Greek Orthodox council moves to dismiss one of its priests

Greek Orthodox council moves to dismiss one of its priests

The simmering tensions between the parish council of the Salt Lake Valley’s Greek Orthodox community and its priests erupted again this week.

In a letter dated Dec. 28, the council informed the Rev. Michael Kouremetis that “there are no funds allocated in the 2014 budget to pay your salary or compensation package beyond December 31, 2013.”

The letter was signed by council chairman Dimitrios Tsagaris, who declined to comment beyond saying that the council would discuss the matter with the community in the coming weeks.

Kouremetis, though, has no intention of leaving the state, the priest told worshippers Sunday at Holladay’s Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church.

Kouremetis, who did not return a phone call seeking comment, said he is not going anywhere, according to congregants who were there. He serves “the Lord and the hierarchs of the church, not the parish council.”

The fundamental problem is that the council “fails to view the priest as the head of the parish,” a group of parishioners and past parish council members wrote in a letter to Archbishop Demetrios, head of the church in the United States. “It is obvious that the council wants priests that will be subservient to it.”

In late July, the parish council announced 40 percent wage cuts to the Salt Lake Valley’s three Greek Orthodox priests — Kouremetis at Prophet Elias, the Rev. Matthew Gilbert at Salt Lake City’s Holy Trinity and the roving Rev. Elias Koucos — to balance the budget.

In response, Metropolitan Isaiah, the Greek Orthodox regional authority in Denver, ordered the clergy to discontinue Sunday services, baptisms and weddings until the parish restored their priestly pay.

After three weeks, the council called a “special parish assembly” to discuss the issue. By 220-215 vote, attendees opted to restore the full salaries while at the same time asking Isaiah to reduce the number of priests in Utah from three to two.

“We held this [special assembly] to hear what the parishioners wanted and this is what it is,” Tsagaris said then of the vote, which attracted so many parishioners to Prophet Elias that cars were parked along Highland Drive for several blocks in both directions. “It was a very orderly assembly. Everyone had the opportunity to speak.”


Duluth Bishop Sirba to release names of priests accused of sexual abuse

Duluth Bishop Sirba to release names of priests accused of sexual abuse

Duluth, MN ( — Duluth Bishop Paul Sirba will release names of priests in the Duluth Diocese who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor.

Bishop Sirba plans to host a press conference on Tuesday to release the list. Attorneys requested earlier this month that the names of 17 priests accused of sexual abuse be released to the public.

Duluth Diocese to reveal list of ‘credibly accused’ priests

Duluth Diocese to reveal list of ‘credibly accused’ priests

The Duluth Diocese will release the names of its priests who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse Tuesday, a spokesman said today.

The announcement comes several weeks after a lawsuit was filed in State District Court seeking the release of information on 17 priests. The suit, filed Dec. 9 on the behalf of an anonymous victim, claimed that the diocese was negligent in allowing abuse to continue and has created a nuisance by not releasing the names of accused priests.

Earlier this month, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona released lists of credibly abused priests, following a court order. That order stemmed from a suit brought by Twin Cities law firm Jeff Anderson and Associates, which also filed the Duluth suit.

Duluth Bishop Paul Sirba will release the list during a 10 a.m. news conference Tuesday at the diocese’s headquarters, communications director Kyle Eller said.

Court reverses church official’s ruling in sex crimes case

Court reverses church official’s ruling in sex crimes case

A Pennsylvania appeals court has reversed a 2012 ruling against a senior Catholic Church official convicted of covering up sexual abuses by priests. In June 2012, Monsignor William Lynn was found guilty of child endangerment for his alleged role in reassigning predators to new parishes in Philadelphia when he was secretary for the clergy from 1992 to 2004. Lynn’s conviction for covering up sexual abuse had been the first of its kind against a senior official of the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S.

A unanimous decision released Thursday by the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that Lynn was wrongly convicted and dismissed the criminal case against him. Lynn’s attorneys argued that the state’s child endangerment law at the time only applied to parents and caregivers, not supervisors like him. Lynn had already begun serving his three to six year prison sentence.

State appeals court orders convicted church official freed.

State appeals court orders convicted church official freed

PHILADELPHIA — A Roman Catholic church official who has been jailed for more than a year for his handling of priest sex-abuse complaints had his conviction reversed and was ordered released Thursday.

In dismissing the landmark criminal case, a three-judge appeals court panel unanimously rejected prosecutors’ arguments that Monsignor William Lynn, the first U.S. church official ever charged or convicted for the handling of clergy-abuse complaints, was legally responsible for the abused child’s welfare.

“He’s been in prison 18 months for a crime he didn’t commit and couldn’t commit under the law,” said his attorney, Thomas Bergstrom. “It’s incredible what happened to this man.”

Lynn, 62, is serving a three- to six-year prison sentence after his child-endangerment conviction last year. His lawyers will try to get him released as early as this week from the state prison in Waymart. Prosecutors promised to fight the ruling and any move to release him.

Prosecutors had argued at trial that Lynn reassigned known predators to new parishes in Philadelphia while he was the archdiocese’s secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004.

ynn’s conviction stems from the case of one priest, Edward Avery, found to have abused a child in 1998 after such a transfer.

Lynn’s attorneys have long contended the state’s child-endangerment law at the time applied only to parents and caregivers, not supervisors like Lynn. Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina had rejected their argument and allowed the case to move forward.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said he strongly disagrees with state Superior Court panel’s 43-page opinion reversing Sarmina’s decision.

“Because we will be appealing, the conviction still stands for now, and the defendant cannot be lawfully released until the end of the process,” Williams said in a statement.

Sarmina concluded Lynn perhaps drafted a 1994 list of accused priests to try to address the clergy abuse problem. But when Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua had the list destroyed, Lynn chose to stick around — and keep quiet, she said. A copy of the list was found years later in a safe and repeatedly was discussed at trial.

Sarmina, in sentencing Lynn in July 2012, had said the church administrator had “enabled monsters in clerical garb … to destroy the souls of children,” rather than stand up to his bishop.

Lynn told the judge: “I did not intend any harm to come to (the boy). The fact is, my best was not good enough to stop that harm.”

Lynn’s supporters believe he was made a scapegoat for the church’s sins, including two cardinals who were never charged. Nonetheless, Bergstrom said his client hopes to return to ministry, and has enjoyed support of the current Philadelphia archbishop, Charles J. Chaput, who twice visited him in prison.

Lynn had left the archdiocesan hierarchy for parish work after he featured prominently in a damning 2005 grand jury report into the priest-abuse scandal.

Then-District Attorney Lynne Abraham concluded that too much time had passed to charge anyone criminally despite decades of abuse complaints against dozens of priests.

Williams, her successor, revisited the issue when new accusers came forward under new laws that extended the time limits and added church or school supervisors to the list of people who could be charged.

Williams filed the novel child-endangerment case against Lynn, while charging three other priests and a teacher of sexually abusing children.

Three of them have been convicted while the jury deadlocked in the fourth case.

Lynn’s trial lasted several months, although a majority of the testimony involved victim testimony from earlier, uncharged priest-abuse cases, much of it graphic. Sarmina allowed the jury to hear that evidence to let prosecutors show the pattern of behavior by Lynn and other church officials.

Bergstrom had also challenged that evidence on appeal, calling it unfair.

The Superior Court never addressed that concern or other alleged trial errors, concluding the charges themselves were flawed because Lynn was charged under an endangerment law adopted after he left his church post.

“This whole prosecution, it was absolutely founded on dishonesty,” Bergstrom said. Prosecutors knew that the revised statute didn’t apply to Lynn, “and they went ahead anyway. … And now the Superior Court has told them (so).”

The Philadelphia Archdiocese’s communications office was closed for the Christmas holiday. A spokesman did not immediately return a message left on his cellphone.

Read more: 
Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook

Catholic church official William Lynn, convicted in US sex abuse scandal, has ruling overturned

Catholic church official William Lynn, convicted in US sex abuse scandal, has ruling overturned

Monsignor William Lynn was convicted in June 2012 of endangering the welfare of a child by reassigning a priest with a history of sexual abuse to a Philadelphia parish that was unaware of his past.

That priest, Edward Avery, later pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy in the Philadelphia parish.

Lynn, who was not accused of personally molesting children, was sentenced to a three-to-six-year prison term.

A Superior Court of Pennsylvania appeals panel reversed his conviction on Thursday, and ordered Lynn to be discharged from prison.

In its ruling, the court said “the evidence was insufficient to demonstrate that [Lynn] acted with the ‘intent of promoting or facilitating'” the offence.

Lynn’s attorney, Thomas Bergstrom, said the court ruling demonstrated Lynn should never have been prosecuted. He said he expected Lynn to be released within days.

Lynn’s lawyers argued on appeal that the law he was prosecuted under was not in place at the time of the crimes.

The child endangerment statute in effect when Lynn was secretary of clergy for the Philadelphia Archdiocese, from 1994 to 2004, applied to “a parent, guardian or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age.”

The law was amended in 2007 to include those who oversee the people supervising the child, such as Lynn.

“Once again, another high-ranking Catholic official who repeatedly endangered kids and enabled predators is escaping punishment,” an advocacy group, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said in a statement following the latest ruling.

“If kids are to be safer, we need to hold employers more responsible, not less responsible, for putting innocent children in harm’s way,” the group said.

Catholic cleric’s child endangerment conviction overturned on appeal

Catholic cleric’s child endangerment conviction overturned on appeal

A Pennsylvania appeals court has overturned the conviction of Monsignor William J. Lynn, the first U.S. Catholic cleric convicted on charges of covering up the sexual abuse of children.

The court ruled unanimously that Lynn was wrongly convicted of child endangerment for his handling of priest sex abuse complaints, The Associated Press reported.

The 2012 case drew national attention as Lynn was tried for what many see as unaddressed crimes of child sex abuse by priests in the Roman Catholic Church. At Lynn’s conviction, no U.S. Catholic cleric had been held accountable in criminal court.
Since then, Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., was found guilty of a misdemeanor charge for failing to tell police about a priest suspected of sexually exploiting children. Finn is the first U.S. bishop to be charged with failing to report suspected child abuse.

Lynn’s conviction, for which he has been serving three to six years in prison, was based on his supervision of the Rev. Edward Avery. Prosecutors argued that Lynn, secretary for clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004, knew Avery was a sexual predator but continued to assign him and other priests, also known to be abusers, to new parishes.

Lynn’s attorney argued that child-endangerment law applied “only to parents and caregivers, not supervisors.” Last year, Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina disagreed.

Lynn told Sarmina at his sentencing that he did his best to mitigate the damage done by the abusive priests and repeated his argument that he lacked the authority to do anything more.

“But the fact is, my best was not good enough — and for that I’m truly sorry,” Lynn told her.

Samina said, “You knew full well what was right, Monsignor Lynn, but you chose wrong.”

On Thursday (Dec. 26), a Superior Court panel reversed her decision. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said the state “most likely will be appealing.”

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Religion News Service LLC.


Conviction Overturned For Priest Jailed In Abuse Scandal

Conviction Overturned For Priest Jailed In Abuse Scandal

After spending a year and a half in jail, a Philadelphia Roman Catholic priest convicted of child endangerment will go free after a court overturned the 2012 verdict.

NPR’s Jeff Brady says although Monsignor William Lynn, 62, was never accused of abuse himself, he was convicted in 2012 of putting children in danger by moving abusing priests to unwitting parishes. Lynn was an official of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia at the time.

On Thursday, however, a three-judge panel unanimously rejected prosecutors’ arguments that Lynn was legally responsible for the welfare of the children allegedly abused by priests under his supervision.

“He’s been in prison 18 months for a crime he didn’t commit and couldn’t commit under the law,” Lynn’s attorney, Thomas Bergstrom, said. “It’s incredible what happened to this man.”

Brady says the Archdiocese released a statement saying that it earlier had expressed hope that the nature of Lynn’s conviction would be objectively reviewed.

Lynn is the first U.S. church official ever put on trial for mishandling clergy abuse complaints. He was serving a three- to six-year sentence.

Philadelphia Monsignor’s Conviction Overturned in Cover-Up of Sexual Abuse

Philadelphia Monsignor’s Conviction Overturned in Cover-Up of Sexual Abuse

A Pennsylvania appeals court on Thursday overturned the criminal conviction of a Roman Catholic official who was accused of covering up sexual abuses by priests he supervised. The court rejected the legal basis for a prosecution that was viewed as a milestone in holding senior church officials accountable for keeping abuse reports secret in past decades and transferring predatory priests to unwary new parishes.

Alex Brandon/Associated Press The official, Msgr. William J. Lynn of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, has spent 18 months in prison, but was not released and now must apply for bail.

He was the first senior church official in the United States to be criminally indicted not for abusing children himself, but for lax oversight of priests with histories of committing sexual abuse.

His conviction in June 2012 on one count of child endangerment, and sentence of three to six years in prison, was lauded by victim advocates as an overdue assignment of responsibility to senior church officials. But it was portrayed by Monsignor Lynn’s supporters as overly harsh for a man who made misjudgments but was following the orders of an archbishop, who has since died.

Thomas A. Bergstrom, a lawyer for Monsignor Lynn, called the ruling “a strong opinion by a unanimous court,” He said of the monsignor: “He shouldn’t have been convicted. He shouldn’t have been sentenced.”

The reversal of Monsignor Lynn’s conviction turned on disputed interpretations of Pennsylvania’s former child welfare law and does not have legal implications for other states. Prosecution of supervising officials for their handling of priests accused of abuse in past decades remains a rarity; grand juries in Boston and Los Angeles are known to have explored the issues but have not issued indictments, apparently because of legal constraints.

But experts in the priest sexual-abuse scandals said that the impact of Monsignor Lynn’s trial on the church and the public was unlikely to be diminished by Thursday’s reversal.

“The process of taking this case through the criminal system likely stirred as much change as any conviction,” said Timothy D. Lytton, a professor at the Albany Law School and the author of “Holding Bishops Accountable.”

Two grand jury reports and the Lynn trial showed “in excruciating detail,” Mr. Lytton said, that Philadelphia church officials “placed concern about scandal to the church above child welfare.”

Monsignor Lynn served as secretary of the clergy in the archdiocese from 1992 to 2004, responsible for recommending priest assignments and investigating abuse complaints. At his trial, prosecutors presented evidence that he had shielded a number of suspect priests and lied to the public to avoid bad publicity and lawsuits. His conviction involved only one former priest, Edward V. Avery, whom Monsignor Lynn sent to live in a rectory without warning parish officials of his history as an abuser.

Shortly before Monsignor Lynn’s trial, Mr. Avery pleaded guilty to engaging in oral sex with a 10-year-old altar boy in 1999, and he is serving a sentence of two and a half to five years.

In Thursday’s reversal, the appeals court said that the state had provided “more than adequate” evidence that Monsignor Lynn “prioritized the archdiocese’s reputation over the safety of potential victims of sexually abusive priests.” But it rejected the argument, accepted by the 2012 trial judge and jury, that a child welfare law applied to a “parent, guardian or other person supervising the welfare of a child” could be used to prosecute Monsignor Lynn. To eliminate any ambiguity, that law was modified in 2007, after his retirement, to explicitly apply to employers and supervisors as well.

“I felt all along that the trial was a freight train,” said Jeffrey M. Lindy, who as a lawyer for Monsignor Lynn during the trial had argued that the law was being misapplied. Amid public outrage over revelations of abuses and cover-ups, he said, politics had influenced the judgment of some officials.

The Philadelphia district attorney who pressed the case, R. Seth Williams, said in a statement Thursday, “I am disappointed and strongly disagree with the court’s decision.”

“While we are deciding what our next course of action will be, we most likely will be appealing this decision,” he said.

Whether or not the conviction stands up, Monsignor Lynn’s trial remains a warning to church officials everywhere, said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a senior analyst with The National Catholic Reporter and expert on church leadership.

“Everyone in the chancery now knows they could be arrested and prosecuted if they do not follow the law carefully,” he said.

Most of the abuse cases that have come to light occurred in earlier decades and are often beyond the criminal statute of limitations. New accusations are less frequent, Father Reese noted, “but in general when a case comes up, everyone is picking up the phone and dialing 911.”

The highest Roman Catholic official in the United States to face abuse-related charges is Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City, Mo. In September 2012 he was found guilty on one misdemeanor charge for failing to report a priest who had taken hundreds of pornographic pictures of young girls. Bishop Finn was sentenced to two years’ probation.

Lynn ruling elates supporters, deflates victim advocates.

Lynn ruling elates supporters, deflates victim advocates

Advocates for victims of clergy sex abuse said Thursday that the dismissal of Msgr. William Lynn’s conviction on child-endangerment charges was nothing short of a travesty of justice.

“What a disgrace,” Marita Green, president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Voice of the Faithful, a group of activist Catholics, said in a statement. “I don’t care whose ‘orders’ Lynn followed, whether [Cardinals] Bevilaqua’s, Krol’s, or even O’Hara’s. It is appalling that the laws in the state of Pennsylvania have been so ineffective that none of these enablers, facilitators, and cover-upers have gone to jail.”

But supporters of the monsignor said they were elated at the news.

“I think that this case will give other prosecutors around the country pause to reflect on who is really accountable for the damage that may have been done to victims of sexual abuse,” said Joe Maher, founder of Opus Bono Sacerdotii, a Detroit organization that provides assistance to accused priests.


Lynn, 62, was the first Catholic Church administrator in the country to be charged with covering up child sex abuse.

Nearly 18 months after he went to prison, his lawyers persuaded a Superior Court panel that prosecutors and the Philadelphia trial judge misapplied the state’s child-endangerment laws. They contended that the laws in place when he was secretary for clergy in the 1990s and early 2000s applied only to those who directly supervised children, and the higher court agreed.

Marci Hamilton, a lawyer who has represented abuse victims suing Lynn and the Philadelphia archdiocese, called the decision a “very technical reading of the law.”

The Rev. Christopher Walsh, who two years ago was among the founders of a fledgling Association of Philadelphia Priests, said the decision was far from a victory in an “ugly chapter” in the life of the archdiocese.

The decision “wasn’t about whether he did something right or wrong. It was whether he did something that he could have been prosecuted for,” Walsh, pastor of St. Raymond of Penafort in Mount Airy, said, noting that he was not speaking for other priests. “There’s not a sense we’re getting past this.”

Some advocates called for stronger child-endangerment laws.

“The issue – and this is an issue that’s much broader than this case – is whether the laws are adequate to deal with what we’re seeing in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and elsewhere,” said Terry McKiernan, who runs Bishop Accountability, a website documenting abuse by priests.

Hamilton said she worried prosecutors would “struggle” to bring other church administrators to trial in the wake of the decision.

Maher said the ruling was just. “You’re asking someone else to be accountable for something someone else did,” he said.