(RNS) The Philadelphia priest whose conviction for failing to report child-abusing clerics to authorities was overturned last week was granted a $250,000 bail on Monday (Dec. 30). But it could take at least another week before Monsignor William Lynn is free.

Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina also ruled that Lynn, who has already spent 18 months of his three-to-six-year sentence behind bars, must surrender his passport and be subject to electronic monitoring and weekly reporting while on bail.

The Philadelphia district attorney’s office had requested that Lynn, 62, remain in jail while prosecutors appealed the reversal of his conviction.

Lynn’s June 2012 conviction on one count of child endangerment was seen as a milestone because it was the first time anyone in the upper levels of the Catholic Church had ever faced a trial or been found guilty for shielding molesters.

Lynn was responsible for clergy personnel and fielded abuse complaints for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004. His lawyers said that in covering up for molesters he was following the orders and policies of his superiors, primarily the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who died in January 2012 before Lynn’s three-month trial began.

But a three-judge Superior Court panel on Dec. 26 unanimously ruled that while Lynn had “prioritized the archdiocese’s reputation over the safety of potential victims of sexually abusive priests” his actions did not violate the child welfare law in place at the time.

During Monday’s hearing, which Lynn did not attend, Sarmina said she had been struggling with whether to grant Lynn bail or not. But she said the Superior Court’s ruling tipped the scales toward allowing bail.

“I am, in fact, fallible,” she said, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. “If the conviction is in question, is not the punishment in question?”

The mandatory reporting law that Lynn was originally charged under was amended in 2007 to explicitly cover supervisors like Lynn, but that came years after he had left his position.



  1. My, my how the City of Philadelphia hates Roman Catholics. This person should have the right to walk out of prison having been found innocent of charges. It seems clear that a simple “Common Pleas Court” judge should have no contempt for a three judge “Superior Court panel” finding. If dear Msgr. were black he’d be out free and clear as any person should be. bigotry exists everywhere.

    • Easy does it!!! Your bigotry and paranoia are showing through!!! You really think it is because he is white and Roman Catholic? Maybe it’s because he was covering up molestations, and I don’t care what loop hole he might squeeze through, he needs to do time if he did it

    • Not guilty is not the same thing as innocent. Please do not confuse the two. This guy did it. “I was following order” was his primary defense. He should have gone to the law at the very first indication that something was amiss. This is so ingrained in the Catholic organization that enable and cover up is the standard response.

  2. Where are all the right-wing religious nuts talking about activist judges? Did Bachmann not hear about the children being raped? Oh wait I forgot, people like her aren’t pro-life they are pro-fetus.

  3. Perhaps Lynn cannot be jailed for his past offenses. However, there’s no reason why his bishop cannot yank him from the clerical role, perhaps even recommend to the Vatican that he be laicized.

    Someone whose main defense is “My boss wanted it done this way” seems to have lost his moral compass somewhere along the line.

    • “P.R. Pope,” Earold? How so? I hope that you’re not angered over the fact that even the mainstream media has found something to like about the pope’s m.o. That would be unjustifiable bias.

  4. So he IS guilty, but the law did not cover what he did at the time? He aided and abetted rape and pederasty, and yet he is to go free and still holds a high office in the Catholic Church. Adding insult to injury, if Earold is right, his freedom is being facilitated by that same church. This is exactly why, no matter what this kinder gentler pope says, I will continue to hold the Catholic Church in complete contempt and regard it as a threat to the safety of children and society in general. Rotten to the core.

  5. “Just following orders” hasn’t been a valid defense since the Nuremberg trials in 1946. This guy had a duty of care to children far more than to his superiors and the church hierarchy. EVERYBODY’s first duty of care is to the defenseless children irrespective of what trouble it may cause for the alleged friends – or was he happy to openly admit he was friends and colleagues with a child molestor?

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