Catholic Monsignor William J. Lynn leaves Philadelphia's Criminal Justice Center for a lunch break March 26, 2012 during his trial for covering up sex abuses.

Philadelphia Msgr. William J. Lynn was sentenced to three to six years in prison today, marking the first time a Catholic church official has been convicted for covering up child sex abuses by priests under his supervision.

Lynn, 61, was sentenced this morning by Judge M. Teresa Sarmina for failing to take steps that could have prevented former parish priest Edward Avery from sexually assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy at Philadelphia's St. Jerome Church, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Sarmina said, Lynn enabled "monsters in clerical garb ... to destroy the souls of children, to whom you turned a hard heart," according to the Associated Press. She added, "You knew full well what was right, Monsignor Lynn, but you chose wrong."

Lynn said, "I did not intend any harm to come to (Avery’s victim). My best was not good enough to stop that harm."

Avery was defrocked six years ago when he pleaded guilty to the 1999 sexual assault. Lynn now faces up to six years in state prison for allowing Avery to remain in active ministry after learning he had once molested a minor, and has been in jail since his June 22 conviction.

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According to District Attorney Seth Williams, Lynn should have received the maximum seven years so that he would understand "the protection of children trumps the reputation of abusers and the institution that harbors them," reported UPI. Lynn's lawyers, on the other hand, asked Sarmina for probation or house arrest, saying he did not pose a danger to the public and had been sufficiently rehabilitated during his 10-year legal battle. The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said it believed Lynn still posed a threat to the public.

Lynn served as secretary for clergy of the 1.5 million-member archdiocese from 1992 to 2004, where part of his job was to recommend priest assignments and investigate abuse complaints, according to The New York Times. During the two-month trial, Lynn's lawyers argued that he had tried to protect children but that he wasn't able to do so because his power was limited while following the instructions of then-cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua.

The Times also reported that Lynn's lawyers plan to appeal the conviction, saying the child endangerment law at the time did not apply to supervisors. The lawyers argued that the judge had made a mistake in allowing testimony about sex abuses that happened outside of the statute of limitations.

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