PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A priest assigned to help handle child sex-abuse complaints at the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia told jurors Tuesday that Monsignor William Lynn was the only other person who could have created a typed list of suspected pedophile priests.
Monsignor James Beisel's testimony came as the defense began its case in Lynn's child-endangerment and conspiracy trial. Rev. James Brennan also is on trial, charged with molesting a teenager.
Prosecutors have introduced the list as evidence that Lynn and other church officials were aware the archdiocese had known predators in jobs around children for years or decades. But defense lawyers argue Lynn took orders from Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. And witnesses Tuesday agreed that only the cardinal could transfer a priest or remove him from ministry.
Said Beisel: "... you don't say no to Cardinal Bevilacqua."
Lynn's attorneys argue he was trying to address the priest abuse problem by preparing the list for Bevilacqua. Lynn described the list in his 2002 grand jury testimony, but said he couldn't find it. Bevilacqua had it shredded, according to a memo, but a surviving copy was turned over to prosecutors in February, two weeks after the retired cardinal's death.
Beisel testified about working nights at the archdiocese to review secret, padlocked files full of abuse complaints, and making a list of suspected pedophiles who were still active priests in Philadelphia.
He and Lynn worked on "the project" for nearly two weeks in early 1994. Beisel made a hand-written, 15-page list of names and allegations, noting whether they were diagnosed pedophiles or presumed "guilty" based on their own admissions. The list also noted whether the alleged abuse was less than five years old, and still a potential legal problem.
Beisel said he did not recall preparing a typed version of the list that's been shown in court, and said Lynn was the only other person who could have typed it. He said he never knew the list had gone missing for many years, through two grand jury investigations. He said he was "woefully unprepared" for the assignment and left after a year. Lynn never asked him about the list, Beisel said.
Defense lawyers called three church colleagues to the stand, two of whom worked under Lynn at the Office for Clergy in the 1990s. They faced harsh questioning from prosecutors — something Lynn may be trying to avoid by having the uncharged friends defend their work to jurors.