Monday, April 30, 2012

One Courtroom, Two Defendants and Two Cases Headed in Opposite Directions

There are two defendants on trial in Courtroom 304, Monsignor William J. Lynn and Father James J. Brennan.

Msgr. Lynn is charged with conspiring to endanger the welfare of children by covering up for abuser priests, and allowing them to remain in ministry; the main charge against Father Brennan is the attempted rape of a 14-year-old.

The back story at the archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial, now beginning its sixth week, is that the evidence against Msgr. Lynn continues to pile up every day, while the case against Father Brennan appears to be unraveling.

Father Brennan's main accuser is Mark Bukowski, who claims that back in 1996, when he was 14, Father Brennan attempted to rape him at the priest's apartment in West Chester. The problems with the case  began with a 2011 grand jury report, where Father Brennan was originally charged with anally raping Bukowski.

The grand jury report had graphically stated that the 14-year-old victim pissed his pants and cried himself to sleep, with Father Brenan's penis still inside him. By the time the case went to trial, however, the rape charge had been downgraded to attempted rape, or what the priest's lawyer, William J. Brennan [no relation] dismissively referred to as a "pelvic bump" or a "savage spooning."

Bukowski testified three weeks ago that both the alleged victim and abuser were wearing t-shirts and shorts at the time of the alleged attack.

The waters were muddied further when Bukowski's mother testified that even she has reasonable doubt about what happened that night in West Chester between her son and her favorite priest. The last words the alleged victim's mother uttered before leaving the witness stand was, "I will never really know what happened."

In court Monday, the case against Father Brennan unraveled further, when Msgr. Kevin Quirk showed up to read a 55-page transcript of a 2008 ecclesiastical inquest of Father Brennan into the record. Msgr. Quirk, a West Virginia priest with a doctorate in canon law, was the canonical judge. He told the jury in Courtroom 304 that he was the one who had questioned Father Brennan, when the priest voluntarily submitted to the inquest.

In the transcript, Bukowski backed off of a second charge he made three weeks ago at the archdiocese sex abuse trial, that in 1999, three years after the alleged attempted rape, Father Brennan had subsequently exposed himself to Bukowski.

At the time, Bukowski, who had been arrested several times, testified that he had sought Father Brennan's help because he needed to do 30 hours of community service. The priest helped Bukowski line up a gig at his new parish, Assumption BVM in Feasterville, where Bukowski was scheduled to mow the lawn.

On the witness stand in Courtroom 304, Bukowski charged that the priest had called him over to a shed, and when he got there, he saw the priest with his pants down, fondling his own penis. Bukowski told the jury that when he saw the priest masturbating, he ran away.

But in the transcript of the church investigation, the alleged alleged exposure incident was never mentioned, even though Msgr. Quirk had already heard Bukowski's testimony.

Why didn't you question Father Brennan about the alleged exposure, defense attorney Brennan asked Msgr. Quirk. And then the defense attorney turned his back, and walked away from the witness stand, awaiting the monsignor's answer.

"The accused had withdrawn that part of the allegation," the monsignor finally replied. Msgr. Quirk testified that Bukowski told him his mind was "scrambled" about the alleged exposure incident, adding, "I'm just saying I don't remember."

But what the jury may remember is that four years later, at the archdiocese sex abuse trial, Bukowski's memory had improved to the point where he could again bring up the alleged incident. Especially after defense attorney Brennan on cross-examination had Msgr. Quirk read a portion of Mark Bukowski's canonical testimony, where the alleged victim was asked if there were any problems when he was doing his community service at Father Brennan's parish.

"It was fine during community service," Bukowski was quoted as saying in the canonical transcript read into the record by Msgr. Quirk.

In the canonical transcript, Father Brennan made his position clear on Bukowski's allegations. The alleged attack never happened, the priest told the monsignor. Neither did another incident that he's been accused of.

A former Little League coach has testified in Courtroom 304 that he once saw the priest massaging Bukowksi's bare shoulders, Father Brennan told the canonical inquest the massage never happened. "No, I'm Irish," Father Brennan was quoted as saying. "I'm not tactile."

Father Brennan told the church inquest that in the summer of 1996, Bukowski's mother called him and asked if he would take Mark for a weekend. The boy had been having "crazy mood swings," and wasn't getting along with his family, the priest said. Bukowski's mother told Father Brennan, "Maybe you can figure out what's wrong with him."

That night in the priest's apartment, Father Brennan told the church inquiry, he drank three beers. Meanwhile, Mark Bukowski took off his boxer shorts and ran around the priest's apartment in a pair of loose gym shorts. That struck the priest as weird, but he said Mark Bukowski told him his mother let him run around like that all the time.

The priest told the church inquest that Mark Bukowski went upstairs and was using the priest's laptop. The boy said he wanted the priest's password so he could go on the internet and look at some porn sites. When Father Brennan said he didn't think that was a good idea, Mark Bukowski got angry and threatened to throw the priest's laptop "out the window," Father Brennan told the church inquest.

Father Brennan said he ran upstairs and, after an argument, reluctantly gave Mark the password. The boy went on a couple of porn sites, the priest said, before Father Brennan decided to shut down his computer.

The two then ended up sharing the priest's king size bed. Msgr. Quirk asked Father Brennan if during the night if it was possible that he touched Mark Bukowski.

No, the priest said. Did you attempt to hug him in bed? Not that I recall, the priest said.

When Father Brennan was told of Mark Bukowski's allegations, he told the canonical inquest, "You may as well beat me over the head with a baseball bat. I have no clue about this. Where the hell did this come from? I was just devastated."

After Bukowski made his allegations, Father Brennan said he was told by a monsignor that he had two days to pack up and leave his parish. During the archdiocese investigation, the priest told the church inquiry, that the charges against him went "very public."

"It was on TV. It was in the newspapers," Father Brennan told the monsignor. And, he said, the archdiocese mailed out "10,000 letters" to parishioners and former students of Father Brennan, trying to find out whether there were any other victims.

And did they find any other victims, Father Brennan was asked in the church transcript.

"Nope," he said.

Father Brennan told the church inquiry that he decided to fight the charges against him because, "I don't want another priest to have to go through this." The battle would be worth it, he said in the transcript, if he could "save one priest, then I'll go to calvary."

In addition to the attempted rape charge, Father Brennan is also charged with conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child, and endangering the welfare of a child. The priest and his lawyer have sat silently at the defense table during most of the past five weeks of trial, as 90 percent of the evidence has had nothing to do with him, but is part of the case against Msgr. Lynn.

It's a daily courtroom ritual that still gets smiles and chuckles from jurors. After every witness testifies against Msgr. Lynn, on cross-examination, defense attorney Brennan will stand and ask the prosecutors if they can stipulate that none of the evidence just entered into court has anything to do with his client. When the prosecutor agrees, Brennan says then he has no questions for the witness.

It happened two more times Monday when the prosecution brought two former victims into court to testify against Msgr. Lynn. Once again, these witnesses had nothing to do with the case against Father Brennan, or even the case against Father Edward V. Avery, the third defendant in the case who, on the eve of trial, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child, and involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with a 10-year-old boy.

As part of the case against Msgr. Lynn, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina has allowed the prosecution to introduce evidence regarding 21 additional abuser priests dating back to 1948, to show a pattern in the archdiocese of shuffling abusers from parish to parish, without notifying parishioners or doing anything to protect children.

On Monday, a 43-year-old Levittown man testified that he was abused as a school boy during the early 1980s by Father David Sicoli, one of those 21 additional priests. The victim testified that Father Sicoli was always putting his hands on him.

"I was 11 or 12 years old," the victim testified. "I didn't see what was wrong and what was going on. My parents welcomed and relished that attention," he said, adding that his family believed that "priests walked on water."

But in retrospect, he realized the warning signs about the undue attention Father Sicoli showered on him were "signal flares shooting off left and right."

"The guy had really big hands and had physical control over where I was going," he testified. The priest took the victim and other boys to his beach house in Sea Isle City, where he always served them liquor.

"To this day I can't drink Amaretto," he said. The priest also lined up paying jobs at the rectory for his favorite boys, whom he treated like girlfriends. But Father Sicoli was a manipulator who kept the boys in line because they were afraid of his volcanic temper.

The victim recalled one incident where Father Sicoli approached him in the rectory, where he was doing his homework, and insisted they wrestle. The priest, who wore tight pants, pinned the boy down on the ground and with a "full erection," was "grinding me," the victim testified.

"It felt so disgusting," the victim told the jury. "Like a slime on you, and you just want to get it off."

The victim testified that upon his eighth grade graduation, Father Sicoli had gotten permission from the boy's parents to take him to Disney World. But as the trip got closer and closer, the victim became more worried. "It was gonna be like a honeymoon," he testified.

The victim said he told his father he didn't want to go. The victim's father called the priest, and said his son wasn't going. When the priest started screaming, the father said, "He's no longer your girlfriend," and then he hung up.

In 2004, more than 20 years after he had been abused by Father Sicoli, the victim was interviewed by a detective from the archdiocese. The archdiocese had had the names of numerous victims, including the man on the witness stand, for more than 20 years, but had done nothing to investigate the allegations, nothing to protect children. That included Msgr. Lynn, who served as secretary for clergy from l992 to 2004, and had the responsibility of supervising abuser priests.

Finally, in 2004, the archdiocese review board found "multiple substantiated allegations" of abuse against Father Sicoli involving 11 minors between 1977 and 2002. The review board recommended that Father Sicoli be stripped of his ministry.

A second 47-year-old victim from Levittown testified Monday that he had been among the first victims to be sexually abused by Father Sicoli back in the late 1970s. The white-haired witness, whose pregnant sobbing wife was watching from a front-row seat, said that Father Sicoli took him to the shore and served him drinks.

"There was always alcohol, that's the key to this," the victim testified. "He always wanted to wrestle. He always had his shirt off. He was hairy like a bear."

Father Sicoli performed oral sex on the boy, and masturbated him. Then he taught the victim to reciprocate. It went on for three years, the victim testified, until one day, he told the cook in the rectory that he didn't want to go to the priest's shore house any more.

"A man should not touch a child," the victim sobbed on the witness stand while his wife cried along with him. "He wouldn't let us talk to girls," the victim told the jury. The victim testified that after the Boston sex abuse scandal of 2002, " he wondered every day, "When was this guy finally gonna get his?"

The archdiocese did nothing about the abuse for 35 years, the crying victim told the jury. He tearfully spoke about one priest at archdiocese headquarters who was "the only one who apologized" for the abuse.

Sadly for Msgr. Lynn, the victim wasn't talking about him, but another priest in the chancery office. "They waited 35 years," the victim kept crying. "This is all you get."

As the victim walked out of the courtroom, comforted in the arms of his sobbing wife, two male jurors dabbed their eyes. And over at the prosecution table, it was another solid day of racking up points against Msgr. Lynn.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Monsignor Lynn Takes The Witness Stand

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.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sex Abuse Victim: "I Felt Betrayed"

The soft-spoken 49-year-old doctor on the witness stand said he was angry at himself, because the last thing he wanted to do was cry.

But it's not easy to sit in front of a jury of strangers and tell all the tawdry details from your worst personal nightmare. The doctor, however, pulled himself together, and described how he felt after a priest he trusted and admired had just molested him.

"I froze," the doctor said. "I felt betrayed, I felt confused."

The grown men in the front row of the jury box looked uncomfortable as the doctor shared his story. They stared straight ahead, or looked away, as if they shared his anguish. It was a powerful moment in Courtroom 304, and a bad day to be a defendant at the archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial.


He was a sixth grader when he met Father Ed Avery, the assistant pastor at St. Philip Neri in Pennsburg. The boy was impressed by the priest. Father Ed was an "outgoing, energetic, gregarious individual, very charismatic, very popular with the young people," the witness testified. "I got a lot of affirmation from him."

Father Ed took altar boys on trips to the Poconos, Lake Nocamixon, and his beach house down the shore. He also worked nights and weekends as a disc jockey.

One night in 1978, the witness, who was 15 at the time, accompanied Father Ed to Smokey Joe's, a bar on the University of Pennsylvania campus in West Philadelphia. The witness told the jury that he helped the priest set up his equipment. While Father Ed was spinning the hits, the bartender kept sending pitchers of beer over to the DJ's table. A college girl bought more drinks.

The witness said he wound up getting smashed, throwing up, and passing out. That night, he wound up sharing the priest's bed. "I woke up," the witness recalled. "It was still dark. His hand was next to my leg." The witness said he felt the priest's hand move to his thigh, and then, "he placed his hand on my penis," and finally, he tried to slip his hand into the boy's underwear.

"I really didn't know what to think," the witness testified. "I pretended I was asleep." He rolled over, to get away from Father Ed. The next morning, he woke up confused.

"I really admired this guy, I really worshiped him," the witness told the jury. So they stayed friends. When he was about to graduate high school in 1981, the witness said he asked Father Avery if he and his friends could spend Senior Week at the priest's beach house. The priest agreed. He also bought the liquor.

During Senior Week, the priest engaged in wrestling matches with the kids staying over at his beach house. Once while they were wrestling, the witness said, "his hand momentarily touched my genitals. It was brief and I just blew it off."

At 19, the witness went on a ski trip with Father Ed to Vermont. They wound up in the same bed again. And once again, Father Ed molested him. "He put his hand directly on my penis and started to massage it ... I became erect and ejaculated."

In the aftermath, the witness said he was upset, but conflicted. "Part of me still had affection for this person," he said. "He was a big figure in my life."

Finally, in 1992, the witness, then a married 29-yer-old medical student, decided he had to do something about Father Ed. He picked up the phone and called the office of the archdiocese's secretary for the clergy.

In a subsequent letter to the archdiocese, the witness said that he had been "hurt deeply by Father Avery." He was also worried that Father Ed might "act out these behaviors with other boys."

The witness subsequently wrote a letter to Father Avery, and sent it to the archdiocese, asking that it be forwarded to Father Ed. In the letter, the victim said he "had been carrying a burden around for all these years." He thought the priest had "cared about me in a fatherly way." And then Father Ed took advantage of that trust.

In his letter, the victim said the abuse left him "terrified at 15," and also feeling guilty.

"I always blamed myself for what happened," he wrote, and as he reread those words to the jury, the witness began to cry. "I didn't want you to touch me that way," he kept reading. He talked about "the wounds I have suffered at your hands."

"I will no longer carry this burden for you," the witness read, as he continued to cry. He closed the letter to Father Ed, by wishing him "peace on your journey," and "the ability to chose rightly."

"I didn't want this to happen to anybody else," the witness told the jury. Soon after Msgr. William J. Lynn met with the victim. And Father Avery was shipped off to St. John Vianney for psychiatric evaluation.

During an in-patient stay at St. John's, the priest was confronted by the victim. The witness explained how he and his wife met with Father Ed and his therapists, and read him the same letter he read to the jury.

"He just said, 'I had no idea,' several times," the witness testified.

In a subsequent 1996 email, the witness asked Msgr. Lynn what had happened with Father Ed. "Will the archdiocese vouch for the safety of its children," he asked.

In 2002, the witness said he heard from his family that Father Ed was still a priest, and still working as a disc jockey around young people. The witness was upset. "I didn't get feedback that I had been taken seriously," he told the jury. "They didn't see my story as credible for some reason."

On cross-examination, Thomas Bergstrom, a lawyer for Msgr. Lynn, pointed out to the witness that when he was molested at 19, it was not the last time he saw Father Avery. The defense lawyer brought up an accident where the witness was driving, and his fiancee was killed. At that time, Father Avery helped the witness get a lawyer, the defense lawyer said, and, according to the witness's own words, was a big help.

He also read a letter that Lynn had sent to the witness, saying how Father Avery had been shipped to a facility for a psychiatric evaluation. "I think that's fair," the witness said, agreeing that Lynn had kept him informed of what was going on with Father Ed.

When the cross examination was through, after some 20 minutes, the witness was ready to leave the stand, but Judge M. Teresa Sarmina had a question, namely how had the abuse had affected his life.

While defense lawyers squirmed, the witness replied that the abuse had resulted in "a great deal of difficulty for me." He said his experience with Father Ed had a definite impact on his relationships with "older male figures." Basically, he had a hard time trusting them, he said.

No Return to the Courtroom for Father Avery

Shortly before 2 p.m., Jeff Lindy, one of Msgr. William J. Lynn's defense lawyers, stood up in Courtroom 304 of the Criminal Justice Center to announce a deal.

The Commonwealth and the defense had agreed that there would be no questions on cross-examination of the former altar boy raped in 1998 by Edward V. Avery, the former archdiocese of Philadelphia priest now serving a prison sentence of 2 1/2 to 5 years.

Avery pleaded guilty on the eve of the archdiocese sex abuse trial to charges of conspiring to endanger the welfare of a child, and involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with a 10-year-old. His former victim, now 23, testified in court Wednesday about what the priest did to him. He described two sessions of oral sex and masturbation that took place after Mass in a supply closet at St. Jerome Church in Northeast Philadelphia.

Defense lawyers seemed eager to cross-examine the former altar boy, who was tearful, and did not appear overly confident on the witness stand. But the defense decided that the price of trying to poke holes in the witness's story was too high.



Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington had warned the defense that if they attempted to challenge the altar boy's testimony on the facts, the prosecution would tell the jury about Avery's guilty plea. The jury was never told why Avery disappeared from the defense table.

And Judge M. Teresa Sarmina had warned that if a contest arose over the former altar boy's testimony, she might allow five additional victims to appear in court who came forward in 2009 and 2010 to say that Father Avery had abused them back in the 1970s.

The final risk weighed by the defense was the specter of Avery being dragged into court in his prison jump suit to explain his whereabouts. That possibility was suggested twice by Judge Sarmina. So in the end, the defense it was wiser to let the former altar boy tell his story unchallenged. The thinking was, if they were able to poke holes in the victim's story, so what? Avery has already pleaded guilty.

So the prosecution was able to present their themes unchallenged to the jury, such as the church's penchant for secrecy, and lack of concern for the welfare of other possible victims.

Assistant District Attorney Mark Cipolletti asked the witness if he had ever been told that Father Avery was accused of molesting another altar boy at a previous parish.

"No," the witness said.

Father Avery wasn't the first priest who abused him, the witness said.  He testified that he had been sexually abused in the sacristy by another priest at St. Jerome's, Father Charles Engelhardt. The priest was arrested in February 2011 on charges of oral sodomy and molestation.

In court Wednesday, the witness said the priests at St. Jerome had a code word for sexually abusing altar boys -- they called it "sessions."

A few weeks after he was abused by Father Engelhardt, the witness said Father Avery took him aside, and said, "He heard about my sessions with Father Engelhardt, and that our sessions would begin soon."

The priest took the boy into a storage closet, shut the door behind him, and put some music on a CD player. "It sounded kind of churchy," the witness recalled, but with more of a beat. "He had me doing a strip tease for him."

The witness recalled "swaying" while he was taking off his clothes, and Father Avery watching him "with this eerie smile."The priest took off his clothes, and "he had me sit on his lap," the witness said. Then the priest said it was "time for me to become a man."

Afterwards, "He told me I did good, he told me to clean up, and he left," the witness said. He did not tell his mother or his father, a sergeant in the Philadelphia police department. "I was scared; I thought I would get in trouble," the witness told the jury. "I didn't think anybody would believe me."

Two weeks later, the witness said, Father Avery repeated the abuse. When the priest was finished, the witness testified, he said, "God loves me, and he'd see me again."

But the witness said after the abuse, he made sure he never served as an altar boy at any Mass said by Father Avery.

The witness said his life deteriorated after that. He started drinking and smoking pot. He attempted suicide. He took perkocets, oxycotton, xanax and heroin. "I think I'm up to 23 treatment facilities," he told the jury.

Cardinal Bevilacqua Appointed A Known Pedophile As Assistant Pastor

The therapist, Dr. Thomas J. Tyrrell, warned in the secret archive files in 1989 that his patient, Father Peter J. Dunne, was "a very sick man" who should be "relieved from active ministry."

Father Dunne was, according to the archdiocese's secret files, an extremely intelligent homosexual with addictive sexual behavior. He was also an untreatable pedophile, and a narcissist with an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. "We are sitting on a powder keg," Dr. Tyrrell warned in 1989.

Archdiocese officials had known since 1986 that Father Dunne had sexually abused a 13-year-old member of his Boy Scout troop. The archdiocese knew that the abuse went on for three years, and that the priest had paid the victim $40,000 to keep quiet. They also knew there had to be other victims. In the archdiocese's secret files, Dr. Terrell stated that he suspected the priest was guilty of being involved in a "myriad number of sexual misconduct cases."

In 1989, a second therapist, Dr. Eric Griffen-Shelley, reported to the archdiocese that Father Dunne was skipping out on his mandatory group therapy sessions. The therapist said he was "wondering if the archdiocese is putting itself at risk with someone so uncooperative on the loose."

"I believe that he [Father Dunne] is quite likely acting out sexually and needs to have firm limits set on his behavior," Dr. Griffen-Shelley concluded. On April 1, 1990, the doctor recommended removing Dunne from active ministry, adding, "A parish assignment is out of the question for a pedophile."

Yet, on May 25, 1990, Cardinal Bevilacqua wrote a letter notifying Father Dunne that he had just been appointed as assistant pastor of Visitation BVM in Trooper, Pa. In the letter, His Eminence waxed eloquent on the priestly ministry of a known pedophile.

"As an assistant pastor, you are called to know and love the people you serve, to care for the poor and needy, to teach the youth, to attend the sick and dying, and to assist in the overall maintenance of the parish," the cardinal wrote Father Dunne. "It is my fervent prayer that all of your priestly efforts will bear fruit in the hearts of God's people, and that the coming years will bring you ever closer to sanctity and salvation ... Sincerely yours in Christ, Anthony J. Bevilacqua, archbishop of Philadelphia."


On Monday and Tuesday in Courtroom 304, Detective James Dougherty read into the record more than 90 documents about Father Dunne that were culled from the priest's personnel records, and the archdiocese's secret archive files.

The documents told the story of a unrepentant pedophile priest, and an archdiocese bureaucracy that nurtured his predatory lifestyle. In 1986, a former boy scout wrote the archdiocese to tell them about how he had been abused between the ages of 13 and 16 by Father Dunne. The victim asked the archdiocese to look into the priest's activities, "to ascertain that he is not hurting other young people."

In subsequent letters, the victim's therapist and lawyer said the abuse began when the boy went to confession, and told Father Dunne he was attracted to other boys. In addition to having the boy say a few Our Fathers or Hail Marys, Father Dunne took the boy on a camping trip to his cabin in Bucks County. The priest had the boy sleep in his bed, and sleeping bag. The priest slept naked, and had the boy fondle his penis until the priest ejaculated.

Father Dunne's former victim grew up to become an abuser of young men. He lost his license as a doctor after he was convicted of sex abuse. In one letter, the victim's lawyer named three other boys that he said were victims of Father Dunne's.

When archdiocese officials questioned Father Dunne, the priest said he "may have been cuddling" but "not fondling" young boys. The priest admitted that he slept in the nude in the same bed with young boys, and that he swam nude with young boys. Father Dunne admitted he had two young men living with him at the rectory. But he denied abusing anybody.

Later in 1986, Father Dunne stopped denying the accusations, archdiocese officials noted in their records. "He didn't remember any such happenings -- maybe, he stated, he has a mental block," the records stated. Father Dunne also admitted to "six or seven other incidents of misconduct."

Father Dunne spent nine months at St. John Vianney, the archdiocese facility that treated priests with sex disorders. His therapist recommended that he be assigned to a specialized ministry which "would control his contact with children and adolescents, and [a residence with] someone who will assume responsibility for his whereabouts on a 24-hour per day basis."

But Cardinal John Krol in 1987 assigned Father Dunne to a job as assistant pastor of Nativity parish in Warminster.

When Cardinal Bevilacqua took over the archdiocese in 1988, he received a four-page report from the chancellor of the archdiocese that detailed the "very complicated case" of Father Dunne. The report warned the cardinal that Father Dunne had held "very sensitive assignments in the archdiocese,"  serving as a teacher for 13 years, administrator of St. Francis Vocational School for youths under court supervision, and assistant director of the archdiocese's scouting program.

Bevilacqua was told that the priest had exhibited "a pattern of denial," regarding his behavior. Father Dunne also didn't bother showing up for group therapy sessions. "I have beaten the system," Father Dunne bragged in 1988 to archdiocese officials.

And, despite being told not to do it, Father Dunne continued to counsel young boys one-on-one, and also go on overnight camping trips with young boys. In the archdiocese secret files, Dr. Tyrrell warned that Father Dunne was exhibiting all the behavioral aspects of a pedophile, with his denials, resistance to change, and "grooming behavior" when it came to young boys.

The priest was not interested in any efforts to rehabilitate him. "He does not believe he is a sexual addict," the secret archives said. The priest's therapists kept saying Father Dunne should be removed from ministry, because they did not see any signs that the priest wanted to change. If he leaves the ministry, "He would become a dirty old man," one archdiocese administrator predicted in 1989.

Even Cardinal Bevilacqua had his doubts about Father Dunne. On Sept. 15, 1989, an archdiocese administrator, Father John J. Jagodzinski, wrote Bevilacqua, "Doctor Thomas Tyrrell and three other therapists maintain  there is much potential for a recurrence of sexual abuse by Father Dunne. They have not ben able to move Father Dunne past the 'denial stage.'"

Father Jagodzinski told Bevilacqua that Father Dunne "must be given an ultimatum; either make a serious commitment to therapy or leave the active ministry."

"Thanks," Bevilacqua wrote back at the bottom of the memo in his own handwriting. "Be very cautious. I think he is trying to manipulate so that we can act according to his agenda. AJB."

In 1993, the program director at St. John Vianney sent a letter to Msgr. William J. Lynn, secretary for the clergy, informing him of the latest diagnosis of Father Dunne. He was a pedophile suffering from major depression, and a narcissistic personality disorder. The priest "should be held accountable for his behavior," the letter said.

Later that same year, Msgr. Lynn wrote Cardinal Bevilacqua, warning that Father Dunne was a pedophile who should be removed from active ministry. The cardinal instructed Lynne to tell Father Dunne to seek voluntary laicization, the process where a priest is busted down to layman. But Father Dunne said no, he had other ideas. In 1994, Father Dunne told Msgr. Lynne that he wanted "to go to his cabin to live," where he said, it would be virtually impossible to reach him by phone.

The following year, 1995, Father Dunne informed the archdiocese that he decided to retire, on a salary of $650 a month, plus benefits, room and board. He status was unchanged until 2004, when threatened with involuntary laicization, he agreed to live a "supervised life of penance and prayer" at Villa St. Joseph, a retirement home for priests.

On cross-examination, Thomas Bergstrom, representing Msgr. Lynn, asked Detective Dougherty if the documents in the secret archive files showed that Msgr. Lynn had a "quick response" when he received a 1992 letter from the wife of Father Dunne's first known victim of sex abuse.

"It would seem to indicate that, yes," the detective conceded.

Within three days of receiving the letter, Lynn told the wife the archdiocese would pay for the victim's therapy.

Bergstrom went through the list of archdiocese officials who knew that Father Dunne had sexually abused a 13-year-old boy back in 1986. The list included Cardinal Krol, Cardinal Bevilacqua, several therapists, and several other archdiocese officials. They all knew "this guy has abused a child," Bergstrom asked.

"It would appear that way, yes," the detective said.

The defense lawyer pointed out that in the secret archive files, Dr. Terrell had recommended two or three times that Father Dunne be removed from ministry. And yet, Cardinal Bevilacqua ignored that advice, and in 1990, appointed Father Dunne as assistant pastor to Visitation BVM in Trooper.

"Cardinal Bevilacqua had to know, had to know that he was appointing a pedophile," Bergstrom stressed.

"It would appear so to me," the detective said.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Will Father Avery Return to Court In a Jump Suit, Part 2

The issue of whether former priest Edward V. Avery would return to Courtroom 304 in a jump suit was argued again in court Tuesday, and the judge decided to keep all options open.

Avery is the defrocked archdiocese priest who pleaded guilty on the eve of the archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial to charges of conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child, and involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with a 10-year-old boy. The jury in the case was never told why Avery suddenly disappeared from the defense table.

On Wednesday, the former altar boy that Avery raped is scheduled to appear in court as a witness. He's going to tell his story of abuse, and then the defense lawyers in the case will have to decide how hard to go after the witness in cross-examination.

As it stands now, the former altar boy poses all the risks of a suicide bomber. If the defense decides to aggressively challenge the witness's credibility, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina may grant the prosecution permission to tell the jury about Avery's guilty plea.


That brought howls of protest from the defense lawyers, who complained that the news about Avery's guilty plea would be prejudicial to Msgr. William J. Lynn, one of two remaining defendants in the case. That's not fair, the defense lawyers said. Avery's lawyer isn't around to cross-examine the former altar boy. And, "We can't cross Avery," complained Thomas Bergstrom, one of Lynn's co-counsels.

The judge had a simple solution for that problem; let's just haul the former priest into court, and see what he has to say. Avery is now doing 2 1/2 to 5 years. For the defense, the wise move may be to give the witness a pass. After all, even if they blow up the former altar boy on cross, what does it matter? Avery has already pleaded guilty.

The judge also reminded the defense lawyers for Msgr. Lynn that they haven't exactly been ripping any prosecution witnesses apart lately. Last week, when the prosecution paraded three former sex abuse victims through the witness stand, the defense spent a grand total of less than 15 minutes cross-examining all three.

It probably would be wise to continue the trend, as the price of playing poker in Judge Sarmina's courtroom has gotten too high. The four lawyers on Lynn's defense don't want the jurors to see Father Avery in a prison jump suit, because they might automatically assume that Msgr. Lynn is guilty.

Lynn, the archdiocese's former secretary for the clergy, is the first Catholic administrator on trial in the country for his role in the pedophile priest scandal. Lynn is charged with conspiracy to endanger the welfare of children. Prosecutors in the case say that the monsignor knowingly shipped abuser priests from one parish to another, putting more children at risk, without any warning to parents.

Judge Sarmina told the lawyers in the case that if she decides to tell the jury about Avery's guilty plea, the jury will only be told about his guilty plea in the rape case, and not the guilty plea in the conspiracy to endanger children case.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington argued that the jury needs to know what happened to Father Avery.

"This jury was picked when another defendant was sitting there," he said, pointing toward the defense table. Blessington said if the defense goes after the former altar boy, and "challenges the events" as if they didn't happen, the prosecution has the right to tell the jury that the accused rapist, namely Father Avery, pleaded guilty to the crime, and is now doing time.

The judge adjourned court early Tuesday so lawyers on both sides could argue the issue of what to do about Father Avery. The judge also asked defense lawyers to submit case law in support of their arguments. The case that got the most discussion time in court was U.S. v. Massino.

 Joseph Massino, AKA "Big Joey," "The Last Don," and "The Ear," was the former boss of the Bonanno crime family who claimed it was prejudicial at his trial to mention some 30 associates who had already pleaded guilty.

So that's where we are in the archdiocese sex abuse case, now in its fifth week of testimony. To get the monsignor off, his lawyers are willing to compare his legal plight to that of a Mafia boss named Big Joey. But they may be overreaching.

The real don in this case, Big Tony, met his demise on Jan. 31, suspiciously on the day after Judge Sarmina ruled him competent to appear as a witness at this trial.

The cardinal left behind a videotaped deposition presided over by Judge Sarmina herself. But there are doubts about whether either side will play the video during the trial, supposedly because the cardinal came off like another Mafia boss, Vincent "The Chin" Gigante.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Will Father Avery Be Hauled Back to Court in a Jump Suit?

The judge in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial left open the possibility Monday that prosecutors may be allowed to haul into court a former priest who, on the eve of trial, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child and involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with a 10-year-old boy.

Edward V. Avery, a defrocked former archdiocese priest, is now serving a prison sentence of between 2 1/2 to 5 years. But his chief accuser, namely the former altar boy that he abused, is due in court on Wednesday. The question is whether defense attorneys in the case will be allowed to challenge the victim's credibility on cross-examination.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington told Judge M. Teresa Sarmina that if she rules that defense lawyers can challenge the victim's credibility, "We're back to square one, with Avery on trial here." That's when the judge suggested that the prosecution had the option of seeking permission to haul Avery back in court.


The jury has not been told about Avery's guilty plea. This was done at the request of the defense, which was worried that the news would prejudice the jury into thinking that Msgr. William J. Lynn was also guilty. Lynn, the archdiocese's former secretary for clergy, is on trial on charges of conspiring with Avery, and another co-defendant, Father James Brennan, to endanger the welfare of minors by allowing both priests to continue in ministry.

But Blessington complained that it would be misleading to allow the defense to attack the credibility of his accuser, and not tell the jury that Avery had already pleaded guilty to the charges. The assistant district attorney said by not getting rid of Avery earlier, "Lynn put a power keg out there, and his name is Avery."

"We're back at square one, to prove beyond an unreasonable doubt that the powder keg exploded," Blessington said.

But the defense wasn't convinced. "Mr. Blessington's argument doesn't make sense," said Jeff Lindy, one of the defense lawyers for Msgr. Lynn. Lindy said the whole case was about intent. "This trial is about his [Lynn's] state of mind," the defense lawyer said. In other words, was Msgr. Lynn consciously conspiring with Father Avery when Avery was allowed to continue in ministry.

Both sides indicated they had plenty more to say about the subject, before Avery's accuser shows up in court on Wednesday. So the judge said she would end court at 3:30 p.m. Thursday so the lawyers in the case could present some case law and make some final arguments. Then the judge will announce her decision.

What the Cardinal Knew, Or How to Hoover A Pedophile

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, Brian Tierney and his eager assistant, Jay Devine, for a face-to-face interview with His Eminence. 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 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 image as an energetic, charismatic shepherd out among his adoring flock. The cardinal's PR guys also suggested several priests to interview, boosters who would say positive things about what a wonderful job Bevilacqua was supposedly doing to re-energize the archdiocese.

It took months for the cardinal's PR people to settle on the right parish and the right pastor for the cardinal's parish visit, which would be the subject of photos and a big Sunday spread in the Inquirer.

There were some ground rules about 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 Slovak 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 down on the farm.

The seminarian referred to in the Grand Jury report showed up in court last week to testify about Gana's abuse. Here's what the grand jury report had to say about the seminarian, 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 manangers 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 posed the cardinal with a pedophile for a photo op that they knew would wind up on the front page of 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 one parish after another 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 the first thing that needs to be done is 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 thought he 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, because the cardinal had them "Hoovered," he could expect their unquestioned loyalty. So two pedophiles became part of the archdiocese spin machine.

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.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Msgr. Lynn on Sex Abuse Investigation: "The Case Fell Through the Cracks"

In formerly secret grand jury testimony that was read into the court record Thursday, Msgr. William J. Lynn tried to explain back in 2002 why the archdiocese chose not to investigate when told about minors who were possible victims of sex abuse.

The issue came up when a prosecutor in the grand jury asked Lynn about an interview he had with a seminarian studying for the priesthood who came forward in 1992 to allege that he had been sexually abused as a 13-year-old by Father Stanley M. Gana.

The seminarian, who testified in court earlier this week, told Lynn back in 1992 that the abuse from Father Gana, namely oral and anal sex, continued for five years. The seminarian also told Lynn that Father Gana was living with himself and two other boys at a 110 acre farm in northern Pennsylvania that the priest owned. The priest used the boys as farm hands, and put them on a nightly rotation, so they could take turns sharing his bed.

The seminarian identified the other two boys being abused by Gana. But the archdiocese decided not to talk to either boy, Lynn told the grand jury. As a result, Father Gana continued in active ministry and the archdiocese did nothing until 1995, when a second victim came forward and essentially told Lynn the same story that the seminarian did, namely that he had been abused by Father Gana for years, including oral and anal sex, beginning when he was 14.

Lynn told the grand jury that the reason the archdiocese did nothing was because it was worried about inflicting more trauma on the alleged victims. The archdiocese decided on their non-investigation policy after conferring with psychiatrists and therapists, Lynn said. "You might re-victimize them again," Lynn told the grand jury about former minors who had been sexually abused. "They might have moved on with their lives."

Msgr. Lynn, the archdiocese's former secretary for the clergy, is the first Catholic administrator in the country to be charged with conspiracy to endanger children in connection with the pedophile priest scandal. He watched from the defense table Thursday as the prosecution reenacted his grand jury testimony.

Assistant District Attorney Anthony Pomeranz sat on the witness stand, playing the role of the monsignor, as he read Lynn's grand jury answers into the record. And Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington, playing the part of the grand jury prosecutor, read the questions to Pomeranz, for the benefit of the jury in the ongoing Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse case.

In his grand jury testimony, Lynn was asked why the archdiocese didn't follow its own policies when it was notified back in 1992 about the sex abuse allegations against Father Gana, and send the priest out for psychiatric evaluation.

"The case fell through the cracks," Lynn told the grand jury.

Lynn told the grand jury back in 2002 that the archdiocese couldn't do anything about the seminarian's allegations against Gana because, "all we had was one word against the other."

"I didn't have any hard facts," Lynn told the grand jury. Lynn said he also didn't fully believe the seminarian's story.  "There was some doubt about his credibility since he was under investigation himself," Lynn said.

The seminarian told his classmates that he had been abused by Father Gana, who kept showing up at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. While in his eighth and final year of studying for the priesthood, the seminarian found out he was under investigation for allegedly having sexual relations with another seminarian, and questioning church teaching.

The inquiry concluded the charges against the seminarian were inconclusive. The seminarian was given a choice; find another diocese to become a priest, or the archdiocese was going to laicize him, the formal process of getting busted down to a lay person. The seminarian opted to relocate to Bridgeport, CT, where he became a priest.

But when the second victim came forward in 1995, and made the same charges against Father Gana, "it added more credibility to [the first victim's] claims," Lynn told the grand jury. That's when Father Gana was shipped out for psychiatric evaluation.

"Looking back, it was one of those things that just fell through the cracks," Lynn told the grand jury.

In 1995, after the second victim came forward, the archdiocese removed Father Gana as pastor of Our Mother of Sorrows Church in Bridgeport, and granted him a leave of absence "for reasons of health," rather than explain that Gana was under investigation for sexually abusing minors.

While undergoing in-patient treatment in 1996 at a facility in Canada, Father Gana confessed that the allegations against him were true.

Even though the archdiocese had heard credible allegations from the two victims, Father Gana was given another assignment, as chaplain of a convent of Carmelite nuns. He continued to work as a visiting priest, saying Mass and fraternizing with altar boys. In 2002, after the Boston priest abuse scandal, the archdiocese of Philadelphia granted an administrative leave to Gana. In 2004, when threatened with involuntary laicization, Father Gana decided to live "a supervised life of prayer and penitence" under the direction of the archdiocese. He is still a priest.

Also in court Thursday, the prosecution called as a witness Jack Rossiter, a detective who had worked on behalf of the archdiocese, investigating sex abuse. Rossiter only testified for 15 minutes until there was a problem. The prosecutor introduced as an exhibit typed notes of Rossiter's interview with Father James J. Brennan, who is charged with attempted rape of a 14-year-old.

When Judge M. Teresa Sarmina found out that Rossiter still had hand-written notes from his original interview with Father Brennan, Rossiter's testimony was suspended until the detective could return to court with both his hand-written and retyped notes from his interview with Father Brennan.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Catholic Victim of Clerical Sex Abuse: "I Have an Emptiness Where My Soul Used To Be"

As a teenager, the witness, a bearded man in a gray suit, said he was raped and sodomized by a family friend.

He became "very despondent and depressed," so he told his mother what had happened. She advised him to go see a priest.

The priest that his mother sent him to was Father Stanley M. Gana, one of the premiere sexual abusers of minors employed by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Soon, Father Gana was practicing "masturbation and sodomy" on the 14-year-old boy. It went on for five years, with Father Gana virtually taking over every aspect of the victim's life.

Father Gana didn't want the victim to have any friends his age. So he put the boy to work on a 110-acre farm he owned in northern Pennsylvania. Father Gana wouldn't let him go to his high school prom or senior week down the shore. Instead, Father Gana wanted the victim to spend time with him, either at his farm, or in his bedroom in the rectory, so he could abuse him.

When the victim graduated from high school, he wanted to become a Navy SEAL, but Father Gana said no, that would be evil. The priest told the boy to go to nursing school instead, which he did.

When the victim finally found the courage to break away from Father Gana, he got hooked on drugs and alcochol. He sought help from a psychologist and a therapist. Besides being a recovering addict, the victim also is disabled, and he told the jury his marriage ended in divorce.

A nun at Catholic Social Services that the victim described as "Sister Mary from hell" told him he was spending too much time in counseling. He needed God in his life, the nun said; she told him that prayer would heal his wounds. But on the witness stand Wednesday, the victim, now 48, told the jury in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse case that he might be beyond help.

"I have an emptiness where my soul used to be," he said.

The victim's mother was a member of a Charismatic Catholic group that met at Ascension of Our Lord in Kensington. Father Gana was the leader of the group. In court, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington asked the witness to describe was a charismatic Catholic was. The group was into speaking in tongues and prophecy, the witness said. They believed that "your life can be enriched more through the Holy Spirit than Jesus Christ."

The victim didn't want to go to the priest, but his mother insisted. When he met with Father Gana, the priest took him into a private room for a one-on-one counseling session. The priest listened attentively while the boy described how he had been abused. When it was all over the priest stood up, and said, "I'm gonna do something that's going to make you feel uncomfortable." And then the priest gave him a hug.

It did make the boy feel uncomfortable, but the priest said he had to learn that men can show each other affection without it being about sex.

The victim began attending the meetings of the charismatic Catholics. After the meetings, the priest would bring some Catholics up to his room at the rectory. They would laugh and talk and joke with the priest. Soon, the victim was one of the regulars in Father Gana's room.

When they were alone together, Father Gana would give the boy a hug, then a kiss on the cheek. Soon, they were sharing the same bed.

"I had to learn that if I slept in the same bed with a man, that didn't mean he wanted to have sex with
me," the witness told the jury. When the victim expressed doubts to his mother about whether the priest was planning to do to victimize him the same way the family friend did, his mother told him, "she would never think that Father Gana would do that," the victim said.

But soon, Father Gana was masturbating and sodomizing the boy. "I'm talking anal sex," he told the jury. The priest convinced the boy's parents that their son, who was drinking and smoking marijuana, would be safer working at the priest's farm, and leading a clean country life.

"My job was to run the farm," the witness testified. What did he know about farm work, Blessington wanted to know. Nothing, he said. But he related what Father Gana had told him, "It's not that hard to take a shovel and move shit around."

That first summer at the farm, the victim stayed there with his parents and two younger brothers. His father was an unemployed maintenance man. Father Gana would sexually abuse the victim in the priest's upstairs bedroom while his parents slept in a downstairs bedroom.

The priest manipulated the boy's family by telling them that he was a troubled youth who needed the priest's guidance to stay out of trouble, and off the streets. And Father Gana told the victim that his parents were evil, and did not treat him right.

"He always told me that he loved me," the witness said.

Did you believe him, Blessington wanted to know.

"Yes," he said, adding, "and I believed I loved him."

In subsequent summers, the victim was the only member of the family who stayed at the farm. But Father Gana had other roommates: two boys who took turns sharing the priest's bedroom with him. Each boy was being sexually abused by Father Gana.

Indeed, the priest, who was in his 40s, bragged about his prowess that he was simultaneously "bedding three guys," the witness told the jury. "There was a rotational schedule."

But Father Gana always told him, "I was his number one boy," the witness said.

Father Gana bought the victim a car, and when the summer was over, he let him take it back to high school. When the victim's father borrowed the car, the priest had a fit. He told the victim to tell his father the car needed to be fixed, so he couldn't use it.

You lied to your parents because the priest told you to? Blessington asked.

Yes I did, he said. "My father would ..." and then the witness started crying.

"Just give me a minute," he said. When he composed himself, he explained that his father had to drive his old broken-down car "to work in the snow and the rain" because of Father Gana.

Gana took the victim and other boys on trips to Disney World, the Jersey shore, Niagra Falls and Notre Dame. The abuse never stopped. "The rotation continued," the witness testified.

One boy ran away from Father Gana's farm and was replaced by another one, the witness told the jury. When the new boy entered the rotation, the witness said he asked Father Gana if he was having sex with the new boy. When the priest finally admitted it, "I was pissed off," the witness said.

The priest's solution was to have both boys in bed with him at the same time. But then Father Gana got jealous. He left the farm one night, and called back at 2:30 in the morning, obviously drunk, and "accusing me of having sex with" the new boy, the witness said.

Other people noticed the life the priest was living, and didn't think it was right. Father Gana's brother went to Cardinal John Krol, the victim testified, and told him that Father Gana was living on a farm with young boys.

But the priest told the victim on the witness stand that he beat the rap by diverting the investigatory efforts of the archdiocese to a pastor who was having an affair with his housekeeper. The priest told the victim the archdiocese investigation "was a big joke," and that "he got away with it."

When he was in nursing school, the victim told a fellow student about what was going on with Father Gana. The priest was becoming more jealous. "He was accusing me of going out with the girls," the witness said. He had finally had enough.

When the priest came to see him, "I turned around and told him I didn't want to see him anymore," the witness said.

Depressed and suicidal, the victim told a psychologist about the abuse. But he was confused. He said he didn't want to have sex with the priest, but he did want to stay friends. "I thought I loved him," he said. So the psychologist's advice was to stay friends with the priest.

But every time he tried to see Gana as a friend, "he pressured me for sex," the victim said. He did not give into the priest. He also realized, "what Gana had done to me wasn't love; he abused me."

The victim finally decided to tell his mother what Father Gana had done to him. He told the jury what his mother said to him upon learning the truth: "You don't expect me to stop being friends with him because of this, do you?"

The victim then related to the jury how he turned the tables on the priest. He asked the priest for a loan so that his sister could buy a house. The priest gave him $15,000 in cash. The witness testified he subsequently told Father Gana to forgive the $15,000 loan, and give him another $10,000, or else the victim would report him to the archdiocese.

Father Gana forgave the loan, and also wrote the victim four checks totaling $10,000, the witness testified.

In 1995, 13 years after the sexual abuse with Father Gana had ended, the victim got sober, and went to see the archdiocese. He ended up in the office of Monsignor William J. Lynn, secretary for the clergy.

"I was reporting Gana's sexual abuse of me," the victim testified. He said he also told Msgr. Lynn about the other victims that Gana had abused. "I can find them, I know where they live," the victim testified that he told the monsignor.

But Lynn didn't think that was a good idea. "Don't contact them," the victim said Lynn told them. "They may be healed, and I might cause them more harm."

The victim wanted a cash settlement from the archdiocese. He also had another demand: he wanted the archdiocese to take out a full-page ad in The Philadelphia Inquirer that said Father Gana was a pedophile, and leave a number that anybody could call who had been victimized by Gana.

But Lynn didn't think much of that idea either. He told the victim that such an ad was "not possible" because "it would impinge on Gana's rights."

Lynn told the victim he would investigate his allegations and get back to him. Lynn asserted that Gana was not a pedophile, but an alcoholic who needed treatment. Lynn also told the victim, "the archdiocese does not make financial settlements."

A year later, the victim again phoned Lynn to complain that Father Gana was stil an active priest in the archdiocese, and he asked "about him [Gana] being around young boys."

That led to a meeting between the victim and Lynn at archdiocese headquarters. Lynn told the victim that Father Gana had denied the allegations, the victim testified. The archdiocese had a policy of only paying for therapy if the accused priest had confessed, Lynn told the victim. Since Father Gana had denied the allegations, the archdiocese didn't have to pay for the victim's therapy. But out of "charitable concern," Lynn told the victim, the archdiocese was going to pay his therapy bills

But Lynn was not telling the truth. As the jury knew from previous testimony, Father Gana had been sent to a treatment facility, where he had confessed that the allegations were true.

In 1997, the victim met with Lynn for a third time. By that time, the victim said, "I am an unemployed, depressed junkie on disability." Then he corrected himself to say that at that time he was sober.

The victim testified that he kept pressing Lynn to allow him to meet with Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. "I thought this was being hidden from the cardinal," the victim testified. He believed that Bevilacqua's "underlings" were keeping the truth from him.

He testified that he was thinking, "If only the cardinal knew, only to find out that the cardinal himself was the ringleader of the whole damn thing."

He asked for a cash settlement, but was offered assistance from Catholic Social Services. In 2002, the victim again asked the archdiocese for a cash settlment, but got two letters back from archdiocese lawyers saying, "There would be no settlement," the witness said.

On cross-examination, Thomas Bergstrom asked the victim in a hushed and somber voice if he knew that when he met with Msgr. Lynn in 1996 and 1997, was he aware that his complaints about Father Gana had resulted in the priest being removed as pastor of his parish.

No, he said.

Did the victim know that his complaints about Father Gana had resulted in the priest being reassigned as a chaplain to a convent of Carmelite nuns?

Yes, he said.

Bergstrom asked the victim about his abuse at the hands of a family friend, and his mother's decision to send him to see Father Gana.

"From the frying pan into the fire?" Bergstrom said.

Yes, the victim said.

Bergstrom turned to the victim's financial demands. The defense lawyer pointed out that the victim had extracted $25,000 from Father Gana. Yes, the victim said. Bergstrom asked about the lawsuit he wanted to file against the archdiocese.

The victim said he discovered he "couldn't sue because the statute of limitations barred me." He did say, under Bergstrom's questionning, that he had asked the archdiocese for $375,000 in damages.

When the lawyer suggested that demand had grown to between $500,000 and $1 million, the victim said his highest demand was for a "mid to high six-figures."

Bergstom looked at the judge and said he had no more questions. The victim, looking grim, and with his head down, walked out of the courtroom.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Jurors Hear About Perverted Passion Play

Jurors in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial Tuesday were told about a perverted passion play where teenage boys who played Jesus were stripped naked, dressed in a loincloth, and then whipped with leather straps until they had cuts, bruises and welts on their bodies.

It was a new low of depravity as the sex abuse trial continued into its fourth week of testimony.

Detective James Dougherty of the District Attorney's Special Victims Unit dispassionately read confidential records from the archdiocese's secret archive files into the court record.

The files told the story of how Father Thomas J. Smith would personally dress one 12-year-old boy who played Jesus. The priest would bring the boy into the sacristy, lock the door behind him, and have the boy strip naked. Then the priest would kneel down in front of the naked boy, and pin a loincloth on him. Sometimes, Father Smith was clumsy and would "poke him with pins."

"This was done before every performance," the records said. The priest took at least 20 minutes to dress the boy in a loincloth and a cloak. The boy "felt uncomfortable" and "wanted to quit, but his parents wouldn't allow it." Father Smith had two other boys who played Jesus strip for the passion play. He also encouraged other boys in the play to whip "Jesus" with leather straps, to the point where the boy was bruised and felt pain.

The three boys weren't the only victims. The archdiocese review board found that the perverted passion play "occurred in multiple parish assignments with a number of different boys over a number of years."


The story came out in 2002, when one of the boys who had played Jesus contacted the Delaware County District Attorney and the archdiocese. The victim was identified as 29-year-old man. He wrote the archdiocese to say that back in 1986 when he was 12 years old, he thought it would be an honor to play Jesus in the parish passion play. Instead, he was abused by Father Smith.

The victim wrote that he was a recovering alcoholic. He didn't want money, and he didn't want to file a lawsuit. "I just want to tell my story and put it in God's hands," the victim told archdiocese officials. He also notified the archdiocese that Father Smith had taken boys into a hot tub at an athletic club, and told the boys falsely that the club's rules were that they had to strip naked to be in the hot tub. He said he knew of as many as 16 other boys who had been allegedly abused by Father Smith.

In response, the secret archive files showed that the archdiocese launched an investigation, but when they got through investigating, they didn't think they had a pedophile priest on their hands. Msgr. William J. Lynn, however, did meet with Father Smith and confront him with the victim's claims.

Father Smith admitted to Lynn that what he had done was "stupid." He said he did have the boys strip, but said they would only "be naked for a split second." The priest said he required the boys in the passion play to strip "for authenticity." The priest also copped to being naked in the hot tub with naked boys. Father Smith admitted both the passion play strippings and hot tub caper were "inappropriate" behavior for a priest.

"Maybe his thing was to look and not touch," Msgr. William J. Lynn ruminated in the secret archive files. It may be inappropriate behavior, the monsignor concluded, but "it does not appear to be sexual abuse," because what Father Smith did was "not for sexual gratification."

The archdiocese learned of other victims who had played Jesus in the passion play. One victim was the teenage son of former state Rep. Stephen F. Freind. "His son had the same experience" in 1983, the secret archive files said.

In an interview yesterday, Freind acknowledged that his son had been one of the victims. As a self-described "old-fashioned Catholic," Freind said he was "completely disgusted and disillusioned" by what is going on in his church. He said that some Catholic priests involved in the current scandals forgot to do the right thing. "The right thing is never lying and never covering up," Freind said, "and never putting those children at risk again."

Msgr. Lynn recommended that Father Smith's ministry be limited, and that he not be allowed to work around children or teenagers. "It's obvious that Father Smith likes to look," Lynn was quoted as saying in the secret files. Lynn encouraged Father Smith to resign his job at the time of regional vicar of Delaware County.

Father Smith agreed, saying he need a leave of absence to look after his ailing parents. But he also wanted to take some courses, so he wrote to Cardinal Bevilacqua, asking for an "educational sabbatical," rather than divulging the real reasons for his departure. Father Smith closed his letter to the cardinal by writing, "Sincerely yours in Christ." The cardinal granted the request in 2003

During his sabbatical, the priest kept his archdiocese residence, salary and benefits. The archdiocese also paid for his courses, and the priest's ongoing counseling. 

But in 2004, after receiving new reports from more alleged victims, the archdiocese review board reversed itself, and declared that the victims' accounts from the passion play were now credible, and did constitute sex abuse. The priest was granted a leave of absence, and was retired from active ministry.

 On cross examination, Jeff Lindy, a defense lawyer representing Msgr. Lynn, stressed that the archdiocese didn't formally know about the perverted passion play until 2002. Within two weeks, Lindy said, Lynn had Father Smith in his office.

"Within two weeks, Msgr. Lynn got, what your term would be a confession from Father Smith," Lindy asked Detective Dougherty, his voice rising.

"It would appear to be a partial confession," Dougherty replied.

On redirect, Ast. District Attorney Patrick Blessington brought up that the victim of the passion play had informed Msgr. Lynn about as many as 16 other alleged victims of Father Smith. Is there any evidence in the secret archive files, Blessington wanted to know, that Msgr. Lynn did anything to investigate those other alleged victims?

"Not that I've seen to this date," the detective said.

Should the alleged other victims have been investigated?

"One would hope so, sir," the detective said.

Lindy erupted. He asked the detective "a simple yes or no question," whether Lynn had been trained like Dougherty as a former homicide detective to investigate crime, but Blessington objected, and the judge sustained it.

Lindy protested that Dougherty should be allowed to answer the question because, "He's a tough guy." But when Lindy tried again, the district attorney objected again, and the judge sustained it again.

So Lindy sat down in frustration, but not before making his point.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Prosecution Puts the Archdiocese of Philadelphia On Trial

Shortly before court opened Monday, defense lawyer Jeff Lindy was trying to make a point with the judge before the jury entered the courtroom.

"The archdiocese isn't on trial, the monsignor is on trial," Lindy asserted.

At issue was whether the prosecution was justified in treating current employees of the archdiocese as hostile witnesses, as was the case last week when Bishop Robert P. Maginnis testified. The retired 78-year-old bishop, the former vicar of Montgomery County, didn't seem to have much of a memory on the witness stand. He told prosecutors he couldn't recall many details about a 1985 incident where the feds raided a rectory in Montgomery County, and arrested a priest, Father Edward DePaoli, after they found $15,000 worth of foreign kiddie porn under his bed.

You'd think an incident like that would stick in your mind. The bishop, however, said he couldn't remember; the prosecution thought he was stonewalling.

"The archdiocese is not a hostile party, the archdiocese is not a party," Lindy argued. He was talking about the case of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. William J. Lynn, Edward V. Avery and James Brennan, now playing in Courtroom 304 of the Criminal Justice Center.

Lindy is one of four defense lawyers representing Monsignor William J. Lynn. Technically, Lindy is right; the archdiocese of Philadelphia is not listed as a defendant in the case. But thanks to a favorable ruling by Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, that's exactly what the prosecution has been able to do, put the archdiocese on trial in Courtroom 304. And it was never more in evidence than on Monday.

As the archdiocese's secretary for clergy from 1992 from 2004, Msgr. Lynn was in charge of making personnel recommendations, although for most of his tenure, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua had the final say on what priest was assigned to what parish. Lynn is charged with conspiring to aid his co-defendants, Father Brennan, accused of attempted rape of a 14-year-old, and Father Avery, who before the trial began, pleaded guilty to charges of raping a 10-year-old, and was sentenced to 2 1/2 to 5 years in prison.

A grand jury found in 2011 that Lynn had "abetted the perpetrators' crimes [Father Brennan and Father Avery] by systematically assisting sexually abusive priests to remain in ministry, where they had easy access to hundreds of children."  Prosecutors say Lynn conspired to shuffle Father Avery and Father Brennan  from parish to parish, while ignoring the risks to future victims, and not warning parishioners.

That's a bad enough case for the defense to argue against. But thanks to Judge Sarmina, the prosecution was allowed to bring into the case the histories of 21 former archdiocese priests previously accused of sex abuse. Those added cases date back to 1948, two years before Lynn was born, to allow the prosecution to show the jury an alleged pattern of behavior, namely giving abuser priests a pass.

In court Monday, the prosecution brought in three witnesses who testified that they were molested as minors by three of the 21 additional priests not on trial in the current case: Father Thomas J. Smith, Father Stanley M. Gana, and Father Francis X. Trauger. And the cumulative effect of that testimony was devastating.

The most powerful witness of the trio was a slender 45-year-old bearded priest who wore eyeglasses and a suit. Unlike other victims who have appeared as witnesses during this trial, the priest never shed a tear, raised his voice, or made wild accusations. He was chillingly calm, as if he had had plenty of time to reflect on his ordeal. And during the dispassionate, almost scholarly analysis that he shared with the jury, the witness had several chances to take shots at Msgr. Lynn, but he acted in a priestly fashion, and never did. As a result, his testimony was even more powerful.

The priest told the jury that he was born into a hard-core Catholic family with three older sisters and a younger brother. The family belonged to Our Lady of Calvary Church in Northeast Philadelphia.

"Our life revolved around the Catholic Church," the witness testified. His family had "great respect and admiration for any priest."

The witness was a 13-year-old eighth-grader in 1980 when he first saw Father Stanley M. Gana pull up in a station wagon at Our Lady of Calvary, where he had just been appointed as the new pastor. The first time the pastor spoke to the boy, he complimented him on well he read at Mass. The compliment "meant the world to me," the boy told the jury. As a boy, his deeply religious mother wanted him to be a priest. She was thrilled when Father Gana began showering attention on her son.

Father Gana owned a farm outside of Scranton, where he invited the boy to spend the weekend. To the boy's devout Catholic parents, "It was a no-brainer," the witness testified. "It was an honor to go."

Father Gana was a huge man, more than 350 pounds. He liked to play cards in his bedroom with the boy, because there was "more room to stretch out," the witness told the jury. "Why don't you take off your shirt," the witness recalled the priest telling the skinny youth. Next it was his pants.

"He was telling me he loved me," the witness said. The priest told the boy that he appreciated his hairless body. Father Gana introduced the boy to oral sex. "He tried to penetrate me anally many times," the witness said. "I could not tolerate that pain."

Father Gana would stop out of concern for the boy. "As a manipulator, he knew what to say. I was so trusting, and so naive," the witness said. But Father Gana persisted until he finally raped the boy anally. The priest would have sex with the boy three and four times a week, either at the priest's farm house, or at the rectory. The abuse continued for years, the boy said, because he was afraid of angering Father Gana. He also said he made the mistake of "believing that a Catholic priest would never harm me." The witness said he was also "afraid of losing his love."

Father Gana would reward the boy's family for allowing him to spend time with their son by dropping off groceries and cleaning supplies. "He bought in bulk," the witness said. The priest would drop off a case of paper towels at the boy's home and, "It was such an honor to my mom."

Father Gana would say, "I need [the victim] to run some errands. Can he go? And the answer was always, 'yes,'" the witness told the jury. Father Gana showed the boy naked pictures of another boy he was having sex with, something the victim hadn't done. "This is why you'll never be as good as him," the witness recalled Father Gana telling him.

Father Gana would have sex with one boy, and then tell the witness, "I'll see you after the 6 o'clock Mass." That meant it was his turn.

The abuse continued when the victim entered the seminary at St. Charles Borromeo in 1984, to become a priest. At the seminary, the victim made new friends, which made Father Gana jealous. The victim also told his new friends about what Gana had done to him. The next year, 1985, the victim confronted the priest, who was always showing up at the seminary. "I know what he's doing to me, and it's going to stop," the witness said he told Father Gana.

Father Gana started crying, and saying, "This is hurting me." The priest got angry, saying he had been good to the victim, and had done more for him than his family did. But the man on the witness stand said he was determined to break "the chains of the relationship that bound me."

The victim went to see Father William J. Lynn, who at the time, was dean of students at the seminary, and said he needed counseling. He made the request even though he didn't think that Lynn thought much of him.

"I just didn't think Father Lynn would be supportive of me," the witness said. But he was desperate.

"I knew that I needed help," the victim said. " I couldn't help but blame myself. With the physical act, comes physical shame. You feel dirty."

 The victim figured that without counseling, he might commit suicide or become addicted to drugs, to numb the pain.

But Lynn told the victim he was worried that people would start thinking that there was a problem at the seminary because so many students needed counseling. "They'll think we're all crazy here," the victim recalled Father Lynn telling him.

But the victim insisted on, and got counseling. In the 1991-92 academic year, his eighth and final year at the seminary, when he had been approved as a church deacon, the victim found that he was under investigation. The charges were allegedly having sex with another seminarian, and questioning church teaching. During the investigation, Karpinski said he told Monsignor James Molloy, vicar for administration, about the abuse by Father Gana. Also listening to the story was William Lynn, at that time the assistant vicar for administration.

The inquiry of the seminarian concluded that the charges against him were inconclusive. But that didn't mean he'd been exonerated. The man on the witness stand, who was viewed as spreading rumors about Father Gana, was given a choice by Cardinal Bevilacqua: seek another diocese to become a priest at, or the archdiocese would begin laicization, the formal process of busting the victim from deacon to lay person.

The victim transferred to the diocese of Bridgeport, Ct., where he became a priest in 1993. While the victim's family was planning his ordination, his father wanted to invite Father Gana to the ceremony. The victim said he told his father, "It's my ordination, and he's not coming."

By then his mother was dead. The man on the witness stand said he still could not tell  his father the reason why he didn't want Father Gana to come to the ordination. "I could never tell my parents," he said. "They loved the church so tremendously that I could never break their hearts."

In 1998, the victim, who was now a priest, heard that Father Gana was still ministering as a priest. He wrote a letter to William J. Lynn, then secretary for clergy, saying, "I had serious concerns about Stanley Gana's presence in the archdiocese of Philadelphia."

Lynn met with the victim and told him that Father Gana had not been classified as a pedophile, and that he was not a risk in his present assignment as chaplain to a Carmelite monastery of nuns. He said the priest had been found to be stealing money from his former parish. The victim told the jury that he had "a very pleasant conversation" with Lynn, and that he felt "Father Lynn respected and believed me." Lynn also told the victim that the investigation of him as a seminarian "would have been handled differently" if it had been done in 1998.

In 1999, the victim heard from his sister that Father Gana was working as a substitute priest in the archdiocese, saying Mass at St. Catherine of Sienna, and that she saw him in the sanctuary with altar boys. The victim spoke to Lynn again, and Lynn told him that the mother superior at the church knew about Father Gana's past, and kept an eye on him to make sure that he was never alone with the altar boys.

"He doesn't need to be alone with those boys," the victim said he told Lynn. But Father Gana went on saying Mass.

In 2002, the Boston pedophile priest scandal exploded, and victim realized he had not been the victim of an isolated incident, but an epidemic. When a grand jury in Philadelphia began investigating sex abuse, the victim was summoned to testify. It was "a very very emotional experience for me," the victim said. He also realized, "selfishly," he said, that Father Gana was still continuing in ministry in the archdiocese of Philadelphia, the same archdiocese that did not want the victim as a priest.

Soon, the witness said he came to another realization. "I could no longer represent an institution," he said, that would not protect children. "I could no longer represent an institution that did not protect me."

So the priest asked for, and received, a leave of absence. "I knew I needed to distance myself from the church."

When it came time for cross-examination, Thomas Bergstrom, representing Msgr. Lynn, asked the victim about a letter Lynn had sent him that said, "I do not act independently of Cardinal Bevilacqua." The victim agreed. Within ten minutes, he was off the witness stand.

Also testifying Monday was a second victim, a 50-year-old man, who told the jury what happened when he was in seventh or eighth grade. His family was "very close with Father Smith. "He was at our house many times for dinner." He also took the second victim and another boy on a trip to Hershey Park.

On the way to Hershey Park, the priest's RV developed mechanical problems, so they had to stop at a hotel.

In the hotel, the priest drank whiskey and gave the boys whiskey mixed with soda while they played cards. The boys were wearing t-shirts and underwear. "He started chasing us around the room," the second victim said, and then the priest stuffed ice in their underwear.

When it came time for bed, the priest told the boys they couldn't sleep in wet underwear. So the boy took off his clothes, and got into bed with the priest, while the other boy slept on the floor. During the night, the witness testified, he woke up and, "I was on top of him naked ... I had an erection and so did he."

"His eyes were open; so were mine," the witness said. The priest let go. The rest of the night, "I just laid there staring at the ceiling."

"Did you say anything," Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington asked.

"No," the witness said. "I've asked myself that question for years."

Jeff Lindy, representing Msgr. Lynn, had only one question for the witness on cross-examination. When the victim finally told a detective representing the archdiocese his story in 2004, did he know that it was two months after Bill Lynn had stepped down as secretary for the clergy?"

"No," the witness said. And then he was dismissed.

A third victim, a 43-year-old man with a shaved head, told the jury about what happened back when he was 14, in junior high, and a member of the swim team and the track team.

His family looked up to Father Trauger like a "a trusted family friend," he testified. So that's why the priest was allowed to take the 14-year-old to the priest's cabin in the Poconos, so he could do some chores for the priest like mow the lawn.

The priest wanted to camp out in the yard, in a small tent. The boy had his shirt off and wore jogging shorts; the priest wore a t-shirt and shorts. What happened that night in the tent, the prosecutor asked the witness.

The witness turned to the jury. The priest tried to "take advantage of me," he said. Father Trauger began by putting his hand on the boy's knee and offering to give him a massage. Then his hand moved up the boy's thigh. "He tried to fondle my penis. I told him to stop," the witness said, while crying. "It seemed like forever."

The boy ran out of the tent and into the cabin. He had a pen knife with him. "I swore if he came in, I was gonna kill him." The boy stayed in the cabin. The next day the priest acted like nothing happened. The priest drove the boy home to his family's place in the Poconos. When they got there, his parents weren't home, and the boy ended up on the floor watching TV, with his dog.

The priest suggested they wrestle, and have a tickle fight. The boy told him he wasn't interested. "I ran out of the house crying," he said. He stood outside until his parents came home. Then he told him what happened. His father, a Philadelphia police officer, went inside and confronted the priest, who left shortly thereafter. The victim's father went down to the archdiocese and told them what happened. The father later told his son that the priest "was being sent away.

In 2003, after the pedophile priest scandal in Boston, a detective from the archdiocese of Philadelphia showed up to take a statement. "Twenty-one years after this event, was the church interested in what I had to say," the witness said.

His cross-examination lasted two minutes. Jeff Lindy tried to ask the witness a question, namely was it in 2003 that you first contacted the archdiocese? But the witness didn't want to answer that question with a simple yes or no. Instead, he kept repeating, while staring at the jury, that the archdiocese had waited 21 years to question him. After a few go-arounds, Lindy angrily gave up. "I think the jury knows what's going on here," he said, before sitting down.

It's an old rule that when a witness is killing you, get rid of him fast. The defense got rid of three witnesses Monday with a total of less than 15 minutes of cross-examination. But that was after the trio had inflicted heavy damage.

As the nun with the cross around her neck who left the courtroom said, "The archdiocese of Philadelphia is on trial in this case." And for the defense, the worst thing that could happen is if the jury starts wondering why Bill Lynn didn't do what the first victim did, namely the seminarian who became a priest, and then decided he couldn't be a part of it anymore. Why, the jury might ask, didn't Bill Lynn at some point just walk away?
 

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