PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Closing arguments were to begin on Thursday in the closely watched child sex abuse case against a Roman Catholic priest and a church monsignor who is the highest-ranking U.S. church official to stand trial in a pedophilia scandal.
The jury has heard ten weeks of testimony in the trial of Monsignor William Lynn, the former secretary of the clergy in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, and the Reverend James Brennan.
Lynn, 61, is accused of conspiracy and child endangerment and could face as much as 28 years in prison if convicted. Brennan, 48, is charged with the attempted rape of a 14-year-old child in 1996.
Lynn is the highest-ranking U.S. clergyman to go to trial in the Roman Catholic church’s pedophilia scandal. His job was to supervise 800 Philadelphia priests, including investigating sex abuse claims against them, from 1992 to 2004.
Prosecutors say he covered up child sex abuse allegations, often by transferring priests to unsuspecting parishes.
The pedophilia scandal has rocked the Philadelphia Archdiocese, with 1.5 million members the sixth largest in the country. Nationwide, more than 10,000 allegations of child sex abuse were brought against priests between 1950 and 2002, according to a report commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
During the trial in Common Pleas Court, Lynn maintained he was powerless to remove pedophile priests and that his efforts to do so were often overruled by his boss, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who died in January at age 88.
But prosecutors say Lynn opted to put the protection of the church above the protection of children who were being molested.
Attorneys and Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina met on Wednesday to decide on the wording of her instructions to the jury ahead of deliberations.
Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Vicki Allen