Msgr. William Lynn, the pastor of St. Joseph Church in Downingtown, was put on administrative leave Friday, more than a week after he was charged with "purposely" shielding abusive priests and endangering children in the late 1990s, the Philadelphia Archdiocese announced Sunday.
With his arrest on Feb. 10, Lynn became the first Roman Catholic Church supervisor nationwide to be charged with covering up the sexual abuse of minors, authorities said.
According to a scathing grand jury report, Lynn, as secretary of clergy for the archdiocese, concealed the crimes of accused priests and put them in positions in which they could harm more children.
Lynn is innocent and a victim of excessive zeal on the part of the District Attorney's Office, his lawyer, Jeff Lindy, said after his arrest. Lindy could not be reached Sunday for comment.
Victim advocates who rallied during the weekend said they were relieved by the charges against Lynn and cautious in their hope that more church leaders who hid abusers would be punished.
"I hope that this ripples across the country," said David Lorenz, director of the Maryland chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Lorenz and others marched in front of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul on Sunday night, holding photographs of people who committed suicide after being abused. It was the second rally there in two days.
Lorenz said church leaders allowed the priest who abused him, a counselor at his Catholic high school, to keep his post despite 50 previous abuse reports.
"What were you thinking? It's the one question I want an answer to," he said.
Barbara Blaine, president of the network, said Lynn's removal was significant.
"At the same time, I think it's really important to recognize that Msgr. Lynn was following the policies of the archdiocese."
Donna Farrell, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said it took nine days to remove Lynn because, after his arrest, "he had taken some time away from the parish . . . and it was not until this week that he would have been returning. Personnel changes like this take a bit of time."
During his suspension he will be refraining from public ministry, she said.
Parishioners at Saint Joseph were told at Masses this weekend that Cardinal Justin Rigali had named Msgr. Joseph C. McLoone parochial administrator pro tem of the parish. (McLoone is the brother of Pat McLoone, Daily News managing editor.)
Lynn, 60, has not been seen at the parish since his arrest on two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, which accuse him of ignoring complaints about three priests and a parochial-school teacher who allegedly raped two altar boys in 1996 and 1998 at St. Jerome's Church in Northeast Philadelphia. The four were arrested along with Lynn.
It was the second time in less than six years that a grand jury castigated the archdiocese for its mishandling of sex-abuse cases. The new grand jury report flatly stated that the current leadership under Rigali has not lived up to its promise to protect children by weeding out predatory clergy, keeping as many as 41 priests "in ministry despite solid, credible allegations of abuse."
"It seems to me that this is only made belatedly and begrudgingly," Blaine said of the suspension. "Cardinal Rigali has known of this information and yet he has done nothing to stop it."
The archdiocese has said it will reopen cases against 34 active priests.