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.