Monsignor William Lynn returns to the courthouse after lunch recess during his trial in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 31, 2012. (Reuters/SCOTT ANDERSON)
PHILADELPHIA - Monsignor William Lynn, the most senior clergyman convicted in the U.S. Roman Catholic Church scandal, was sentenced on Tuesday to three to six years in prison for covering up child sex abuse by priests in Philadelphia.
Judge M. Teresa Sarmina told Lynn, 61, the former secretary of the clergy for the Philadelphia Archdiocese, that he protected "monsters in clerical garb who molested children."
Lynn had faced up to seven years behind bars for his conviction on a single count of child endangerment.
Lynn, who oversaw the work of 800 priests, was convicted of covering up sex-abuse allegations, often by transferring predatory priests to unsuspecting parishes.
The highest-ranking U.S. church official convicted of covering up sex crimes by priests, Lynn worked for the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, the longtime archbishop of Philadelphia. Among his job responsibilities was investigating sex abuse claims from 1992 to 2004.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia is the nation's sixth largest with 1.5 million members.
Key to Lynn's conviction on June 22, according to the jury foreman, was the monsignor's own testimony that he followed the cardinal's orders to attribute priest's moves to health reasons but never to sex abuse accusations. Testimony also showed Bevilacqua ordered the list of accused priests be destroyed, although a lone copy was found in an archdiocese safe.
Prosecutors used that list to show the Church was aware of predatory priests and covered up their existence, while the defense used the list to argue it showed Lynn attempting to stop the problem.
Lynn was charged after a Philadelphia grand jury report issued in January 2011. In addition, three priests, and a former diocese school teacher were charged with sex crimes against children.
One of the priests, Reverend James Brennan, was tried along with Lynn but a jury was unable to reach a verdict on his charges of attempted rape of a 14-year-old boy and child endangerment. On Monday, prosecutors said they would retry him on those charges.
Defrocked priest Edward Avery, who was scheduled to go on trial with Lynn and Brennan, pleaded guilty at the last minute to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy and is now in jail.
Another priest and the teacher are awaiting trial.