8 Ugly Sins of the Catholic Church
If pedophile payouts weren’t enough to convince you the Catholic leadership is often anything but moral, take a look at some of their other sins.
Did the Catholic Bishops wince last week when their leader, anti-contraception Cardinal Timothy Dolan, was exposed for paying pedophiles to disappear? One can only hope. After all, these are men who claim to speak for God. They have direct access to the White House, where they regularly weigh in on issues ranging from military policy to bioethics, and they expect us all to listen – not because of relevant expertise or elected standing, but because of their moral authority.
If pedophile payouts weren’t enough to convince you that this “moral” authority is often anything but moral, take a look at some of their other sins against compassion and basic decency.
1. Excommunicating doctors and nuns for saving lives. In 2009, a 27-year-old mom, pregnant with her fifth child, was rushed to a Phoenix hospital, St. Josephs, where her doctors said she would almost certainly die unless her pregnancy was aborted immediately. The nun in charge approved the emergency procedure, and the woman survived. The local bishop promptly excommunicated the nun. “There are some situations where the mother may in fact die along with her child. But — and this is the Catholic perspective — you can’t do evil to bring about good. The end does not justify the means,” said Rev. John Ehrich, the medical ethics director for the Diocese of Phoenix.
How far are the Church authorities willing to take this “moral” logic? In Brazil last year, with Vatican backing, the Church excommunicated a mother and doctor for saving the life of a 9-year-old rape victim who was pregnant with twins. (At four months pregnant, the girl weighed 80 pounds.) Cardinal Giovanni Batista Re, who heads the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, said “life must always be protected.” Perhaps Mr. Batista Re can explain the Vatican’s 1,500-year tradition of “just war.”
2. Protecting even non-Catholic sex-offenders against child victims. As we have seen, the moral priorities of the bishops are laid naked when they decide who to excommunicate and who not. The doctor and the mother of the pregnant 9-year-old got the boot for approving an abortion, but not the stepfather who had sexually assaulted the child, probably over a period of years. A similar contrast can be seen between the case of the Phoenix nun and hundreds of pedophile priests who were allowed to remain Catholic even after they finally were identified and removed from the Church payrolls.
It gets worse. In New York, a bill that would give child molestation victims more time to file charges has been blocked seven times by the Catholic hierarchy led by none other than Cardinal Dolan. Why? “We feel this is terribly unjust, we feel it singles out the church, and it would be devastating for the life of the church.” In other words, regardless of whether the abuse really happened or what the consequences were for victims, what matters is how much additional lawsuits might cost the Church. Isn’t that the ends justifying the means?
3. Using churches to organize gay haters. When the Washington State legislature approved marriage equality this spring, fundamentalist Christians across the state organized to reverse the legislation. Even though three quarters of American Catholics think that gay marriage or civil unions should be legal, Archbishop Peter Sartain jumped to the front of the pack, decreeing that Western Washington parishes under his “moral authority” should gather signatures for an anti-equality initiative. To their credit, a number of priests refused, and a group called Catholics for Marriage Equality is raising money for ads. In contrast to the Catholic League, which has made the degrading argument that sex between priests and adolescent boys is consensual homosexuality, lay Catholics appear to know the difference.
4. Lying about contraceptives to poor Africans. Of all the mortal sins committed by the men of the cloth, the most devastatingly lethal in the last 30 years has been the Catholic hierarchy’s outspoken opposition to condom use in Africa. In 2003, the president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family publicly lied about the efficacy of condoms in preventing both pregnancy and HIV: “The AIDS virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon. The spermatozoon can easily pass through the ‘net’ that is formed by the condom.” The archbishop of Nairobi told people that condoms were spreading HIV. Some priests told parishioners that condoms were impregnated with the virus.
The motivation for such flagrant falsehoods? The Church has practiced competitive pro-natalism for centuries, but lately anti-contraceptive edicts have been ignored by most educated European and American Catholics, and Italy has the second lowest birthrate in the Western World, at 1.3 per woman. The bishops see this as a “catastrophe” and are looking to Africa as “a reservoir of life for the Church.” They wrap their opposition to contraception in lofty moral language such as that offered by Pope John Paul II: It seems profoundly damaging to the dignity of the human being, and for this reason morally illicit, to support a prevention of AIDS that is based on a recourse to means and remedies that violate an authentically human sense of sexuality. As late as 2009, John Paul’s successor, Benedict, continued to tell poor African Catholics that condoms were “wrong” and even suggested that they were making the epidemic worse. With god-knows –how-many lives lost and children orphaned, he finally softened his stance in 2010.
5. Obstructing patient access to accurate information and services in secular hospitals. In rural Arizona near the Mexican border, women delivering babies by cesarean section were refused tubal ligations because their independent hospital was negotiating a merger with a healthcare network run by Catholics. Worse, when a woman arrived at the same hospital in the middle of a miscarriage and need a surgical abortion to complete the process, she was forced to travel by ambulance to Tucson, 80 miles away, risking hemorrhage on the way. All over the U.S. secular and Catholic-run health systems are merging, and patients are quietly losing the right to make medical decisions based on the best scientific information available and the dictates of their own conscience.
Even when the Catholic-owned hospital is a small part of the merger, administrators insist that Catholic directives apply to the system as a whole. These directives prohibit not only abortions but also contraceptives, vasectomies and tubal ligations, some kinds of fertility treatment, and compliance with end-of-life patient directives. Ectopic pregnancies cannot be handled in keeping with the medical standard of care. As biotechnologies and treatments relevant to the beginning and end of life advance, we can expect the list to grow longer. Patients cannot trust that they will be told other options are available elsewhere.
One of the bitter ironies here is that even wholly “Catholic” hospitals and charities are staffed primarily by non-Catholics and largely provide services to people of other faiths or of none, paid for with tax dollars. In healthcare much of the money flows from Medicare and Medicaid. In 2010, non-medical affiliates of Catholic Charities received 62 percent of annual revenue from the taxpayers – nearly $2.9 billion. Only 3 percent came from church donations, with the remainder coming from investments, program fees, community donations and in-kind contributions. And yet all of those dollars get directed according to the dictates of bishop conscience rather than individual conscience.
6. Slapping down nuns. Catholic charities and hospitals are at some competitive advantage in part because of hard-working nuns, many of whom have skills and responsibilities that exceed their compensation. The bishops are the Catholic Church’s 1 percent; the nuns are managers and service workers –and many have taken the kind of poverty vows that America’s 1 percent is trying to impose on the rest. Because many nuns live in the real world, where suffering and morality are complex, they often make care-based decisions and take nuanced positions on moral questions that the Council of Bishops resolves by appealing to dogma and authority.
In April, the Vatican decided to remind the nuns who’s on top. Rome issued an 8-page assessment accusing the Leadership Conference of Women Religious of disagreeing with the bishops and of “radical feminism.” It appears that their labors on behalf of poor, vulnerable people had distracted them from a more Christian priority: controlling other people’s sex lives—oh, and standing up against the ordination of women. The Archbishop assigned by the Vatican to rein in unruly American nuns is none other than Peter Sartain of Seattle, the same moral authority who has declared a holy crusade against gay marriage.
7. Bullying girl scouts. Unlike the Boy Scouts, who recently earned media and public attention by booting out a gay den-mother, the Girl Scouts have been stubbornly inclusive and focused on preparing girls for leadership. For example, last year a Colorado troop included a trans-gender 7-year-old. That’s a problem for the Bishops, and since up to a quarter of American Girl Scouts are Catholic kids with troops housed in churches, they see it as their problem. To make matters worse, the American Girl Scouts refused to leave their international umbrella, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, which has stated that young women “need an environment where they can freely and openly discuss issues of sex and sexuality.” The World Association would appear to believe the data that girls who can’t manage their sexuality and fertility are more likely to end up in poverty than leadership positions.
Then again, maybe that’s what the church hierarchy is after. According to an article last month at the Huffington Post, “The new inquiry will be conducted by the bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. It will look into the Scouts’ ‘possible problematic relationships with other organizations’ and various ‘problematic’ program materials, according to a letter sent by the committee chairman, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne, Ind., to his fellow bishops.” We’re talking about an organization run by women for girls facing an all-male inquisition. In today’s Catholic church, leadership still requires a y chromosome.
8. Purging popular and scholarly interfaith bridge builders. Lest some reader assert that the sins of the Bishops are all a consequence of sexual repression – some contorted pursuit of sexual purity that degrades both sex and compassion—it is important to note that the current cohort of Church authorities are as obsessed with doctrinal purity as sexual purity. It would take me many paragraphs to describe their tireless pursuit of purity as well as retired Anglican bishop, John Shelby Spong, does in one:
Hans Kung, probably the best read theologian of the 20th century, was removed from his position as a Catholic theologian at Tubingen because his mind could not be twisted into the medieval concepts required by his church. This action was carried out by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who at that time under Pope John Paul II held the office that in another time gave us the Inquisition. Matthew Fox, one of the most popular retreat and meditation leaders and an environmental activist, was then silenced by the same Cardinal Ratzinger. Professor Charles Curran, one of America’s best known ethicists, was removed from his tenured professorship at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., also by the same Cardinal Ratzinger. Father Leonardo Boff, the best known Latin American liberation theologian, was forced to renounce his ordination in order to continue his work for justice among the poor of Latin America by the same Cardinal Ratzinger. Next we learn that the Vatican, now headed by Cardinal Ratzinger under his new name Pope Benedict XVI, has ordered the removal of a book from all Catholic schools and universities written by a popular female theologian at Fordham University, Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson. Now the nuns are to be investigated. Conformity trumps truth in every direction.
The Catholic tradition defines deadly or “cardinal” sins as those from which all other sins derive. In addition to lust, gluttony, wrath, sloth and envy, the traditional seven include pride and greed, which, to my mind, drive much of the appalling behavior in this list. If an attempt to assert autocratic control over the spiritual and physical lives of lay people isn’t pride, I don’t know what is. And if a willingness to silence child victims to protect church assets isn’t greed, I don’t know what greed is. The BBC’s revelation last month of money laundering in the Vatican Bank pales by comparison.
To me, ultimately, the sins of the Catholic bishops are “deadly sins” because they kill people, whether pregnant mothers or depressed gay teens or African families, or simply desperate people who are forced into greater desperation by “moral” priorities that distract from real questions of well-being and harm.
What the Bishops will have to account for when they meet their maker, none of us can say. For some American Catholics, the process of holding them to account has already started. The Women Religious have pushed back against the condescending “assessment” issued by the Vatican. Small groups of lay Catholics have rallied to their support. Picketers meet monthly outside Sartain’s cathedral to protest his stance against equality. The Franciscan brothers issued a statement of solidarity with the nuns, many of whom have remained solidly focused on economic justice instead of sexual transgressions.
Given the arrogant cruelty of Church leaders, criticism to date has been remarkably tempered. As the Bishops flash their moral authority in the White House and media and pulpit, clothed in white robes and draped in crimson, they should be glad they aren’t eyeball to eyeball with Jesus himself. As the writer of Matthew tells it, he called out the corrupt religious leaders of his day in no uncertain terms: Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington and the founder of Wisdom Commons. She is the author of “Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light” and “Deas and Other Imaginings.” Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan Offered $20,000 To Priests Suspected Of Child Abuse To Make Them Leave The Priesthood
Archbishop Timothy Dolan Offered $20,000 To Priests
Suspected Of Child Abuse To Make Them Leave The Priesthood
Back when he was Archbishop of Milwaukee, Timothy Dolan offered priests suspected of misconduct with children payments of $20,000 to induce them to leave the priesthood, according to the New York Times.
The news came out of bankruptcy filings, and is being publicized by a group representing the interests of victims of child abuse. From the report:
A spokesman for the archdiocese confirmed on Wednesday that payments of as much as $20,000 were made to “a handful” of accused priests “as a motivation” not to contest being defrocked. The process, known as “laicization,” is a formal church juridical procedure that requires Vatican approval, and can take far longer if the priest objects.
“It was a way to provide an incentive to go the voluntary route and make it happen quickly, and ultimately cost less,” said Jerry Topczewski, the spokesman for the archdiocese. “Their cooperation made the process a lot more expeditious.”
This is brutal news for Dolan, who was previously praised very highly for his handling of abuse cases in Milwaukee after the reign of the notorious Archbishop Weakland, who stole from church coffers to pay for the lifestyle of his male lover.
Victims’ groups like Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) will counter that these were corrupt payoffs, or even “bonuses” given to suspected rapists.
The Archdiocese and Dolan will argue that this was a small price to pay. If these priests did not accept this payment they would likely remain on the diocesan payroll for much longer during the long process of defrocking them.
Cardinal Dolan has not offered comment to the press.
Punishment phase of trial continues for ex-priest convicted of trying to hire hit man to kill abuse accuser
Punishment phase of trial continues for ex-priest convicted of
trying to hire hit man to kill abuse accuser
Ex-priest John Fiala will soon learn whether he’ll be sentenced to life in prison or something less for trying to hire a hit man to kill a teenage boy who accused him of sexual assault.
The Dallas County jury that convicted Fiala yesterday is hearing testimony this morning in the punishment phase of the trial. Among those expected to testify is the abuse accuser, who is now 20.
The man is not being named because The Dallas Morning News generally does not identify possible victims of sex crimes. He also testified on Wednesday.
The 53-year-old former Roman Catholic priest faces separate charges he sexually assaulted the boy in West Texas several years ago, including at gunpoint. The purported hit man he tried to hire to kill the boy in a 2010 meeting in Dallas was actually an undercover Texas Department of Public Safety agent.
After Fiala’s arrest, authorities found photos of young men, and possibly boys, on his computer. Some of them were wearing only underwear and exposing themselves.
Fiala also apparently used a Facebook account under the name “Ziggy the Great,” collected toys and had a Sponge Bob Square Pants calendar, according to testimony.
Vatican laments Irish dissent, silences priests
Apr. 26, 2012
DUBLIN, IRELAND — Just weeks after a report from a Vatican inquiry into the Irish church lamented what it described as “fairly widespread” dissent from church teaching, it was revealed that the Vatican has “silenced” Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery.
The Holy See’s move provoked fury among the members of the 800-strong Association of Catholic Priests, which has accused the Vatican of issuing a fatwa against liberal clerics.
It’s not exactly clear why Flannery, a popular author and retreat director, has come under Vatican suspicion. He has voiced support in the past for opening up debates around the ordination of women, a change to the church’s ban on artificial birth control and an end to mandatory celibacy. He also provoked dismay among senior Irish bishops when he publicly backed Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s 2011 attack on the Vatican in the wake of the report into the mishandling of clerical abuse in the Cloyne diocese. Kenny accused the Vatican of “dysfunction,” “disconnection,” “elitism” and “narcissism.” Flannery described the speech as “wonderful.”
By acting against Flannery now, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith may well have scored an own goal by provoking the ire of the priests’ association. As well as his retreat work, Flannery is a founder of the association, which now represents some 20 percent of Ireland’s clergy. Since its founding less than two years ago, the group has campaigned for liberal reforms in the church and is due to hold a national assembly in early May to harness momentum. Key priorities for the group include “a re-evaluation of Catholic sexual teaching” and “a redesigning of ministry in the Church, in order to incorporate the gifts, wisdom and expertise of the entire faith community, male and female.”
Flannery is the latest Irish priest to face Vatican censure. In mid-April, it was revealed that moral theologian Fr. Seán Fagan had been silenced by the Vatican two years ago. His Marist order even took the bizarre step of buying up unsold copies of his 2008 book What Happened to Sin?.
Capuchin Fr. Owen O’Sullivan also fell foul of the doctrinal congregation in late 2010 after he published an article suggesting that homosexuality is “simply a facet of the human condition.”
More of the same is likely to be in the cards given some of the findings of the apostolic visitation, published on March 19. The summary of the document — oddly, only four of Ireland’s 27 serving bishops have seen the full report — warned that “dissent from the fundamental teachings of the Church is not the authentic path towards renewal.”
The tendency “among priests, religious, and laity, to hold theological opinions at variance with the teachings of the Magisterium” required, the visitation concluded, “particular attention directed principally towards improved theological formation.”
A war of words has now broken out — of sorts, since no one of the Vatican side of the argument is speaking at all. Renowned ecologist Fr. Seán McDonagh, a member of the priests’ association’s leadership team, accused the Holy See of “outrageous” behavior in silencing of the clerics.
He accused the Vatican of “throwing a fatwa” at the priests and said that some of Rome’s recent actions were like a return to the Inquisition.
“This isn’t the time for heresy-hunting,” he warned.
The association has rallied behind Flannery, insisting, “This intervention is unfair, unwarranted and unwise.”
The association has also resisted attempts to cast it simply as a liberal pressure group. “The issues surfaced by the ACP since its foundation less than two years ago and by Tony Flannery as part of the leadership team are not an attack on or a rejection of the fundamental teachings of the Church. Rather they are an important reflection by an association of over 800 Irish priests — who have given long service to the Catholic Church in Ireland — on issues surfacing in parishes all over the country,” the group said in a statement.
A recent survey commissioned by the association seems to demonstrate that the priests are not the Irish church’s only restive members. While weekly Mass attendance is still relatively high, three out of four people who identify themselves as Catholic say they find the church’s teaching on sexuality “irrelevant.”
The survey — conducted by the respected research association Amarach — also showed that almost 90 percent of those surveyed believe that divorced or separated Catholics in a stable second relationship ought to be able to receive Communion at Mass.
The figures were compiled from a sample of 1,000 Catholics and, according to researchers, have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
According to the results, 35 percent of those surveyed attend Mass at least once a week; 51 percent attend at least once a month. Just 5 percent of Irish people who identify themselves as Catholics never attend Mass.
Eighty-seven percent disagreed with church teaching on an unmarried priesthood and said they believed that the church ought to allow priests to get married, while 77 percent said the church should admit women to the priesthood.
When asked “to what extent do you agree with the Catholic church’s teaching that any sexual expression of love between a gay couple is immoral,” 61 percent said they disagreed while 18 percent of those surveyed believed homosexual acts to be immoral.
Seeming to set himself on a collision course with the Vatican, McDonagh said the survey “confirms that those who are advocating for change in the church are not a tiny minority, but are, in fact, at the heart of the church.”
He said Irish Catholics are “crying out for change and do not want the church to go backward, but to move forward and change.”
A spokesman for the Irish bishops’ conference, pointedly not commenting directly on the findings, said, “The results of this survey confirm the importance of all in the church taking up this task in a spirit of communion and sharing the good news of the Gospel in a rapidly changing social and cultural environment in Ireland today.”
The Vatican seems to be drawing a clear line in the sand. From Rome’s point of view, whatever the future shape of Irish Catholicism will be, it must be a future marked by greater adherence to church teaching. The Association of Catholic Priests strikes a decidedly different note. This Vatican approach, it warns, “may have the unintended effect of exacerbating a growing perception of a significant ‘disconnect’ between the Irish church and Rome.”
[Michael Kelly is deputy editor of The Irish Catholic, an independent, lay-owned weekly newspaper.]
Catholic church to pay $3.75M in Kelly claim
Written by Union Democrat staff April 23, 2012 10:58 am
The Catholic Diocese of Stockton, which includes parishes in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties, has agreed to settle for $3.75 million a legal claim by a Fairfax man who argued former priest Michael Kelly molested him as a youth.
In exchange for the settlement, the plaintiff has agreed to drop his case against the diocese and Kelly, according to a statement from Bishop Stephen Blaire.
“The settlement brings an end to litigation that began more than 4 1/2 years ago and that has occupied a great deal of time and focus,” he said. “We respect the right of everyone to have their day in court and we abide by the decisions that were made.”
The settlement was the latest development in a week full of surprises in the case.
Last Monday, it was revealed Kelly had fled to his homeland, Ireland, on the eve of his scheduled testimony in the second phase of the trial in San Joaquin County Superior Court.
The second phase focused on whether the diocese played a role in covering up Kelly’s misbehavior.
In the first phase of the trial, Kelly on April 6 was found liable for sexually abusing the man when he was an altar boy at Stockton’s Church of the Annunciation.
Kelly claims he left the country because of health problems.
The flight also coincided with a Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department investigation into allegations Kelly molested at least one youth in Calaveras County while leading St. Andrew’s Church in San Andreas between 2000 and 2002.
The alleged victim was brought to the county’s attention by a Newport Beach law firm that is also representing the Stockton victim.
Sheriff’s investigators last week said they had received several reports from alleged victims, including at least one from Tuolumne County.
The diocese, in settling, made no overt admission of wrongdoing.
The plaintiff’s attorney, John Manly, however, said the settlement spoke for itself.
“When someone pays $3.75 million … it’s because they did something wrong,” he said.
While the civil case is over, Manly said, his client, an airline pilot and military veteran, is still urging the state Attorney General and San Joaquin County District Attorney to investigate whether there was any criminal wrongdoing by the diocese.
An investigation would examine “how he was allowed to stay in the ministry for 40 years when he was a clear and present danger,” Manly said. “The evidence at trial showed they knew he was a pedophile and they ignored it.”
Blaire said in an interview Friday that Kelly’s flight was a factor in the decision to settle the case, which the judge had encouraged the diocese to consider.
“I think it certainly changed the environment because he was not there,” Blaire said. “He was supposed to testify and did not. How that affected the jurors, I don’t know.”
Blaire indicated the diocese would not pay for Kelly’s defense if criminal charges in Calaveras County are filed against him.
“We stood behind him and defended him for four-and-a-half years through these accusations in the civil trial,” Blaire said. “And now if he were to be charged criminally, that’s his responsibility.”
The Stockton settlement is the second major payout by the church in relation to parishioner abuse by priests.
In 1998, the diocese was ordered to pay a pair of Turlock brothers $30 million in a landmark legal settlement, which was later reduced to $7 million.
John and James Howard said they were molested several times between 1978 and 1991 while former priest Oliver O’Grady was at Sacred Heart Church in Turlock.
O’Grady was sentenced to 14 years in prison in a criminal case and was later deported to Ireland, where he lives today.
The O’Grady case, among others things, showed the diocese and a succession of bishops were aware of O’Grady’s activities as early as 1976 and addressed the matter by assigning him to counseling and shuffling him to different churches, including St. Andrew’s in San Andreas.
Insurance will pay for $2 million of the settlement in the civil case involving Kelly, but the rest will come out of Stockton Diocese reserves, Blaire said.
“The truth is that it will have some serious effects on the operations of the diocese,” he said.
Since the mid-1980s, the Catholic Church and the diocese have implemented many added precautionary measures to prevent similar situations, and Blaire said those procedures will likely be examined following the settlement.
“When we have a situation like the one we’ve just been through, we always take a fresh look at everything and see if there’s anywhere we can make further improvements,” he said.
What the Cardinal Knew, Or How to Hoover A Pedophile By Ralph Cipriano
Monday, April 23, 2012
As the religion reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer in the early 1990s, my assignment was to profile Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua.
At the time, I was negotiating with the cardinal’s PR guys for a face-to-face interview with Bevilacqua. The cardinal’s men offered some suggestions. If I wanted to do a story about the cardinal, I should see him in action first. They wanted me to accompany the cardinal on one of his famous, carefully choreographed “parish visits.”
These were glorified photo ops where Bevilacqua would visit a local parish, say Mass, and then mug for the cameras. It was all part of the cardinal’s public image as an energetic, charismatic shepherd out among his adoring flock. The cardinal’s PR guys also suggested several priests in the archdiocese who would be good to interview about the cardinal, boosters who would say positive things about what a wonderful job the cardinal was doing to re-energize the archdiocese.
It took months for the cardinal’s PR people to settle on just the right parish, and just the right pastor, for the cardinal’s parish visit, which would be the subject of photos for a big Sunday spread in the Inquirer profiling the new archbishop.
There were some ground rules for my participation in the parish visit. One, I could not travel with the cardinal; I would have to follow in the car behind the cardinal’s chauffeur-driven Ford Crown Victoria. Two, I could not speak to the cardinal unless he addressed me first. And last, if he did deign to speak to me, I had to refer to him as His Eminence. Not Cardinal, not Cardinal Bevilacqua, but His Eminence.
The parish visit went off as scheduled. The parish we visited was Our Mother of Sorrows, an ethnic Slavak church in Bridgeport, Montgomery County. The pastor of the parish was Father Stanley M. Gana.
The photos and story ran in the Feb. 7, 1993 Inquirer, including a photo of the cardinal conferring with Gana. The caption: “The Rev. Stanley Gana outlines the day’s visits to Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua at Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church. The cardinal has made all-day pastoral visits to 185 parishes. His workaholic schedule has given him a strong presence in the community at large.”
Here’s what the cardinal’s PR people wanted me to see:
At Our Mother of Sorrows, after Saturday night Mass, more than 250 people were waiting to meet him. He stood near the free-throw line on a basketball court in the basement.
Women bowed and kissed his ring; men shook his hand. Whenever a child came to see him, the cardinal got down on one knee.
It went on for an hour, with no break. “I’m not tired, the cardinal said. “This gives you adrenaline.”
He held one woman’s face in his hands as he talked to her in low, soothing tones. Teresa Bokoski, 61, was all smiles when she left.
“He’s wonderful; I loved him,” said Bokoski, who told the cardinal how she suffered from a panic disorder. “He just prayed over me. His prayer was just wonderful, and he said he would continue to pray for me. And I was so touched. And he asked me to pray for him.”
Imagine my surprise when I read the 2005 grand jury report, and saw Father Gana described as the priest who had “sexually abused countless boys in a succession of Philadelphia Archdiocese parishes. He was known to kiss, fondle, anally sodomize, and impose oral sex on his victims. He took advantage of altar boys, their trusting families, and vulnerable teenagers with emotional problems. He brought groups of adolescent male parishioners on overnights and would rotate them through his bed. He collected nude pornographic photos of his victims. He molested boys on a farm, in vacation houses, in the church rectory. Some minors he abused for years.”
Maybe the archdiocese or the new cardinal wasn’t aware of Gana’s reputation? Nope, here what that same grand jury report had to say about that subject:
The Archdiocese had been hearing allegations about Fr. Gana’s sexual misconduct since the early 1970s. A seminarian had described Fr. Gana to Msgrs. Lynn and Molloy as “like a sugar daddy, always supplying money and vacations and use of a beach house.” A parish priest in Media had expressed concern to the Archdiocese about Father Gana’s inviting other seminarians to his rectory at Our Mother of Sorrows in Bridgeport, where he had become pastor in 1986.
During the archdiocese sex abuse trial, it was revealed that Gana’s own brother had approached the late Cardinal John Krol and told him what Gana was doing with those boys that he kept on the farm.
The seminarian referred to in the Grand Jury report was Robert D. Karpinski, who showed up in court last week to testify about Gana’s abuse. Here’s what the grand jury report had to say about Karpinski, identified in the report as “Tim:”
The Archdiocese responds to a report of abuse by investigating the victim.
Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and other top Archdiocese managers first learned of Fr. Gana’s abuse of Tim in November 1991, when the victim was in his eighth and final year of seminary. Tim had not reported Fr. Gana’s criminal acts because his spiritual director at the seminary, Fr. Thomas Mullin, had urged him to wait until after his ordination so that he would not jeopardize his chances of being made a priest.
The seminary rector, Msgr. Daniel A. Murrya, however, learned of Tim’s victimization and notified Archdiocese managers. He informed them, too, that Tim had told other seminarians about Fr. Gana’s abuses, and that gossip about Fr. Gana was spreading among the parishes. Archdiocese managers acted quickly — but not against Father Gana.
In December 1991, the Archdiocese made Tim the target of a full-scale ‘investigation’ into second-and-third hand rumors of homosexual contacts with another seminarian. The probe, Archdiocese managers said, would decide whether Tim would be allowed to continue at seminary and on to ordination.
Cardinal Bevilacqua himself initiated the inquiry, choosing to ignore the child-molestation charges against one of his priests. Archdiocese managers did not even speak to Fr. Gana for another six months. The investigation of Tim, meanwhile, was conducted by the third highest official of the Archdiocese, Assistant Vicar for Administration James Molloy, and his new aide, Msgr. William Lynn — the same Lynn who had served as Tim’s seminary dean.
The true purpose of this investigation, the Grand Jury finds, was not to get at the truth about Tim, but to suppress the truth about Fr. Gana by controlling and silencing the seminarian. Archdiocese managers barred Tim from the seminary and his deaconite assignment. Monsignor Murray, the rector, threatened his friends with dismissal if they associated with him. Those who came to his defense were themselves punished.
According Archdiocese records, Msgr. Murray told Msgrs. Molloy and Lynn that Tim was “damaged goods,” that he was “fragile and sensitive.” Monsignor Murray warned Archdiocese managers that the seminarian “might sue the diocese for pedophilia.'”
So Archdiocese officials knew all about Father Gana, and they were brazen enough to think that the truth would never come out. They could not foresee the earthquake set off by the Boston sex abuse scandal of 2002, or the grand jury that would be empaneled in Philadelphia shortly thereafter to investigate them. Or the subpoenas that would force open the archdiocese’s secret archive files. So they were brazen enough to pose the cardinal with Father Gana at a photo op that they knew would wind up in the Sunday edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
I also mentioned some parish priests that the cardinal’s PR men suggested I interview. One of them was Father David Sicoli, who, at the time, was carrying out the cardinal’s wishes by consolidating parishes in North Philadelphia. In a story that ran March 25, 1993, I quoted Father Sicoli as one of the pastors on a planning committee in North Philadelphia that was recommending that 15 parishes and four parish schools be closed or merged.
It’s a difficult assignment to accept a new job as pastor, and then convince everybody in the parish that it’s time to close the doors. But Father Sicoli was up to the task. Here’s what the story said:
The Rev. David Sicoli, pastor of Our Lady of the Holy Souls, said that he and his parishioners viewed the merger as necessary so that the church could spend less on insurance, building maintenance and salaries and more on programs.
“Nobody is imposing this on us. We recommended it,” said Father Sicoli, who sat on the committee along with six elected representatives from his parish, as well as St. Stephen’s and Holy Child.
“We looked at our options and recommended that a single parish be established from the three, with a primary site at Holy and a secondary site here at Our Lady,” he said.
He said his parishioners — 340 families in a church built for 2,000 — “are going to be sad. It’s similar to a death in the family. But our parishioners here have been so much a part of the process and they’re OK with what’s going to happen.”
Here’s what the 2005 grand jury report had to say about Father Sicoli:
Another archdiocesan priest, Fr. David Sicoli, sexually abused a succession of boys, buying them computers, taking them on trips to Africa and Disney World, and giving them high-paying jobs in the church youth group, and inviting them to live with him in the rectory. Victims came forward to tell their stories, preserved in the secret archdiocesan records.
“Other [victims] now grown, told the grand jury that Fr. Sicoli sexually abused them and treated them as if they were his girlfriends,” the grand jury report said. “Despite reports in Fr. Sicoli’s Secret Archives file of inappropriate relationships with these four victims and five other boys, Cardinal Bevilacqua appointed the priest to four pastorates between 1990 and 1999,” the report said.
The results of the cardinal’s decisions were predictable. “At each one he [Fr. Sicoli] seized on a favorite boy, or a succession of favorites, on whom he showered attention, money and trips,” the report said. “Three of these boys lived with Fr. Scioli in the rectories with the knowledge of Msgr. Lynn,” the report said. The priest was finally removed in 2004, after a review board found “multiple substantiated” allegations involving a total of 11 minors between 1977 and 2002.
Why would Cardinal Bevilacqua knowingly consort with two known pedophile priests, and indeed allow his Archdiocese PR machine to parade the two abusers out in public with him? Maybe because the cardinal owned these guys, in the tradition of J. Edgar Hoover. Both Sicoli and Gana knew that their crimes were documented in the archdiocese’s secret archives, and that they served at the whim of the archbishop, who, at the scrawl of a pen, could send them packing. So when it came to Sicoli and Gana, the cardinal had them “Hoovered,” he had their unquestioned loyalty.
A.W. Richard Sipe is a former Benedictine monk and priest who has researched the sexuality of priests and bishops. On his website, richardsipe.com, he cites two reasons for the blindness of the bishops when it came to the sexual sins of their fellow priests: narcissism, and the skeletons in the bishops’ own closets:
More broadly, clerical culture produces in many men an acquired situational narcissism, characterized by a sense of entitlement, superiority, lack of empathy, impaired moral judgment and self-centeredness. Identification with and incorporation into a powerful and godly institution can confer a sense of grandiosity and moral justification for one’s personal behavior. These qualities favor a man’s promotion within the clerical system.
On his website, Sipe classifies the sexual preferences of American bishops, and he lists Bevilacqua as a heterosexual.
There is evidence to back that up in court records. In 1995, a veteran employee of the Philadelphia archdiocese filed a workers’ compensation claim against the church. In the claim, the employee, a devout Catholic who worked in close contact with the cardinal, alleged that he had suffered “serious mental and physical distress” and was no longer able to work as a result of the cardinal’s “rude and abusive treatment.” In the claim, the employee who was fired after he suffered a heart attack, charged that much of his stress was caused by the presence of women who rode in the cardinal’s limo and stayed overnight at the cardinal’s mansion. Records showed the archdiocese settled the claim by paying the former employee $87,500.
The employee, the claim said, “was also severely troubled the cardinal’s frequent habit of meeting women on airplanes and inviting these women to spend time at the cardinal’s mansion … [the employee] was troubled by the fact that Cardinal Bevilacqua would frequently ride with women in the back of the cardinal’s vehicle. Cardinal Krol had never allowed women to ride in the back of a vehicle with him.”
The employee also “was severely troubled by one woman who would follow Cardinal Bevilacqua to every function no matter if it was a local event or something in Downingtown, or Brooklyn, N.Y. The woman “would have closed-door meetings with Cardinal Bevilacqua after every function. [The employee] was troubled to see Cardinal Bevilacqua meeting with [the woman] on the property at night and also meeting with [the woman] on the St. Joseph’s College campus early in the morning.”
The employee said he frequently saw the cardinal strolling with “his arm around” the woman, massaging her back and showing her “undue affection.” When the employee talked about about the woman to other members of the church hierarchy, the claim said, “various monsignors and bishops would jokingly refer to [the woman] as Fatal Attraction and would jokingly ask [the employee] if Fatal Attraction had shown up at the cardinal’s latest destination.”
The woman, who drove a car with the license plate “1AB-FAN,” showed up for three years at every appearance of the cardinal. The relationship, according to the claim, came to an end when the cardinal told the employee that the phone number of the cardinal’s residence had been changed, and he was forbidden to give out the new phone number to anybody.
About This Blog
About the Author
His work has been recognized by the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada, which includes The Catholic Standard & Times, the official newspaper of the archdiocese of Philadelphia. In 1999, the Catholic Press Association awarded a First Place for Investigative Reporting for Lavish Spending in Archdiocese Skips Inner City, published June 19, 1998 in National Catholic Reporter. In 2006, the Catholic Press Association awarded a First Place for Best News Writing for a national event for Grand Jury Findings, published on Oct. 7, 2005 under the headline: “Philadelphia cardinals ‘excused and enabled abuse, covered up crimes.’ ”
Cipriano is the author of Courtroom Cowboy, The Life of Legal Trailblazer Jim Beasley, who was Cipriano’s lawyer in a historic libel case against The Philadelphia Inquirer over the veracity of his coverage of the archdiocese, a battle recounted in Chapter 21 of the book. His most recent book is The Hit Man, A True Story of Murder, Redemption and the Melrose Diner, about the life and crimes of former Mafia hit man John Veasey, also available on Kindle.
The church protected this priest who admitted
offences against children
Broken Rites Australia helps victims of church-related
By a Broken Rites researcher
- Article updated 17 February 2012
This is a classic case-study in how the Catholic Church authorities in Australia harboured a priest, despite complaints about him being a danger to children.
In one parish of the Armidale diocese in northern New South Wales in the 1980s, altar boys complained that they were being sexually abused by a certain priest (let us call him Father XYZ). But the two leaders of this diocese — Bishop Henry Kennedy and Monsignor Frank Ryan — protected this priest, helping him to avoid a criminal conviction.
Privately, Father XYZ admitted that he had indeed been committing sexual acts upon children. Later the church was forced to begin paying compensation to some of these former altar boys.
The former altar boys said that their lives were damaged not only by the abuse but also by the church’s cover-up and the code of silence.
Eventually two of the former altar boys (Damian and Daniel) no longer wished to continue living, and they died at the age of 28, each of them leaving two young children. Damian and Daniel did not know each other (they were from different parishes) but their tragic stories are remarkably similar.
Father XYZ grew up in Armidale and attended school there. When he was a young adult, he was recruited by Bishop Henry Kennedy to go to a New South Wales seminary to be trained for the priesthood.
After being ordained, Father XYZ belonged specifically to the Armidale diocese and normally he would be expected to spend his career in the parishes of this diocese.
The Armidale diocese comprised about 30 parishes in a vast rural area. The biggest town in the diocese is Tamworth. The town of Armidale is merely where the bishop is located — at the Cathedral of St Mary and St Joseph, Armidale. Tamworth and Armidale are prominently located on the New England Highway. Further inland are outlying towns such as Moree and Narrabri.
Bishop Henry Kennedy and Monsignor Frank Ryan were significant figures in the Australian church.
- Bishop Henry Kennedy, as a young priest, had been the private secretary to Cardinal Norman Gilroy in Sydney, and had eventually became vice-chancellor of the archdiocese of Sydney. After being an auxiliary bishop in Brisbane, he became bishop of the Armidale diocese in 1971, aged 56.
- Monsignor Francis Patrick Ryan was born in the Armidale diocese. He was a pupil at De La Salle College in Armidale city, and later served as the school’s chaplain. He became one of Australia’s youngest monsignors (the rank immediately below a bishop). He became the Armidale diocese’s vicar-general (that is, the bishop’s deputy) throughout Bishop Kennedy’s reign. As well as being vicar-general, Monsignor Frank Ryan simultaneously worked in parishes (for example, St Francis Xavier parish at Moree).
In the early 1980s Father XYZ spent three years working as an assistant priest in a rural parish. He gave much attention to the altar boys.
By early 1984, at least one family complained to the Armidale diocese leadership that Father XYZ had sexually abused their son (“Max” — not his real name), who was an altar boy. This complaint was “handled” internally by Bishop Kennedy and Monsignor Ryan and it was not passed on to the police.
The Armidale diocese leadership merely granted Father XYZ a short period of leave from the diocese. Later in 1984, they brought him back to the Armidale diocese, where they appointed him to a parish in a much larger town than his previous town. The families in his new parish were not told about the previous trouble in the rural parish.
Meanwhile, other boys from Father XYZ’s earlier town (where the above-mentioned “Max” lived) revealed that they, too, had had an encounter with this priest. But, again, none of this information reached the police.
Eventually, in 1987, one of Father XYZ’s earlier altar boys (Damian James Jurd, born on 7 March 1972) was in distress in Sydney, aged 15. He was interviewed by child-protection workers and by a children’s psychiatrist. Damian revealed that he had been sexually assaulted by Father XYZ while he was in this priest’s custody in early 1984, when he was aged eleven (or turning twelve). The child-protection experts agreed that the sexual assaults (plus the breach of trust and the accompanying cover-up) had disrupted Damian’s adolescence, resulting in severe personal damage.
On 11 August 1987, specialist detectives from Sydney arrested Father XYZ in Tamworth and charged him with having committed sexual crimes on Damian. Damian’s police statement alleged that these assaults occurred during a weekend car-trip to Narrabri(St Francis Xavier parish). Father XYZ and Damien stayed in Narrabri overnight, so that Father XYZ could conduct the weekend Mass for a priest who was away. Damian acted as the altar boy. Damian’s Catholic family had presumed that the child would be safe while in the custody of a Catholic priest.
Early on the evening of 11 August 1987, the arrest of Father XYZ was reported on the Tamworth local regional commercial television news bulletin. The news item gave the priest’s full name, plus the charges. But, also on that same date, church lawyers obtained an injunction from a Supreme Court judge, preventing the next morning’s newspaper from publishing the name of the defendant or any details. Thus, the newspapers could not mention the Catholic Church or the fact that “the man charged” was a clergyman. However, many people had already heard the priest’s name on the earlier TV bulletin.
Supported by the church leadership, Father XYZ indicated that he would plead “not guilty”. The church’s legal team was well resourced. It was headed by a prominent Sydney Queen’s Counsel, whose long career has included defending a number of high-profile criminal cases.
Father XYZ’s case, held in a closed court on 18 February 1988, was heard by a Catholic magistrate who was personally acquainted with Father XYZ.
This magistrate dismissed the charges, saying that he preferred to believe a Catholic priest (who had “no previous convictions”), rather than a delinquent youth.
The magistrate imposed an order, prohibiting the media from publishing the priest’s name, which is why this Broken Rites article refers to him as “Father XYZ”.
After the court’s acquittal, the Armidale diocese arranged for Father XYZ to live in a presbytery (the home of a very senior cleric), instead of ministering in a parish. Father XYZ spent this time doing some university studies.
In 1989 it was arranged that Father XYZ would transfer to minister in a parish in the Parramatta diocese(in Sydney’s west), although he still belonged officially to Armidale.
The Parramatta diocese, which comprised 60 parishes, was administered from 1986 to 1997 by Bishop Bede Heather.
As Parramatta is 500 kilometres away from Armidale, the Parramatta congregations were unlikely to have heard about the 1987 court case. The people of the Armidale diocese were not told why Father XYZ was not being given any more parishes in the Armidale diocese, and his new parishioners in the Parramatta diocese were not told why he was arriving there.
Father XYZ worked (during 1989 until late 1990) in one of Parramatta diocese’s parishes and then (from late 1990 to early 1992) in a second parish. Again, he befriended boys in the same way as before. Eventually, some parishioners in the Parramatta diocese became concerned about Father XYZ.
One parent spoke to a prominent priest of the Parramatta diocese, Father Roderick Bray (of St Margaret Mary parish in Merrylands), and threatened to “go public” about Father XYZ. Furthermore, someone in the Parramatta diocese learned about Father XYZ’s previous trouble in the Armidale diocese, and this information began to circulate in the Parramatta diocese.
In late 1991, while he was still on loan to the Parramatta diocese, the church authorities were finally forced to re-assess their previous protection of Father XYZ.
On 3 September 1991 (according to an official document in the possession of Broken Rites) Father XYZ was called to a meeting at the Sydney Cathedral presbytery, attended by three church officials:
- Reverend Brian Lucas(then based at the Sydney Cathedral), who was involved in the administration of the Sydney archdiocese.
- Reverend John Usher, of the Sydney archdiocese, chairperson of the Australian Catholic Welfare Commission.
- Reverend Wayne Peters, a senior priest of the Armidale diocese, whose responsibilities then included the Armidale diocese Tribunal (Peters later became Armidale’s vicar-general).
Interviewed by the three officials, Father XYZ admitted that he had been committing sexual acts on young boys in his parishes.
[According to the New South Wales criminal laws, these offences would constitute the crime of indecent assault of a child.]
By mid-1992, Father XYZ’s term in the Parramatta diocese had expired. He returned to the Armidale diocese, living in a private house (not a church-owned house). The church authorities did not strip him of his priesthood but they did not appoint him to minister in any more parishes. Thus he became plain “Mister” XYZ, instead of “Father” XYZ. Despite his record, the Armidale diocese allowed him to continue playing an active role (as a layman) in church affairs in this diocese.
After Bishop Henry Kennedy retired in 1991 (aged 76), he was succeeded as bishop of Armidale by Bishop Kevin Manning. In 1997, Bishop Manning transferred to the Parramatta diocese, and Bishop Luc Matthys later took over in Armidale.
After Father XYZ’s return to civilian life, some of his former altar boys tackled the church authorities about the damage that had been done to their lives. The church resisted these applications but it eventually had to make confidential financial settlements with several of the former altar boys. The settlements served a business purpose — in order to end (and limit) the diocese’s financial liability to each of these persons.
Broken Rites has obtained the details of three settlements regarding Father XYZ:
- Damian Jurd, the altar boy in the 1987 court case, hired a Sydney legal firm in the mid-1990s to bring the Armidale diocese to justice. Damian finally extracted a settlement from the diocese in 1998, when he was aged 26. He used this compensation as a deposit on a house for his partner and his two young children. But he was still feeling damaged by the church-abuse and the cover-up. At the end of 2000 his depression became particularly bad and he was feeling worn out. He was found unconscious in bed. He died on New Year’s Day, 2001, aged 28, when his children were aged about nine and eight.
- Daniel William Powell(born on 28 May 1979) was an altar boy in the Parramatta diocese during Father XYZ’s final months there in 1991-92. In October 2003 Daniel (then aged 24) signed a 24-page statement, alleging multiple incidents of sexual abuse by Father XYZ. The church contested Daniel’s claim for reparations. A settlement was reached in 2005 when Daniel was 26. But Daniel never recovered from the disruption of his adolescence and he took his own life, by hanging, on 25 November 2007, aged 28. He was the father of two young children.
- “Basil” (not his real name), who had been an altar boy for Father XYZ in the same parish as Damian Jurd, won a settlement from the Armidale diocese in 2002 when he was 29. Before seeking this settlement, Basil had written to Cardinal George Pell (the archbishop of Sydney), complaining about Father XYZ and the church’s cover-up. Pell replied that this was not a matter for the Sydney archdiocese. Pell forwarded Basil’s complaint to the Armidale diocese. This indicates that Pell now knows about the Father XYZ cover-up — and so do other church leaders.
Broken Rites has heard about a settlement to another complainant (“Max“, in the Armidale diocese in the same parish as Damian Jurd). Also, there may have been other settlements that Broken Rites has not heard about.
The church authorities have some explaining to do:
WHY did the church tolerate Father XYZ for so long in the Armidale diocese in the 1980s, thereby putting children in danger?
WHY did the Armidale diocese transfer him to the Parramatta diocese for 1989-92, thereby putting more children in danger?
WHY did the Parramatta diocese agree to accept this priest, despite his history of complaints about him in the Armidale diocese?
WHEN Father XYZ admitted in his interview with church authorities on 3 September 1991 that he had indeed been committing sexual acts on children, did the church authorities pass this information on to the New South Wales police? If not, why not?
DO the church authorities feel any responsibility towards the children of Damian Jurd and the children of Daniel Powell? The lives of these orphans have been damaged by the church’s behaviour in harbouring and protecting Father XYZ. The next generation is still feeling the impact of the church’s cover-up.
Article by John Farrell
Bishop Henry Kennedy and Monsignor Frank Ryan are mentioned in an article by John Farrell, of Armidale, which was published in a local newspaper, the Armidale Independent, on (10 February 2011 (on page 4). The article was headed:
A weekly history column by John Farrell
No. 85: The ten Catholic bishops of ArmidaleJohn Farrell’s article includes a brief outline of the career of Bishop Henry Kennedy, plus an anecdote about Kennedy’s early travels in the remote parts of the diocese. The article also mentions that, after Bishop Kevin Manning retired in 1997, Monsignor Frank Ryan was the head of the diocese for two years until Bishop Luc Matthys arrived in 1999. John Farrell’s article is favourable towards Kennedy and Ryan.
John Farrell, who is associated with the Armidale and District Historical Society, is a prominent citizen in the city of Armidale. He writes articles about local history in the Armidale press, including articles about church history.
According to the website of the Armidale Catholic diocese, Father John Farrell was a priest in the Armidale diocese in the 1980s (e.g., at St Nicholas’s parish, Tamworth, in 1985).
Perhaps some day this same newspaper, the Armidale Independent, will publish an article about how the Catholic Church leadership harboured Father XYZ.
from the link: http://www.dailymail.com/News/201204180090
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A witness in a clergy sex-abuse trial in Philadelphia testified that he was sexually assaulted in a home owned by West Virginia’s highest-ranking Catholic official, Bishop Michael Bransfield, and said he was told by his abuser that Bransfield had assaulted another boy.
The 48-year-old witness was on the stand Wednesday when he gave the testimony about Bransfield.
The man was testifying in a criminal trial against Monsignor William Lynn, who is accused of covering up sex abuse allegations for the Philadelphia Archdiocese.
Bransfield has not been charged with a crime.
The testimony came one day after news reports that prosecutors were having trouble getting Monsignor Kevin Quirk, Bransfield’s aide, to testify.
Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington said Tuesday that Quirk had agreed to testify in Philadelphia but had to notify Bransfield first. Then the process stalled.
The witness told the jury he saw Bransfield bring several boys to a farm owned by Stanley Gana, a former priest in the diocese, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The witness told the jury the alleged incident occurred at Gana’s Scranton, Pa., farm more than 30 years ago. He was building a flagstone wall when then Rev. Bransfield pulled up in a car with several teenage boys.
The man said Gana told him Bransfield was having sex with one of the boys.
The 68-year-old Bransfield, a Philadelphia native, was installed as the head of the West Virginia diocese in 2005, replacing Bishop Bernard Schmitt, who retired in 2003.
Bransfield came to this state from his position as the rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
Bryan Minor, spokesman for the diocese, said that Bransfield was not available Wednesday and that he had yet to speak with him about the allegations.
“The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is learning of media reports originating from legal proceedings underway in Philadelphia, and Bishop Michael Bransfield’s name was brought up in court today,” Minor said in a statement.
“Until such time that the facts and issues surrounding this testimony are made fully known to the Diocese, we cannot comment at this time.”
The diocese on Tuesday called the trial a “circus” and said Philadelphia prosecutors were trying to smear people who have never been charged with a crime.
Monsignor Edward Sadie, rector of the Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston, had not heard about the testimony concerning Bransfield Wednesday.
“I just find this beyond belief,” Sadie said. “I just hope and pray it’s not true.”
Sadie said Bransfield has been “very diligent” in keeping church officials and parishioners looking out for “deviant behavior” involving children at the church.
He said all church officials and the parishioners who work with children are taught what to look for and are made aware of how and where they should report abuse.
“We have a very strong policy,” Sadie said. “He’s been very diligent in pushing that policy.”
The witness told the jury Gana raped him for years and that Gana and Bransfield were close friends. He said Gana once sexually abused him during a visit to Bransfield’s New Jersey beach house.
Another witness testified that Bransfield had a lewd conversation with him.
Bransfield was ordained in 1971 by the late Cardinal John Krol. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Gana was ordained about the same time.
The testimony comes four weeks into the prosecution of Lynn, who is the first U.S. church official ever to be charged over the handling of abuse complaints. Lynn served as the secretary for clergy in Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004 and supervised more than 800 priests.
Prosecutors alleged that Lynn allowed dangerous priests to work with children in the parish to protect the church’s reputation.
The church also is accused of keeping secret files dating back to 1948 that allegedly show a long-standing conspiracy to protect priests and cast doubt on sex-abuse victims.
Lynn’s attorney maintained that Lynn’s job was to oversee the sex abuse complaints but that another man, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who has since died, solely determined priest assignments and transfers.
If convicted, Lynn could serve 28 years in prison.
The other defendant in the trial is the Rev. James Brennan, who is accused of raping a 14-year-old boy in 1996.
Quirk’s testimony was sought because he served as a judge for the church’s in-house trial of Brennan in 2008. Prosecutors wanted him to testify about the accuracy of statements Brennan made during that trial.
Defrocked priest Edward Avery was the third defendant in the trial but pleaded guilty early on. Lynn and Brennan both pleaded not guilty.
Avery’s plea acknowledged that he was kept in the ministry despite an earlier complaint, for which he underwent therapy. He sexually assaulted an altar boy seven years later, he said.
Common Pleas Judge Teresa Sarmina agreed to take up the matter with court officials in Wheeling.
Bransfield has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master’s in divinity from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Pennsylvania. He served as assistant pastor at St. Albert the Great Parish in Huntingdon Valley, Pa., from 1971 to 1973. He received a master of philosophy degree from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., in 1973.
He served as a teacher, chaplain and then chairman of the religion department at a Catholic school in the suburbs of Philadelphia.
He currently serves as president of the Papal Foundation of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., and is the treasurer for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bransfield also is a member of the Knights of Columbus and the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.
An official with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called on Bransfield to address the allegations Wednesday.
Judy Jones, Midwest director of SNAP, said that in light of the day’s testimony, Bransfield, not his lawyer or representative, should address the allegations immediately. She also wants him to agree to be questioned on the allegations.
“This isn’t rocket science,” Jones wrote. “For starters, there are three simple questions Bransfield should answer: Did or does he own a house with Philly’s Father Gana? If so, did he take boys there? And did he molest any of them?
“This notion that Bransfield somehow can’t respond to the testimony today in Philly, as his lawyer claims, is bogus.”
Jones also took issue with Bransfield’s apparent refusal to send Monsignor Quirk to Philadelphia.
“Msgr. Kevin M. Quirk has a sworn obedience to Bransfield,” Jones wrote. “Bransfield can order Quirk to appear in court. Bransfield should do that immediately. If he doesn’t, that will only add to the doubts about Bransfield.”
Founded in 1988, SNAP is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. It has more than 12,000 members.
Priest ‘a violent bully and coward’
April 20, 2012
THE former priest Brian Spillane has been sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment for a series of sexual assaults on young girls – attacks described as “serious, planned and callous” by Judge Michael Finnane of the NSW District Court.
“The offender used his position as a priest to gain access to the homes in which each of his victims lived,” said the judge. “He was very trusted and the parents of each of the victims readily gave him access to their daughters because of that trust and the esteem in which he was held.”
The assaults began in the late 1970s when Spillane was on the staff of St Stanislaus College, a boys’ boarding school in Bathurst. They continued when he became a parish priest in Sydney. He later returned to St Stanislaus as school chaplain.
Spillane, 69, continues to deny all the charges that have been brought against him, not only those involving these young girls but some 100 charges he has yet to face relating to assaults on boys at the school.
A heavy-set redhead, Spillane trained for the priesthood in the Vincentian Order and was sent to teach at St Stanislaus in the late 1960s. At his trial he described himself as a modern priest – joyful and enthusiastic, a hugger and kisser, a man at ease with families and their children.
In the late 1970s, he ingratiated himself into a family with boys at the school and abused their sister, then aged 11.
“This was the conduct of a violent bully and coward, done without regard to the effect it would have on the young girl,” Judge Finnane said at sentencing. “It was sexual abuse carried out by a trusted priest, and was a major breach of trust.”
The Vincentians posted Spillane to Sydney in the late 1970s and for a time he was acting parish priest at St Anthony’s Marsfield. There he befriended another devout Catholic family and, under the guise of hearing their daughters’ bedtime prayers, abused both for more than a year. The judge called this: “Predatory and a major abuse of trust.”
One of those victims, known as Miss M, told the court of the devastating impact on her life of Spillane’s abuse: of guilt, panic, mistrust, anger, depression, estrangement, drinking, drugs, loss of interest in study and, now, fearfulness for her daughter. She said: “It changed my fate and all that I wanted to be.”
In those years in Sydney, Spillane also assaulted and wrote love letters to a 16-year-old student at a western suburbs Catholic school. Judge Finnane called the assault “predatory and heartless” and the letters “maudlin, full of false piety and completely inappropriate”.
Spillane left the priesthood in 2004 and a son was born after his marriage that year. The first complaints about him were made to Bathurst police three years later. He was charged in 2008 and convicted by a District Court jury in 2010.
Sentencing was delayed until yesterday by the defence solicitor Greg Walsh attempting to have his old friend Judge Finnane disqualify himself from this and any future proceedings involving Spillane.
Mr Walsh claimed that after the swearing-in of a new District Court judge in March last year, Judge Finnane remarked over a cup of tea that paedophiles were “all guilty” and “should be put on an island and starved to death”.
Judge Finnane denied saying those words and declined to disqualify himself. The dispute reached the NSW Court of Appeal in November and the decision upholding the judge’s right to sit was delivered a fortnight ago.
The court found the words, if uttered, might have been incautious but couldn’t be taken seriously and would not be regarded by a fair-minded bystander as prejudging the former priest’s position.
Lawyers estimate about $700,000 has been spent on the former priest’s defence so far. But who is footing that bill is a mystery. A spokeswoman for the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Pell, says it is not the church. The Vincentian Order has refused to take the Herald‘s calls.
At Spillane’s sentencing, Judge Finnane spoke of receiving glowing testimonials to his good character. But, he added, “it has also to be said that he used his eminence in the community and his role as a priest to gain access to his victims and to carry out sexual offences on them.”
Miss M sobbed with relief when the judge sent her abuser to prison for nine years with a non-parole period of five.
Gerald T. Slevin, Update–Criminal Charges of Vatican Child Abuse Cover-Up
Monday, April 16, 2012
Cross-posted on Open Tabernacle, 16 April 2012.