Thursday, March 29, 2012

Archdiocese Priest Fondled 13-year-old Girl in Rectory

It was a job that she never applied for. The victim was 13 years old when her mother accepted the position on her behalf. The victim's mother went to Mass every day; sometimes twice a day. The only thing that mattered to Mom was that the church was in need.

The victim, the parish cook at St. John of The Cross in Roslyn, had phlebitis, so she needed help serving meals to priests on weekends. The victim was the help. For a weekly salary of $5, she served dinner on Saturday nights to the priests in the rectory, and then she came back on Sunday mornings to serve breakfast.

Sunday mornings were the worst. That's when Father Albert T. Kostelnick waited at the end of a long mahogany table. The priest would hold the girl's hands in his, and make small talk. Meanwhile, the priest's hands would wander up to the girl's chest.

On Thurday, the victim, now in her 50s, told her tale of long-ago abuse to the jury in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse case. Monsignor William J. Lynn, the archdiocese's former secretary for the clergy, is on trial on felony counts of endangering the welfare of children, and conspiring to endanger the welfare of children. He is the first Catholic administrator in the country to be charged for his role in the pedophile priest scandal.

"He was groping my breasts," the victim told the jury. "It happened every time he was alone."

The victim worked at the rectory for two years. The prosecutor asked if she ever told her parents about Father Kostelnick. "I never told them," she said. She didn't think they would believe her, and even if they did, she didn't think they would do anything about it.

The victim was the fifth of seven children in a very Catholic family. When she quit her job at the rectory, the position was filled by the victim's younger sister. And when the younger sister quit, another sister took her place. Years later, the victim discovered that Father Kostelnick had also molested both her sisters at the rectory.

When she was 33, and she gave birth to a daughter, the victim finally decided to tell her mother what had happened with Father Kostelnick. "My mother told me to just let it go," she told the jury. But when she was 38, and her mother died, the victim decided she couldn't let it go.

On Dec. 4, 2001, the victim, then 45, wrote a letter to Msgr. Lynn, whom she referred to in court as a childhood acquaintance, or "Billy Lynn from Roslyn." In the letter, she told Lynn that her assignment as a kid was to go to the priests on Sunday mornings and ask how they wanted their eggs cooked. That's when Father Kostelnick would abuse her.

"I did not know what to do," she wrote Lynn. "I felt helpless and trapped. I did not tell anyone ... I kept my secret deep." The victim wrote Lynn that she realized what the priest had done to her "was wrong and evil," and "left me totally violated." "At 13," she wrote, it was "a deep wound."

She told Lynn she realized that as an adult, she always had "an edge around men." "I trace it to this experience," she wrote. The letter to Lynn, she wrote, was part of "my healing process." She said she had also came to the realization that Father Kostelnick was "a very sick man."

The victim wrote that she felt guilty for not speaking out when she could have protected her two younger sisters. "I've since left the Catholic Church," she wrote Lynn. The decision was "a casualty of my awakening."

Father Vincent Welsh, who worked as Lynn's assistant, promptly wrote a reply, saying he was "sorry to hear of her private pain." Welsh offered to meet with her, and get her counseling. He closed the letter by saying that he and Lynn would pray for her. "May God be with you in this holy season of advent," he wrote.

The victim testified that in a subsequent phone conversation, Welsh told her Father Kostelnick had been confronted, and, "He denied ever having touched me." Despite the denial, the priest was sent for psychological evaluation at St. John Vianney, the archdiocese facility where priests with sex problems were evaluated.

"They didn't find anything, any deviant behavior," she testified.

The prosecutor asked the victim whether archdiocese officials ever informed her about other accusations of abuse against Father Kostelnick.

"No," she said.

The victim and her sisters weren't Father Kostelnick's only victims.

The 2005 grand jury report branded Father Kostelnick as "a serial molester." In one 1971 incident, the grand jury found that Father Kostelnick had groped a teenage girl as she lay immobilized in traction in a hospital bed, following an auto accident.

Father Kostelnick was reported to the police in 1987 for fondling an 8-year-old girl. Additional reports of abuse were made to Cardinal Bevilacqua in 1988 and 1992, yet the cardinal allowed Father Kostelnick to continue as pastor of St. Mark's in Bristol, Pa.

In 1997, the grand jury said, "Cardinal Bevilacqua honored the serial molester at a luncheon at the cardinal's house, and set him loose as a senior priest in a new parish, Assumption BVM in Feasterville."

Father Kostelnick was finally removed from active ministry in 2004, after Bevilacqua retired, and the archdiocese had received complaints from 18 alleged victims over a 30-year period. The grand jury report said Father Kostelnick revealed to an archdiocese review board that he continued his "long-standing habit" of "fondling the breasts of young girls" after victims' complaints were ignored in 1992.


  1. These victims are very brave to be telling their painful stories in court.

    They are to be commended for their courage and determination to expose the truth so that kids will be safer today.

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511
    "Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests" and all clergy.

  2. I know I'm the only one saying this, but am I the only one noticing a pattern of widespread neglect among parents in "very Catholic" families? This mother was merely negligent, but so many cases across the nation show evidence of criminal neglect.

    Even if we could put all the pedophile priests in jail, we would not have gotten to the core of the sex abuse catastrophe so long as Catholic parents do not recognize the dignity of children. And so one of the things I look for in the evolution of this scandal is any evidence that Catholic laity are changing their cultural views of children. To some extent the perversions of the hierarchy do reflect the mores of the people in the pews, and that's the central issue in my view.

    Again, I sure do appreciate your reporting on this trial.

    1. Part of the problem is that in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, Catholic families couldn't have imagined this happening. It is so sick and perverted, and priests were believed to be the highest, holiest, most honest people.

      Of course, they were practicing rampant child rape, especially in the 70s/80s when at least 8-10% were raping children according to the church's own John Jay report. See

      Priests knew they could get away with it because the Catholic congregation would always defend the priest, so the victims knew that they were helpless.

      But its much worse and evil than that - they all knew it was going on, and Catholics don't talk about this part.

      Every time a priest raped a child, he went to confession to tell someone about it. Every time he lied publicly, he went to confession privately to tell another priest he had lied about it.

      This may be the only institution in the world that absolutely knows exactly how guilty they are, which makes them worse for hiding the child rapists that they hid.

      It wasn't the family's faults. It was the fault of the Catholic church, who knowingly, intentionally betrayed their trust, raped their children, and lied about it.

      The Catholic church is the organized crime family of the child rape underworld, and you will see a small fraction of the evil in this trial.

  3. The lack of response from parents may also come from the the clerical culture which claims clergy to be above the laity.Jesus tells us to call no man "father" accept our God; Jesus is are only Lord, not the clergy called 'monsignor'-'my lord'. I wonder how prevalent child molesting is among the Protestant Churches.
    Their leadership seems more open and diverse with male and female pastors- more accountability to the membership.

    I also appreciate your reporting! May the Spirit enable us to renew the Church and make it relevant to the 21st century- men in pink and red robes with beanies need to go!


Thoughtful commentary welcome. Trolling, harassing, and defaming not welcome. Consistent with 47 U.S.C. 230, we have the right to delete without warning any comments we believe are obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.