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Landmark US church sex abuse trial opens

Last Updated: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 - 10:10

Philadelphia: The Archdiocese of Philadelphia
protected sexual predators in its ranks for more than 70 years, putting the church`s reputation over the safety of children, a prosecutor said Tuesday at the start of a landmark priest abuse case that`s shaken the Roman Catholic establishment.

The church kept secret files dating back to 1948 that show a long-standing conspiracy to doubt sex abuse victims, protect priests and avoid scandal, Assistant District Attorney
Jacqueline Coelho said in opening statements.

Coelho called the case "a battle between right and wrong
within the archdiocese and the office of secretary for

She outlined the decades-old sexual abuse complaints
found buried in secret archives to build a case against
Monsignor William Lynn, who supervised priests as secretary
for clergy from 1992 through 2004. Lynn is the first US church
official charged for his administrative role in the sex abuse

He is on trial with the Rev. James Brennan, who is
charged with the attempted rape of a 14-year-old boy in 1996.
Both men entered not guilty pleas before the jury today.

Co-defendant Edward Avery, a defrocked priest, entered a
surprise guilty plea Thursday to a sexual assault charge and
will serve two-and-a-half to five years in prison. Avery also
acknowledged that the archdiocese kept him in parish work
despite knowing of an earlier complaint lodged against him, a
point that could bolster the conspiracy charge against Lynn.

Coelho said the archdiocese did little or nothing about
sex abuse complaints until the church`s sex abuse scandal
exploded in Boston in 2002.

"Victims are met with scepticism and priests are believed
... at all costs," Coelho said, speaking softly to the jury.

The defence is expected to begin its opening statements
later today.


First Published: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 - 10:10

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