The sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania, U.S., is a significant episode in the series of Catholic sex abuse cases in the United States, Ireland and elsewhere. The Philadelphia abuses were substantially revealed through a grand jury investigation in 2005. In early 2011, a new grand jury reported extensive new charges of abusive priests active in the archdiocese. In 2012, a guilty plea by priest Edward Avery and the related trial and conviction of Monsignor William Lynn and mistrial on charges against Rev. James J. Brennan followed from the grand jury’s investigations.
Cover-up by Cardinals Krol and Bevilacqua
On September 21, 2005, nearly 10 years after the death of Cardinal John Krol, a grand jury, empaneled by Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham, announced that Cardinal Krol was involved with the cover-up of a sex scandal against accused priests throughout the archdiocese, as was his successor 1988-2003, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. Like the sex scandals in the Archdiocese of Boston, Krol and Bevilacqua transferred accused priests to other parishes throughout the archdiocese.
Using records subpoenaed from the archdiocese, the jury examined “secret archive” files for 169 priests and two deacons. To expose the extent of abuse and a “continuous, concerted campaign of cover-up”, the jury documented 63 examples of abuse and where the abusers were assigned at the times of those attacks. The grand jury also demonstrated that nobody could be prosecuted due to Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations and other conditions that protect the archdiocese from being criminally accountable.
Three weeks into the 2012 Lynn trial, The Philadelphia Inquirer editorialized that “the clear outlines of an alleged cover-up … as far up as” Bevilacqua had already emerged in the testimony. While the judge compelled the cardinal to testify in a closed hearing in November, 2011, before the trial, neither the prosecution nor the defense used any of the testimony in the trial. The cardinal died in January, 2012.
Role of Cardinal Rigali in 2005
Cardinal Justin Francis Rigali adopted the policy of defrocking those who were accused and confirmed by investigations. Cardinal Rigali, in cooperation with District Attorney Abraham and other district attorneys throughout the archdiocese, started the practice of both internal archdiocesan investigations, as well as external criminal investigations.
Cardinal Rigali staunchly defended the actions of his two predecessors, Krol and Bevilacqua, when they were named as sponsors of a cover-up by the September, 2005, grand jury
Actions of Bishop Cistone
According to the 2005 investigation, while serving as assistant vicar for administration in 1996, Joseph R. Cistone was involved with silencing a nun who tried to alert parishioners at St. Gabriel parish about abuse by a priest. According to the report, there were several other instances of priest sexual abuse which Cistone was complicit in covering up. The report also indicated that Cistone was most concerned with the public relations ramifications of the sexual abuse. The report also showed that when a sex abuse victim demanded to meet with Cardinal Bevilacqua, Cistone refused the request, saying that allowing a sex abuse victim to meet with the Cardinal would “set a precedent. When these revelations became public, Cistone expressed sorrow for “any mistakes in judgment.” However, Cistone refused to discuss the matter further, saying, “[I]t would not serve any purpose to revisit the grand jury report and endeavor to recall the rationale for past decisions made in specific cases.”
Aftermath in Saginaw, Michigan
A week after being named to lead the Diocese of Saginaw, Cistone was asked by a mid-Michigan newspaper reporter about the grand jury investigation and his reported role in covering up instances of sexual abuse. Cistone expressed unhappiness with how little opportunity he had been given to respond to the report, saying, “Unfortunately, the grand jury procedure, as followed in Philadelphia, did not allow for any opportunity to address such questions to offer explanation or clarification.” Cistone also expressed surprise that he had not been questioned about the grand jury report during his introductory press conference and told the reporter, “Had it come up, I certainly would have addressed it.”
On June 9, 2009, a group of survivors of clergy abuse protested Cistone’s appointment outside the Saginaw Diocese office. Members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) demanded that Cistone hold a public forum to explain his actions as described in the 2005 grand jury report. SNAP President Barbara Blaine said the actions had to be taken because, “the innocence of children was shattered needlessly because of the action and inaction of this bishop.” In response to the group’s calls for transparency, Cistone said, “If someone wants to go back and rehash what the church may have done based on knowledge and experience or lack of experience the church had, well, that’s OK, but that’s not productive. What’s productive is what we can do to move forward.”
John McDevitt affair
A 2009 suit claims that Rev. John McDevitt, a religion teacher at Father Judge High School for Boys, abused Richard Green for six months in 1990 and 1991, according to a report by the New York Post. At the time, the victim’s uncle, Cardinal John Joseph O’Connor, served as archbishop of New York.
Use of the penile plethysmograph
During the abuse scandal, the reliability of the penile plethysmograph was questioned by some officials in the archdiocese of Philadelphia. Later, these officials chose to seek therapy at an institution where the plethysmograph was not used. This, even though the officials were made aware of the fact that the test was used by most experts and was believed to be of value in diagnosing sexual disorders. Later, a Grand Jury found that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s decision to do so “had the effect of diminishing the validity of the evaluations and the likelihood that a priest would be diagnosed as a pedophile or ephebophile.” 
Mary Achilles hired by archdiocese
“In 2006, the Archdiocese hired Achilles, the state’s first victim advocate, to review its treatment of victims after a 2005 grand-jury report highlighted abuse by more than 50 priests over 50 years.” Achilles, among other involvements in the field, has worked on the subject of restorative justice with Professor Howard Zehr of Eastern Mennonite University.
2011 grand jury
A second grand jury, in February, 2011, accused the Philadelphia Archdiocese, still under Cardinal Rigali, of failing to stop the sexual abuse of children more than five years after the first grand jury report had documented abuse by more than fifty priests. The 2011 grand jury report said that as many as 37 priests were credibly accused of sexual abuse or inappropriate behavior toward minors. Rigali initially said in February “there were no active priests with substantiated allegations against them, but six days later, he placed three of the priests, whose activities had been described in detail by the grand jury, on administrative leave. He also hired an outside lawyer, Gina Maisto Smith, a former assistant district attorney who prosecuted child sexual assault cases for 15 years, to re-examine all cases involving priests in active ministry and review the procedures employed by the archdiocese.” Three weeks later, most of those 37 priests remain active in the ministry. Terence McKiernan, the president of BishopAccountability.org, which archives documents from the abuse scandal in dioceses across the country, said “‘[T]he headline is that in Philadelphia, the system is still broke.’ David J. O’Brien, who teaches Catholic history at the University of Dayton, said, ‘The situation in Philadelphia is “Boston reborn.”‘”
The appointment of Smith, the new outside lawyer for the archdiocese and a partner with the Ballard Spahr law firm, was criticized by SNAP’s executive director, David Clohessy, who said “No lawyer or consultant is independent in any way, if they’re picked and paid by Rigali. He can bring in a dozen more lawyers, but if he does what he did five years ago with the expert child-safety consultant and ignores every single recommendation, it’s just going to be more empty promises and public relations.” Clohessy was referring to the work of Mary Achilles. The 2011 grand jury found that “archdiocesan officials ignored all of Achilles’ initial recommendations” …. Rigali hired Achilles again last week to perform the same service,” according to one report. District Attorney R. Seth Williams said he respected Rigali’s choice of Smith to lead the case review.
One commentator, Maureen Dowd in The New York Times, concluded, “Out of the church’s many unpleasant confrontations with modernity, this is the starkest. It’s tragically past time to send the message that priests can’t do anything they want and hide their sins behind special privilege,” and credited Philadelphia and District Attorney Williams with starting to send that message.
Edward Avery guilty plea and sentencing
In March, 2012, “Edward Avery, 69, known for his moonlighting work as a disc jockey, pleaded guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child. He was immediately sentenced to 2½ to five years in prison. The charges stem from Avery’s abuse of an altar boy at St. Jerome’s Parish in northeast Philadelphia in 1999, when Avery was 57 and the boy 10. … Avery was at St. Jerome’s despite a credible 1992 complaint that led him to undergo psychological testing at an archdiocesan-run psychiatric hospital, according to a 2005 grand jury report. He was pulled from his parish, put on a so-called “health leave” and then reassigned in 1993, the report said.”
Two of Avery’s victims testified to the Common Pleas Court jury in the William Lynn trial in April, 2012. Lynn’s alleged crime is not taking adequate action against Avery after having heard an accusation against Avery in 1992. Together the testimony of the two “represented a pillar of the landmark conspiracy and endangerment case prosecutors are trying to prove against” Lynn.
William Lynn and James Brennan trial
Msgr. William Lynn, the pastor of St. Joseph Church in Downingtown, was arrested in February, 2012, indicted in mid-March and, more than a week after the indictment, put on administrative leave by the Archbishop Rigali. “According to a scathing grand jury report, Lynn, as secretary of clergy for the archdiocese, concealed the crimes of accused priests and put them in positions in which they could harm more children. Lynn is innocent and a victim of excessive zeal on the part of the District Attorney’s Office, his lawyer, Jeff Lindy, said after his arrest.” Lynn became the “most senior official of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States to be tried on charges relating to the child sexual abuse scandal” and “the first U.S. church official ever charged with endangering children for allegedly failing to oust accused predators from the priesthood or report them to police”.
As the trial opened, Lynn and another of his attorneys, Thomas Bergstrom, were “insisting that [Lynn] tried to address the long-brewing sexual-abuse problem when he served as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004. [Deceased Cardinal] Bevilacqua and other superiors quashed his efforts …. The jury on Tuesday saw a 1994 list Lynn prepared that named 35 accused priests still on duty in the five-county archdiocese. Avery was on it [and a major subject on the opening day], and deemed ‘guilty’ of the abuse. The list also shows whether the archdiocese could still be sued over each allegation. Bevilacqua ordered that the list be shredded, although a copy survived”.
The court heard Lynn testify on April 19, 2012, that the case of Rev. Stanley Gana “fell through the cracks” due to a job change. “A seminarian in 1992 told Lynn and Lynn’s boss, the late Monsignor James Malloy, that he [the seminarian] had been raped throughout high school by … Gana. The seminarian, who testified in person this week, gave Lynn and Malloy the names and parish of two other potential victims” but they made no contact with the victims. “Malloy told Gana to avoid contact with the seminarian because the allegations, if true, might be criminal. Lynn agreed with the assessment, according to his testimony. Asked why he didn’t notify police, Lynn testified: ‘Because we weren’t required to.'” They did question Gana, who denied the charges. He remained as pastor at Our Mother of Sorrows in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania until 1995; moved to Florida and garnered further abuse inquiries back to Philadelphia from there; and “is 69 [but i]t’s not clear where he’s living”, said the AP report, which also detailed the testimony on the extent and nature of the priest’s, and his superiors’, behaviors and actions.
“[T]housands of confidential church records and years of abuse complaints against priests in the five-county archdiocese[, many of which] had been locked away for years in the so-called Secret Archives, church files that cataloged misconduct by priests”, also came to light in the trail.
On June 22, 2012, Monsignor William Lynn was convicted of one of two child endangerment charges, and acquitted of a single count of conspiracy. Had he been convicted of all three charges, he would have faced 10 to 20 years in prison. Lynn was sentenced to three to six years in prison. This was the first time a Catholic church official serving in an administrative position in a diocese was convicted in the United States for covering up child sexual abuse by priests; efforts have been made to indict U.S. Bishops as well, though prosecuting them would be more difficult, since they are viewed by the Vatican as being administrative extensions of it as well as overseers in their own right, despite being U.S. citizens. The jury deadlocked on attempted rape and endangerment charges against Brennan and Judge M. Teresa Sarmina declared a mistrial on those charges.
Prosecutors said in late June they planned to retry Brennan.
Following arguments for lenient and stiff sentencing, Lynn was sentenced to three to six years in state prison. Judge Sarmina said he had “turned a blind eye while ‘monsters in clerical garb’ sexually abused children and devastated the church and community”. The sentence was just short of the maximum and well above what the defense favored.
Engelhardt and Shero trial
Rev. Charles Engelhardt and former parochial school teacher Bernard Shero are being tried separately William Lynn because they did not report to Lynn. They were both, with Avery, associated with St. Jerome’s parish. In September 2012, their trial was due to start but then postponed due to a family emergency for one of the defense attorneys. The two have been charged with rape, indecent sexual assault and other criminal charges in decade-plus-old assaults. Their primary accuser was called “Billy” in the 2011 grand jury report and he will be the key witness against the men. It has been rescheduled to begin January 2013 and transferred, due to the rescheduling, from Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina to the court’s Judge Ellen Ceisler.
Penitential service and other aftermath
In March, 2011, Rigali invited Catholics to a special Stations of the Cross penitential service at the Philadelphia cathedral. The purpose of the service, he wrote in his Lenten letter, was ‘the forgiveness of all sins and reconciliation with God and in the community.’ However, The Economist reported SNAP’s “cynical” opinion “that it took two harsh grand-jury reports and four indictments to get a ‘prince of the church to finally temporarily take more predator priests away from kids.'”
Also in March, 2011, reports emerged about an October, 2003, form which had been apparently used by the archdiocese to prevent archdiocesan officials from reporting some information about alleged sex abuse by clergy to civil authorities. Any individual reporting alleged abuse by Church personnel was required to sign the form.
Only fifty people showed up at the penitential service, Michael Sean Winters reported he had heard, in a commentary in the National Catholic Reporter. He went on to opine: “If any more evidence were needed that Cardinal Rigali is not in a position to heal the harms his lax oversight have permitted, there it is.” Winters also addressed the newly revealed “somewhat bizarre” reporting form:
“This is the kind of form used to intimidate victims. … [U]ntil I saw this document, and considered the circumstances in which it might be employed, it had never occurred to me really how much the chancery officials trying to cover-up sex abuse were, albeit without the sexual prurience, doing exactly what a pedophile-predator does: Confront someone vulnerable, make them do something they don’t want to do and that is not good for them, and then tell them they can’t tell anyone. Intimidation. Shame. Secrecy. These are not the tools one needs for healing and conversion.”
Another commentator for NCR, Richard McBrien, a personal acquaintance with Rigali’s, drew attention to the failure of Rigali to live up to the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. McBrien went on to note that in his opinion, relative to the second grand jury report, Rigali had “made an unfortunate mistake in fundamental logic by making a universal negative assertion that could be rebutted by even a single case to the contrary … [by] denying the allegation that there were other abusive priests still at work in the Archdiocese … [when] [s]oon thereafter he removed twenty-one priests.” He also noted the parallels with Cardinal Bernard Law‘s stance and actions in Boston in 2002.
Resignation of Rigali and appointment of Chaput
In July, 2011, the Holy See accepted Rigali’s resignation, which he had tendered in 2010 when he reached age 75, in accordance with the Code of Canon Law. He “offered an apology ‘if I have offended’ and ‘for any weaknesses on my part,’ but said he saw no particular connection between the timing of the Vatican accepting his resignation and turbulence” over the February grand jury report. Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput was named to succeed Rigali.
In late July, 2011, Robert Huber at Philadelphia magazine published a 7,630-word article which opened with Rigali’s question “Is it true?” about the 2011 grand jury report. It moved on to ask “Will the Catholic Church as we know it survive in Philadelphia?” as he began to tell the story of Joe, a 59-year-old  who spoke of his abuse at the hands of Father Schmeer when in the ninth grade at Roman Catholic High School. Joe spoke this summer to “fellow parishioners at his church—St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Manayunk. The leader of Joe’s men’s group and a victims advocate for the archdiocese set up the meeting. Perhaps 30 people came. Joe discovered something, after he spoke, that shocked him. It was that other people saw him as a hero.” The piece concluded with a critique from Donna Farrell, writing on behalf of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which began: “Unfortunately for Philadelphia magazine readers looking for honest, in-depth reporting, this piece is an agenda-driven travesty of salacious innuendo masquerading as journalism.” Farrell said Huber had been given access to Achilles and Smith but “chose to omit these perspectives from his piece” and hence missed the “significant steps” the archdiocese had taken to rectify the situation. This left the piece “sensational, wildly unfair, and incomplete.” Farrell is the director of communications for the archdiocese. Readers also endorsed and critiqued the article in comments.
As the William Lynn trial proceeded in mid-April, 2012, The Philadelphia Inquirer led an editorial: “Three weeks into a likely months-long landmark clergy sex-abuse trial, a Philadelphia jury already has seen the clear outlines of an alleged cover-up by Archdiocese of Philadelphia officials as far up as Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua.” After detailing numerous testimonies of abuse, the editorial continued: “Both Lynn and [James] Brennan deny the allegations. Whatever the eventual verdicts, testimony likely will have removed all reasonable doubt as to the cover-up’s existence, and the need for reform.” Specifically, the paper went on to say: “Harrisburg lawmakers need to act on proposals still being fought by the state’s Catholic bishops — most vocally by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput — that would waive civil statutes for a brief period to allow those victims to seek justice. As done in Delaware and California, a so-called “civil window” would further expose the abusers’ dirty secrets and help lead to healing in the church, and beyond. State legislators need not await a jury verdict to do the right thing by abuse victims.”
- 1.^ “Report of the Grand Jury”, Lynne Abraham, District Attorney, In the Court of Common Pleas, First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, Criminal Trial Division, in re: Misc. No. 03-00-239, September 17, 2003; via media.philly.com. Alternate on-line source, via richardsipe.com.
- 2.^ a b c “Abuse trial testimony cries for reform” (editorial), The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 16, 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-20.
- 3.^ a b c Martin, John P., and Joseph A. Slobodzian, “Lynn guilty in clergy sex-abuse trial”, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 22, 2012. Retrieved 2012-06-22.
- 4.^ “Philadelphia auxiliary bishop to lead Michigan diocese.” The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 21, 2009.
- 5.^ Remsen, Jim, and Kristin E. Holmes, “Abuse’s ‘Enablers’ Still Rank in Church.” The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 14, 2005.
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- 7.^ Abraham, Kristen, “Child abuse survivors protest outside Saginaw Diocese”, WJRT-TV/ABC, June 11, 2009.
- 8.^ Cardinal’s nephew says priest abused him, UPI, 2009/06/18.
- 9.^ “Report of the Grand Jury”, in re: Misc. No. 03-00-239, September 17, 2003, p. 253; via media.philly.com.
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- 11.^ Zehr, Howard, and Mary Achilles, Victim Advocate,“Restorative Justice Signposts: Victim Involvement” summary OVA Newsletter (Pennsylvania Office of the Victim Advocate), Vol. 4, Issue 1 (2000). Retrieved 2011-03-05.
- 12.^ Hurdle, Jon, “Philadelphia Priests Accused by Grand Jury of Sexual Abuse and Cover-Up”, The New York Times, February 10, 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-05.
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- 14.^ Dowd, Maureen, “Avenging Altar Boy”, Op-ed opinion column, The New York Times, March 15, 2011 (March 16, 2011 p. A31 NY ed.). Retrieved 2011-03-16.
- 15.^ a b “Defrocked Philadelphia priest pleads guilty to sex-abuse charge, gets 2½ to 5 years in prison”, AP via Washington Post, March 22, 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-24.
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- 17.^ Boccella, Kathy, and Chelsea Conaboy, “Archdiocese puts indicted Msgr. Lynn on leave”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 24, 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-20.
- 18.^ Hurdle, Jon, “Priest’s Jury Is Told How a Complaint Was Scorned”, The New York Times, April 11, 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-12.
- 19.^ “Memo: Philly parish told pastor on ‘health leave,’ when he was in sex therapy after complaint”, AP via Washington Post, March 26/27 (updated 2:36 pm), 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-27.
- 20.^ Dale, Maryclaire, “Monsignor: Abuse investigation fell through cracks”, Associated Press via Yahoo.com, April 19, 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-24.
- 21.^ Dale, MaryClaire. “Pennsylvania priest convicted in groundbreasking abuse case”. USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2012-06-22/priest-abuse-trial-verdict/55762008/1. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
- 22.^ usnews.msnbc.msn.com, 2012/06/22.
- 23.^ US monsignor William Lynn sentenced for abuse cover-up
- 24.^ Hurdle, Jon; Eckholm, Eric (June 22, 2012). “Archbishop’s Aide Guilty of Endangerment in Abuse Case”. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/23/us/philadelphias-msg-william-j-lynn-is-convicted-of-allowing-abuse.html?hp.
- 25.^ Martin, John P., “Prosecutors to retry priest in abuse case”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 23, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
- 26.^ “Lynn’s lawyers seek leniancy”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 20, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
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- 29.^ “Trial to open in notorious archdiocesan abuse case”, Philadelphia Inquirer, September 2, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-24.
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- 31.^ Slobodzian, Joseph A., “Next priest trial rescheduled again — to Jan. 7”, Philadelphia Inquirer “Crime & Punishment” blog, September 2, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-24.
- 32.^ Slobodzian, Joseph A., “Two men come forward as litigants in priest-sex-abuse suits”, Philadelphia Inquirer, September 19, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-24.
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- 34.^ “Sins of the fathers: The archdiocese of Philadelphia suspends 21 accused priests”, The Economist, March 10th 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-10.
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- 36.^ Winters, Michael Sean, “Philadelphia’s crisis of faith”, National Catholic Reporter, Mar. 14, 2011. Not archived on-line. Retrieved 2011-04-11.
- 37.^ McBrien, Richard, “Philadelphia and the sexual abuse crisis”, National Catholic Reporter, Apr. 04, 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-19.
- 38.^ Zapor, Patricia, “Archbishop Chaput succeeds Cardinal Rigali; Savannah bishop retires”, Catholic News Service, Jul-19-2011. Retrieved 2011-07-19.
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- 40.^ Huber, Robert, “Inside the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Sex-Abuse Scandal”, Philadelphia magazine blog, 6/23/2011 10:21AM. Retrieved 2011-07-28.
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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.