PHILADELPHIA -- Monsignor William Lynn entered a Philadelphia courtroom Monday as the only Roman Catholic Church official ever charged with endangering children by transferring priest-predators to unsuspecting U.S. parishes.
His two veteran criminal lawyers argue that Lynn was never legally responsible for any individual child.
But their hope of having the case dropped early on will have to wait, as procedural matters took up the hourlong court hearing. Lynn and his four co-defendants -- including a priest, an ex-priest and a former Catholic-school teacher charged with raping the same boy in the 1990s -- must instead return to court March 25.
Prosecutors who compiled a 124-page grand jury report challenge Lynn's demand for a preliminary hearing to show probable cause. They believe that the report contains all the evidence required. But Lynn's lawyers are pushing for the hearing.
"We'd get to see evidence, of course. But, more importantly, what we'd get is an opportunity to find out what the commonwealth's theory is on our client endangering the welfare of a child. It's a stretch," lawyer Thomas Bergstrom said.
Bergstrom, a dean of Philadelphia's criminal defense bar, confirmed that the archdiocese is paying him and co-counsel Jeffrey M. Lindy in Lynn's case.
Lynn, 60, was secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004 under former Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. He has recently been pastor of St. Joseph, a large parish in the sprawling suburb of Downingtown.
"We love you! We love you!" a parishioner cried out to Lynn in the courtroom. She declined to give her name.
The grand jury investigated child sexual abuse that allegedly occurred from 1996 to 2000 and was reported within a newly expanded time limit for such victims in Pennsylvania to come forward.
Two priests -- 64-year-old Charles Engelhardt and 47-year-old James Brennan -- along with 68-year-old former priest Edward Avery and 48-year-old teacher Bernard Shero are charged with rape and related crimes.
Brennan's lawyer told the judge Monday that he hopes the archdiocese will also pay Brennan's legal bills if he is acquitted.