Friday, May 12, 2017

What WHYY's "The List" Got Right And What It Got Wrong

By Ralph Cipriano

Tonight, at 10:30 p.m., WHYY is airing "The List," a 59-minute documentary on the sex abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

I'm one of the people who was interviewed for the film. For the first 50 minutes or so, the documentary is mostly successful when it deals with former D.A. Lynne Abraham's crusade to pry loose the archdiocese's secret archive files. That's the 45,000-page history of the clergy's sex crimes against hundreds of innocent children dating back to the 1940s.

But during the last 10 minutes, the film fails when it attempts to reconcile Abraham's righteous crusade with the witch hunt staged by our current D.A., Rufus Seth Williams.

When I was being interviewed on a couple of occasions, I tried to explain to the filmmaker, Anne MacGregor, that there was a big difference between Abraham's genuine investigation and the legal hoax perpetrated by Rufus Seth Williams.

Sadly, she didn't get it. Sadly, the film tries to present the actions of Abraham and Rufus as one united front against the evil Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

But the two investigations can't be reconciled.

Abraham's investigation was groundbreaking, shining a light on unforgivable crimes obscured by decades of coverups. At the end of her investigation, however, D.A. Lynne Abraham concluded that she couldn't put anybody in jail for the crime spree. The state's original child endangerment law, Abraham declared, didn't apply to supervisors such as Cardinal Bevilacqua and Msgr. William J. Lynn, who were not in direct contact with children.

The investigation conducted by Rufus Seth Williams was a shoddy affair that concluded the child endangerment law did apply to Msgr. Lynn, so Williams charged him with breaking that law.

Only one Philly D.A. can be right.

Since former D.A. Abraham led a state-wide drive to get the state legislature to amend the child endangerment law in 2007 to include supervisors such as Msgr. Lynn, it's obvious that she was right for one simple reason: If the original child endangerment law did apply to Msgr. Lynn, why did the state Legislature have to amend it?

Since Seth Williams has never explained his actions, my conclusion was there was no explanation, and that he did it purely for political expediency.

From what we now know about Williams, is that a stretch for a guy who, according to the feds, allegedly took bribes from criminals and stole money from his own mother?

Another big difference between the two investigations: Abraham's grand jury report of 2005 relied on real victims of sexual abuse, as verified by the church's own secret archive files.

And Rufus Seth Williams' grand jury report of 2011 had to invent two victims of sex abuse: Danny Gallagher/Billy Doe, and Mark Bukowski.

Readers of this blog already know that Danny Gallagher is a fraud.

As for the other fraudster, the 2011 grand jury report claimed that 14-year-old Mark Bukowski was anally raped by Father James J. Brennan. But at trial, Bukowski revealed that he was wearing a T-shirt and boxer shorts at the time of the alleged attack, and so was Father Brennan.

It's tough to enact a rape when both the victim and assailant keep their clothes on.

At trial, the rape charge in the overhyped grand jury report was downgraded to attempted rape. At the end of the trial, the jury voted 11-1 for acquittal. Nobody wanted to retry the case. So last October, the D.A. cut a deal. Father Brennan pleaded no contest to a second-degree misdemeanor charge of simple assault, and was placed on two years probation.

There's one other big difference between the work of Abraham and Williams. Under Abraham, the D.A.'s office got everything in the 2005 grand jury report right. Under Williams, the D.A.'s office got everything in the 2011 grand jury report wrong.

It's painful to watch Lynne Abraham on camera refer to "the present district attorney" -- she couldn't even say his name -- as she tries to present the two investigations as one unified front.

It didn't work on camera, and it certainly doesn't work now. Abraham has actually gone to court to sue Williams, saying he should step because he no longer has an active license to practice law. He had to give it up when he was hit with a federal corruption indictment, now up to 29 counts.

As an aside, in The List, the foreperson of the 2005 grand jury relates the story of "Ruth," a woman who was repeatedly raped as a teenager by Father Nicholas Cudemo. The priest, one complete sicko who belongs in jail,  also arranged an abortion for Ruth.

Those parts of Ruth's story were reported by the grand jury as fact. But on camera, the foreperson ventures off into fantasy.

If the foreperson is to be believed, Ruth apparently appeared as witness before the grand jury, where she told tales of being victimized in an alleged gang rape by a number of priests. But when Msgr. Lynn went to trial in 2012,  Ruth never appeared as a witness because some of her allegations, such as the alleged gang rape, had been deemed non-credible by prosecutors. A group of women who tried to form a support group around Ruth came to the same conclusion.

When Msgr. Lynn went on trial, Ruth showed up as a spectator, along with her husband. I remember asking one of the prosecutors why he didn't put Ruth up on the witness stand. He replied that if he did, it would have been a gift to the defense lawyers in the case, because Ruth had so many credibility problems.

My biggest problem with the film is that it wastes an on-camera appearance by former Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen.

If I were in charge of that documentary, I would have trained that camera on Sorensen and asked her how, after hearing from real victims of abuse, could she have possibly fallen for Danny Gallagher's ridiculous fables.

And, knowing what we now know, I would have also asked her with the cameras rolling, Hey Mariana, did you really tell Detective Joe Walsh, "You're killing my case."

"The List" refers to a list of 35 sexually abusive priests in the archdiocese compiled in 1994 by Msgr. Lynn. After he went through the secret archive files, Msgr. Lynn drew up the list and handed it over to Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, so His Eminence would know how many problem priests he had on the payroll.

But the wily cardinal, a canon and civil lawyer, knew what legal problems the list posed for guys like him wearing pointy hats.

So the cardinal dismissed the monsignor. And then he told a couple of his henchmen to shred the list.

The film relies on an interview with master fiction writer Sorensen to present Msgr. Lynn as an accomplice in the plot to shred the list. But that's just not true.

Lynn was a patsy.

Why? Because the day an archdiocese lawyer found a copy of the list, he called the office of Thomas A. Bergstrom, Msgr. Lynn's lawyer. The archdiocese lawyer related to Bergstrom that on the eve of trial he had just found a copy of Msgr. Lynn's long-lost list of 35 abusive priests hidden in a church safe.

It had been placed there by another monsignor who was in on the plot to shred it. But that monsignor had a guilty conscience, so he kept one copy and placed it in a safe, where it was found after his death.

Bergstrom was there when his client found out about the list. In the safe, along with the list, the archdiocese lawyer found a note that was a confession from the other monsignor, detailing the plot to shred the list.

At the time, Bergstrom said, his client was shocked by the discovery.

So if you watch the film, don't believe what Mariana Sorensen has to say. The woman who wrote that 2011 grand jury report has already proven that she can't be trusted.

There's an awkward moment in the film where I'm talking about Cardinal Bevilacqua's death on the eve of the Lynn trial. I was trying to explain how when a person has dementia, he has no control over what he's saying, and on the witness stand, he might have blurted out the truth.

That had to be the archdiocese's main concern on the eve of trial, when Cardinal Bevilacqua was on the witness list, and the trial judge wouldn't let him off the hook. Indeed, just a day before the 88-year-old cardinal was found dead by a servant at his home on the grounds of the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina had ruled that Bevilacqua was competent to appear in court as a trial witness.

When the cardinal died, he went from being the archdiocese's biggest potential liability to the solution to all of their problems. Because with His Eminence dead, every witness could take the stand, point the finger at Bevilacqua and say it was all his fault.

Kind of like what happened right before Stalin died, and he told Kruschev, blame everything on me. Only the cardinal may not have seen it coming.

It's a shame the film didn't explore whether His Eminence had been the victim of a pillow job. When you're talking about the local archdiocese, it's not hard to become a conspiracy theorist.

When the cardinal died, the Montgomery County coroner dispatched a crew to pick up the cardinal's body for an autopsy. But by the time the coroner arrived at the scene of the crime, the archdiocese had already embalmed His Eminence.

Maybe the old goat who had successfully masterminded the coverup of hundreds of sex crimes against children had finally outlived his usefulness.


  1. Ralph - I saw 'The List' and want to commend you for you on-camera presence and credibility. I was also impressed by 'Momma Lynn'.

    I had the opportunity to hear Sister Turlish, and she was quite soft spoken when compared with the often nasty comments she makes on the C4C blog - about the Archdiocese and its prelates.

    This video was obviously a godsend for Susan Matthews & Co. as C4C hasn't published something new for a while. Looks like it's tough for C4C to maintain any momentum unless there's one scandal or another brewing.

    Maybe they'll do a follow up on Father Joseph Maskell’s exhumation.

  2. Can't wait to see it. Many thanks for the link.

  3. The video cannot be seen. Expired on 5/12. It would be nice to get a link to where it is archived.

  4. You are correct. It was working yesterday. But sadly, I couldn't find The List anywhere else.

  5. I googled this and it appears there is a panel discussion called "The List" dating back several months. If that is the same panel discussion now aired as "the List", the new revelation by retired Detective Joe Walsh in his lengthy deposition wasn't public knowledge then...Judge Bright's decision that there was "prosecutorial misconduct" by the DA's office wasn't public knowledge then...

    The panel shown on the article I read included Lynn Abraham, Sorenson, Marci Hamilton who has made a significant living nationwide flushing out "alleged cases of abuse" against priests, John Salveson whose name I've seen occasionally but I can't put my finger on who he is connected to, possibly SNAP

    Ralph, was this a current show or was that panel discussion shot back in November long before the presence of Detective Walsh and his sworn testimony etc....

  6. It's a film that was done before Detective Walsh came forward.

  7. I wonder what finally prompted Walsh to come forward when he did.

    If he had done the 'right thing' BEFORE the Lynn, Avery, Engelhardt and Shero trials, chances are:

    - no one would have gone to jail,
    - Englehardt would be alive today,
    - Checkbook Charlie's parishioners would be $5m richer, and
    - Doe and his mouthpiece would be looking for others to hustle.

  8. Whatever his reason, I am grateful to Detective Walsh and to you Ralph for exposing the lies. It seems that the word "Integrity" has been lost on many of these people. There seems to be no concern for the truth and how the lies in the 2011 GJR have affected innocent people and their families. We continue to pray that all the truth comes to light.

  9. Interesting that the DA's announcement that he would not run again for office came on the heels of the two top people in SNAP resigning amid allegations of taking kickbacks from lawyers. Do you know what is happening in that case Ralph. The ADA and the lawyer in "The List" seem to be enamored by the SNAP organization. Also since this lawyer stated that pedophiles never only have one victim, where are all the other victims of Fr. Englehardt and Shero.

    1. there are none, never were despite Ceisler allowing ADA Cippoletti to imply there were in his closing argument at the conclusion of the trial....that closing remark by Cippoletti referred to Fr. Engelhardt but the same could be said for Bernard Shero, no one ever has come out from under a rock like Danny Gallagher did and accused him of any assault or any type of indecent behavior while he was actively teaching at St. Jerome's or any other parish he was associated with....

      Fr Engelhardt crossed the paths of "THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF YOUNG MEN while teaching and moderating numerous school sports teams at 4 different Oblate high schools as far south as Virginia since his ordination, he also came into contact with hundreds of thousands of Parishioners at literally dozens of parishes up and down the east coast ..Fr Engelhardt was a member of the Philadelphia Archdiocesan Tribunal that investigates and counsels couples looking to seek marriage annullments .

      no allegation of abuse other than that of Danny Gallagher, son of Sheila and James Gallagher Sr, he was Seth Williams lying addict, drug pushing posterboy that he thought would be a springboard to higher political office...I THINK NOT SETH, instead of being fitted for a new chair in Harrisburg, you'll be fitted for an bright orange jumpsuit at a Federal Penitentary.....can't wait for true justice to be dealt hopefully right here in Philadelphia's federal courthouse...


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