Monsignor William Lynn, the first and highest-ranking US Roman Catholic church official convicted in the massive clergy sex abuse scandal, was sentenced on Tuesday to up to six years in prison for covering up child sex abuse by Philadelphia priests.
Reuters reports that Lynn, who has been imprisoned since a jury found him guilty of child endangerment last month, was sentenced by Judge M. Theresa Sarmina to three to six years behind bars for his role in covering up clergy child sex abuse for more than a decade.
Judge Sarmina slammed Lynn for enabling "monsters in clerical garb... to destroy the souls of children, to whom you turned a hard heart."
"You knew full well what was right, Monsignor Lynn, but you chose wrong," she added.
Prosecutors, who argued for the maximum sentence of seven years, decried Lynn's lack of conscience.
"His active, even eager execution of archdiocese policies-- carried out in the face of victims' vivid suffering, and employing constant deceit-- required a more amoral character, a striving to please his bosses no matter how sinister the business," they wrote in a sentencing memo.
"At any time during those 12 years, he could have had a moment of conscience."
"He was the master of deception," lead prosecutor Patrick Blessington asserted at Lynn's sentencing in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. "We're talking about children being raped."
Lynn, who once supervised 800 priests as the secretary of the clergy for the Philadelphia Archdiocese, the nation's sixth-largest, covered up allegations of child rape and molestation by transferring implicated priests to other unwitting parishes. At least one of those priests, Edward Avery, sexually assaulted a young boy after being reassigned to a church with an elementary school.
A 2003 grand jury report found there were endemic problems with pedophile priests in the Philadelphia Archdiocese but that church leaders failed to report the abuse to authorities.
Lynn claimed that he "tried to help people" before his sentence was handed down.
"I tried to serve God. I tried to help people," he told the judge.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia argued that it has "taken dramatic steps" to safeguard against further sexual abuse of children entrusted to its care. But according to the Catholic Church's own 2011 report, allegations of clergy sexual abuse across America soared in 2010.
The Archdiocese also joined Lynn's attorney in calling his sentence too hash.
"Fair-minded people will question the severity" of the "heavy" sentence, the Archdiocese said in a statement, pointing to the "public humiliation" the church has suffered as a result of the trial.
The church said nothing of the humiliation endured by the many victims of pedophile priests.
The long sentence "would serve no purpose at all," Lynn's defense attorneys wrote in their sentencing memo. "[It] would merely be cruel and unusual," they added.
But the victims who were raped and molested by pedophile priests when they were children counter that they are the ones who have truly been forced to endure "cruel and unusual" punishment.