Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Archdiocese's "Charitable Concern" for A Sex Abuse Victim

The man wrote the archdiocese in 1996, claiming that as an adolescent, he had been sexually abused by Father Stanley M. Gana. The man wanted the archdiocese to pay for his therapy, which he said, were a direct result of the abuse he had suffered from Father Gana.

There was a problem, however, Monsignor William J. Lynn explained in writing to the victim. The archdiocese had a policy where it would only pay the bills of alleged victims if the priest accused of abuse had confessed. Father Gana, Lynn explained, was still denying the allegations. So the archdiocese, according to its own policy, was not required to pay for the man's therapy.

However, Lynn wrote, out of the archdiocese's "charitable concern" for the victim's "emotional, physical and spiritual well-being," the archdiocese had decided to make an exception in this case, and pay the victim's therapy bills. The letter was signed, "Sincerely yours in the Lord, William J. Lynn."

Sadly, as far as the archdiocese was concerned, however, this wasn't a charity case, as was revealed Tuesday in the ongoing sex abuse trial. Father Gana had made a full confession, according to formerly confidential documents that the prosecutor entered into evidence. The documents showed that Monsignor Lynn knew about the priest's confession, but decided not to share this knowledge with the victim.

Why Msgr. Lynn chose not to tell the truth was a matter of dispute. According to the prosecutor, Lynn flat-out lied. According to Thomas Bergstrom, Lynn's defense lawyer, however, state mental health privacy laws prohibited Lynn from disclosing what he knew about the priest's condition.

But when the defense lawyer tried to make that argument, the judge sustained an objection, and then sent the jury out on a break. After she heard Bergstrom's argument, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina told the defense lawyer that there was nothing in the state mental health law to support his position. 

"I'm not allowing you to ask the question," the judge said. "I think you're just dead wrong on the law." Furthermore, the judge told Bergstrom, by making that suggestion while court was in session, the defense lawyer was "attempting to mislead the jury."

Here's what Lynn knew: Donna Markham, a nun and psychologist, had called the monsignor to tell him about the success she was having in her therapy sessions with Father Gana, whom she referred to as "Stan." The therapy sessions took place at Southdown in Ontario, Canada, a facility that treated priestly addictions such as sex, alcohol and drugs. Donna Markham was the executive director at Southdown.

"He (Gana) broke down," and admitted that "all the allegations against him are true," Markham told Lynn. The quotes were from notes Lynn made in his own private file, which were read into the record by Detective Joseph Walsh.

Markham, however, concluded that Gana resorted to sex abuse only when he was under the influence of alcohol and drugs. So according to Markham, Gana was not really a pedophile.

"He's admitted to having sex with 11 and 12 year-olds, but he's not a pedophile?" Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington asked incredulously.

"That's what this report says," deadpanned Detective Walsh.

In the confidential archdiocese records, Markham told Lynn that Gana had admitted to having sex with eight people from the late 1970s through the mid-1980s, including three adolescent boys and five adult women. One of the adolescent boys Gana had admitted to abusing was the former victim who had written to Lynn. Since 1986, however, Gana claimed to Markham that he had led "a clean life."

Gana was pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows parish in Bridgeport, Pa., when he wrote to Cardinal Bevilacqua in 1995, requesting that he step down as pastor, "due to health considerations." This was another lie. The priest was already on the radar as a known offender, there were new allegations against him, and Gana was being shipped out for psychological evaluation at St. John Vianney, the archdiocese treatment center for addicted priests. 

In a letter to Cardinal Bevilcqua, Joseph Cistone, vicar for administration, had warned in a 1995 letter that Father Gana had the "potential for becoming a PR problem." The cardinal's advisors were hoping to remove the potential problem, and they wanted the priest to cooperate. "He seems interested in removing himself from public scrutiny," Cistone wrote.

The cardinal wrote back that he would accept Gana's resignation for the stated reason of Gana's health. Bevilacqua closed the letter by writing, "Best wishes, I remain, sincerely yours in Christ."

The counselors at St. John Vianney concluded that returning Gana to active ministry "demonstrates significantly impaired professional conduct such that he is at risk for further inappropriate and dangerous behavior." The recommendation was that Gana receive treatment at a residential facility.

While he was being treated at Southdown, Gana, however, decided he had had enough therapy. He told Markham he was going to call a taxi, and take a plane home. "He knew it was stupid, but he was going to do it anyway," Markham told Lynn. Markham was "very saddened  that Stan chose to do this," Lynn noted.

On the morning that Gana checked out of Southdown, Lynn took another phone call from Markham, and wrote in his secret file that Gana "sees no hope and no future for him in the church." Now that he had confessed to sexual abuse, Gana didn't think he would get another assignment in ministry. The priest retreated to his home in Florida.

Later that same year, Lynn received a note from a nun in the diocese of Orlando, Fla. The nun reported that Gana was having men in their late teens and early 20s stay at his house, and he was also sponsoring students from Slovakia, who wished to study in America. The nun did not think it was a healthy situation, especially in the light of recent sex abuse scandals.

After Father Gana checked out of rehab against doctors orders, he traveled to Slovakia, where he wrote to Lynn on Aug. 16, 1996, saying, "I do want to remain active in the ministry."But Lynn was worried about the possibilities of future scandal.

In a note to is file, written Sept. 25, 1996, Lynn noted that the victim who wrote to him for assistance in paying his therapy bills "is probably the type of person who is not going away." The victim had already requested a cash settlement, but Lynn wrote back that such awards were contrary to archdiocese policy. Lynn also wrote in his private files that Father Gana shared the concern that the former victim "will always be hounding him."

While Lynn was pondering a future role in ministry for Gana, Cistone wrote to Lynn saying "He will not stand in his way" if Gana wanted to seek a job as a minister in another diocese.

In his files, Lynn suggested that if Gana was to continue in ministry, it should be an assignment in a parish without a school. Lynn also noted that Gana should not be allowed to work in a parish in Northeast Philadelphia, where two of his victims lived.

In spite of Gana's confession that he had had sex with eight people, Cardinal Bevilacqua in 1997 decided to appoint Gana as chaplain to an order of Carmelite nuns. Gana was also given permission to help out as a substitute priest at his home parish of Immaculate Conception, a parish that Lynn noted did not have a school.

In 2001, however, the archdiocese changed its policies. Lynn informed Gana that any priest who had confessed to sexually abusing a minor could no longer be active in ministry, no matter how restricted, because the archdiocese could not guarantee an "adequate level of supervision." Father Gana was deposed as chaplain of the Carmelite nuns, and told he could no longer work as a substitute priest.

When it was time for cross-examination, defense attorney Bergstrom pointed out that Cardinal Bevilacqua's aides seemed eager to have Father Gana find a minister's job outside of the archdiocese.

"That would certainly be one way of getting rid of Father Gana, wouldn't it?" Bergstrom told Detective Walsh, who agreed. It was one of the few points Bergstrom was able to make in his attempt to lessen the damage to his client.

Bergstrom wasn't the only frustrated defense lawyer in the courtroom.

William J. Brennan, representing Father James Brennan, pressed the judge to allow him to question an alleged sex abuse victim about an incident where he allegedly filed a false statement with police about a non-existent home invasion. The alleged victim has, according to attorney Brennan, been in and out of jail. "He made up a home invasion story," Brennan yelled. "This guy makes up stories."

"Quit yelling at me," the judge told Brennan. The judge accused Brennan of violating her gag order that prevents attorneys in the case from talking to the press, by venting in front of happy reporters. But the judge agreed to take a two-page motion filed by Brenann under advisement. The motion concerned ground rules for questioning the alleged victim on Wednesday morning. 

Assistant District Attorney Blessington countered that this argument had already been ruled on by the judge in preliminary trial motions. The only thing new in the debate was that attorney Brennan had raised his volume, Blessington said, because he was "on shaky ground."


  1. Excellent update as always.

    My take: If the prosecution is allowed - day after day - to bring up decades-old cases, some of which did not even involve Msgr. Lynn (!), then the defense should be able to question Fr. Brennan's accuser about his extensive criminal history of fraud, including the incident of filing a false police report.

    By the way, that false report was filed around the very same time he accused Fr. Brennan.

    I know my position is not popular, but I think Wm. Brennan has every reason to be upset. The jury should have as much information as possible in order to decide if this accuser is credible.

    If the judge wants to "hide" the accuser's criminal history of fraud, wouldn't such an action play into the belief that the defense is not getting a fair trial and that there are reasonable grounds for an appeal?

    Except for having some cases severed and tried separately, has the defense had ANY ruling go in its favor?

    My two cents.

    1. Your position is unpopular because you are defending a group of known child rapists and pedophile protectors. That is very unpopular outside the Catholic church, where it is hidden, tolerated, forgiven and accepted.

      You certainly missed the point about Gana - serial child rapist who lied aboutit for a long time, and finally broke down and told the truth, just like Fr Avery, and undoubtedly like thousands and thousands of other accused pedophile priests in the US.

      YOu certainly missed the point that Lynn lied, repeatedly, also, and that he, Cardinal Bevilacqua, Bishop Cistone, and others did every thing they could to hide the truth.

      We will also see a pattern about Brennan, being moved from parish to parish like the other known pedophiles, and now its a matter for the jury to decide if Brennan is lying and everyone else who protected him was lying.

      Those of us that sympathize with victims instead of child rapists understand how a kid could live a confused, petty crime lifestyle after being raped (or almost raped) by "Christ on earth", and might hvae completely lost sense of right an wrong.

      The Catholic church, in every imaginable way here, is wrong.

  2. I am guessing that this is the Pennsylvania Code that Attorney Brennan is referring to:

    "Records concerning persons receiving or having received treatment shall be kept confidential and shall not be released nor their content disclosed without the consent of a person given under (another Code)."

    Can a supervisor disclose to a third party the nature or contents of an employee's mental health treatment? I highly doubt it.

    I think Brennan may have a point, imho.


    1. The issue is that Lynn told the victim that Gana had not confessed. Lynn didn't say "I can't discuss the contents of Gana's confidential treatment records." Instead, he misled the victim about Gana's admission. This distinction is critical--if this statute had applied (and I haven't researched it to determine if it would have)it would have required Lynn to not comment on statement's made by Gana in treatment. That's not what Lynn did-- what Lynn did was knowingly misstate the underlying facts.

      In addition, it appears from the facts stated above that the victim wasn't inquiring about Gana's treatment or his response to the allegations. The victim was requesting the Archdiocese to pay for his treatment. It was Lynn and the Archdiocese that made Gana's admission (or lack thereof) an issue in their negotiations with the victim. Then, after they made it an issue, they chose to lie to the victim about it.

      The statute certainly doesn't protect lying about the contents of a person's records. So Lynn can't point to this statute to justify the lie he told to the victim.

    2. Interesting response.

      But if Lynn said to the victim, "I can't discuss the contents of Gana's confidential treatment records," that would be disclosing that Gana was in fact in treatment!

      I would think it would be a terrible violation of privacy to disclose to an outside party that an employee was in psychological treatment!

      My take ...

    3. Lynn did not have to say anything about Gana's treatment. He could have just let it pass. Instead he lied. Nothing he says can be considered credible after that bold faced lie.

    4. The point is that Judge Sarmina was correct in not allowing the question.

      The defense's insinuation that the statute justified Lynn's behavior (when it clearly does not protect affirmative misrepresentations of fact) is an attempt to confuse the jury. I'm sure that Lynn's attorney knows how to read a statute, and that he was fully aware that the statute does not protect Lynn's statement. However, he tried to slip this obfuscation in through his cross examination of a detective--whom the attorney knows does not have the necessary expertise to call this nonsense out on the spot.

      As to your point above, Lynn didn't have to go as far as saying "I can't discuss the contents of Gana's confidential treatment records." There are many different statements that he could have made that would have served the purpose of protecting the confidentiality of Gana's treatment records. However, that doesn't even matter here. The victim wasn't trying to gain access to Gana's records. Lynn didn't have to say anything on the topic. That's the whole point--the statute doesn't even come into play here!

      Lynn wasn't being opaque in order to protect Gana's confidentiality, he was intentionally misleading the victim in order to protect the church. Period.

    5. According to the article above, "The documents showed that Monsignor Lynn knew about the priest's confession, but decided not to share this knowledge with the victim."

      The prosecution is arguing that Lynn was neglectful for not sharing this information! The law may not "protect affirmative misrepresentations of fact," but it certainly states that a person cannot divulge someone else's psychological or medical treatment!

    6. No, the prosection is not arguing that Lynn was neglectful for not sharing this information with the victim. That isn't a crime.

      The prosecution is arguing that Lynn knowingly endangered the welfare of children by assigning priests suspected of having abused children to positions where they would have access to more victims (i.e. children). This allegation involves more than mere neglect, as the statute states it a crime to 'knowingly' endanger the welfare of children. The prosecution is offering the evidence of Lynn's lie to prove that he knowingly covered-up the actions of the accused. This cover-up is a component of the alleged scheme to 1) not fully investigate allegations of abuse, 2) discourage victims from reporting the abuse to criminal authorities, 3) discouraging victims from suing the church, and 4) once 1-3 is accomplished, inserting the priest back into ministry (where he'll again have access to children). This is what the prosecution is alleging.

    7. "The prosecution is arguing that Lynn knowingly endangered the welfare of children by assigning priests suspected of having abused children to positions where they would have access to more victims (i.e. children)."

      I agree! But why would the prosecution make issue of the fact that Lynn didn't share the treatment-related information with the victim?? The defense to this would be the privacy law, it seems.

      Btw, I think the alleged scheme is a big stretch.


    8. Here's a burning bush moment for Catholics - having sex with children isn't a "mental heath condition".

      It's a crime.

  3. If Lynn was being such a stickler for the law, he should have called the police. The victim called Lynn in 1996 and at that time the victim had a case against Gana, since it was not yet pass the statute of limitations. Where was the concern for the victim? Is that not a crime that Lynn had knowledge that Gana admitted the abuse of the victim, and did not report that crime? Where was his compassion for his "flock?" Where was Lynn's moral compass?

  4. In reply to Momma, who wrote, "If Lynn was being such a stickler for the law, he should have called the police."

    Here's another unpopular thing to say, but I'll say it anyways.

    If "the victim called Lynn in 1996 and at that time the victim had a case against Gana," it is not unreasonable to think that the victim - a grown adult - could have called the police, if he wanted.

    The abuse by a priest is *almost* always reported by the victim him/herself - usually years later.

    This is different from when a school teacher, for example, suspects abuse of a student at home. The teacher must call child protective services (CPS in many states) to prevent further harm of an innocent and defenseless party. The victim is helpless and needs to be protected. This is the reasoning behind "mandated reporting" laws. CPS usually decides whether or not police action is needed.

    With that said, Lynn would have been best to call the correct county child protection agency.


  5. Media - The victim, may have been a grown adult, but he was also a vulnerable adult in a position of pleading for help and seeking counsel from his Church.... from Lynn. Why wouldn't Lynn counsel him that he could call the police. Why wouldn't Lynn tell him that he would support him in his claim against Fr. Gana? This is where, I as a Catholic, I get infuriated. Lynn, a supposed "man of God" could have helped this victim and had Fr. Gana put away and in turn, others would have been saved from his abuse. Instead, he basically told the victim, 'we really don't believe you because Gana didn't admit it but out of the kindness of our hearts we will pay for your therapy.' It is unconscionable. The lack of care for a fellow human, let alone one of his "flock."

    1. Lynn isn't a man of God. In fact, he does exactly the opposite of What Jesus Would Do. Cardinal Bevilacqua, Bishops Cistone and Cullen, also do the exact the opposite of What Jesus Would Do. Catholics who stand idly by and support them in any way do the exact the opposite of What Jesus Would Do.

      God made this very simple.

  6. Lynn lied - period. He did not have to reveal anything but instead siad that Gana denied the allegations - that's a lie. Now - why believe anything this man says?

    1. Amen.

      And he lied, consistently and repeatedly, about children that were raped. Catholics have completely lost track of this, but child rape is about as evil as crime gets.

  7. I agree. If Lynn was worried about not revealing the treatment or information obtained during treatment, he should not have brought up the lie that Gana never admitted to the abuse. It was Lynn who brought up statements from Gana, not the victim. Lynn lied and tried to make the victim think that Lynn was helping him because Lynn felt sorry for him, not because Lynn believed him.

  8. Catholics think an admitted serial child rapist needs "treatment".

    People with hearts and souls think they need "prison".

    Don't worry - they'll get plenty of treatment there.


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