Documents: Accused Pa. priest kept in parishes

April 24, 2012 - 7:25 PM

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Two Roman Catholic archbishops moved a troubled priest to new parishes despite dire warnings he was having sex with minors, according to church documents read in a Philadelphia court Tuesday.

Cardinal John Krol of Philadelphia assigned the late Rev. Peter Dunne to a suburban Warminster parish in 1987, a year after a therapist warned about any access to children.

And Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua sent Dunne to a northeast Philadelphia parish in 1989 — after a church therapist had diagnosed him as a pedophile and ticking time bomb.

Defense lawyers for Monsignor William Lynn noted that at least three other top aides at the archdiocese knew of the diagnosis. Yet Dunne refused requests to seek laicization, and remained an active priest until his 1994 retirement — and a priest until the day he died, in 2010.

Lynn, 61, the former secretary for clergy, has pleaded not guilty to child-endangerment and conspiracy charges. No other church officials have been charged in the case, despite two grand jury reports that excoriated leaders of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for their handling of child sex-assault complaints over half a century.

"Cardinal Bevilacqua had to have known that he was appointing a pedophile to that parish?" defense lawyer Thomas Bergstrom asked a witness Tuesday.

"It would appear to me, sir," replied Philadelphia Detective James Dougherty, who has spent two days reading aloud Dunne's secret personnel file — kept in locked cabinets at the archdiocese reserved for accused predators.

Dunne had spent his career in "sensitive" jobs around children, a worried aide told Bevilacqua in 1988. He taught at Cardinal Dougherty High School from 1958 to 1971 and at Archbishop Wood High School from 1971 to 1974, then ran an archdiocesan school for delinquent boys from 1974 to 1983. He was assistant director of the archdiocese's scouting program.

The church had Dunne evaluated after an Oregon doctor complained in 1986 that he had been abused by his former priest and scout leader. The doctor later lost his license for molesting patients, leaving his wife and children deeply in debt. His family sought money from the archdiocese for years — and Dunne once secretly gave him $40,000 to avoid a lawsuit, the 2005 grand jury report said.

Church therapists who evaluated Dunne warned he had addictive sexual compulsions and should never be around children. They said there were probably other victims.

"(The therapist) stated quite bluntly that that he feels we are sitting on a powder keg," one 1989 church memo said.

Another memo notes Bevilacqua's three concerns about the case: scandal, the good of the church and Dunne's welfare, in that order. The potential risk to children was not mentioned.

Prosecutors want to show that Lynn left Dunne and other accused predators in ministry when he became secretary for clergy in 1992, despite reading through the secret files filled with abuse complaints.

By 1993, Bevilacqua and an outside lawyer wanted Dunne cut loose entirely from the archdiocese because they deemed him too big a legal risk, even in a restricted ministry. Lynn disagreed, believing he needed to be supervised, the documents show.

Lynn's defense lawyers have argued throughout the five-week trial that Bevilacqua, who died in January, had the final say on how the church handled problem priests during his tenure. Krol, his predecessor, is also deceased.

Meanwhile, Wednesday's testimony could be pivotal. Lynn is expected to face a former altar boy who says he was raped by two priests and his fifth-grade teacher in the late 1990s, despite an earlier complaint against at least one of them.

The man's credibility was seemingly bolstered days before trial when now-defrocked priest Edward Avery pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting him in a church sacristy in 1999.

Jurors don't know about Avery's plea — but could learn of it if defense lawyers go too far in attacking the credibility of the witness, who has a history of drug and legal problems. A judge delayed ruling Tuesday on just where she might draw that line.

Another man allegedly abused years earlier by Avery is also expected to testify. His complaint reached the archdiocese in 1992.

Avery, 69, is serving a 2½ to five-year prison term. The other priest and teacher accused of raping the former altar boy at St. Jerome's Parish in northeast Philadelphia will be tried separately, because neither was an archdiocesan priest reporting to Lynn.