Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Criminal charges

Catholic church official faces criminal charges
William Lynn first high-ranking church official to face child endangerment charges; Dozens accused of abuse remain in active ministry

Archdiocese facing multiple lawsuits for child abuse

A new lawsuit is being filed against top officials in the Philadelphia Archdiocese for allegedly failing to protect children against predator priests. As Elaine Qujano reports, this isn't the first suit facing an Archdiocese official.

Monsignor William Lynn (CBS)

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(CBS News) Phil Gaughan can't bring himself to talk about it in detail, but said when he was a teenager, he was sexually abused by a catholic priest, reports CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano.

"It just can't happen to anybody else," Gaughan said. "Nobody should have deal with what I've dealt with for 15 years, the way that I felt and no child should ever have to go through this again."

After years of silence, Gaughan is publicly filing suit against top officials in the Philadelphia archdiocese, who he said failed to protect him from a predator priest. One of those named in his civil lawsuit is Monsignor William Lynn.

Lynn is already facing charges in a separate criminal case. For 12 years, Lynn was in charge of recommending work assignments for priests in the Philadelphia archdiocese. The district attorney believes Lynn knowingly recommended abusive priests be reassigned, without ever warning the parishes.

"They did in fact re-offend," said Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. "They did in fact rape and sodomize other children."

Lynn has now become the first high-ranking U.S. church official ever to face criminal child endangerment charges for allegedly covering-up abuse. But prosecutors said there are other problems.

Allegations against Lynn resulted from a 124-page grand jury report that concludes, "Apparent abusers - dozens of them, we believe - remain on duty in the Archdiocese, today, with open access to new young prey."

For now, the archdiocese has suspended three priests, but according to the report, 34 others accused of abuse or inappropriate behavior with minors remain in active ministry.

The archdiocese has hired a former prosecutor to re-examine past cases.

"I will not turn my back on evidence of a cover up," said Gina Smith.

The archdiocese is not commenting on recent legal action, but church officials have vowed to do better.

"We have now taken action and we hope that our actions speak to our resolve," said Bishop Daniel Thomas with the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

That's little comfort to Gaughan, who hopes by coming forward he's giving children the protection he never had.

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