By Dave Warner
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Monsignor William Lynn, the first senior U.S. Roman Catholic Church official to be convicted of covering up child sex abuse, was sent back to prison on Thursday after a judge rejected his bid for house arrest.
Family members sobbed in the court gallery after Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina denied Lynn's request to be released to the home of a distant relative in Philadelphia.
The judge did, however, grant his request to move up his sentencing to July 24 from August 13. Lynn, 61, faces up to seven years in prison.
The former secretary of the clergy for the Philadelphia Archdiocese, who was in effect personnel manager for 800 priests, was convicted in June of child endangerment for covering up sex abuse allegations, often by transferring priests to unsuspecting parishes.
Defense lawyers said the judge, in refusing to release Lynn from jail to wear an ankle bracelet monitor, was treating him unfairly because he is a church official.
"He's upset that he seems to be taking the weight of the church on his shoulders," said defense lawyer Jeff Lindy after the ruling on Thursday.
Lynn, 61, is the highest-ranking church official convicted of covering up sex crimes by priests. He worked for late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, the longtime archbishop of Philadelphia, which is the nation's sixth largest archdiocese with 1.5 million members.
Lynn was charged in the wake of a Philadelphia grand jury report issued in January 2011. In addition to Lynn, three priests, and an ex-diocese school teacher were charged with sex crimes against children, One of the priests, Reverend James Brennan, was tried along with Lynn and faced charges of attempted rape and child endangerment. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the counts against Brennan.
A third priest who was scheduled to go on trial with Lynn and Brennan pleaded guilty at the last minute to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy and is now in jail.
Another priest and the teacher are awaiting trial.
(Editing By Barbara Goldberg)