Church Battles Efforts to Ease Sex Abuse Suits
By Laurie Goodstein and Erik Eckholm
Published June 14, 2012
While the first criminal trial of a Roman Catholic church official accused of covering up child sexual abuse has drawn national attention to Philadelphia, the church has been quietly engaged in equally consequential battles over abuse, not in courtrooms but in state legislatures around the country.
The fights concern proposals to loosen statutes of limitations, which impose deadlines on when victims can bring civil suits or prosecutors can press charges. These time limits, set state by state, have held down the number of criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits against all kinds of people accused of child abuse — not just clergy members, but also teachers, youth counselors and family members accused of incest.
Victims and their advocates in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York are pushing legislators to lengthen the limits or abolish them altogether, and to open temporary “windows” during which victims can file lawsuits no matter how long after the alleged abuse occurred.
The Catholic Church has successfully beaten back such proposals in many states, arguing that it is difficult to get reliable evidence when decades have passed and that the changes seem more aimed at bankrupting the church than easing the pain of victims.
Already reeling from about $2.5 billion spent on legal fees, settlements and prevention programs relating to child sexual abuse, the church has fought especially hard against the window laws, which it sees as an open-ended and unfair exposure for accusations from the distant past. In at least two states, Colorado and New York, the church even hired high-priced lobbying and public relations firms to supplement its own efforts. Colorado parishes handed out postcards for churchgoers to send to their representatives, while in Ohio, bishops themselves pressed legislators to water down a bill.
The outcome of these legislative battles could have far greater consequences for the prosecution of child molesters, compensation of victims and financial health of some Catholic dioceses, legal experts say, than the trial of a church official in Philadelphia, where the jury is currently deliberating.
Changing the statute of limitations “has turned out to be the primary front for child sex abuse victims,” said Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University who represents plaintiffs in sexual abuse suits.
“Even when you have an institution admitting they knew about the abuse, the perpetrator admitting that he did it, and corroborating evidence, if the statute of limitations has expired, there won’t be any justice,” she said.
The church’s arguments were forcefully made by Patrick Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, in testimony before the State Legislature in January opposing a proposal to abolish the limits in civil cases.
“How can an institution conceivably defend itself against a claim that is 40, 50 or 60 years old?” Mr. Brannigan said. “Statutes of limitation exist because witnesses die and memories fade.”
“This bill would not protect a single child,” he said, while “it would generate an enormous transfer of money in lawsuits to lawyers.”
Timing is a major factor in abuse cases because many victims are unable to talk about abuse or face their accusers until they reach their 30s, 40s or later, putting the crime beyond the reach of the law. In states where the statutes are most restrictive, like New York, the cutoff for bringing a criminal case is age 23 for most serious sexual crimes other than rape that occurred when the victim was a minor.
In more than 30 states, limits have already been lifted or significantly eased on the criminal prosecutions of some types of abuses, according to Professor Hamilton. The Supreme Court ruled that changes in criminal limits cannot be retroactive, so they will affect only recent and future crimes.
In New York, the Catholic bishops said they would support a modest increase in the age of victims in criminal or civil cases, to 28. But their lobbying, along with that of ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders, has so far halted proposals that would allow a one-year window for civil suits for abuses from the past. The bishops say the provision unfairly targets the church because public schools, the site of much abuse, and municipalities have fought successfully to be exempted.
The New Jersey proposal to abolish time limits for civil suits could pass this summer, said its sponsor in the Senate, Joseph Vitale, a Democrat of Woodbridge. The main opposition has come from the Catholic Church, he said. Mr. Brannigan of the Catholic Conference has testified at hearings, and bishops have “reached out to scores of legislators,” Mr. Vitale said, warning that an onslaught of lawsuits could bankrupt their dioceses.
California was the first state to pass a one-year “window” law to bring civil suits, in 2003, and those involved say that the legislation moved so quickly that the church barely responded. But the experience proved a cautionary tale for the church: more than 550 lawsuits flooded in.
Since then, only two states have passed similar laws: Delaware, in 2007, and Hawaii, in April. Window legislation has been defeated in Colorado, Ohio, Maryland, Illinois, Washington, D.C., and New York.
Joan Fitz-Gerald, former president of the Colorado Senate, who proposed the window legislation, was an active Catholic who said she was stunned to find in church one Sunday in 2006 that the archdiocese had asked priests to raise the issue during a Mass and distribute lobbying postcards.
“It was the most brutal thing I’ve ever been through,” she said of the church campaign. “The politics, the deception, the lack of concern for not only the children in the past, but for children today.” She has since left the church.
The Massachusetts Catholic Conference has spoken out strongly against a bill that would eliminate both criminal and civil statutes of limitations, but advocates still hope to win a two-year window for filing civil claims.
If that happens, “we’ll see a lot more victims come forward, and we’ll find out more about who the abusers are,” said Jetta Bernier, director of the advocacy group Massachusetts Citizens for Children.
The landmark trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn in Philadelphia, who is accused of allowing predators to remain in ministry, almost did not happen because of the statute of limitations.
A scathing grand jury report in 2005 described dozens of victims and offending priests and said that officials, including Philadelphia’s cardinal, had “excused and enabled the abuse.” But the law in place at the time of the crimes required victims to come forth by age 23. “As a result,” the report said, “these priests and officials will necessarily escape criminal prosecution.”
But victims emerged whose abuse fell within the deadline and in 2011, a new grand jury brought charges against Monsignor Lynn, who had supervised priest assignments.
Pennsylvania expanded the limits, and for crimes from 2007 on, charges will be possible up to the time that victims reach age 50. Advocates are now pushing to abolish the statute of limitations for child sex abuse and open a window for civil suits over long-past abuses. But the legislation appears stalled in the face of church opposition.
The new archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles J. Chaput, who led the successful campaign to defeat such a bill in Colorado, says that current restrictions exist for “sound legal reasons.”
Witness: After rape by teacher ‘I had to go’ to school
Joseph A. Slobodzian, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Posted: Wednesday, January 16, 2013, 3:42 PM
The defense lawyer for former parochial schoolteacher Bernard Shero today began trying to chip away at the credibility of a 24-year-old Northeast man who says he was sexually assaulted by Shero and two priests when he was a 10-year-old altar boy.
The witness – The Inquirer does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault – testified Tuesday in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court that the serial sexual assaults by Shero and two priests destroyed his childhood and led to his life as a drug addict.
But defense attorney Burton A. Rose, showing the jury blow-ups of the man’s report cards from 5th through 8th grades at St. Jerome’s, noted that his grades and attendance barely changed during the time of the alleged assaults in 1998 and 1999.
“So you went to school the next day after this man [Shero] anally raped you in the back of his car?” Rose asked.
“It was school, I had to go,” replied the witness, who was identified as “Billy Doe” in the 2011 county grand jury report.
Rose has argued that Shero never assaulted the witness – or caused his later problems with drugs and the law.
The witness maintained that he was afraid to tell anyone about the assaults by the two priests in the sacristy of St. Jerome’s church, or the assault by Shero, who was his homeroom and English teacher.
Shero, 49, and the Rev. Charles Engelhardt, 66, are on trial for the alleged assaults on Billy when he was in fifth and sixth grades at St. Jerome’s.
The other priest, Edward Avery, now 70, pleaded guilty last year shortly before he was to go on trial with two other priests in the investigation of clergy sex abuse of children in the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Avery, now defrocked and serving a 2-1/2 to five years in prison and may be called by prosecutors to testify in the trial of Shero and Engelhardt.
The pair are the last two of five people charged as a result of the 2011 county grand jury report.
Last year’s landmark three-month trial ended June 22 when the jury found Msgr. William J. Lynn guilty of child endangerment, the first church administrator convicted for a priest’s sexual abuse of a child.
Lynn, 62, who as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004 was responsible for investigating allegations against priests, was sentenced to 3 to 6 years. He is in a state prison and appealing his conviction.
Two men come forward as litigants in priest-sex-abuse suits
By Joseph A. Slobodzian
Inquirer Staff Writer
Breaking with anonymity – but not loosening the tenacious hold of childhood sexual abuse – two men announced Tuesday that they had sued the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, church officials, and three priests.
The emotional statements by Andrew Druding and Michael W. McDonnell highlighted a Center City news conference where their lawyers also announced six other lawsuits on behalf of seven victims purportedly abused as children by archdiocesan priests.
“What you did didn’t define me,” said Druding. “I may be damaged goods, but I’m not going to allow you to beat me.”
Druding, 51, of Holmesburg, struggled to control his voice as he said he had been sexually abused in the early 1970s by the Rev. Francis S. Feret, then choir director at St. Timothy parish in Mayfair.
“You took advantage of a 9-year-old boy who loved to sing and who was afraid to tell because you were a priest, God’s messenger on Earth and the most holy person in my life,” Druding said as his wife, Denise, wept in the front row of seats.
Feret, 75, was an archdiocesan priest from 1963 until March 2011, when he was suspended from active ministry while at St. Adalbert parish in Port Richmond. In May, he was found “unsuitable for ministry.”
McDonnell, 44, of Bristol, described growing up as the youngest of eight children, all of whom attended St. Titus parish and school near Norristown.
McDonnell said that in the late 1970s and early ’80s when he was an altar boy, he was sexually abused by two priests – the Rev. John P. Schmeer and the now-defrocked Francis X. Trauger.
“We were taught that the hands raised over us in blessing were those that represented the hands of Christ here on Earth,” McDonnell said. “Never did I imagine then, and struggle to believe it today, that those hands could abuse a child of God.”
McDonnell, who described years of mental-health and addiction problems, spent a year in prison after pleading guilty in 2010 to defrauding the archdiocese by submitting more than $100,000 in bills for psychotherapy sessions that never occurred. He also admitted stealing $9,000 in donations and payments to the Bucks County Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, where he worked.
Trauger, 67, was laicized in 2005 after complaints of sexually abusing children and spent almost two years at St. John Vianney, the archdiocesan hospital for priests with sex, alcohol, or drug problems. Schmeer, 77, was removed from public ministry in 2004 and then agreed to a supervised life of “prayer and penance” at Villa St. Joseph, a retirement home for priests.
The eight lawsuits join eight others involving different victims filed earlier in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court by Marci Hamilton, a legal advocate and expert on child sexual abuse; Malvern lawyer Daniel F. Monahan; and Jeffrey R. Anderson, a veteran litigator involving church sex-abuse cases, based in St. Paul, Minn.
Although the criminal statute of limitations has passed for all nine victims, Hamilton said there was a basis for a civil conspiracy lawsuit because “the church’s cover-up continued right up to the start” of this year’s trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn.
Lynn, 61, the first church official charged for his supervision of a priest accused of sexually abusing children, was convicted of child endangerment and is serving three to six years in prison.
“The abuse must stop,” Hamilton said. “The cover-up, the incompetent handling of reports of abuse, must stop.”
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia in a statement said that church officials had not seen the new lawsuits and could not comment.
“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,” the statement read.
Dressed in suits, Druding and McDonnell also wore a veneer of poise that proved very thin.
After the news conference ended, Druding sat in a chair, shoulders rising and falling with sighs, as he tried to control himself, and as his wife held an arm around him and dabbed his tears.
McDonnell’s voice cracked as he referred to the “love and light of my life” – wife Debra Bashwinger and their 6-year-old son, Sean, in the audience. Bashwinger was weeping; Sean, unimpressed with the television cameras and photographers clicking away, played on the floor with a Thomas the Tank Engine locomotive.
“No one understands what the families of victims go through,” said Bashwinger, who added that without the support of her husband’s family, she would have become homeless while McDonnell was in prison.
“I think it’s important to put a face to the cost,” McDonnell said, referring to his reason for going public. “It’s important to show a doubting public that these victims do exist. We do live our lives, although we struggle on a daily basis. We are real people.”
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.
From the link: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/147586455.html
Witness: Priest plied me with booze, molested me
By Joseph A. Slobodzian
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
The Philadelphia Catholic clergy sex-abuse trial began its fourth week this morning with testimony by a former Philadelphia man who told of being plied with liquor and sexually molested by his parish priest in a King of Prussia hotel room.
The 50-year-old man, who grew up in Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Andorra, told the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury about an incident when he was in the seventh grade.
The Rev. Thomas J. Smith had offered to take him and another boy on a trip to Hershey Park, driving a recreational vehicle borrowed from the second boy’s parents.
But the RV got no farther than King of Prussia, the man testified, when Smith said the vehicle had mechanical problems and they would have to stay overnight in a nearby Holiday Inn.
There the two boys spent the afternoon playing cards with their pastor, drinking Southern Comfort liquor and sodas.
Later that day, the man testified, Smith began chasing them around the room putting ice cubes down their underwear. When it came time for bed, the man continued, Smith told them to sleep naked because their clothes were wet.
While his friend slept on the floor, the man testified, he slept in bed with Smith and quickly fell asleep because of the alcohol he drank.
The man said he awoke on top of Smith – who was also naked – and realized they both had erections. When Smith saw that he was awake, the man continued, the priest pushed him to the other side of the bed.
The man said he went back to sleep and told no one until the incident became part of the 2005 report of the Philadelphia County grand jury report about the cover-up of sexual abuse of minors by priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” asked Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington.
“I asked myself that question for years,” the man replied. “I think I was more afraid of getting in trouble. I was brought up to respect my elders and figures of authority.”
Though Smith continued to visit his parents and five brothers, the man testified, he withdrew from contact with the priest, whom he said enjoyed wrestling with his brothers in the basement of their house.
In questioning the man, defense attorney Jeffrey Lindy elicited the fact that the man did not come forward to authorities until 2004 – two years after Msgr. William J. Lynn, one of the two clerics on trial, left his job as the Archdiocese’s chief investigator of wayward priests.
Though not criminally charged in the 2005 grand jury report, Smith was left in his parish two years after Archdiocesan officials learned of the abuse in 2002. Two years later, after additional allegations of abuse arose, Smith was removed from active ministry.
Like most prior victims of clergy sexual abuse mentioned during the trial, Smith was not directly involved with the two clerics on trial. Rather, prosecutors have been permitted to bring in other cases to try to prove to the jury their theory of a long practice in the Archdiocese of ignoring or covering up after priests accused of sexually molesting children.
Lynn, as secretary for clergy, was responsible for investigating allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against priests. He is the first church official criminally charged with enabling or covering up such allegations against Catholic clergy.
Lynn’s codefendant, the Rev. James J. Brennan, is charged with attempting to rape a 14-year-old boy in 1996.
Both have denied the allegations.
This story comes from the following link: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2012/03/28/both-sides-point-to-key-evidence-in-priest-abuse-case/
Both Sides Point To Key Evidence In Priest Abuse Case
March 28, 2012 4:29 AM
By Tony Hanson
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Smoking gun evidence for the prosecution and the defense as both sides cite the same couple of documents to make their case for guilt or innocence in the clergy abuse case. The evidence centers around a former co-defendant who last week admitted sexually abusing an altar boy.
The prosecution has presented evidence in the form of documents showing Monsignor William Lynn, who is charged with endangering children compiled a list of 35 suspected or admitted predator priests, found then Father Edward Avery was guilty of sexual misconduct with a minor but still allowed him to remain in ministry and Avery struck again.
He pleaded guilty to this assault last week.
But the defense says the list is evidence Monsignor Lynn did his job, tried to deal with the sex abuse issue but his list was later ordered shredded by the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and the shredding was carried out by others, the act memorialized in a memo shown to the jury.
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.”