A Roman Catholic church official facing trial in a priest child abuse scandal created a list of problem priests in 1994, but Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua had it destroyed, according to a defense memo filed Friday.
Monsignor William Lynn, who's accused of keeping predator priests in ministry and transferring them from parish to parish, wants his child endangerment case dismissed because of new evidence turned over by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, including his list of 35 accused priests.
Lynn took it upon himself to review secret church files after becoming secretary for clergy in 1992, and he later gave a list of accused, still-active priests to his superior, Monsignor James E. Molloy.
Bevilacqua had Molloy shred four copies of the list, according to a memo signed by Molloy and a witness. But Molloy kept a copy in a locked safe at the archdiocese, where it was found in 2006, after Lynn had moved on, according to his motion.
"It is clear from the Molloy memo, and (its) belated production, that Monsignor Lynn has been `hung out to dry,'" the defense motion says.
Lynn, who is charged with conspiracy and child endangerment, maintains his innocence. He has long argued that he took orders from Bevilacqua and is being made a scapegoat for the church's sex abuse scandal.
Prosecutors themselves blasted Bevilacqua in two grand jury reports but never charged him with a crime. They have called the archdiocese and others "unindicted co-conspirators."
Bevilacqua appeared before the first grand jury 10 times in 2003 and 2004 and denied any attempt to obstruct the investigation, according to Lynn's motion. He died last month at age 88.
Molloy also denied destroying any documents from the secret archives, according to an excerpt of his grand jury testimony. He also is dead.
Late last year, Bevilacqua, who was suffering from dementia and cancer, gave a videotaped deposition that can be used at trial, but the value of his testimony remains unclear. Lynn's lawyers have fought to have it excluded, based in part on Bevilacqua's dementia. They renewed that request Friday, saying they never had a chance to ask Bevilacqua if he had Lynn's list destroyed.
Lynn is the first U.S. church official charged for his administrative action. Jury selection is under way, with testimony scheduled to start March 26. A priest and an ex-priest charged with rape are on trial with him, and they also maintain their innocence.
A gag order prevents prosecutors or the archdiocese, which serves 1.5 million Roman Catholics, from commenting on Lynn's allegations. Lynn, 61, would faces up to 28 years in prison if convicted on all counts against him.