Monsignor Joseph McLoone knows that he will face a troubled parish in a time of turmoil.
Beginning Thursday, he will minister to the Catholic faithful at St. Joseph Parish, in Downingtown, Chester County. He is temporarily replacing Monsignor William Lynn, whose name has been sullied after a grand jury recently accused him of hiding sexual abuse by other priests.
In a major development, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, under Cardinal Justin Rigali announced yesterday that Lynn, 60, was placed on administrative leave on Friday.
McLoone, 48, pastor of St. Katharine Drexel Parish, in Chester, Delaware County, is the brother of Pat McLoone, the Daily News' managing editor.
Monsignor McLoone said yesterday that his biggest goal for the Downingtown parishioners is that he wants "them to know I will be there to support them, to walk with them."
Attorney Jeff Lindy, who represents Lynn, with attorney Thomas Bergstrom, said yesterday that Lynn is still pastor of St. Joseph's and had last week "requested a leave so he could attend to his legal duties."
Added Lindy: "He's innocent. The charges don't apply to him."
Parishioners at St. Joseph's and St. Katharine Drexel's were informed of the change during services over the weekend.
McLoone, whom archdiocese spokeswoman Donna Farrell said is "beloved" by his parishioners, told his flock of the news. Of the faithful in Downingtown, he said: "I do think it's a very hard time for them because their pastor, it's a person they know and loved; I'm sure they will have conflicting emotions."
Farrell said that Monsignor Joseph Marino, the Chester County vicar, said Mass at St. Joseph's over the weekend.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams on Feb. 10 released a scathing grand-jury report accusing Lynn of endangering children by shielding pedophile priests from detection and shuffling them into unsuspecting parishes. Prosecutors charged Lynn with two counts of child endangerment.
The grand jury, in its blistering report, also accused two priests, one former priest and a lay teacher of rape and related charges in connection with sexual offenses on two boys between 1996 and 2000. Charles Engelhardt, 64, and Edward Avery, 68, both priests; former priest James Brennan, 47; teacher Bernard Shero, 48; and Lynn were arrested the day the grand-jury report was released.
The arrests are believed to be the first time nationally that a high-ranking church official - Lynn - has been charged on allegations that he concealed priest sexual abuse.
The five accused men, who have posted bail, are scheduled for a preliminary hearing March 3 in Family Court.
David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said yesterday of Lynn's leave: "How could they [Archdiocese officials] not put him on leave, given the fact that he faces serious criminal charges," and according to the grand jury, exposed thousands of children to abusive priests?
SNAP yesterday held two meetings in Philadelphia: a public one for "concerned Catholics and citizens" at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, on Market Street near 18th; and, afterward, a confidential support-group meeting for victims of sexual abuse.
Lynn was former Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua's secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, when he acted as personnel director. He was responsible for investigating reports of priest sexual abuse during those years.
In a 2005 grand-jury report, under then-District Attorney Lynne Abraham, grand jurors found that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia had covered up decades of sexual abuse by dozens of priests. It said that the priests could not be criminally charged because of the statute of limitations.