Detective James Dougherty is a silver-haired former Philadelphia police homicide investigator now assigned to the district attorney's Special Victims Unit. He's an expert on the archdiocese's "secret archive files" that detail the sins of pedophile priests.
This week, prosecutors in the archdiocese sex abuse trial had Dougherty take jurors on a two-day excursion through 160 formerly classified documents regarding the 40-year career of one offender, Father Raymond O. Leneweaver.
Father Leneweaver was identified in the 2005 grand jury report on archdiocese sex abuse as a "chronic abuser" of altar boys. The priest had special T-shirts printed up for his victims that identified them as "Philadelphia Rovers."
The details in the grand jury report are sickening.
Father Leneweaver would repeatedly pull one Rover out of Catholic school and take the boy to the auditorium, the report said. There, Father Leneweaver would bend the boy over a table and rub up against him until the priest ejaculated. The priest also took the boy to his bedroom in the rectory, where he pulled down the boy's pants, applied a lubricant to his buttocks, and rubbed his penis against the boy until he ejaculated. He anally raped another boy. Father Leneweaver assaulted other victims at the church's summer camp, the seminary swimming pool, and even the sacristy behind the church altar.
“Each time the priest’s crimes were reported to the archdiocese, he admitted his offenses,” the grand jury report said. "I know, I admit it, I am deeply ashamed," the archdiocese's chancellor, Monsignor Terrence F. Monihan, quoted the priest as saying in one 1968 secret memo read into the record by Dougherty. But the chancellor saw a silver lining.
"He has never sinned with any woman,"Monihan wrote.
By 1975, Father Leneweaver had confessed to sexual activity with at least seven children that he admitted he was “seriously involved” with.
In 1976, a new chancellor, Monsignor Francis J. Statkus wrote in one of the files read by Dougherty, "Father Leneweaver should think about resigning ... especially if scandal is a result." "We should maintain an alert status concerning him," the monsignor concluded.
In spite of what church officials knew, “Cardinal [John] Krol transferred this chronic abuser four times after learning of his admitted abuses,” the grand jury report said. “Predictably, Fr. Leneweaver continued to abuse boys in his new parishes.” In 1980, after the priest applied for a permanent leave of absence, Cardinal Krol wrote a secret memo to his chancellor that he knew the extent of the priest’s sickness.
It was one of the files read into the record by Detective Dougherty. In the memo, Cardinal Krol said Father Leneweaver’s problem “will follow him wherever he goes.”
In 1980, while he was residing at St. John Vianney, the archdiocese-owned treatment center for sex offenders, Father Leneweaver visited the home of a woman with three sons, and "made sexual advances" to one of the boys, the secret records said. In spite of the priest's continued predatory conduct, and in spite of the priest's continued confessions of guilt, doctors at St. John Vianney found "no compelling evidence of homosexuality."
"Might the testing be faulty?" Msgr. Statkus wrote to Cardinal Krol. But Father Leneweaver got a new assignment anyway, and in his last year of ministry, he was transferred for the fourth time to St. Joseph The Worker in Bucks County, "one of the few remaining areas where his scandalous action may not be known," Statkus wrote in the secret archives. The four transfers of the priest, the monsignor noted in the secret achives, were done "in the hope of avoiding scandal."
After he finally resigned in 1981, the former priest wrote repeated letters over the next 20 years to the archdiocese, seeking to be reinstated. In 1998, Monsignor Lynn responded to one of those letters on behalf of Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. "May the Lord give you his fullest blessings in the New Year," Lynn wrote Father Leneweaver.
"He still has some yearning inside him to return to ministry," Lynn wrote after receiving yet another request from Leneweaver to return to active duty. On Feb. 16, 1998, after meeting with Leneweaver, Lynn wrote in a memo to Msgr. Joseph Cistone: "You will note that he has a history of acts of pedophilia/ephebophilia and I imagine by today's standards, would be diagnosed as such. He really does not understand the climate of the times, nor the risks to himself or the church, should he be given ministry."
In the secret archives, Msgr. Lynn recommended that the archdiocese write Leneweaver and tell him his request to return to service as a priest could not be granted "for his own welfare and the welfare of the church."
That wasn't the end of Leneweaver's requests to come back to work. In addition to his letters to the archdiocese, the former priest was applying for other jobs around the country at schools and churches. Thanks to the archdiocese, which never notified police, there was no criminal record of Leneweaver's crimes.
In 2007, Lynn met with the former priest, who was still seeking reinstatement. Lynn noted that Leneweaver was critical of the treatment he had received at St. John Vianney. "Nothing was done to help him,"the former priest complained to Lynn, who dutifully recorded it.
When Detective Dougherty was finally finished reading records into evidence, Lynn's lawyer, Thomas Bergstrom, got a chance to cross-examine him. Don't you think, the defense lawyer wanted to know, that Lynn showed concern for the victims here by preventing Leneweaver from returning?
Detective Dougherty wasn't buying it.
"It was my impression that he was concerned about the scandal it might bring to the church," the detective said. When the defense lawyer persisted, Dougherty said after his extensive reading of the files, his conclusion was "There is little if any concern for the victims."
Instead, the detective insisted, the files show Lynn's "concern was for the hierarchy of the church."
The court is not in session on Fridays during the trial that is expected to last at least two months. The trial resumes Monday.