Read more: 21 Catholic priests suspended in Philadelphia over sexual abuse allegations
For the first time in the history of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States a senior church official has appeared in court on charges of covering up the activities of predator priests.
Irish American Monsignor William J. Lynn was vicar of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004. It is believed that he will be the first managerial-level church official not charged with abusing minors but protecting those who did so.
The New York Times reports that Monsignor Lynn was indicted on two counts of endangering the welfare of children last month and was placed on administrative leave. He is contesting the charges and will appear in court. He could face up to 14 years in prison.
The historic indictment of Monsignor Lynn sent shock waves across the country and shows that the criminal justice system is no longer afraid to go after the church hierarchy.
In the past there were four major cases in Boston, Cincinnati, Phoenix and Manchester, NH where prosecutors began criminal investigations into high-ranking church officials. According to Terence McKiernan of "BishopAccountablity.org" all of these investigations were stopped short and no charges were brought against them.
Head of the department of religious studies at Cabrini College in Radnor, PA, Leonard Norman Primiano said Monsignor Lynn’s court appearance “will be seen as one of those significant moments when the state is asking the church to pay for its inadequacies.”
Along with Monsignor Lynn a defrocked priest and a parochial school teacher both charged with sexual abuse of minors will appear in court.