Monday, May 14, 2012

A Shredded Memo, A Dead Cardinal, and A Bunch of Liars

A secret list of sexually abusive priests that Cardinal Bevilacqua ordered shredded in 1994 is now at the center of a tangled web of deception, lies and suspicious memory lapses.

Prosecutors in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse case Monday tried to unravel the mystery  in court, with messy results. On the witness stand was Timothy R. Coyne, a lawyer who was the former director of the archdiocese office for legal services. Coyne told the jury that when he originally went looking for the list in 2002, the first person he visited was Msgr. Lynn.

"He said he didn't know where it was," Coyne testified. Two years later, with grand jury subpoenas flying around, Coyne went on another search for the memo. He sent faxes to Cardinal Bevilacqua and three top aides, but once again, nobody knew where the list was.

But in 2006, when the list was suddenly rediscovered in a locked archdiocese safe, Coyne realized he'd been had.

"Somebody lied to me, or everybody lied to me," Coyne told the jury about his former bosses at the archdiocese.

Msgr. Lynn took over the archdiocese office for clergy in 1992. Two years later, he was asked to investigate Father James M. Dux, a pedophile attracted to little boys. Father Dux had allegations against him from 11 alleged victims dating back to the 1960s. The priest was encouraged to retire in 1994. After the Father Dux case, Lynn told a grand jury in 2002, he wondered how many other abuser priests were out there still working for the archdiocese.

That prompted Lynn to plow through 323 secret archive files to find out if there was “anybody else in active ministry who had live claims against him,” Lynn told the grand jury in testimony read last week to the jury in Courtroom 304. 

“It seems to me I was trying to give a full picture of sex abuse here,” Lynn told the grand jury. Lynn testified that he compiled the list for the benefit of his bosses. “The people above me should know what’s going on,” he said. The grand jury prosecutor asked Lynn if he kept a copy of the list. His response: "I can’t find that document." 

The memo referenced the Dux case as the catalyst for poring through the secret archive files. The result of Lynn's search was a list of 35 priests that included three diagnosed pedophiles, a dozen priests either found guilty of sex abuse or who had admitted their guilt, and 20 additional priests accused of sexual misconduct.

Lynn drew up the list on Feb. 18, 1994, and sent it to Msgr. James E. Molloy, then the assistant vicar for administration. Lynn told the grand jury that of all his bosses, Molloy knew the most about sex crimes. He [Molloy] talked “like a policeman” speaking of credible or non-credible allegations and witnesses, Lynn told the grand jury.

The memo went up the archdiocese chain of command to Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, who ordered Molloy to shred the list, as well as the memo attached to it.

But the wily Molloy, who died in 2006, didn't follow orders. On March 22, 1994, in a handwritten note, Molloy explained that he had shredded four copies of the memo and the list, as Cardinal Bevilacqua had ordered, but that he kept one copy, which turned out to be Lynn's. The shredding was witnessed by the Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, who also signed the document.

The "shredding memo" or "treasure map" was found in a file cabinet on the 12th floor of archdiocese headquarters in early 2012. In the memo, it states that a copy of the shredded list of 35 sexually abusive priests was kept on the 10th floor of archdiocese headquarters, in the office of the secretary for clergy.

Meanwhile, on Feb. 23, 2002, in the wake of responding to the Boston archdiocese sex abuse scandal, Cardinal Bevilacqua made the mistake of allowing his spokesperson, Cathy Rossi, to mention that Philadelphia had 35 of its own abuser priests, as opposed to 80 in Boston. It was done in the context of reassuring the faithful that Philadelphia didn't have a Boston-style sex abuse problem, and that in Philadelphia, only 35 priests had molested 50 children over five decades. "We don't have the problems of Boston," Rossi told reporters, adding that the archdiocese had already gotten rid of six of the 35 abusers.

Instead of quelling outrage, however, the mention of 35 priests by Bevilacqua's spokesman prompted the Philadelphia district attorney and victims advocates to demand that the archdiocese turn over any list that it had, and publicly out the abusers. Rossi, acting on the advice of archdiocese lawyers, refused, and so the chase was on.

Over at archdiocese headquarters, lawyer Coyne was making his second search for the list of abuser priests. He sent faxes in 2004 to Msgr. Molloy, Bishop Edward P. Cullen and Father Cistone, but none of them knew where the list was, Coyne told the jury. Coyne also sent a fax to Cardinal Bevilacaqua, seeking the list. "I don't have a recollection" of what the cardinal's response was, Coyne told the jury.

Yeah, right.

The last copy of the list was discovered in 2006, in a locked safe on top of a file cabinet on the tenth floor of archdiocese headquarters, in the secretary for clergy office. The list was found by Louise Sullivan, director of operations in the clergy office. Sullivan said she was told to clean up the file room, and when she found the safe, colleagues told her it was probably empty. But when she hired a locksmith to drill open a combination lock on the the safe, inside, she discovered an accordion file with manilla folders in it. She told the jury last week that she gave the file to Father James Oliver.

When the memo was rediscovered, Coyne said he recognized it as "the original Dux memo." He testified that it was handed to him by Msgr. Timothy C. Senior, who took over for Lynn in 2004 as secretary for clergy.

"He told me to hold on to it," Coyne told the jury. Judge M. Teresa Sarmina interrupted the questioning to ask Coyne if he had a sense of seeing the memo before. "I really don't remember," Coyne told the judge.

Coyne said he put the memo in the top drawer of his file cabinet, and then "I forgot about it."

In 2012, Robert Welsh, a lawyer for the archdiocese, came to Coyne to inquire about the missing memo and list. After a confidential attorney-client conference, Coyne told the jury, he handed the documents to Welsh. Coyne was subsequently suspended from his job.

On cross-examination, Thomas Bergstrom, a lawyer for Msgr. Lynn, asked about Coyne's faxes to Cullen, Molloy and Cistone. Bergstrom reminded Coyne that he had gone on a "wild goose chase" seeking the memo and the list, and that the cardinal's top aides had responded that they didn't know where the missing documents were.

"Those men lied to you?" Bergtsrom asked.

"It appears so," Coyne said.

Molloy died in 2006 at age 60; Cistone is now the bishop of Saginaw, Mich.

Bergstrom then brought up some more mysterious circumstances, namely the death of Cardinal Bevilacqua, whose died in his sleep on Jan. 31, 2012, at 88, a day after Judge Sarmina had ruled him competent to appear as a witness at this trial. Within 12 days of Bevilacqua's death, Bergstrom reminded Coyne, the shredding memo written by Msgr. Molloy was discovered on the 12th floor of the archdiocese HQ, and the list of 35 sexually abusive priests compiled by Msgr. Lynn was discovered in a locked safe on the tenth floor of archdiocese HQ.

"That's correct," Coyne testified.

On redirect, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington asked Coyne if he knew that along with the list, several old computer discs were discovered in that locked safe on the tenth floor. Coyne said he didn't know anything about that.

With the discovery of the discs, did it seem to Coyne that Lynn had lied to him about not knowing where the missing documents were, Blessington asked.

"It does," Coyne said.

That prompted Bergstrom to dress down Coyne, saying he had made a rush to judgment, without even knowing if the discs belonged to Lynn. Coyne agreed that he didn't know who the discs belonged to. 

Blessington asked Coyne if he suspected that Lynn was lying because it was Lynn's copy of the memo that was discovered in a locked safe in Lynn's old office. While Coyne was pondering that one, Bergstrom went on the attack again, saying, "This is getting funny. How do you know it's his safe? You don't know whose safe it was?"

No, Coyne said.

The comedy continued. Msgr. Timothy C. Senior, who replaced Lynn as secretary for clergy, followed Coyne to the witness stand. While Coyne testified that it was Msgr. Senior who gave him the missing files, Msgr. Senior told the jury, "I don't remember giving these to Tim."

Blessington told Senior, with all due respect, it sounded like he was blaming Coyne, and that Coyne was blaming him.

"I don't know how to respond to that," Senior told the jury. "I cannot say with certainty that I saw these files before."

Last week, when she testified to the jury, Louise Sullivan, the official who found the files, said that she had informed Monsignor Senior about the discovery. But on the witness stand, Senior testified, "I do not remember Louise Sullivan telling me what she found in the safe."

Did Msgr. Senior know who put those files in that safe in his office? "I do not know," he told the jury. "I wasn't there. I can't say."

Next on the stand was Father James Oliver, who worked in the office for the clergy when Sullivan discovered the missing files. It was Sullivan's testimony that she handed those files to Father Oliver.

But when asked about that, Oliver told the jury, "I don't recall."

Judge Sarmina interrupted the questioning to ask Oliver if he recalled giving the files to Monsignor Senior.

"Your honor, I do not," Father Oliver testified.


  1. Between Msgr. Lynn's defense of following orders and Bishop Senior and Father Oliver's testimony of not remembering this case seems caught between the Nazi's and the Mob. Not a whole lot of inspiration to be found here.

    1. The Catholic church doesn't have the honor that the mod has, and The Pope was a registered Nazi as a teenager, which is why he's thinking, "this is nothing compared to what we did when we were teenagers".

    2. Neilallen: Something that most people don't know is that Pope Pius XII, before he became Pope, constructed or designed the ReichsKonkordat with Hitler. It was a treaty where they exchanged powers over certain areas of German life. One of them was turning "Catholic Youth" over to the Nazis, and disbanding, Catholic Youth, entirely. Another was closing down over 400, independent Catholic Presses in Germany, because the Pope wanted the Vatican Press to be the ONLY source of news for Catholic Germans. The BIG thing is that the Pope agreed that the Catholic Central Party should be disbanded. All of this was done in exchange for the Pope being declared, the spiritual leader of the German people. For his tireless efforts in juvenile diplomacy, Eugenio Pacelli was made Pope Pius XII. As a result of his diplomacy, millions of people, service men and civilians died, in addition to 6 million Jews, died in WWII. How many servicemen were lost in your family? My immediate family lost two and countless relatives in Germany! With the above being said, Joseph Ratzinger had no choice but to join Hitler Youth, since Catholic Youth had been absorbed in the movement to condition young teens to the Nazis' agendas.

    3. Neil, I made a mistake in the above post. The Catholic Party in Germany prior to WWII was "The Catholic Centre Party," not the Catholic Central Party, even though the meaning is similar. When Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pius XII, effectively disbanded it, it gave legitimacy to Hitler's Regime in the eyes of the German People. It also withdrew a big voting block from the political scene, allowing the Nazis to waltz, undisturbed by Catholic morality, into power in Germany.

  2. It seems as though they should each be covering their eyes, ears and mouth, like the three wise monkeys. Isn't lying still a sin?

  3. Amnesiacs? Invertebrates? Chameleons? One never knows who will be walking out of 222 N. 17th St. next and making their way down to the Criminal Justice Center.

    The missing, recovered, shredded memo......ah, the tangled web (of lies) we weave.

  4. The AOP threw Tim Coyne under the bridge and the counsel change strongly suggests that their old law firm Stradley Ronon is being thrown under as well. Tim Coyne was a Stradley alum; and Stradley was defending numerous civil cases in 06 where the 35 priest memo would be responsive to discovery requests. In other words, assuming that Coyne was even reasonably competent, he would have advised the Stradley lawyers of the discovery of the memo, and sought advice on whether it had to be produced in the various civil cases, or included in privilege logs so that lawyers could have sought a court order to compel production. As GC, Coyne would have had regular communication with his old law firm about the ongoing cases and what documents needed to be produced. In other words, the chance that Stradley didn't have a copy of the memo is extremely remote unless Coyne deliberately withheld it.

    The AOP has replaced Stradley and Coyne, which means that they will be the patsies in the ongoing inquiries in numerous cases about why the memo was not produced in the 6 years of cases and active litigation before it was rediscovered. The AOP will say, "general counsel and the law firm determined what documents needed to be produced and they were in possession of the memo." IOW, don't blame us for our lawyers mistake. Anybody who knows anything about the relationship between the AOP and Stradley will say that the line between the firm and the client was not always clear. The size of the business relationship and secrets buried created a great deal of inertia that probably affected independent judgment. Stradley still does transactional work.

    1. Kop,

      Couldn't some of those cases be retried because the Catholic Church intentionally withheld evidence?

    2. Kop: I genuinely hope that you are right. In addition to massive legal bills, there will be mounting concern by the Laity in the Archdiocese that their hard-earned contributions will be going to pay for more lawyers in the Archdiocese's defense. This should make enough Catholics mad enough that they'll simply abandon the Church. Now, would this be a "Bad thing?" I think not!

    3. "Couldn't some of those cases be retried because the Catholic Church intentionally withheld evidence?"

      There are very rare situations where old cases are opened but it is very unlikely. There were probably very few actual trials. Most of the cases were settled, based upon representations that the AOP did not have notice or knowledge of the propensity of the actual abuser; and that the abuser himself had no real assets to satisfy any judgment. Settled cases are not usually reopened. It would also not revive a case that was not filed within the statute of limitations and we are talking about a 1994 memo so most of the cases would likely be time barred.

      Given that Avery just pleaded guilty, there were Avery victims who had timely claims; and the memo would certainly be relevant and discoverable since Avery was in the memo. The memo would likely be discoverable for most civil claims against the AOP arising from the period of time that Lynn held that position. Depending upon the discovery request, it might still be discoverable in cases where the AOP's response to known abusers was at issue.

      The real folks harmed were victims who had their cases dismissed against the AOP on summary judgment based upon the lack of evidence that the AOP was aware of the abusers activity. It is highly unlikely that a court would reopen those cases based upon newly discovered or withheld evidence unless the case was on appeal or the judgment was not final. Essentially, the AOP got away with it. There are potential ethics charges that could be brought against the lawyers involved in withholding the documents, but it would probably not revive a dead case. PA also does not have an independent tort claim for spoliation of evidence; it is simply a discovery or sanctions issue.

      Again, it is not my intent to offer legal advice to anyone who thinks that their case might have been affected by withheld evidence. They should probably sit down with a lawyer and get advice on their particular situation. As I said, there are rare situations where old cases are reopened.

  5. Imagine how much more document shredding and convenient loss of memory has gone on all over the world. Philadelphia is just one archdiocese...

  6. So many people knew and could have stopped these crimes against kids..!!

    It is overwhelming to think how MANY innocent children could have been spared the life sentence of being sexually abused..
    And keep in mind the Philly Archdiocese is not unique in how they handle protecting the predator priest within their diocese. Other dioceses need to be investigated for covering up and enabling sex crimes against kids, also.

    Silence is not an option anymore. And those responsible need to be held accountable and jailed. This is the only way to get this corruption and abuse stopped.

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511
    (SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims.
    SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 12,000 members. Despite the word "priest" in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers and increasingly, victims who were assaulted in a wide range of institutional settings like summer camps, athletic programs, Boy Scouts, etc. Our website is

  7. Kopride, thanks for the insight on the Stradley-Ronon archdiocese relationship; maybe you should be writing this blog. Any insight as to why Clark Hodgson served up Bill Lynn to the grand jury like a Christmas goose?

    1. Hodson is a Stradley Ronon lawyer, his father worked for Stradley. Stradley was the AOP's firm. Conflicts are imputed to the firm. The issue is encompassed within RPC 1.7 , 1.10, and 1.13. Basically, could Stradley through Hodson represent the interests of both the entity and Lynn, as an individual in front of the Grand Jury? I am not going to give my opinion other than to say that; in hindsight, Lynn's interests were in not being indicted and prosecuted. The AOP certainly had its own interests with regard to ongoing civil claims, and the possible indictment of Lynn's supervisors., ie, Bevilacqua and Rigali. Now Bergstrom claims that the AOP's response to the 94 memo shows that the decisions were made at the top, but it is not clear that the memo helps the AOP in civil cases or it's own possible criminal liability. Again, I am not on this blog to opine about legal ethics but one firm was wearing lots of hats and trying to serve multiple individuals and the entity all of whom seemed to have different interests. And Stradley represented lots of other catholic affiliated organizations including the AOP's bank, Beneficial and they are GC to the catholic bishops. The roots and tentacles go deep and intertwine the firm and the catholic community.

      So back to your question, I haven't the foggiest idea why a long time multi-generational Stradley lawyer would be thinking about anything else other than Lynn's best interests.

    2. Ralph,

      You are doing an amazing job on reporting this story, and kopride is giving amazing legal insights, juror insights psychological insights, et cetera.

      He could be the legal and psychological advisor/consultant when you write the screen play for the movie.

      Here's my shot at a title - "The Worst Story Ever Told"

  8. There are those who would not let a few crummy facts get in the way of a good roll. But I am not among them.

    Demonstrating his/her historical chops, commenter Allen reports that the current Pope was a “registered Nazi” (nicely picking up on commenter Kopride’s baseless goody that in his/her considered professional estimation I “appear” to be a “registered sex offender” a few installments back).

    Perhaps commenter Allen meant to assert that the current Pope was a card-carrying Party-member.

    But actually – as was required by law in the Third Reich – the Pope as a child was required to join the Hitler Youth. Which, while it sounds close enough to satisfy the ‘knowledge’ requirements of certain mindsets, is not the same thing as voluntarily signing up as an adult for membership in the Nazi Party.

    But Nazi equals Nazi, doesn’t it? How hard is genuine knowledge, really? Yah.

    But as tuning forks will do when set to vibrating, his initial derangement is amplified by commenter Guzman who announces the fruits of her research: as Cardinal Pacelli the future Pope Pius XII signed a Concordat with Hitler’s Reich. Having made that accurate comment, commenter Guzman then proceeds to show us what a certain mindset can do with an accurate fact.
    The Concordat was an “exchange of powers”. Apparently the Google search did not include the work of such researchers as historians Guenter Lewy or Anthony Rhodes who explain that excruciatingly complex historical reality.

    In 1933, immediately after taking office, Hitler had slyly offered the Vatican control over Catholic education (which many decades of efforts with pre-Hitlerite German governments had failed to secure). For such a gift, Hitler demanded the disbanding of the Catholic Center Party – many of whose Deputies were priests – which was already opposing Nazi efforts to pass the matrix of enabling laws necessary to cement Hitler’s power in Germany. The Vatican had opposed specifically Catholic political parties, but had always sought the right to run Catholic schools.

    Further, the Vatican was desperately seeking some way to contain the threat to all genuine belief that Nazism – especially now when in political control – presented. The only resort available was to get Hitler’s commitments on paper and hope – as Pacelli mentioned to a British diplomat – that Hitler would thus be bound.

    The alternative was to deny Hitler, have him crush all political opposition the hard way, and still not have any control over the education of Catholic youth. And perhaps unleash all manner of Brownshirt violence on German Catholics generally.

  9. So the Concordat was signed: the Center Party would be disbanded but the Church would be guaranteed control over the education of Catholic youth. (There were other issues as well, including Hitler’s demand to appoint the bishop overseeing German military chaplains.)

    As it turned out, Hitler ignored whatever he wanted to ignore, although Catholics were spared a campaign of general violence orchestrated against them by the Party, the government, and the SA and the SS and Gestapo.

    Although in a few years, to intimidate Catholic Bavaria, the regime tried to indict an entire monastery in that region for sex-crimes with youth … but the Bavarians were so adamant in their defense of the monastery that the regime backed off.

    Eagerly connecting imaginary dots, commenter Guzman then quickly goes on to say that as a result of the Concordat, World War 2 happened and millions died and – in a marvelously obvious twist – Guzman connects herself to it all: her own “immediate family lost two and countless relatives in Germany!”. So she herself – if the story is to be credited – was the direct victim of the Papacy that caused World War 2.

    You read stuff like this, and realize that it may well represent not only ‘history’ for certain types of minds, but also that such a stitched-together web of assertions actually has induced and continues to induce numerous folks to believe that such a skein of simplistic cartoon-thinking, perversely mimicking serious historical thought and information, is actually accurate and rational. Which reinforces nicely the ‘justification’ for some people’s animus toward the Church.

    It’s a neat little gambit. But it isn’t historical thinking. (Which, I have been under the impression after reading some commenters, is something that shouldn’t happen on this site because it only confuses and distracts people. But that, apparently, is only true for historical thinking that doesn’t agree with the preferred group-think narrative. Otherwise though, as evidenced in this darkly marvelous skein about the Concordat, ‘history’ is just fine, thank you.)

    Good grief.

  10. Kopride; Have you been able to review the actual memo? The reason I'm asking; there are 35 names on that list. According to what I saw on CBS this morning only 3 names were relevant to this trial.(?)
    My specific question is how many young women / girls were on that list of accosted children? I KNOW this has happened due to a relative's experience.
    Also, assuming that the ratio among Priests is at least similar to the general population, Priests are predominately Heterosexual.
    When will that question be looked at?


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