Thursday, April 12, 2012

Canon Law Expert: Cardinal Bevilacqua Obstructed Justice

A priest who is an expert on canon law testified Thursday that in his opinion, the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua was guilty of obstructing justice when he ordered the shredding of a confidential memo in 1994 that listed 35 archdiocese priests accused of sex abuse.

Father Thomas P. Doyle, an outspoken advocate for victims of clerical sex abuse, was asked on cross-examination what advice he would have given Bevilacqua.

"He's got a list of 35 men who are sexually abusing children, and he's going to shred it?" Doyle asked incredulously.

"No way," Father Doyle told the jury. "That's like obstruction of justice."

Father Doyle said his advice to Bevilacqua, who died Jan. 31, would have been to take off his gold ring and bishop's robes, and go visit the families of the victims. Instead, by shredding the memo, Doyle said, the cardinal destroyed evidence.

"Those are actual records that must be investigated, those are victims in need of pastoral care," Father Doyle testified.

Father Doyle was called as an expert witness by the prosecution in the ongoing Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial, which finished its third week of testimony Thursday. The shredded memo that he was asked about was compiled by Msgr. William J. Lynn, the archdiocese's former secretary for the clergy. Msgr. Lynn is the first Catholic administrator in the country to be charged with conspiring to endanger the welfare of children, in connection with the pedophile priest scandal.

Four copies of the Lynn memo were shredded according to the cardinal's instructions. But a former bishop, Msgr. James Molloy, kept a fifth copy in a file cabinet on the 12th floor, along with a handwritten memo. The memo described how Molloy destroyed the other memos according to the cardinal's instructions, but kept one copy for his own protection. The memo was discovered in a search after Molloy's death in 2006, by archdiocese lawyers. But despite a number of subpoenas, the memo wasn't turned over to the prosecution until earlier this year.

Father Doyle said the problem of clerical sex abuse isn't new. It's gained prominence in recent years because "these children are now being believed by their parents," the priest told the jury.

Doyle was a folksy expert on the witness stand, wearing a "Bucky Badger" tie pin to commemorate the  mascot of his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin. When asked to explain canon law, the priest said to Catholics a canon was not a weapon, but a rule of law based on the greek word kanon, which meant "a rule or a straight line."

When asked to define limbo, the afterlife destination of unbaptized babies, Doyle said limbo was "minimum security hell."

Doyle told the jury that Catholics believe priests to be Christ's representatives on earth. Priests have the power to dispense sacraments, hear confessions, and forgive sins. "For Catholics, a priest is the gatekeeper to heaven," Father Doyle said.

Doyle testified that the archbishop of Philadelphia is required by canon law to investigate allegations of misconduct, even if anonymous. "This whole thing has to be documented from start to finish," Doyle told the jury. And if there is credible evidence of a single episode of sexual abuse of a minor, a priest according to canon law is supposed to be "removed permanently from ecclesiastical ministry," Father Doyle testified.

Father Doyle said it would be "inappropriate" for church officials to base their personnel decisions entirely on the psychological evaluations of priests accused of abuse. Doyle's opinion was in stark contrast to evidence presented so far in the sex abuse trial.

The archdiocese's secret archive files show that priests who were repeat offenders were frequently not diagnosed as pedophiles, even if they had confessed to molesting children. Instead, the abuser priests were often transferred to new assignments, without notice to parents or children.

On cross-examination, Alan J. Tauber, a lawyer for Msgr. Lynn, sought to show that his client was just a cog in the wheel. Tauber compared the late archbishop Bevilacqua to a king or a monarch.

"A bishop makes a lot of decisions for which there is no oversight?" the defense lawyer asked the witness.

"Practically speaking, this is fair to say," Father Doyle responded.

Tauber referred to Father Doyle's grand jury testimony, where the priest described the late Cardinal Bevilacqua as a "micro-manager," and one of the most authoritarian bishops in the country.

Father Doyle did not back away from the quotes.

"He [Bevilcacqua] is the only one who can make appointments?"Tauber asked.

"Yeah," Father Doyle agreed.

But on redirect, Assistant District Attorney Blessington zeroed in on Lynn's role as the late cardinal's secretary for the clergy. If you work for the cardinal, and he tells you to do something illegal, what should you do, the priest was asked.

"You're responsible for what you do," Father Doyle testified. The cardinal, he said, was "not a puppet master."

And who is the archbishop supposed to emulate, Blessington asked. Isn't it Jesus?

"Yes, that's what it's all about," Father Doyle said. "We were Christians before Catholics."

Blessington brought up  Father Edward V. Avery, a defendant in the case who, on the eve of trial, pleaded guilty to raping a 10-year-old, and was sentenced to a prison term of between 2 1/2 to 5 years.

What if you're the secretary for clergy, Blessington said, and you go into the secret archive files regarding Father Avery, and you discover multiple allegations of sexual abuse of minors. Shouldn't you decide, "You don't put that guy near kids?"

"Objection," said a defense attorney.

"Sustained," said the judge.

The trial resumes Monday at 9:15 a.m. in Courtroom 304 at the Criminal Justice Center.


  1. Another great post. But the Opinion is so obvious. There is nothing about being a priest or being catholic that makes you immune from crimiminal laws that protect kids. And a bishop is not precluded by any special catholic law from picking up the phone and calling the cops. And even though the message is obvious and undisputed, Dpierre will soon make a post that attacks the messenger, Fr. Doyle. The real shame of the church is that there are not hundreds of Doyles and Malloys that came forward to tell the obvious.

    1. True, ko.

      Here's a different way to take a look at today's insight into the defense for the Cahtolic church.

      The Mafia Don from Philadelphia is dead after ordering dozens of murders around the city. The Mafia captain who kept track of all the murders and was moving and hiding all of the murderers is on trial. He is now going to blame the dead Mafia Don all of the things that Captain did.

      This is organized crime, but the crime is child rape. Bevilacqua was the Don, Lynn moved and hid the "hit men". He gave them new territories and new targets, and not even specific ones.

      Everyone involved in these crimes of the Catholic child rape Mafia should go to jail.

      The only difference is that the actual Mafia have an honor code.

      And they would never rape children.

  2. I think the shame in this particular instance is that priests like Fr. Doyle have been talking about abuse for years and its the bishops who chose not to listen or act. Msgr. Lynn was wrong in not being the voice for the voiceless, but his superiors and predecessors were criminially negligent and were the proximate cause of the ruination of young lives, and a morally credible church.

  3. Nice try on the preemptive post, kopride.

    A couple thoughts:

    1. There is no question that Fr. Doyle was an early crusader in speaking out on this paramount important issue of abuse in the Church - back in the 1980s. But the AP reported today that Doyle admitted under oath that up until 1985, he "thought known abusers could remain priests in restricted ministry"!

    2. Indeed, Rev. Doyle has a troubling history of dissent, a history of being reprimanded by the Church, and an established record of verifiable falsehoods:


    1. themediareport uses the same formula:

      - pretend that child abuse is bad and a big concern to the church
      - question even the slightest bit of credibility for anyone that says anything against the Catholic church
      - provide only a piece of the whole truth
      - provide no references, vague references or references to his own web site (where he is selling books)

      Of course, Doyle has a history of dissent. He's dissenting against the history's largest pedophile protection program, and those pedophile protectors don't like dissenters.

      Dave Pierre then points you to a page that sells his books. If Doyle hates people who rape children and lie about it, that can't be good for a guy looking to profit on book sales about how unrairly the Catholic church is being treated.

      Side note: on Amazon, Tom Doyle does a review of Dave's book, and trashes it, saying he twists and distorts the truth just like the Catholic heirarchy.

    2. Actually what the case of Father Doyle, like Curran at CUA in the 80s, shows is that the RCC takes dissent by priests a lot more seriously than child abuse against children. Say something that questions the church's official teaching on something; and the church will remove the dissenter from his position immediately, take punitive measures to affect tenure or retirement rights, and otherwise silence or censure the dissenter. Now, if the church learns that the priest has criminally abused minors, they set up secret archives, give him multiple opportunities to have more contact with children, lie to the parishioners about the reasons the priest was moved or transferred, give him letters of good standing, let him shrink- shop to find someone to say that he is not a child predator, hire lawyers to find out dirt on the accuser; encourage the victims to not go to the police, and otherwise complain that people who complain about the church are catholic bashers. Now you clearly feel that questioning church doctrine is a far more serious offense than enabling a child predator. But at least admit that you are in the minority of thinking humans.

    3. Great insight, kopride.

      The Catholic church is history's largest pedophile protection program. No one else has ever been close.

  4. Tom Doyle has been investigating allegations of clergy sexual abuse for over 25 years and is an expert on canon law as it relates to the responsibilities of Church leadership in the management and investigation of such horrific claims. He is a truly exceptional individual who is committed to holding the institutional Church accountable for what it has done and what it has failed to do for the victims of sexual abuse. There is no one better qualified to explain just what canon law expects, allows and requires Church officials to do when receiving such allegations of the sexual abuse of children. I am honored to have met this man at a conference a couple of years ago at Chestnut Hill College.
    Michael Skiendzielewski

  5. Ralph Cipriano and Mark Bukowski are HEROES!!! The analogy with the mafia above made by commenter neilAllen76 is dead on target absolutely true.

    I honestly think the bishops thought children would forget being sexualized at ages like six, so they let us get raped by these priests.

    I have come to believe the "altar boy" role was created in the Dark Ages to serve the priests in Mass. Children were provided to help priests stay "celibate" - we were receptacles for quick release when the naturally horny priests needed it.

    They thought we'd get over it. They ignored all the suicides and the destroyed lives they caused.

    It was organized hits on children to serve the priests' needs.

    My 2 cents for the day, good morning...

  6. Kay,

    Glad to see you are still fighting the good fight.
    I kind of lost track of you...
    May God bless and strengthen you.
    You are on the side of the Angels and I admire you courage to follow this trail even though it has led you in the most unlikely, and very dark places.
    May God protect you

  7. Wow, I never realized that there was a website for pedo's., made my skin crawl. Anyone know the name or names of the sicko's that run it.

    1. I meant to write a repoly to you, but it eneded up at the bottom. See "The Truth About Dave Pierre & themediareport"

  8. The hierarchy of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia hasn’t checked their own website recently. If they did, they could go to the Victim Assistance and Safe Environment Tab, and go to Archives. (

    There they could read the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People which was first published in 2002, under Policies and Procedures: National (

    Still in the Archives, they could go to their own policy Policies and Procedures: Archdiocesan, to read Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries
    5 May 2003 ( ). Section 6 is important.

    Msgr. Lynn must feel the, “I was just following orders,” plea will work. If it does work for him, which I hope doesn’t, he will still burn in hell for carrying out decisions that hurt and scarred children for life.

    1. How can the “I was just following orders” plea work?

      It doesn't work for the mafia or drug cartels. Why should it work for the Catholic church's organized crime family of child rapists?

  9. The Truth About Dave Pierre & themediareport

    Themediareport is written by a guy named Dave Pierre, who occasionally comments on this blog.

    He sells books about the innocence of convicted pedophile priests, so he has a financial stake in this matter, and distorts statistics accordingly.

    Of particular note is his fondness for a New Hampshire pedophile priest named Fr Gordon Macrae, convicted and spending 30-60 years in jail for having sex with one child. Macrae also PLEADED GUILTY to sexually abusing another 3 children. At least 7 other victims came forward, and there are undoubtedly at least 10-20 more who will never be heard from.

    Pierre and Macrae endorse each other on their web pages.

    Macrae was one of the few that was convicted under the regime of child sex terror run by Cardinal Law and Bishop McCormick, where over 200 priests had sex with 800 children that they know about.

    Catholic priests are 100 times more likely to be a sex offender as any other person, as you can see if you go to

  10. Wasn't it "convenient" that Cardinal Bevilacqua died before he was called up to testify and made to take responsibility for the Pedophile Priests under his protection? Bevilacqua had the money as well as the means to hire anyone for his archdiocese. On his staff, there was not one man or priest of integrity like Father Thom Doyle, and it's probably not because Fr. Thom would have been too expensive. Bevilacqua hired "Yes Men," who were basically boot-licking, ring-kissing sycophants, who would robotically respond at the raise of an eyebrow. The Archdiocese was a well-oiled machine. Unfortunately, the oil was rotten and infested with maggots!


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