradually rose as Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington continuously questioned Lynn's excuses.
"It's not as black and white as you're making it, I provided them with information," Lynn said to Blessington. "When it came to removal from ministry, it was not my call."
The prosecution's cross-examination is expected to continue Thursday.
Lynn is the highest-ranking cleric in the Roman Catholic Church to be charged with endangering children and conspiracy regarding sexual misconduct with minors. Both Lynn and Brennan have pleaded not guilty to the allegations brought against them.