Friday, March 30, 2012

Detective: Lynn Worried About Hierarchy, Not Victims

Detective James Dougherty is a silver-haired former Philadelphia police homicide investigator now assigned to the district attorney's Special Victims Unit. He's an expert on the archdiocese's "secret archive files" that detail the sins of pedophile priests.

This week, prosecutors in the archdiocese sex abuse trial had Dougherty take jurors on a two-day excursion through 160 formerly classified documents regarding the 40-year career of one offender, Father Raymond O. Leneweaver.

Father Leneweaver was identified in the 2005 grand jury report on archdiocese sex abuse as a "chronic abuser" of altar boys. The priest had special T-shirts printed up for his victims that identified them as  "Philadelphia Rovers."

The details in the grand jury report are sickening.

Father Leneweaver would repeatedly pull one Rover out of Catholic school and take the boy to the auditorium, the report said. There, Father Leneweaver would bend the boy over a table and rub up against him until the priest ejaculated. The priest also took the boy to his bedroom in the rectory, where he pulled down the boy's pants, applied a lubricant to his buttocks, and rubbed his penis against the boy until he ejaculated. He anally raped another boy. Father Leneweaver assaulted other victims at the church's summer camp, the seminary swimming pool, and even the sacristy behind the church altar.

“Each time the priest’s crimes were reported to the archdiocese, he admitted his offenses,” the grand jury report said. "I know, I admit it, I am deeply ashamed," the archdiocese's chancellor, Monsignor Terrence F. Monihan, quoted the priest as saying in one 1968 secret memo read into the record by Dougherty. But the chancellor saw a silver lining.

"He has never sinned with any woman,"Monihan wrote.

By 1975, Father Leneweaver had confessed to sexual activity with at least seven children that he admitted he was “seriously involved” with.

In 1976, a new chancellor, Monsignor Francis J. Statkus wrote in one of the files read by Dougherty, "Father Leneweaver should think about resigning ... especially if scandal is a result." "We should maintain an alert status concerning him," the monsignor concluded.

In spite of what church officials knew, “Cardinal [John] Krol transferred this chronic abuser four times after learning of his admitted abuses,” the grand jury report said. “Predictably, Fr. Leneweaver continued to abuse boys in his new parishes.” In 1980, after the priest applied for a permanent leave of absence, Cardinal Krol wrote a secret memo to his chancellor that he knew the extent of the priest’s sickness.

It was one of the files read into the record by Detective Dougherty. In the memo, Cardinal Krol said Father Leneweaver’s problem “will follow him wherever he goes.”

In 1980, while he was residing at St. John Vianney, the archdiocese-owned treatment center for sex offenders, Father Leneweaver visited the home of a woman with three sons, and "made sexual advances" to one of the boys, the secret records said. In spite of the priest's continued predatory conduct, and in spite of the priest's continued confessions of guilt, doctors at St. John Vianney found "no compelling evidence of homosexuality."

"Might the testing be faulty?" Msgr. Statkus wrote to Cardinal Krol. But Father Leneweaver got a new assignment anyway, and in his last year of ministry, he was transferred for the fourth time to St. Joseph The Worker in Bucks County, "one of the few remaining areas where his scandalous action may not be known," Statkus wrote in the secret archives. The four transfers of the priest, the monsignor noted in the secret achives, were done "in the hope of avoiding scandal."

After he finally resigned in 1981, the former priest wrote repeated letters over the next 20 years to the archdiocese, seeking to be reinstated. In 1998, Monsignor Lynn responded to one of those letters on behalf of Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. "May the Lord give you his fullest blessings in the New Year," Lynn wrote Father Leneweaver.

"He still has some yearning inside him to return to ministry," Lynn wrote after receiving yet another request from Leneweaver to return to active duty. On Feb. 16, 1998, after meeting with Leneweaver, Lynn wrote in a memo to Msgr. Joseph Cistone: "You will note that he has a history of acts of pedophilia/ephebophilia and I imagine by today's standards, would be diagnosed as such. He really does not understand the climate of the times, nor the risks to himself or the church, should he be given ministry."

In the secret archives, Msgr. Lynn recommended that the archdiocese write Leneweaver and tell him his request to return to service as a priest could not be granted "for his own welfare and the welfare of the church."

That wasn't the end of Leneweaver's requests to come back to work. In addition to his letters to the archdiocese, the former priest was applying for other jobs around the country at schools and churches. Thanks to the archdiocese, which never notified police, there was no criminal record of Leneweaver's crimes.

In 2007, Lynn met with the former priest, who was still seeking reinstatement. Lynn noted that Leneweaver was critical of the treatment he had received at St. John Vianney. "Nothing was done to help him,"the former priest complained to Lynn, who dutifully recorded it.

When Detective Dougherty was finally finished reading records into evidence, Lynn's lawyer, Thomas Bergstrom, got a chance to cross-examine him. Don't you think, the defense lawyer wanted to know, that Lynn showed concern for the victims here by preventing Leneweaver from returning?

Detective Dougherty wasn't buying it.

"It was my impression that he was concerned about the scandal it might bring to the church," the detective said. When the defense lawyer persisted, Dougherty said after his extensive reading of the files, his conclusion was "There is little if any concern for the victims."

Instead, the detective insisted, the files show Lynn's "concern was for the hierarchy of the church."

The court is not in session on Fridays during the trial that is expected to last at least two months. The trial resumes Monday.

Monsignor Lynn And The Duty To Prevent Child Abuse

This post by Max Kennerly is cross-posted on his Litigation and Trial blog.

From the war on drugs to criminal copyright infringement, a number of commentators, legal scholars, politicians and even sitting judges have criticized the breadth of American criminal law, like the prevalence of non-violent or “victimless” crimes that don’t have a direct victim, and the Draconian mandatory penalties that are meted out, even where the judge and jury applying those laws think that less severe penalties would be appropriate. As a consequence of this “overcriminalization,” the United States has by far the highest incarceration rate in the world, so that, with only five percent of the world’s population, we nonetheless have twenty-five percent of its prisoners, most of them imprisoned for non-violent offenses, typically drug offenses.

Historically, and continuing to the present, there have been two glaring exceptions to this expansion of criminality: abuse within the family (whether spousal abuse or child abuse) and criminal conduct by large institutions (like corporations, universities, or churches), both of which have generally gone unpunished, without prosecution, and without even investigation. Child abuse was not considered a crime until the 1870s, when Mary Connolly was prosecuted for “attacking her foster child with a pair of scissors and repeatedly beating her with a rawhide whip and cane.” (Quote from the Logan article discussed below.) She was convicted, and after that various “children’s guardian” boards were created. The prosecution of child abuse, however, remained rare until the 1960s, when new mandatory reporting laws were enacted that required healthcare professionals to report suspicions of child abuse to government authorities.  Similarly, in the 1980s, public awareness of the sexual abuse of children increased dramatically, so that today child abuse prosecutions are no longer the rare, newsworthy events that they once were.

Prosecutions of crimes that occur within the context of a large institution are even less common than prosecutions for spousal abuse or child abuse, and they even more rarely result in a conviction. Outside of a handful of prominent examples — like Bernie Madoff and Jeffrey Skilling — financial institution fraud prosecutions have fallen over the past 20 years, down to under 1,400 a year across the entire country. Many prosecutions of alleged crimes that occurred inside a corporation with the knowledge of other employees, like the prosecution of GlaxoSmithKline associate counsel Lauren Stevens, ended in failure, dismissed prior to a jury ruling.

Clergy abuse implicates both tendencies in American law — the reluctance to prosecute child abuse by people close to the family and the preference for letting institutions resolve problems “internally” — by virtue of the church’s role in society, in communities, and in families. In a law review article published in 2003 in the Harvard Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law Review, Professor Wayne A. Logan of Florida State University’s College of Law tied these issues together under the framework of “criminal law sanctuaries,” going all the way back to the role of the church in the middle ages in serving as a “sanctuary” that would shield accused criminals from prosecution.

As advocates for abuse survivors rightly point out, criminal prosecutions for abuse represent just the tip of the iceberg, because they require both the reporting of the alleged abuse to the authorities — which only happens in a small fraction of abuse cases — and the decision by the prosecutor to move forward with the case, which also only happens in a fraction of the cases that come to them, given the high “beyond a reasonable doubt” burden of proof required for criminal convictions in the United States. The “sanctuary” factor of churches may make it even less likely that victims of sexual abuse will report the crimes or that the crimes will be prosecuted.

Here in Pennsylvania, the indictment of former Penn State Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky for nearly a dozen allegations of repeatedly abusing children under the care of his “Second Mile” charity brought many of these issues relating to “internal” handling of crimes back into the public spotlight.  Of particular relevance to the Lynn prosecution, Sandusky was not indicted alone, but was indicted alongside two PSU Football Team administrators who allegedly knew about, but failed to report, the abuse. Although the two PSU administrators, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, were indicted under the specific mandatory reporting law (which some lawyers have argued doesn’t apply to them), while Monsignor Lynn was indicted under the more general endangering the welfare of a child law, the two cases bear more than a passing similarity.

Pennsylvania’s “endangering the welfare of children” law, 18 Pa.C.S. § 4304 said that:
A parent, guardian or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age* commits an offense if he knowingly endangers the welfare of the child by violating a duty of care, protection or support.
(As a result of the Catholic church abuse scandals, a 2006 amendment added at * the phrase, "or a person that employs or supervises such a person", but that can’t be used against Lynn for allegations before 2006.)

There is little doubt that the priests directly supervising children at the church fall within that definition, but Monsignor Lynn is in a different position from them, raising questions as to whether or not he has “a duty of care, protection or support” to the abused children. As the Pennsylvania Superior Court said years ago, “The Crimes Code nowhere defines this duty,” Commonwealth v. Barnhart, 497 A. 2d 616 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1985), and it has never before been applied against a supervisor of an abuser. In Commonwealth v. Halye, 719 A. 2d 763 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1998), the Superior Court overturned the child endangerment conviction of a victim’s uncle who had sexually abused his nephew because “No testimony was presented to indicate that Appellant was asked to supervise the children or that such a role was expected of him.” Then again, the Superior Court has also said “the common sense of the community should be considered when interpreting the language of the statute." Commonwealth v. Brown, 721 A.2d 1105, 1106-07 (Pa.Super.1998). Do you think the “common sense of the community” implies a duty on supervising clergy to prevent child abuse?

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office obviously believes Lynn did have “a duty of care, protection or support” by virtue of his position as those priests’ supervisor and the person charged by the Archdiocese with investigating these allegations. They also believe they’ll be able to prove, as required by the case law interpreting the child endangerment act, that Lynn had the mens rea, or the “guilty mindset,” to warrant criminal punishment:
1) the accused must be aware of ... her duty to protect the child; 2) the accused must be aware that the child is in circumstances that could threaten the child's physical or psychological welfare; and 3) the accused either must have failed to act or must have taken action so lame or meager that such actions cannot reasonably be expected to protect the child's welfare.
The mens rea required for [Section 4304] is a knowing violation of the accused's duty of care to the minor-victim. Often, intent cannot be proven directly but must be inferred from examination of the facts and circumstances of the case. Therefore, the Commonwealth is not required to provide direct proof of Appellee's frame of mind. Instead, the Commonwealth can demonstrate its case through circumstantial evidence. We can look at the totality of the circumstances to determine if Appellant's actions gave rise to a reasonable inference of the requisite mens rea.
Commonwealth v. Winger, 957 A. 2d 325 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2008)(quotations and citations omitted). Nonetheless, the question is up for factual and legal debate, and Monsignor Lynn has already tried to dismiss the charges on the basis that he did not have a duty to report the abuse.

For now, the issue is just that: an issue. The prosecutors and Lynn’s lawyers will continue to vigorously debate this issue, including the specific wording the jury will hear when they are instructed on the elements of endangering the welfare of a child.  If Lynn is convicted, there is no doubt that one of his first issues on appeal will be whether he owed any duty at all to the children later abused by the priests he protected.
All of which raises a more general issue outside of this particular prosecution.  As the Catholic law blog Mirror of Justice describes:
How the respective courts and juries respond to these charges will likely influence the future decisions of prosecutors. These decisions will also, no doubt, be influenced by how well dioceses are doing in actually fulfilling their obligation to protect the children of their parishes. The role of the ‘institution’ in abuse and its cover up is one critical to explore as we grapple with the reality of child sexual abuse in our culture.
On the most basic level, we as a society should be asking ourselves if we should continue to have these debates about whether a duty exists, or if we should alter the reporting or child endangerment statutes to explicitly cover people in situations similar to Lynn’s. Few would dispute that, if the allegations against Monsignor Lynn are true, then he had moral and ethical duties to report the abuse to the police so that it could be stopped.  The question is why we wouldn’t impose a legal duty upon him as well.
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.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Archdiocese Priest Wrote Love Letter to Seventh-Grade Boy

Father Joseph Okonski had a pained look on his face. The veteran priest was telling a jury how back in 1995, he walked into the bedroom of his rectory roommate, Father Michael Murtha, and discovered a trove of pornographic magazines and videos.

"Certainly, I was disturbed by it," the priest told the jury Wednesday. The porn was being mailed to the rectory of St. Anselm's Church in Northeast Philadelphia in plan wrappers. The priest played one video. "It was sado-masochistic male-on-male pornography," he testified.

The priest reported the porn to the pastor of St. Anselm's, but he didn't do anything about it, Father Okonski told the jury. Then, Father Okonski made a second visit to Father Murtha's bedroom and discovered in a closet a love letter Father Murtha had written to a seventh-grade boy.

"Dear [name redacted]," Father Murtha wrote. "You are so cute ... would you like it if I sucked your dick? I bet you would." In the letter, which was displayed to the jury, Father Murtha told the seventh grader that he wanted to kiss his nipples, and that he got hot thinking about the boy's father spanking the boy's "cute ass." If the seventh-grader decided he wanted to take the priest up on his offer of fellatio, the priest wrote, the boy should leave a letter behind the bulletin board where the parish school advertised the student of the week.

The letter from the archdiocese priest was signed, your "secret lover."

This time, Father Okonski made a copy of the letter and grabbed a pornographic video. He sent them to Monsignor Charles Devlin, vicar for parishes in North Philadelphia.

What was the outcome of Father Okonski blowing the whistle on his roommate?

"Mike Murtha was called downtown" to see Msgr. William J. Lynn, Father Okonski told the jury. Murtha wound up being evaluated at St. John Vianney Center. Father Murtha told his superiors that the love letter was just a fantasy he never sent.

"He was sorry for his behavior," Father Okonski told the jury. "He was sorry he wrote the letter. He was embarrassed."

After being evaluated at St. John Vianney, Father Murtha was transferred to two more parishes with schools, without any warnings to parishioners. Father Michael Dilorio told the jury Wednesday how Father Murtha served as assistant parochial vicar at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Levittown.

Did Father Dilorio know that Father Murtha had any past problems with pornography, the prosecutor asked.

"No," Father Dilorio testified.

Did Father Dilorio know that Father Murtha had undergone psychiatric evaluation at St. John Vianney?

"No," Father Dilorio testified.

Did the archdiocese place any restrictions on Father Murtha while he was at St. Michael's?

"No," Father Dilorio testified.

Then the business manager at St. Michael's discovered some porno movies on a parish cable bill. Father Murtha's computer was seized.

But Father Murtha wasn't finished as a parish priest. Father Henry J. McKee, pastor of Sacred Hearth Church in Havertown, was called to the witness stand. He testified that in 2002, he got a call from Msgr. William J. Lynn. The monsignor wanted to know if Father McKee would accept Father Murtha as as assistant parochial vicar.

"I had lost my assistant," Father McKee testified. "I was all by myself."

Monsignor Lynn did not mention that Father Murtha had any past problems with pornography, Father McKee testified. The monsignor also didn't mention that love letter to the seventh grader.

"I called back and said, I'll give it a go," Father McKee testified. But after three years, Father McKee told the jury that Murtha had to go. It wasn't over any sexual allegations.

"I had issues with him over authority and anger," Father McKee said.

Father Murtha had to go. In his last few weeks on the job, he finally shared his psychological evaluation from St. John Vianney with Father McKee.

But the priest remained in active ministry until 2010, when Cardinal Justin Rigali asked that he be defrocked.

Altar Boy Stalked By Pedophile Priest

A former altar boy told a jury Wednesday how he was stalked by a pedophile priest.

The former altar boy, now 36, took the witness stand to testify in the Catholic sex abuse trial. The victim told the jury how back in 1991, when he was a 15-year-old sophomore at Bishop John Neumann High School, he was in a book store browsing through gay pornographic magazines when he realized he was being watched.

The victim described himself as a "tiny" five-foot-one, 110-pound kid "with big hair and a moustache" who was wearing his Bishop Neumann jacket. Father Francis X. Trauger was at least 6-foot-3, the victim testified, dressed in black, but not wearing a collar.

"He taps me on the shoulder and confronts me," the victim recalled. He had a half-dozen mags rolled up in his hand. "What are you buying?" the priest wanted to know. "I just have some magazines," the victim recalled saying.

"I know what you have, let me see the magazines," the victim quoted the priest as saying. The priest grabbed the magazines from the victim and browsed through them. He handed the mags back to the victim and asked the boy his name. the victim refused to answer. The priest asked the victim what school he went to. When the victim again refused to answer, the priest reminded him, "It's on your jacket."

"Don't worry, I'll find you," the priest said, before he left.

A few weeks later, the victim testified, he was in seventh period religion class when somebody knocked on the door, and told the teacher he needed to talk to the victim. It was Father Trauger, and this time he was wearing a collar.

When the victim saw the priest, he told the jury he was thinking, "How did he find me?" Father Trauger took the victim to the disciplanarian's office and locked the door.

"He started talking to me about sex," he recalled. The priest inquired about the boy's sexuality. "I don't know if I'm gay or straight," he testified telling the priest. The priest talked about hetero sex, and homosexuality. He talked about religion. It went on for 90 minutes, the victim testified. Throughout his entire sermon, Father Trauger had his eyes closed while he rocked back and forth. The victim said he couldn't take his eyes off the priest.

The priest put his hand on the victim's knee while he talked about another boy, a family friend, that the priest said he frequently gave massages to, to help the boy go to sleep. The priest was demonstrating his massage techniques on the victim's leg. The witness recalled clutching his book bag as the priest's hand wandered further up his leg, to his thigh.

"We need to pray," the victim said the priest told him.

He said he got down on his knees on the carpeted floor of the office.

"He was behind me," the victim testified. The priest unbuckled the boy's belt and unzipped his pants. the victim said his eyes were still closed but he heard the priest unzipping his pants. Then a school employee the victim identified as Brother Joe started banging on the locked door of the office, yelling, "Who's in there?"

"Don't say anything," the victim testified that the priest told him. "We're just having a conference," the priest told Brother Joe after the door was opened. "That kid's mother's looking for him," the victim recalled Brother Joe saying. "That kid's mother wants him home."

Father Trauger then volunteered to drive the victim home. But first the victim said he had to get some books, because he had homework to do. So the priest went to the boy's locker and rummaged through it, looking for porno mags. While he was searching, the priest told the boy he knew where he lived, and he knew where he worked, at a local grocery store. The priest said he also knew who the victim's father was, as well as his mother, and several nieces and nephews.

"I was clutching my book bag all the way home," the victim testified. The priest let him off on the street near his house. "I'll be in touch," Father Trauger said as he drove away.

The victim took all his gay porno mags and threw them in a trash compactor. He was terrified that Father Trauger would talk to his family. "I didn't want my parents to know I was gay," he told the jury.

The victim was subsequently visited by the principal and vice principal of Bishop Neumann, who spoke to his parents about Father Trauger.

The priest was prominently mentioned in a 2005 grand jury report on sex abuse in the archdiocese of Philadelphia. "One night in a Poconos motel in the spring of 1981, Fr. Francis X. Trauger repeatedly tried to anally penetrate a 12-year-old altar boy and for hours manually manipulated his penis," the report said. The boy's parents reported the abuse to their pastor. But that didn't stop Father Trauger.

Ordained in 1972, Father Trauger was transferred eight times during his career, each time to a parish with a school, and each time without any warnings to parents about the priest's behavior, the grand jury report said. In 2003, after the priest's files were subpoenaed by a grand jury, the archdiocese finally announced it was removing Trauger from ministry. The archdiocese made its decision after Father Trauger admitted to Monsignor William J. Lynn, now on trial for conspiracy and endangering children, that he had sexually abused three boys.

The former altar boy was one of the lucky ones who got away.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"The Avery Files"

"Father Ed" Avery liked to hang out at Smokey Joe's and drink beer with college kids. He was into sleepovers with altar boys. He also preferred to spin records as a DJ rather than say Mass.

In Common Pleas Court over the past two days, the prosecution opened up "The Avery Files" -- more than 100 confidential documents dealing with accusations of sex abuse against Father Edward V. Avery.

The priest, a defendant in the archdiocese sex abuse case, pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child, and involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with a 10-year-old, and faces a prison sentence of 2 1/2 to 5 years. But that guilty plea didn't end Father Ed's role in the ongoing archdiocese sex abuse case. The Avery files were introduced by Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington while he examined Detective Joseph Walsh, a Philadelphia police officer investigating archdiocese sex abuse since 2002.

Monsignor William J. Lynn began his investigation of Father Avery on Oct. 19, 1992, when he got a call from the victim, a married 29-year-old medical student. The accusations that the victim made against Father Avery allegedly took place 10 to 15 years earlier, when the victim was a teenager. At the time, Avery was associate pastor at St. Philip Neri, where the victim went to church. The victim said that Father Avery used to take him along when he worked as a DJ at Smokey Joe's, a bar on the University of Pennsylvania campus in West Philadelphia.

The victim said that Father Avery gave him his first beer when he was 12.  He got so drunk one night at Smokey Joe's that Father Avery brought him back to the rectory, where the boy slept in the priest's single bed. During the night, the victim told Lynn he woke up and found the priest touching and fondling his genitals. That wasn't the only time. When he was 19, he told Lynn, the priest took him on a ski trip to Vermont, and wound up fondling him again.

When Lynn confronted Father Avery, the priest responded that the victim had "a selective memory." Father Avery admitted that he might have touched the boy during the night, but that it was "strictly accidental" while he was "tossing and turning." Lynn asked Avery if maybe the alcohol that he and the victim had consumed could have wiped out his memory. "It could be," Father Ed responded, adding "I don't know."

The once-confidential archdiocese documents unveiled in court Tuesday told even stranger stories. In one memorandum, Father Ed claimed that the real reason he brought the victim to Smokey Joe's was because the boy wanted to be a doctor, and that a number of doctors frequented the bar. Blessington pointed out that if Father Ed wanted to introduce the victim to some doctors, all he had to do was take the boy to work because Father Ed was a hospital chaplain.

It got weirder. During his psychological evaluation, the only sex abuse Father Ed would admit to was masturbation, according to the records. The priest said he begin fantasizing about women after "the devil entered him as a consequence" of officiating at pastoral baptisms.

The document also showed how the church and Msgr. Lynn covered for Father Ed while he was on a leave of absence from his job as pastor of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. While the priest was an in-patient at St. John Vianney Center, where he was being evaluated for sex abuse, Lynn told parishioners at St. Therese that Father Ed was "on leave for renewal." Father Ed deserved to be "refreshed and revitalized," the monsignor wrote.

A psychological examination of the priest concluded that Father Ed had a bi-polar disorder, and a history of alcohol abuse. A psychologist wrote to tell Msgr. Lynn that Father Ed  was also "dealing with shame." It happened after the victim confronted Father Ed at St. John Vianney. After treating the priest, the psychologist wrote Msgr. Lynn that he had "concern about other victims."

Other archdiocese documents showed that Lynn had recommended that Avery be prohibited from working with adolescents and "vulnerable minorities"that Father Ed was attracted to. Lynn also wanted the priest to enroll in Alcoholics Anonymous and take a job as an associate pastor at Our Lady of Ransom, where he would be supervised by a veteran pastor.

On  Aug 24, 1993, Father Ed wrote to Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, offering to resign as pastor of St. Phillip Neri. He signed the letter "your obedient servant," closing with, "yours in Christ." But the cardinal decided not to follow Lynn's recommendations. Instead, he asked if there were any vacancies for a chaplain at local hospitals.

The cardinal subsequently appointed Avery as chaplain to Nazareth Hospital. He also granted Avery's request to live in the rectory at St. Jerome's, a parish that also had an elementary school. In announcing his decision, the cardinal wrote to Avery that he hoped his continued ministry would be a "source of many blessings."

Despite Father Ed's denials, in 1994, when he compiled a list of 35 pedophile priests, Msgr. Lynn put Father Ed at the top of the list, saying the priest was "guilty of sexual misconduct with minors." The monsignor noted that Father Ed had abused the same minor three times, referring to the victim.

Several documents in the formerly secret files talked about Father Ed's busy schedule of working as a DJ and officiating at weddings, as many as three in one month, and a dozen  over a period of three months. The priest explained that all of the weddings involved relatives. Father Ed was accused of doing these events at the expense of saying Mass, as well as shirking his duties as a hospital chaplain. At Nazareth Hospital, Father Ed was one of two chaplains, and his busy DJ and wedding schedule prompted an "almost manic" reaction from the other hospital chaplain, Lynn noted in his confidential files.

Then, in 1996, the victim called Lynn, wanting to know "what in the end happened" to Father Ed. The victim told Lynn he wanted to be reassured that Father Ed was in a place "where he cannot harm others." In making the request, the victim said he was seeking to know for his own "peace of mind." Lynn wrote back that the archdiocese "took appropriate steps."

The victim's brother also wrote the monsignor to say he saw Father Ed working at a disc jockey at a local dance. When Lynn confronted Father Ed, he said he only worked as a DJ at senior citizen dances. But Lynn told Avery to stop working as a DJ.

The victim's mother, a pediatric nurse, wrote Lynn in 2002, asking if Father Ed had molested any other children. "If he is anywhere near children, you have a problem," the mother wrote Lynn. But Father Ed would not be defrocked until 2005, when he wrote a letter of resignation to Pope Benedict. The resignation came 13 years after Msgr. Lynn had received the first allegations of sex abuse against Father Ed.

When it came time to cross-examine Detective Walsh, Jeff Lindy, a lawyer for Msgr. Lynn, asked Walsh about an archdiocese memo from Bishop Edward Cullen to Lynn. In the memo, Cullen explained that the cardinal didn't want parishioners to know that Father Ed was being evaluated for sex abuse. Instead, the cardinal preferred to say that Father Ed was resigning his pastorate "due to health reasons."

"So, Cardinal Bevilacqua's a puppet master?" Lindy asked Detective Walsh.

"I wouldn't call him that, sir," the detective responded.

"I just did," Lindy said.

The Sins of the Past — Evidence Of "Prior Bad Acts" By The Archdiocese May Be A Daily Issue

Although many Catholic priests have been prosecuted and then convicted of abusing children, this trial is unique because Monsignor Lynn is the first Catholic official prosecuted and brought to a jury trial on criminal charges of endangering the welfare of children by failing to investigate and report allegations of child abuse.  The only similar case in the United States involves Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn, and that case is still in its early stages, with a judge poised to rule on whether the prosecution can continue at all.

The prosecution of Monsignor Lynn thus raises a number of novel legal issues that do not arise in a typical child molestation prosecution, even one involving religious figures. In many ways, the prosecution is closer to a white collar fraud prosecution than a molestation prosecution, because Lynn's relationship with the rest of the church is central to the case. In his opening statement, Lynn's lawyer confirmed months of speculation that Lynn was going to defend himself by conceding that he knew about the allegations, that he tried to act on them, but that he was stymied in his efforts by others in the Archdiocese, including Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. As Lynn's lawyer told the jury in his opening statement, "You're going to see that Msgr. Lynn did his damndest to get a handle on this awful issue." To tell if that's true or not, the jury is going to have to see inside the Archdiocese.

Although the church itself is not on trial, on many levels it is impossible to separate the two.  Lynn was acting in his duties as a church official the entire time, and was also a participant in many investigations of — or the failure to investigate — other allegations of child abuse.  Lynn’s lawyers had argued strenuously for the court to exclude from the trial any evidence of other abuse allegations beyond those made specifically against his co-defendants, Priests Avery and Brennan, but Judge Sarmina denied that request, ruling that the prosecutors could bring in evidence of “prior bad acts” including Lynn’s failure to properly follow-up on more than two dozen other allegations of abuse by priests under his supervision.

Nonetheless, even with that general denial of the defendants’ request, each piece of evidence that goes in front of the jury needs to be carefully evaluated for admissibility by the court, including weighing the "probative value" of the evidence versus "the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury" under Pennsylvania Rule of Evidence 403. In the end it is unlikely that a jury will hear the full scope and extent of each one of those scuttled child abuse investigations, but rather only those parts relevant to the questions of what Lynn’s and the Archdiocese’s normal practices were, if those practices were appropriate, and if they were followed in the sexual abuse cases at issue in this prosecution.

Another lingering issue is Lynn’s relationship with the Catholic Church hierarchy above him.  Lynn’s defense attorney has confirmed that blame for the Archdiocese's failure to act on abuse allegations should be placed above him, not least upon Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who passed away earlier this year, but nonetheless provided ten separate statements on the record before the grand jury.  Thus, one of the key recurring issues in this case will be the extent to which Lynn can bring in evidence of the Catholic Church and the Archdiocese’s handling of these cases apart from his own involvement.  So far, the Archdiocese has prevailed in its efforts to keep out of the case certain legal memoranda that were prepared by its attorneys after Lynn spoke with them, but has not been able to keep out of the case a memo that apparently shows Cardinal Bevilacqua ordered the destruction of a list of 35 priests accused of molesting children. Lynn tried, unsuccessfully, to use that memo to have the judge dismiss all charges against him.

In terms of the law of the case, we will likely see many objections from Lynn's lawyer and from the Archdiocese's lawyers revolving around the wider role of the church beyond Monsignor Lynn in covering up and failing to properly report child abuse.  On many issues, Lynn, the District Attorney, and the Archdiocese will play musical chairs, with two uniting against one.  It is no stretch to predict that, with each day’s testimony, this issue will come up again and again, resulting in hundreds, possibly thousands, of evidentiary rulings that could serve as a basis for an appeal if Lynn is convicted.

The Prosecutor's Opening Statement: Whispers in the Dark

She came out whispering, and left behind a confusing pile of facts. But there weren't any objections, mainly because even the lawyers seated nearby in the courtroom had a hard time hearing what the prosecutor had to say in her opening statement.

Assistant District Attorney Jacqueline Coelho took center stage Monday as the archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse case opened on the third floor of the Criminal Justice Center. The courtroom was packed with 30 journalists, including representatives from the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and CNN. Four courtroom artists were ready to slap down paint and chalk. Several priests also showed up wearing collars, presumably to support their accused brethren.

But for more than an hour, as Coelho rambled, the biggest challenge was hearing what she had to say. She spoke in a barely audible tone that had the press and courtroom clerks scrambling around the room and straining their ears, in a vain attempt to figure out what was going on.  It's not as if the district attorney's office can't be eloquent about the subject of pedophile priests; a 418-page grand jury report released by the DA in 2005 was a literary masterpiece.

But after some preliminary remarks about parishioners being deliberately left in the dark about sex abuse, Coelho did some name-dropping, detailing abuse cases from a dizzying array of archdiocese pedophile priests dating all the way back to 1948. One defense lawyer counted 21 pedophile priests mentioned by name by the DA in her opening statement while she was "weaving through the past seven decades," as the defense lawyer put it. Another defense lawyer noted that the oldest case cited by Coelho, back in 1948, occurred 15 years before his client, Father James J. Brennan, was born in 1963.

The ongoing archdiocese trial is historic for one reason. For decades, Catholic administrators across the country have dealt with pedophile priests by transferring offenders to new parishes, usually without notice, where they often continued to molest other children. Monsignor Lynn, the Philadelphia archdiocese's secretary for the clergy from 1994 to 2004, is the first Catholic administrator in the country to be held accountable for his alleged role in the pedophile priest scandal. He is charged with conspiracy, and endangering the welfare of children.

The other defendant in the trial, Father James J. Brennan, is charged with attempted rape of a 14-year-old, endangering the welfare of minors, and conspiracy. A third defendant, former priest Edward V. Avery, pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy and sexually assaulting a 10-year-altar boy, and was sentenced to 2 1/2 to five years in prison.

The judge in the case, Common Court Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, instructed the jury on Monday to draw no inferences from the absence of Avery and his lawyer. But surely, the 12 remaining jurors and 8 eight alternates will wonder what became of the padre. The judge went behind closed doors for more than an hour Monday to question jurors to see whether they were unduly influenced by the publicity over Avery's guilty plea. Two alternate jurors were dismissed without explanation.

As Secretary for the clergy, Monsignor Lynn functioned "like a human resources manager," Coelho told the jury. But he was also responsible for protecting the rights of children, she said. "And so what's the secretary for the clergy to do?" she said. "He kept those secrets in the dark. He kept parishioners in the dark ... he paid lip service to children's protection."

Coelho made several references to the archdiocese's "secret archive files" containing more than 300 allegations of sex abuse that were kept for decades in a locked safe at archdiocese headquarters. Lynn's role was "keeper of the secrets," the district attorney said. The monsignor's main purpose was "to keep a lid on scandal," she said. Coelho told the jury that a mountain of church documents will show that "the protection of children is the furthest thing from Lynn's mind."

Coelho ripped Monsignor Lynn for sympathizing with the wrong people while he investigated allegations of child sex abuse. "The victims are met with skepticism, and the priests are believed at all costs,” the district attorney said. She referred to several instances mentioned by the 2005 grand jury report. An archdiocese seminarian who alleged that he was the victim of priestly sex abuse was kicked out of the seminary. A nun was fired from her job as a director of religious education after she wrote a letter to the archbishop, asking if it was appropriate for a priest to possess child pornography.

Coelho also mentioned the case of a monsignor who was disciplined after he met with Lynn and told him he refused to accept the transfer of a pedophile priest into his parish. The district attorney also mentioned the case of a priest who wrote a note where he talked about "performing fellatio" on a seventh-grade boy that he was coaching in a flag football league. Monsignor Lynn was asked to investigate the incident, the district attorney said.

"Do we call the mother of the seventh grader" to ask if her kid is OK? Nope, the district attorney said. Under Lynn, the archdiocese investigation just accepted the priest's story that the note was just a fantasy, and he had never sent it. The mother of the seventh grader was not contacted, and did not find out about the incident for years, the district attorney said.

When it came time to give his opening statement, Thomas Bergstrom, representing Msgr. Lynn, used his 40 minutes to re-divert jury outrage. "There is documented proof that the sexual abuse of children happened in the Catholic Church," he told jurors. "We're not going to run from that."

The defense lawyer reminded the jury that his client "sits cloaked in the presumption of innocence." He quoted Kingman Brewter's definition of the presumption of innocence: a generosity of spirit that presumes the best and not the worst of a stranger."

He also quoted To Kill A Mockingbird, saying, "the jury box is the one place in the country where a man ought to get a fair shake."

Investigating child sex abuse is "a tough job, an ugly job, but he did it," Bergstrom said of his client. The defense lawyer told the jury that when the two alleged victims walk into the courtroom to confront Lynn, "he has never met them, he has never seen them ... they are total strangers."

Lynn was responsible for 800 priests, Bergstrom said. He reminded the jury that "only one human being" on the planet was responsible for assigning pedophile priests to another job, and that was the late Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua. It was Bevilacqua alone who decided where the pedophile priests would work next, and whether they would be around children, Bergstrom said. He mentioned a few instances of where Bevilacqua overruled Lynn's recommendations.

Bergstrom said that after jurors hear voluminous evidence from the prosecution, they may well conclude that there was "a massive conspiracy in the Philadelphia archdiocese to harm children. That may be the case," the gray-haired lawyer told the jury. "But it's not this case."

Bergstrom stressed that the one attempted rape that Lynn's co-defendant, Father Brennan is charged with, allegedly took place at a sleepover down the shore at Father Brendan's house, at a time when the priest was on leave for a year, and "not under the supervision and control of Msgr. Lynn." He also noted that the alleged victim and his family for years remained friends with Father Brennan.

The defense lawyer talked about what Lynn did shortly after he was given the job of investigating pedophile priests. In 1994, Lynn went to the 12th floor of archdiocese headquarters, where they kept the locked safe that contained the sex abuse allegations, and "he found 323 files." The monsignor read the files and compiled a list of 35 pedophile priests who had either been found guilty or had been accused of credible evidence of abuse of minors. Lynn wrote a memo and attached to it a list of the 35 pedophile priests.

He sent that memo up through the channels, through a string of archdiocese administrators ultimately leading to Bevilacqua. The archdiocese chain of command included the Rev. Joseph Cistone, Monsignor James Molloy, and Bishop Edward Cullen.

And what did the cardinal do when he got that 1994 memo? He told his underlings to shred it, the defense lawyer said. The Catholic administrators followed Bevilacqua's orders; they shredded four copies of the memo. But for his own protection, Msgr. Molloy kept a copy, which was found in the archdiocese safe in 2006, after the monsignor died. For unexplained reasons, even though they were under subpoenas, archdiocese officials never turned over that memo until recently.

"You're going to see that memo," Bergstrom told the jury. You're going to see that Msgr. Lynn did his damndest to get a handle on this awful issue."

Bergstrom echoed the conclusions of the 2005 grand jury report. What happened in the archdiocese may have been horrible, but it wasn't Lynn's fault. The grand jury said it first believed that Bevilacqua and other administrators like Lynn were "tragically incompetent at rooting out sexually abusive priests and removing them from the ministry." But after reviewing thousands of pages of secret archdiocese files detailing the same "incompetent investigation techniques ... it became apparent to the grand jurors that Msgr. Lynn was handling the cases precisely as his boss [Cardinal Bevilacqua] wished," the report said.

After Bergstrom sat down, William Brennan stood to defend his client, Father James Brennan. "I'm usually referred to as Brennan, not related," the priest told the jury. He turned to the defendant. "I'd be proud to be related to that man." The defense lawyer said his client was a faithful priest who liked to have a drink. "He's not the only Brennan who does," the lawyer added.

Brennan the defense lawyer told the jury that Father Brennan's role in the archdiocese case was "miniscule." The trial is expected to last a couple of months. During most of that time, the defense lawyer told the jury, he'd be sitting at the defense table, saying nothing. "I might be doing the crossword puzzle," because 90 percent of this case has nothing to do with Father Brennan."

Indeed, the defense lawyer said, the attempted rape case against Father Brennan rests on a single accuser, a man who waited ten years to tell his story, a man who's been in and out of jail for forgery, theft, identity theft, and filing false reports. And the alleged victim in the case only came to the priest after a number of years after he needed legal help.

In her opening, Assistant District Attorney Coelho had referred to the attempted rape allegation against Father Brennan as pressing his erect penis through clothes into the victim's "butt cheeks.” Both the accused and the accuser were fully clothed. But Brennan the defense lawyer referred to the alleged act as "a pelvic bump."

The allegations against Father Brennan are "a single-bullet case," the defense lawyer said in his 25-minute opening. And once the jury figures out that the story of the single accuser is "incredible ... the case is over."

"He makes up stories," the defense lawyer said of the accuser. The lawyer asked the jury to hear all the evidence, and "find this priest innocent."

In terms of oratory, eloquence and humor, as well as presentation, the defense was the clear winner in opening statements. But the judge reminded the jury that none of what they had heard from the lawyers was evidence.

After the jury filed out of the courtroom, defense attorney Brennan complained about the judge's continuing gag order in the case that prevents lawyers from talking to the press. He said that outside the courtroom, he and his client were chased by a media swarm of 40 to 50 people. The judge said that she was rethinking her gag order, but that the case would not be tried in the media.

After the judge left the courtroom, a reporter asked District Attorney Coelho why she had not been audible in her opening statement. "I'm not going to talk to you," she said. At least she said it clearly.

The trial resumes at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

About the Author

Ralph Cipriano was the first reporter to take a critical look at the Catholic archdiocese of Philadelphia. Writing in the early 1990s as the religion reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and subsequently, as a freelancer for National Catholic Reporter, Cipriano examined secrecy and lavish spending under the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. He also explored the findings of the grand jury that investigated sex abuse in the archdiocese.

His work has been recognized by the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada, which includes The Catholic Standard & Times, the official newspaper of the archdiocese of Philadelphia. In 1999, the Catholic Press Association awarded a First Place for Investigative Reporting for Lavish Spending in Archdiocese Skips Inner City, published June 19, 1998 in National Catholic Reporter. In 2006, the Catholic Press Association awarded a First Place for Best News Writing for a national event for Grand Jury Findings, published on Oct. 7, 2005 under the headline: “Philadelphia cardinals ‘excused and enabled abuse, covered up crimes.’ ”

Cipriano is the author of Courtroom Cowboy, The Life of Legal Trailblazer Jim Beasley, who was Cipriano's lawyer in a historic libel case against The Philadelphia Inquirer over the veracity of his coverage of the archdiocese, a battle recounted in Chapter 21 of the book. His most recent book is The Hit Man, A True Story of Murder, Redemption and the Melrose Diner, about the life and crimes of former Mafia hit man John Veasey, also available on Kindle.

About This Blog

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. William J. Lynn, Edward V. Avery and James J. Brennan is an important case. Everybody can't be in the courtroom, so The Beasley Firm asked veteran reporter Ralph Cipriano to blog the trial. He is one of 30 journalists accredited by the Philadelphia district attorney's office to cover the case, unfolding daily in Courtroom 304 of the Criminal Justice Center.

We pledge to be an independent voice. That means we will chase this story where ever it goes, and not follow any predetermined plot line. And because we are intimately aware of the Constitutional rights and protections afforded to all, including the accused, we are not going to censor our accounts.

What happens in Courtroom 304 is often raw, upsetting and obscene. We are not going to clean it up, and we are going to play it straight down the middle. That's why both defenders and critics of the Catholic Church, as well as victims' advocates, say our site is the only voice in the media that's telling it like it is at the archdiocese sex abuse trial.