Accuser in Philadelphia Priest Sex Abuse Case Is Grilled By Defense Attorneys
January 16, 2013 2:19 PM
By Tony Hanson
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Defense attorneys in the latest sex abuse case in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia today were attacking the credibility of an alleged victim who has testified he was sexually assaulted by a priest and a lay teacher when he was ten years old, a fifth grader, in 1999 and 2000.
The witness is now 24 years old and came forward a decade after the alleged abuse.
The defense today suggested through questioning that the alleged victim’s story — that he was sexually assaulted by Father Charles Engelhardt in the church sacristy after an early morning mass — is incredible.
At one point, Engelhardt’s attorney, Michael McGovern, noted that the sacristy had several doors for entrance and exit, including one to the outside and another directly to the school. He asked the witness, “Wouldn’t that be a crazy place to rape somebody?”
The witness responded, “Not necessarily.”
McGovern, and the attorney for co-defendant Bernard Shero, both have cited inconsistencies in the alleged victim’s statements, but the witness has stood his ground.
The victim has also testified that he was later sexually assaulted by another priest in the same area of the church. That priest, Edward Avery, has since pleaded guilty.
8 more sex-abuse suits filed against Archdiocese
BY DANA DiFILIPPO
Philadelphia Daily News
Daily News Staff Writer
ANDY DRUDING has a lot to say to the priest who he says repeatedly raped him when he was a middle-school choir boy.
So he wrote the Rev. Francis S. Feret a letter. He wanted to give it to him personally, but hasn’t – still scared, after 40 years, to see Feret again.
But Tuesday, Druding read his letter in the most public of venues: a news conference at which it was announced that eight more lawsuits have been filed, including one by Druding, against the Philadelphia Archdiocese, its leaders and seven priests accused of sexually abusing children.
A flushed, sweating, trembling Druding took the podium and read, as if addressing Feret, his former choir director at St. Timothy’s Catholic School in Mayfair: “You took advantage of a 9-year-old boy who loved to sing and was afraid to tell because you were a priest, God’s messenger on Earth, the most holy person in my life. But I’ve never forgotten what you did to me. I remember every day of my life, the details so graphic and so horrific. I see your face all the time in my mind, in strangers’ faces, in scary dreams and even in terrible flashbacks that I have to this day.”
The eight lawsuits filed Tuesday by attorneys Dan Monahan, Marci Hamilton and Jeffrey Anderson follow eight others the legal trio filed earlier in Common Pleas Court. Altogether, the legal team represents 17 people who say they were sexually abused as children by Philadelphia-area priests.
The cases cite Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop Charles Chaput and Monsignor William Lynn, in addition to the accused priests.
In most of the cases, the victims are listed as John Does. But plaintiffs Druding and Michael McDonnell, 44, of Bristol Borough, Bucks County, attended the Center City news conference because they want their names out there.
“It’s important to put a face to the cost – show the doubting public that these victims do exist. We do live our lives. Although we struggle on a daily basis, we are real people who have countless issues,” said McDonnell, as his fiancée, Debra, cried and their 6-year-old son, Sean, sang and played with a Thomas the Tank Engine toy.
McDonnell accuses two priests, John P. Schmeer and Francis X. Trauger, of molesting him when he was an altar boy and worked at the rectory at St. Titus Catholic School in East Norriton.
Hamilton said Druding, McDonnell and the unnamed victims gained the courage to come forward after Lynn’s July conviction. Lynn, 61, who investigated abuse complaints against priests as the Archdiocese’s former secretary of clergy from 1992 to 2004, is the first U.S. church official convicted of endangering children by keeping predator priests in the ministry. He was sentenced to three to six years in prison.
The lawsuits, Hamilton said, are the only way to hold the Archdiocese accountable.
“The coverup, the incompetence in handling reports of abuse, must stop,” said Hamilton, a national expert on clergy sex abuse and law professor at Yeshiva University in New York. “No one knew more about abuse than the Archdiocese itself, and no one did less to protect children. . . . The only way to protect children is the criminal-justice system.”
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the Archdiocese responded: “We have not received copies of the cases . . . so we cannot provide more detailed information on those particular lawsuits at this time. We believe lawsuits are not the best mechanism to promote healing in the context of the very private and difficult circumstances of sexual abuse. We will work to assure all victims of sexual abuse receive appropriate assistance.”
Besides Feret, Schmeer and Trauger, the priests named in the lawsuits are John H. Mulholland, Robert L. Brennan, Joseph J. Gallagher and Edward V. Avery (defrocked).
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.
Gerald T. Slevin, Update–Criminal Charges of Vatican Child Abuse Cover-Up
Monday, April 16, 2012
Cross-posted on Open Tabernacle, 16 April 2012.
Griffin: An amazing journey of forgiveness
Michael Mack is a man of many credits as a writer and theatrical performer. Now age 55, he has also accomplished two things in the spiritual realm that rank as unique in my experience.
First, despite suffering sexual abuse as a boy at the hands of a Catholic priest, he is now an active member of the church and values its spirituality. All the other victims of clergy abuse I have known have distanced themselves from this faith community, most with continuing and understandable anger.
Michael’s second achievement strikes me as even more remarkable. He has forgiven the priest who violated him.
In a long interview with Michael, I found his account of both events fascinating. The violation took place when he was 11 years old, the forgiveness when he had reached middle age.
Incidentally, the reason for our being in touch was a scheduled performance of Michael’s one-person play “Conversations with My Molester – a Journey of Faith.” It was to be staged at the playwright’s parish, St.Paul’s in Cambridge.
Just before sending this column off, I actually saw the play along with an unexpectedly large audience. We found it spellbinding. Adding to the meaning of the occasion, an official of the Archdiocese of Boston responsible for overseeing child protection, Barbara Thorp, was present and took part in the discussion at the end.
The sexual violation of the boy Michael took place in Brevard, North Carolina, a small town in the western part of the state. Because their mother was ill, he and his siblings spent a year living with their aunt and her family there, rather than back home in Washington D.C.
The boy loved his parish church in North Carolina and envisioned himself becoming a priest someday. He soon became close to the pastor, the person who took Michael to his first basketball game, and acted toward him like a “surrogate dad.”
One day, the boy wandered into the church basement and sat down to play the piano. Then the priest appeared and invited Michael to come to the rectory. Once in this house, the priest brought the boy into a room, closed the door, and took advantage of the child’s innocence.
Days later, the priest left the parish and Michael, too, moved from Brevard soon afterward. “I left that day confused,” he recalls. “I felt that something big had just happened — something not right.”
Later, as a teenager, he was to experience something much worse, what he calls “self-loathing.”
As to the priest who assaulted him sexually, Michael lost complete contact with him for decades. But when he moved to Boston some 10 years ago, Michael made an astounding discovery.
The priest was also living in Massachusetts, not too far away in the orbit of Worcester. Though not defrocked, he was no long performing priestly ministry.
Michael’s repeated efforts to reach the priest were ultimately connected with a spiritual change in Michael’s heart. He had been moved to forgive the priest for what he had done.
As I listened to Michael’s story, I felt moved by his sincerity and his spiritual courage. He had managed to offer forgiveness to someone who, behind the full force of priestly status, had done him terrible harm.
Michael tells of going to the priest’s funeral. It was his first time in many years back in a Catholic church. There the man who had violated him and others was extolled as a good priest. Despite his forgiveness, Michael found it bizarre to hear his molester praised.
With church abuse trial set to open, tensions abound
By John P. Martin
Inquirer Staff Writer
Sun, Mar. 25, 2012, 6:45 AM
The neighborhood that rings St. Jerome’s Church in Northeast Philadelphia is flush with cops and firefighters, reliable Catholics in brick homes with tidy lawns, backyard slides, and a few front-door crucifixes.
That was the backdrop last year for one of the more sordid clergy sex-abuse allegations to emerge in years. A grand jury report described a 10-year-old altar boy being confronted in St. Jerome’s sacristy after Mass, ordered to strip, and engage in sex.
Not once, but three times – by two different priests – over a year in the late 1990s.
On Monday, a Philadelphia jury is scheduled to start hearing about those accusations and one that looms larger: that leaders of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia could have predicted, or prevented, the attacks but instead followed a long-held practice of protecting the church and abusers within it.
The trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn, who for 12 years led the office that recommended priests’ assignments and monitored their conduct, marks the first in the nation for a church supervisor accused of covering up child sex abuse.
His arrest last year on child-endangerment charges, along with two priests and one defrocked cleric accused of molesting boys in the 1990s, stirred fresh outrage among Catholics and led officials of the 1.5 million-member archdiocese to suspend 26 priests, reexamine past claims, and vow to institute its second wave of reforms in six years.
The case has stoked national interest not because of who Lynn is but what his trial signifies. As hundreds of priests worldwide have been accused or convicted of molesting children, church leaders have consistently avoided prosecution, casting the crisis as an individual epidemic, not an institutional one.
Late last week, an eleventh-hour guilty plea from one of the defendants threatened to upend the trial. Defrocked priest Edward V. Avery admitted that he sexually assaulted the St. Jerome’s boy in 1999 and that he conspired with Lynn and others to endanger minors.
Avery is not cooperating with prosecutors, but lawyers for Lynn and the third defendant, the Rev. James J. Brennan, said widespread publicity about the plea might have tainted the jury. Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina said she will rule Monday on their request for a delay to pick a new jury.
If it does go forward, the trial promises more, and potentially more jarring, revelations for Catholics, with implications beyond one cleric or one diocese.
The prospective witness list includes a deceased cardinal, Anthony J. Bevilacqua, forced from a reclusive retirement for a videotaped interrogation weeks before his death; two former Philadelphia bishops implicated in the shredding of an incriminating memo; and two men who say they were plunged into years of drug abuse and crime after being raped as boys by their parish priests.
Jurors are likely to hear a drumbeat of testimony about clerics molesting children and could see thousands of pages of never-released documents about their sexual misconduct, including personnel records so sensitive that they were locked away for years in filing cabinets known as “the secret archives.”
For more than a decade, Lynn was the keeper of those files and a key officer in the local church hierarchy. Now 61, he was suspended last year from St. Joseph Church in Downingtown, where he was pastor. A guilty verdict could mean years in prison and a victory for those who have faulted the church’s handling of sex-abuse allegations.
“Did a lot of bishops do very stupid things for which they should have been held accountable and they were not held accountable? Yes, absolutely,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a scholar at Georgetown University’s Woodstock Theological Center. “Now this is a chance again to send the church, to send the bishops, a message by prosecuting somebody.”
Lynn’s lawyers have used the same theory to argue his innocence. They say the monsignor was a middle manager unfairly “hung out to dry” by prosecutors eager to blame someone for years of unchecked abuse and by bosses who scrambled, or flat-out lied, to save themselves. They say an objective review shows Lynn used “good judgment” and tried to isolate abusers from children.
Bound by a gag order, the attorneys, Thomas Bergstrom and Jeffrey Lindy, have not outlined their trial strategy or said if Lynn will testify. But at one pretrial hearing, Lindy assured the judge: “Monsignor Lynn has a story to tell.”
Simply that a trial is taking place might be more significant than its outcome, said Patrick Wall, a former priest turned lawyer and victims advocate.
Since Lynn’s arrest, prosecutors in seven jurisdictions from California to New York have started exploring charges against priests’ superiors, according to Wall.
“Any time I’ve talked to a prosecutor and I’ve brought up Philadelphia, it gives them greater moral authority to do this,” he said. “Because most D.A.s were afraid to take on the Catholic Church.”
The trial comes seven years after another Philadelphia grand jury delivered a searing 418-page report that faulted archdiocesan leaders for their handling of sex-abuse claims. But that panel said it was hamstrung by laws that limited who could be charged and required sex crimes to be reported within a few years of occurring, despite advocates’ assertions that victims often wait decades to come forward.
For the latest investigation, District Attorney Seth Williams relied on an expanded statute of limitations and a 2007 amendment that made supervisors in child-care settings criminally culpable for abuse.
Lynn, the subject of withering criticism by the previous grand jury, became the primary target of the next one. “We believe that legal accountability for Msgr. Lynn’s unconscionable behavior is long overdue,” its report said.
While secretary for clergy between 1992 and 2004, prosecutors say, Lynn endangered children by recommending abusive priests for assignments that gave them access to children. They built their case around claims by two accusers, and with help from the archdiocese itself.
In January 2009, church officials forwarded to prosecutors a complaint that its victims’ assistance office received from the former St. Jerome’s altar boy. He was in the fifth grade in 1998, he said, when the Rev. Charles Engelhardt caught him drinking wine in the sacristy, began talking about sex, and told the boy they would soon have “sessions” on how to be a man. Engelhardt assaulted him a week later, he said.
The boy kept silent, but the cleric might not have. Prosecutors say Avery, who also lived at the parish, told the boy months later that he had heard about the “sessions” with Engelhardt and planned his own. Twice, Avery allegedly molested the boy in the church.
According to the grand jury, Lynn knew Avery had been removed from a Mount Airy parish over a sex-abuse allegation in 1992 and sent for treatment at St. John Vianney, a church-owned hospital. Prosecutors say the monsignor had recommended that Avery live at St. Jerome’s and work at nearby Nazareth Hospital, and was supposed to be monitoring Avery.
Now 69, Avery was defrocked in 2006. At least two more accusers have come forward since his arrest and could testify at the trial.
Engelhardt, 65, who belongs to the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, an independent religious order, faces a separate trial. So does Bernard Shero, a 49-year-old former teacher at St. Jerome’s parish school accused of raping the same boy a year after the priests. Both argued they could not be part of an archdiocese conspiracy because they weren’t under Lynn’s supervision.
Brennan, 49, is charged with raping a 14-year-old boy while on leave from the archdiocese in 1996. Brennan allegedly targeted the boy after meeting him when both were at St. Andrew’s Church in Newtown, Bucks County. Prosecutors say the assault occurred after Lynn failed to act on complaints about Brennan’s misconduct with minors.
Defense lawyers are expected to hammer at the alleged victims’ accounts. The accusers, whose names are being withheld by The Inquirer, have histories of drug use, petty crime, and mental-health treatment. Both also have lawsuits pending against the archdiocese.
Brennan’s lawyer, William Brennan, who is unrelated, said Friday that his accuser had convictions for fraud, forgery, and theft – including stealing from his own family.
Lynn’s attorneys have targeted the law. In one of their many bids to derail the charges, and one that could seed an appeal, they contended Lynn can’t be guilty of endangering children in the 1990s because the statute didn’t apply to supervisors like him until 2007.
They also have challenged a pivotal February ruling by Sarmina, the judge, who said prosecutors can tell jurors about nearly two dozen other archdiocesan priests accused of sexual abuse over the last 40 years.
None of the others is charged in the case. But prosecutors, led by Assistant District Attorneys Patrick Blessington and Mariana Sorensen, have maintained that jurors can’t properly weigh Lynn’s recommendations for Avery and Brennan without considering what he and other church leaders knew – and how they reacted to other complaints.
“It’s always been our position that this was an archdiocese-wide policy, which in and of itself was criminal in nature,” Blessington said.
The archdiocese is paying for Lynn’s defense team of four lawyers because the accusations involve his job. Still, it is not clear if the church’s and the monsignor’s interests coincide or conflict.
Last week, Lynn’s lawyers said the archdiocese had refused to turn over decade-old letters that they said could show its lawyers guided church policy and Lynn’s decisions on sex-abuse allegations.
The defense team also pounced on what it portrayed as the closest thing to a smoking gun in the case: notes found in a locked safe that suggest Bevilacqua ordered aides in 1994 to shred a memo identifying 35 area priests suspected of sexual misconduct.
The lawyers say the memo, written by Lynn, proves that his bosses – the cardinal and his top assistants, Bishops Edward Cullen and Joseph Cistone – lied when they told grand jurors that Lynn made the key decisions about what to do with predatory priests.
Bevilacqua, who ran the archdiocese from 1988 until 2003, died in January after years of failing health. Still, he could be a crucial witness. In November, Sarmina ruled him competent to testify, and let lawyers grill him for seven hours during a private deposition that jurors might see.
In court filings, Lynn’s attorneys portrayed the prelate as a weary, sometimes confused witness. But he also is said to have clearly denied any wrongdoing and instead implicated his former secretary for clergy.
With white hair, glasses, and a stout frame, Lynn has been the only defendant to attend nearly all the pretrial proceedings. He typically comes with his sister, with whom he has lived since being suspended. While Avery and Brennan occasionally chat or joke with their lawyers, Lynn’s somber visage almost never changes.
His last public comments on the scandal came after the 2005 grand jury report, one that cited him hundreds of times, usually in a critical way. “I would never put a child in harm’s way,” Lynn told his parishioners from the altar. “I’m going to leave that to your judgment.”
Last September, six months after his arrest, Lynn drew a standing ovation during a dinner that the archdiocese’s newly installed leader, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, hosted for priests. That same month, Chaput told an interviewer: “It’s really important to me, and I think to all of us, that he be treated fairly and that he not be a scapegoat.”
Lynn does evoke a certain amount of compassion in church circles, according to Nicholas Cafardi, a canon lawyer in Pittsburgh and author of a book about the U.S. bishops’ response to clergy sex abuse. “My read of the compassion is basically, ‘He did what he was asked to do, or what he was told to do.’ ”
Still, Cafardi said, the monsignor faces long odds of getting compassion from a jury. “There is no sympathy,” he said, “for the person in the dock in child-abuse cases.”