For more than two hours Thursday, the jury in Courtroom 304 got to hear the defendant, Monsignor William J. Lynn, testify candidly about his bumbling pursuit of a sexually abusive priest on the loose from the archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Only it wasn't the real monsignor up on the witness stand, just a man who gets paid to play him in court. As he has done several times previously, Assistant District Attorney Anthony Pomeranz took the witness stand Thursday to read another volume of Lynn's 2002 grand jury testimony to the jury in the archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial.
Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington once again reprised his role as the grand jury prosecutor, asking the questions, while Pomeranz read Lynn's answers into the record. In the past, this prosecutorial play-acting could be dull, as the monsignor pontificated about Catholic tradition and archdiocese protocol, tossing around words like canonical, laicization and Catholocity.
But the play acting turned serious Thursday as the grand jury testimony focused on what Lynn did and, far more damaging, what he failed to do while pursuing sex abusers in collars. Sadly for the monsignor, the testimony that Pomeranz read into the record did not follow the defense script in this trial, which has been to paint the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua as the man with the ultimate power in the archdiocese, and thus, the real villain of the story.
Nope, the Bill Lynn that the jury got to hear Thursday sounded like the man down at archdiocese headquarters who was firmly in charge of pervert priests, even though the record showed the opposite. that the abusers were still at large and being allowed to menace the general population.
Lynn's grand jury testimony was a vivid contrast from his boss, the late cardinal, who, whenever he got near a witness stand, developed a sudden case of senility compounded by amnesia. No, in his grand jury testimony, the monsignor didn't duck many questions, and he admitted in retrospect that he may have dropped a few balls.
It was a performance that left courtroom observers wondering what Lynn's attorney, C. Clark Hodgson, who accompanied Lynn to the grand jury, was thinking while he watched his client being hung out to dry.
Or maybe it was a deliberate strategy; let the wily Cardinal Tony play rope-a-dope with the grand jury, while serving up the unwitting monsignor as a plump and tasty scapegoat. Meanwhile, while all of this was going on in Courtroom 304, the real Monsignor Lynn could only watch silently from the defense table, along with his current team of four frustrated defense lawyers, as the prosecutors put on a show for the jury.
The grand jury testimony focused on Father Stanley M. Gana, a wild man when it came to bedding at least three teenage boys and five adult females. There were allegations of countless more victims, but the three teenage boys and five women where the victims that Gana had confessed to abusing.
Gana was also the guy, who, when the monsignor finally talked him into entering a treatment facility, gave a blubbering confession, and then busted out of the joint. Father Gana went AWOL for nearly a year, hiding out at his condo in Florida, while he partied with young male house guests, and flying off to Slovakia. Meanwhile, Msgr. Lynn sat home back at archdiocese headquarters in Philadelphia, and wondered what to do about it.
The grand jury prosecutor read into the record what Gana's therapists had told the monsignor back on Feb. 23, 1996, two weeks after he entered Southdown, a facility for abuser priests in Canada. After years of stonewalling, "He [Gana] broke down and he was completely honest," Sister Donna Markham, Southdown's executive director told Lynn. "All the allegations against him are true. He admitted everything."
The grand jury prosecutor pointed out to Lynn how he could have followed up on reports that there were other victims of Father Gana out there, victims who had been named by two young men who had been sexually abused by Gana. Lynn could have also questioned the therapist's line that they had Gana under control, that he was not a pedophile, but a substance abuser, who only "acted out" on adolescent boys and women after he got loaded.
"Sure, I could have asked," Lynn told the grand jury. "I just trusted that she [Markham] knew what she was talking about."
Then, Father Gana decided he had had enough treatment, so on March 4, 1996, he called a taxi, and left Southdown, headed for the airport. His team of therapists was upset; the patient was disobeying orders.
Two months later, nobody could find Father Gana. Not Lynn, nor his canonical lawyer, who picked up the phone and told the monsignor, he "has no idea where he [Gana] is, or what he is doing."
The grand jury prosecutor laid out the facts for Lynn. You've got a known abuser priest who's already admitted that he had sex with three teenage boys, two of whom have already contacted you. You've got the name of the third victim, but you're not doing anything to find him. You've got an abuser priest who's AWOL from the archdiocese, and his treatment center, and not even his lawyer knows where he is. The next thing you find out is that a nun from Orlando, Fla., called your office to say that parishioners in her diocese were talking about Father Gana, who has a house there, and he's got a number of young men from Slovakia staying with him.
Sister Lucy Vazquez called on March 13, 1996 to say that parishioners in Orlando had expressed concerns "about what might be happening at the house,"with the young men staying there, some of whom appeared to be teenagers."
Aren't you suspicious of what Father Gana is up to? the grand jury prosecutor asked Lynn. Isn't it time to crack down on Father Gana, tell him either he goes back into treatment at Southdown, or you begin the process of involuntary laicization, busting him down to layman?
"I don't know if you could force that on somebody," Lynn said. Instead, what you do is you "try to get them to cooperate."
And then, the grand jury prosecutor said, you get a call from one of the abuse victims that Gana has already admitted to molesting and he wants to know what's up with Gana. Why don't you tell him the truth, that Gana just confessed to abusing you and another minor? But instead, Lynn told the victim that Father Gana was still denying the allegations.
"I didn't think I was free to do that," Lynn told the grand jury. He didn't think he was "free to share that with anybody else," because he thought the Southdown report on the priest's admissions in therapy was confidential.
He now knows it was not confidential, Lynn told the grand jury. He agreed that what he told the victim, about Gana was still denying the abuse, was "not accurate."
Did you think about the victim in this case, the grand jury prosecutor asked. Wouldn't it have been of some "therapeutic value" for the victim to know, after all these years, that Lynn finally believed him, and that Gana had confessed.
"I just thought he wanted money," Lynn told the grand jury.
After he partied in Florida, Father Gana got on a plane and flew to Slovakia. He had been AWOL from the archdiocese and his treatment facility for six months. Meanwhile, "we were giving him a stipend" of about $550 a month, Lynn testified.
"I will be in Slovakia till Sept. 16," Gana informed the archdiocese. "At some point, haven't you had enough with Stanley Gana," the grand jury prosecutor wanted to know. Isn't it time to tell him off? Threaten him with involuntary laicization, or call in the authorities?
"I don't know if I went that far," Lynn told the grand jury. "I really don't remember what I thought at the time. I was walking a fine line between a reprimand and trying to get him to cooperate."
In December 1996, Father Gana was back in Forida. Didn't you wonder whether he still had young people staying at his house, the prosecutor asked. Didn't you worry that he might sexually abuse more young people?
"I didn't think so at the time," Lynn told the grand jury. And what evidence did you have to go on that Gana wasn't abusing anybody, the grand jury prosecutor wanted to know.
"Only his word," the monsignor said about Father Gana.
Did you pick up the phone, the grand jury prosecutor asked. Did you call the authorities down in Orlando? Did you call the nun from the Orlando diocese who had been the first person to tell you about Father Gana allowing young people to stay at his house?
"Not that I recall," Lynn told the grand jury.
The prosecutor asked Lynn what he did when Father Gana told him not to worry about that third adolescent boy that he admitted to molesting, because he and Father Gana had just reconciled. Did you look into that, the prosecutor wanted to know. No, Lynn said.
And when you wrote a memo to the cardinal about Father Gana, why didn't you mention what that nun from Orlando told you, about Father Gana having young people staying at his house?
"I didn't feel he [Gana] was acting out at the time," Lynn told the grand jury.
The archdiocese paid to fly Lynn to Canada, so he could visit Southdown and see how Gana was doing, the grand jury prosecutor said. Surely the archdiocese would have paid for a trip to Orlando, so Lynn could have gone to Gana's house, and see what he was up to, and whether any young people were still staying there.
"I guess if I wanted to go down, I could have," the monsignor admitted to the grand jury. "It didn't occur to me ... It wasn't that big of a deal at the time."
In the ten years that you have served as secretary for clergy, the grand jury prosecutor wanted to know, have you ever sought involuntary laicization of any priest in the archdiocese?
"Not that I'm aware of," Lynn told the grand jury.
The prosecutors were done with their play acting. Assistant District Attorney Pomeranz seemed pleased with his latest performance as he left the witness stand. And over at the defense table, you could almost hear the sounds of lawyers screaming.