SAN JOSE, Calif.—William Lynch’s life spiraled out of control in the 35 years since he alleges he and his brother were molested by a Jesuit priest: He struggled with depression, had nightmares and tried to kill himself twice.
Authorities believe that anger and pain erupted when Lynch lured the Rev. Jerold Lindner to the lobby of his Jesuit retirement home by pretending he had news of a death in the priest’s family and beat him severely in front of shocked witnesses.
Lynch, 43, was arrested Friday and booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon for the May 10 attack. He was allowed to post $25,000 bail and will plead not guilty at an arraignment sometime next month, his attorney, Pat Harris, told The Associated Press.
Lynch punched the 65-year-old priest repeatedly in the face and body after Lindner said he didn’t recognize Lynch during a confrontation at the Jesuits’ Sacred Heart retirement home in Los Gatos, said Sgt. Rick Sung, Santa Clara County sheriff’s spokesman.
Lynch and his younger brother settled with the Jesuits of the California Province, a Roman Catholic religious order, for $625,000 in 1998 after alleging that Lindner abused them in 1975 during weekend camping trips in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Harris alleged that the boys, who were 7 and 5 at the time, were raped in the woods and forced to have oral sex with each other while Lindner watched. Lindner has been accused of abuse by nearly a dozen people, including his own sister and nieces and nephews.
Investigators connected Lynch to the attack using phone records, Sung said. A half hour before the beating, a caller identifying himself as “Eric” called the rest home and said someone would arrive shortly to inform Lindner of a family member’s death.
Lindner was able to drive himself to the hospital. He did not return a call left on his answering machine.
He has previously denied abusing the Lynch boys and has not been criminally charged. The abuse falls outside the statute of limitations.
Lindner was removed from ministry and placed at the Los Gatos retirement home in 2001. He was named in two additional lawsuits for abuse between 1973 and 1985, according to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The cases were included in the record-breaking $660 million settlement struck between the church and more than 550 plaintiffs in 2007.
The Rev. John McGarry, the provincial, told the AP that Lindner has recovered and resumed his work at the retirement home, where he helps care for 75 infirm priests. He is not allowed to leave the home unsupervised, he said.
“As you can imagine it’s very emotionally distressing to go through something like this. He hasn’t spoken a lot about it,” McGarry said. “He’s living a quiet life of prayer and service within our community.”
Lynch declined an interview Friday but in a 2002 Los Angeles Times article, he said he’d had nightmares for years, battled depression and alcoholism and had attempted suicide twice because of the priest’s abuse.
“Many times I thought of driving down to LA and confronting Father Jerry. I wanted to exorcise all of the rage and anger and bitterness he put into me,” Lynch told the newspaper. “You can’t put into words what this guy did to me. He stole my innocence and destroyed my life.”
The Associated Press does not identify victims of sex crimes as a matter of policy, but Lynch previously came forward to tell his story.
There have been several other instances of violence, sometimes fatal, against priests accused of abuse since the Roman Catholic clergy abuse scandal unfolded in 2002.
In Baltimore, a man who claimed he was sodomized and fondled by a priest a decade before shot the clergyman three times after the priest told him to go away when he demanded an apology.
The defendant was acquitted of attempted murder but served 18 months of home detention on a gun conviction.
The following year, priest John Geoghan was strangled in his cell by a fellow inmate who claimed he was chosen by God to kill pedophiles. Geoghan was serving a 9- to 10-year sentence for groping a boy and was at the center of the Boston clergy abuse scandal. He had been accused of molesting as many as 150 boys.
Lindner was ordained in 1976 and taught at various Catholic high schools during his career, including 16 years as chairman of the English department at Loyola High School, a prestigious Catholic prep school in Los Angeles.
There, he launched nearly two dozen after-school programs for students, including a chess club and renaissance club, and became master of a Boy Scout troop that included mostly lower-income Puerto Rican boys, his older brother, Larry Lindner, told The Associated Press.
Most of Lindner’s family severed contact with him years ago after discovering he had molested his nieces and nephews when they were as young as 3. His sister, Kathy McEntire, said they were unaware of the attack.