PHILADELPHIA – A Roman Catholic pastor was punished by the Philadelphia archdiocese for raising concerns about a priest being assigned to his parish, jurors learned Wednesday in a clergy-abuse trial.
Prosecutors offered the evidence to suggest the archdiocese blamed the messenger rather than address its brewing clergy-abuse problem in the 1990s.
Monsignor Michael Picard was punished for complaining when the priest was assigned to his Newtown, Pa., parish in 1996. Picard said he had heard disturbing information about the priest from reliable sources — and acted for the sake of his parish.
The late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, angry that Picard was rejecting his decision on the placements, ordered him to apologize and take a two-week retreat to reflect on his actions.
"Cardinal Bevilacqua noted that he will not tolerate even the appearance of disobedience by any priest," states a memo of a disciplinary meeting read in court Wednesday.
Monsignor William Lynn, 61, is charged with child endangerment for allegedly helping the archdiocese keep predators on the job. Lynn was secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, most of it under Bevilacqua. Defense lawyers argue that Lynn took orders from the cardinal.
Prosecutors are detailing about 20 priest personnel files to try to convince the jury that church officials covered up sex-abuse complaints or admissions.
Picard testified later in the day, saying he never disobeyed the cardinal, only questioned the transfer. He continues to lead St. Andrew, but was not made a monsignor until 2010 — a title often bestowed on pastors within a few years.
The priest who was the subject of Picard's concern was sent to another parish in 1996. The archdiocese agreed he was "no angel," but said they had received no serious complaints about his work in three parishes over 15 years.
According to documents read in court, Picard told his superiors, "There are so many problems today for priests and the church, he thought he would stop this one."
In 2005, the priest rejected by Picard was accused of sexually assaulting a minor in 1982, according to prosecutors. The priest died in 2006.