The first U.S. church official convicted for his handling of sexual abuse allegations against other priests has been sentenced to three to six years in prison.
The sentence was handed down today in Philadelphia to Monsignor William Lynn, the former secretary for clergy at Philadelphia Archdiocese.
Lynn was criticized for not doing more to stop abusive priests, and last month a jury convicted the 61-year-old of felony endangerment.
Lynn's lawyer Thomas Bergstrom is questioning the sentence.
"You have to look at the guideline sentences for this offense for people who actually endangered a child by touching them, by not feeding them, by driving them drunk — all sorts of cases," Bergstrom said. "This is a man who's now been sentenced to three to six years for endangering the welfare of a child he never saw, never met, and never was in danger."
Bergstrom continued to make an argument he has made all along -- Lynn tried to help victims, but had limited power.
"He met with the victims, he spent hours with the victims, he documented everything that they told him, he met with the priest, documented everything that the priest told him, and sent it up to you know who -- sent it up to the cardinal," said Bergstrom referring to the now-deceased Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.
In court, Lynn's family, friends and colleagues described him as a kind, giving man who would drop everything to help someone in great need.
Despite tears and stories of Lynn guiding others through painful times, Sarmina wasn't swayed much. She said while Lynn is not a man of violence, his actions -- or lack of action -- allowed "monsters in clerical garb ... to destroy the souls of children."
Lynn's lawyer Jeff Lindy questioned the judge's sentence and her harsh comments.
"To portray Monsignor Lynn as insensitive, who didn't care about victims as the judge just said -- didn't care about victims? -- that's improper! That's just not right," Lindy said.
District Attorney Seth Williams said the sentence validates years of work.
"This is a very different type of case. One that many people say is unprecedented in American jurisprudence and I am very proud of the men and women of the grand juries and the men and women of the district attorney's office for bringing this case on behalf of all victims," he said.
Williams says while Lynn did not abuse children, he didn't do enough to protect them.
"As the father of three daughters, to know that someone reported potentially that my daughter was raped, didn't call law enforcement, didn't even try to let me know that I have a ticking time bomb in the room next to me that needs counseling -- is insufficient," Williams said. "And that is why he's here. That is why he's held responsible for his behavior."
"I think this is a guide for the world," says Marci Hamilton, the co-counsel in several civil cases brought by plaintiffs who allege abuse and cover-up by Philadelphia church officials.
"I do think that Seth Williams has set the standard so that prosecutors now know that they can get justice for victims of child sexual abuse," Hamilton says. "And prosecutors were afraid these kinds of prosecutions even 10 years ago. They were elected officials and they were afraid of being targeted as being anti-Catholic."
Lynn's lawyers, who were hoping for probation or house arrest instead of prison time for their client, plan to appeal.
Support provided by