Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Woman Trapped In A Priest's Body

By Ralph Cipriano

He was a Catholic priest with a secret life, posing on the Internet as "Katie Caponetti," a teenage girl.

The priest would email a photo of a girl's naked torso, or a video of a naked girl masturbating, and claim it was "Katie." Then he would ask the girls he met online to send back naked photos and videos of themselves.

"A predator" who sexually exploited both teenage girls and boys was how Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Rotella described Father Mark Haynes in federal court today. "He surrounded himself with children," the prosecutor said. Throughout his 30-year career as a priest, he used his position to  "sexually exploit and sexually abuse children."

Defense Attorney Alan J. Tauber had a more entertaining explanation. He described the 56-year-old priest as a "woman occupying a man's body." According to Tauber, Father Haynes was a troubled soul who, while demonstrating an "extraordinary record of community service" as a priest at eight different parishes in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, never came to terms with his own "gender identity issues."

In the end, U.S. District Court Judge R. Barclay Surrick decided that although there was "no question he did a number of good things" as a priest, Father Haynes's crimes against children were so "outrageous" that his victims would spend "the rest of their lives" trying to recover. So the judge gave the priest a 20 year sentence, a $15,000 fine, and, upon his release, 10 years of supervised probation.

Father Haynes pleaded guilty in June 2015 to seven federal counts of child pornography and destruction of evidence. In court today, prosecutor Rotella said that while posing as "Katie," Father Haynes interacted with 28 children online.

Shortly after his arrest, the archdiocese suspended Father Haynes. In court today, defense attorney Tauber said that Haynes was voluntarily cooperating with a laicization process that would strip him of his priesthood.

After he was arrested, the prosecutor said, two adults came forward to claim that more than 30 years ago, Father Haynes had sexually abused them. But no charges could be filed as the crimes had exceeded the statute of limitations.

The former victims included a woman who said that when she was a teenager, she went to see Father Haynes for counseling, and confessed that she had performed oral sex on her boyfriend. The priest counseled the victim by having her demonstrate oral sex on him.

Another victim was a former altar boy who told the FBI that on his first assignment as a new priest at St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church in Phoenixville, Father Haynes repeatedly asked the boy for oral sex. When he didn't get it, he whipped out his genitals and climbed on top of the boy, who responded by kicking the priest so hard he bled in his urine, the prosecutor said.

The priest's crimes over a two-year period "sexually destroyed that man's life," prosecutor Rotella told the judge.

When it was his turn to speak, defense attorney Tauber told the judge that a 30-year-old allegation was "virtually impossible to defend." He also mentioned that in three prior interviews, the alleged victim had made other accusations, but had never accused the priest of asking for oral sex.

The alleged former victim, now 46, testified in court that the "horrible experience" he suffered at the hands of Father Haynes had a "devastating" effect on his life. He said at the time he was an altar boy, he was too scared to confront the priest. "I don't want this to happen to anybody else," he told the judge.

In pleading for mercy, defense attorney Tauber cited the priest's "zeal and commitment to serve" Catholics at eight different parishes. Father Haynes always volunteered to visit the sick while leading "a life of service, a life of sacrifice and austerity," Tauber said. The priest's good deeds included agreeing to serve as legal guardian to two elderly priests who had no family members to look after them.

"He worked 24/7," Tauber said. At every stop on his career path, the priest would extoll the virtues of a merciful God, Tauber said. All the while he was leading a double life, and fearing that because of his own sins, he was "beyond the pale of redemption," the defense lawyer told the judge.

When Father Haynes was arrested, it was a "cathartic experience" for him, Tauber said. The priest's secret life was finally exposed. He no longer had to hide a "life full of contradictions." The priest immediately began to avail himself of every type of therapy he was eligible for, Tauber told the judge.

To counter such arguments, the prosecution had a mother from Vancouver, WA, testify about the effect Father Haynes's emails had on her 12-year-old daughter.

"She started becoming more withdrawn," the mother said. Then she began cutting her arms and legs. She failed eighth grade. She became agoraphobic and wouldn't leave the house for two years.

The daughter was supposed appear in court as a witness, the mother said, but at the last moment, she decided she couldn't go through with it. "She's still in therapy," the mother said.

Next to testify was the mother of the 46-year-old man who claimed he had been abused by Father Haynes. Thirty years ago, the mother said, it was a different world. When she had the new parish priest, Father Haynes, over for dinner, "I thought it was wonderful" that he was paying so much attention to her son the altar boy.

After the abuse, her son "lost his self-confidence, he lost his self-respect," the mother said. What really galled her was when she realized that while the priest was abusing her son, "he would still show up and eat food off my table."

The prosecutor described Father Haynes as an incorrigible abuser. On his first assignment at St. Ann's, she said, his "immediate" reaction was to begin "grooming" an altar boy for future abuse.

And when the priest completed six months of "intensive therapy" at a mental hospital, "immediately he began distributing child pornography," the prosecutor said. She also dismissed the priest's gender conflicts by saying that being transgender "doesn't make you a pedophile."

When it came time for the defendant to speak, Father Haynes recited the 51st Psalm, written by King David, after he was accused by Nathan the prophet of committing adultery with Bathsheba, and trying to cover it up by killing her husband:

For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me.

The priest, who had his head down during most of today's prosecution testimony, apologized to his victims, to the archdiocese, to his fellow priests, and to his family, including four of his five brothers who showed up in court today to support him.

The sentencing guidelines for the crimes Haynes pleaded guilty to ranged between 235 and 295 months. The judge gave the priest 20 years, or 240 months.

After the sentencing was over, and Father Haynes was on his way back to jail, the mother of the adult male victim who testified in court said she was satisfied with the sentence.

But a minute later, when asked if the sentence was justice, she had tears in her eyes.

"There's never justice," she said.


  1. I would like to know what you thought after writing this ?

  2. "....At sentencing, officials say the judge heard testimony from victims regarding Haynes' sexual abuse of children from his parish at Saint Ann's in Phoenixville as far back as 1985 through 1991...."

    John Joseph Cardinal Krol (1961–1988)
    Anthony Joseph Cardinal Bevilacqua (1988–2003)
    Justin Francis Cardinal Rigali (2003–2011)
    Charles Joseph Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. (2011–)

    Our archdiocesan leadership over the time described in court during Haynes' sentencing.

    What allegations were known by the archdiocesan leadership and who knew about Haynes' victims? How come parishioners, families and children throughout the diocese were not notified of the risk and danger of a clergy sexual abuser? Over these many years, why would Philadelphia archdiocesan leadership put our children at risk for such horror, devastation and life-destroying criminal behavior by a known sexual abuser?

    Michael Skiendzielewski
    Philadelphia, PA

    1. Hey Michael, I see they give cardinal hats openly to Philly diocese leaders - or should I say sexual abuse enablers? Bob Schwiderski

    2. Yo, Bob:

      Chaput and Chapeau (red) - never the twain shall meet

      Mike Ski

  3. Michael I think the answer to your question is an easy one. The catholic church still does not want to admit they still have a major problem with clergy sexual abuse within its walls and if that means putting children at risk then so be it. We have seen it before after all the promises the catholic church will be transparent the Philadelphia archdiocese being hush hush about Father Paul to the parishioners, families and children of Our Lady of Calvary Church in the northeast.

  4. Come on Ralph... Tell us what a travesty this is against this "man of God." Tell us how this fine priest was done in by a horde of lying "Billy Does" just in it for the money. Come on, Ralph, you can do it!

  5. Are you picking on Ralph ? He says he is not biased towards victims and is objective in his reporting.

    You have to check out his latest comment over at TMR on 2/16/16 @10:05 That's what he says.

  6. It was so nice to sit in on an archdiocese sex abuse case where the prosecution finally had some evidence.

  7. You know Ralph many, many, many times I wish there was that unquestionable evidence as proof to my abuse by Hermley. I wish there was that undoubting evidence in the Billy Doe case as well. If for any reason to shut you up. But you are a guy who hears an admission of guilt from one priest and come up with a crazy excuse he only did that because it was a sweet plea deal.For some reason you are tagging another victim with the title of liar even after hearing in the first trial the actions of his abuser. I don't need to look at the sky on every sunny day to know its blue.

    I asked you two days ago what you felt after writing this piece. You placed some powerful comments in it from those involved "victims would spend the rest of their lives trying to recover","horrible experience"
    Afraid to come forward, There's never justice. What the hell goes through that dark heart of yours when you hear that ?

  8. I guess if I have a dark heart it doesn't matter what I'm thinking, does it Dennis? In the bright light of your heart I'm already guilty.

  9. It's A lot Of Bull!!

  10. I am very sure that for a lot of you out there, the following statement by the defense caused some alarm or maybe even horror, as it did to me: "In pleading for mercy, defense attorney Tauber cited the priest's "zeal and commitment to serve" Catholics at eight different parishes." My question, obviously, is why so many parishes? Just more of the same old method to divert a priest's deviant behavior before the parishioners catch on, as well as an opportunity to start all over again at another unsuspecting parish. Same old disgraceful behavior of those in charge of his placement...

  11. I kind of wish Ralph was covering the events in the Altoona Johnstown Diocese.

  12. Well, for starters, maybe Ralph can tell us what he thinks about it so far?

  13. I think it's amazing how closely it parallels what the Philadelphia grand jury found in 2005. A massive coverup orchestrated from the top by two successive archbishops. In Philadelphia, also, there were instances of local cops deferring to the Catholic Church regarding what to do about priests who got themselves in trouble.


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

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