Legal Ethics

Church Lawyer Testifies Everyone Lied to Him About Secret List of Priest Abuse Suspects


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The former chief counsel for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia testified on Monday that church officials lied to him about a secret list of 35 priests suspected of abusing children.

The list is at issue in the trial of Msgr. William Lynn, accused of allowing priests suspected of abuse to continue in their ministries, report the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Associated Press, the Allentown Morning Call and CNN. Lawyer Timothy Coyne was suspended from his job as chief counsel a few weeks after the list surfaced.

“Everyone I spoke to said they didn’t know where it was, and they didn’t have a copy of it,” Coyne testified. “Somebody lied to me—or a lot of people lied to me.”

A memo discovered in 2006 asserted that Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua had ordered the shredding of the list shortly after it was drafted in 1994. According to Coyne, no one told him about the shredding order.

Apparently the list survived, however; it was also discovered in 2006 in a locked safe inside a file folder. Coyne testified he was given the file folder containing the list for safekeeping. The lawyer said he only glanced at it, and didn’t realize it contained the elusive list, according to AP and the Morning Call. The list finally surfaced on Feb. 10 before Lynn’s trial was to begin. At that time, Coyne gave the file to outside lawyers for the archdiocese.

Lynn contends the list proves he informed his superiors about suspected priest abusers, while prosecutors contend it shows he transferred and protected the priests.

Bevilacqua died in January. He previously denied any attempt to obstruct investigators.

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