After the mixed-message end to the criminal trial of the Rev. James J. Brennan and Msgr. William J. Lynn, I speculated that even one conviction would rock both the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the state legal system.

Brennan had been accused of attempted rape and Lynn faced conspiracy charges, but after 13 days of deliberation, a conflicted jury declared a mistrial for Brennan and found Lynn - at the time the nation's highest-ranking church official ensnared in the sex-abuse scandal - guilty of just one crime: endangering the welfare of a child.

Surely that single verdict, on that felonious charge, would embolden other prosecutors to hold other powerful decision-makers accountable. Even in cases where they were not charged with touching anyone. Even when the official had never met the victim.

Thursday, state Attorney General Linda Kelly charged former Pennsylvania State University president Graham B. Spanier with putting the school's image before children's safety.

Once among the country's most revered college administrators, Spanier stands accused of lying to a grand jury for saying he never discussed reporting Jerry Sandusky to authorities and did not know about early allegations against the aggressive coach-turned-youth mentor.

The attorney general insists Spanier's actions - or rather, inaction - amount to endangering the welfare of children. Had Spanier done what he should have, when he should have, five of the 10 minors Sandusky was convicted of abusing might have escaped their fate, she said.

Spanier did not do nothing alone.

In the same news conference, the state added child-endangerment charges to other criminal allegations facing Penn State's suspended athletic director, Tim Curley, and former vice president Gary Schultz. All three men, Kelly said, displayed a "lack of concern" for kids that was deemed "callous" and criminal.

Before 2007, the only people in Pennsylvania who could be charged with child endangerment were those with actual contact with children. Think of the father who left his toddler in the car while he gambled at Parx, or a baby-sitter allowing her boyfriend to molest infants.

In-house

Legislators amended the law after the first blistering grand jury report on clergy sex abuse in Philadelphia, which made a compelling argument that administrative indecision and obfuscation often enabled and empowered pedophiles.

The expanded guidelines put institutional leaders on notice that they and their subordinates can be criminally culpable for harboring or ignoring suspected abusers.

Curiously, a day before Spanier was charged - on Halloween, no less - the archdiocese unveiled another set of sweeping policies aimed at avoiding the arrest of even more church higher-ups.

In creating an "Office of Investigations" made up of dogged former prosecutors who will immediately report any and all allegations to law enforcement, Archbishop Charles Chaput has established in effect a private sex-crimes unit inside the archdiocese.

The shredding

Call it reactionary, precautionary, or both. If nothing else, he's devoting significant resources to preventing the loss of more monsignors.

Defense lawyer Jeff Lindy represented Lynn and says his client was wrongly convicted of a charge that didn't apply to him at the time. Given the endangerment allegations against the trio of Penn State officials, Lindy wonders if a pair of bishops involved in the shredding of a key abuse memo or retired Cardinal Justin Rigali will be held accountable. Could Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams be satisfied with his win against Lynn?

"Nobody's been charged for enacting the policies Monsignor Lynn followed," Lindy argues. "And those people are very much still around," unlike Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and coach Joe Paterno.

Contact Monica Yant Kinney

at 215-854-4670, myant@phillynews.com or @myantkinney on Twitter. Read her blog at philly.com/blinq.