Cover story -- Philadelphia Report
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Issue Date:  October 7, 2005

Grand jury findings

Philadelphia cardinals 'excused and enabled abuse, covered up crimes'


A grand jury that investigated the Philadelphia archdiocese for more than three years has concluded that two former archbishops orchestrated a systematic cover-up spanning four decades that managed to successfully shield from prosecution 63 priests who had sexually abused hundreds of children.

In a 418-page report issued Sept. 21, the grand jury said that the two archbishops -- the retired Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and the late Cardinal John Krol -- “excused and enabled the abuse” by “burying the reports they did receive and covering up the conduct ... to outlast any statutes of limitation.”

The Philadelphia grand jury used blunt language to describe the sex abuse uncovered during the investigation, which they said was often recorded by the archdiocese in more than 45,000 pages of documents from secret archdiocese archives with such “delicate euphemisms” as “inappropriate touching.”

“We mean rape,” the grand jury report said. “Boys who were raped orally, boys who were raped anally, girls who were raped vaginally.”

The church records, once kept under lock and key in a room at archdiocesean headquarters accessible only to the archbishop, the secretary for clergy and their aides, contained accusations of “countless acts of sexual depravity against children.” The cases involved a total of 169 priests and hundreds of alleged child victims. The records were turned over to Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham after multiple subpoenas were served on officials at the archdiocese. The grand jury chose to investigate the acts of 63 priests in their report.

The grand jury said its findings might be interpreted by some as a tragedy, such as a tidal wave. But the report said that tidal waves are “beyond human control,” and added, “What we found were not acts of God, but of men who acted in his name and defiled it.”

The report noted the behavior of archdiocesan officials who oversaw the priests was “not as lurid” as that of the sex abusers, “but in its callous calculating manner, the archdiocese’s handling of the abuse scandal was at least as immoral as the abuse itself.”

“What makes these allegations all the worse, the grand jurors believe, is that the abuses that Cardinal Bevilacqua and his aides allowed children to suffer -- the molestations, the rapes, the lifelong shame and despair ... were made possible by purposeful decisions, carefully implemented policies, and calculated indifference,” the report said.

“The evidence before us established that archdiocese officials at the highest levels received reports of abuse,” the report said. The diocese, according to report, “chose not to conduct any meaningful investigation of those reports” and “left dangerous priests in place or transferred them to different parishes as a means of concealment. ... They chose to protect themselves from scandal and liability rather than protect children from the priests’ crimes.”

‘Travesty of justice’

The grand jury said that because of the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania, the investigation would not result in indictments of priests for crimes such as rape, sexual assault and corruption of minors. And because of the way the archdiocese is set up legally, as an unincorporated association rather than a corporation, its officials also could not be prosecuted for crimes such as endangering the welfare of children, intimidation of victims and witnesses, and obstruction of justice.

“As a result, these priests and officials will necessarily escape criminal prosecution,” the report said. “We surely would have charged them if we could have done so.”

The grand jury -- addressing what it called a “travesty of justice” -- called for the elimination of all statutes of limitations in Pennsylvania on reporting sex abuse crimes against children. The report also called for the state to pass laws that would hold unincorporated associations to the same standards of liability as corporations regarding sexual abuse of children.

Jeffrey R. Anderson, a St. Paul, Minn., lawyer who has filed more than 1,000 sex abuse cases nationally against the Catholic clergy, called the Philadelphia grand jury report “a watershed” that exposes the depth of corruption in “the clerical culture.”

“This is the first time it has been comprehensively investigated and articulated,” said Anderson, who said he was “riveted” as he read the 418-page document online. “They did something here that nobody has really done before.”

The archdiocese, however, released a 69-page formal response from its law firm -- Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, LLP, of Philadelphia -- that called the grand jury report “a vile, mean-spirited diatribe” that seeks “to convict the Catholic church and its leadership in the court of public opinion, if not in a court of law, based upon an unfair and inaccurate portrayal of facts.”

The response quoted Msgr. William Lynn, Bevilacqua’s former secretary of the clergy, who appeared before the grand jury 13 times, as saying, “There was a definite anti-Catholic bias throughout the proceedings,” even though many of the prosecutors and detectives who investigated the archdiocese were themselves Catholics. The archdiocese’s formal response also claimed that although the archdiocese cooperated fully with the investigation, the grand jury tried to “bully and intimidate” Bevilacqua. The retired cardinal, at age 80, was called to testify before the grand jury on 10 separate days, and faced “hostile and unnecessarily combative” interrogation from two and three prosecutors at a time, according to the response of the archdiocesan lawyers.

The formal response of the archdiocese also decried the “secrecy” of the grand jury process and the “tremendous power” of the district attorney.

The grand jury, in its report, addressed the issue of its motive. “Many of us are Catholic,” the report said. “We have the greatest respect for the faith, and for the good works of the church. But the moral principles on which it is based, as well as the rules of civil law under which we operate, demanded that the truth be told.”

In response to the archdiocese’s formal response, the district attorney issued a 30-page rebuttal that accused the archdiocese’s officials and lawyers of attempting to continue the cover-up during the grand jury investigation: “The archdiocese and its lawyers obstructed the grand jury’s investigation at every turn,” the district attorney said. The district attorney was also blunt about the alleged harassment of Bevilacqua: “Any persistence in the questioning of Cardinal Bevilacqua may have resulted in part from his evasiveness and claimed forgetfulness on the witness stand.”

‘One of the sickest people’

The grand jury report highlighted sensational crimes against children by priests, and the archdiocese’s organized efforts to marginalize the victims and protect the abusers, at the expense of future victims.

For example, Fr. Nicholas V. Cudemo, who was described to the grand jury by Msgr. James E. Molloy, Bevilacqua’s former vicar for administration, as “one of the sickest people I ever knew,” raped an 11-year-old girl in 1971, the report said. The victim, who testified before the grand jury as an adult, has attempted suicide several times, has seizures and according to her husband, still sleeps “in a position of fear with her arm covering her head.”

When the victim got pregnant in 1973 as a result of the abuse, Cudemo took her for an abortion, the report said. Cudemo continued to abuse the victim physically and mentally. The victim testified to the grand jury that the priest would make her feel ashamed, call her “a walking desecration,” and then he would hear her confession.

The woman was one of a dozen alleged victims of the same priest -- including two current nuns. Cudemo was the subject of formal complaints to the archdiocese over the years, and victims told the church about many other possible victims, the report said. Cudemo was sued by his own family for sexually abusing his cousin.

The report said, however, that Bevilacqua’s policies for dealing with sex abuse of children were designed to protect the church from scandal at all costs, and that following Bevilacqua’s orders, archdiocesan officials “systematically refused to follow up on accusations or even to seek out known victims.”

“In short, as abuse reports grew, the archdiocese chose to call in the lawyers rather than confront the abusers,” the report said. Even worse, “Cardinal Bevilacqua allowed [Cudemo] to continue in ministry with full access to children -- until the priest scandal broke in 2002,” the report said. Bevilacqua twice promoted Cudemo to serve as pastor of two parishes, and in 1997 the archdiocese provided Cudemo with a certificate declaring him “a retired priest in good standing with the archdiocese of Philadelphia.” The certificate enabled Cudemo to continue to minister in Orlando, Fla., the report said.

In 2003, when the extent of Cudemo’s crimes was known, Bevilacqua -- himself both a canon lawyer and a civil lawyer -- continued to defend the church’s handling of the priest “in the face of overwhelming evidence,” the report said.

As ‘his boss wished’

The grand jury report said that Msgr. Lynn was assigned by Bevilacqua to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by priests, but “routinely failed to interview even named victims, not to mention rectory staff and colleagues in a position to observe the accused priests.”

The only investigation that Lynn did, the report said, was to ask the priest if he did what he was accused of. If the priest did anything but make a full confession archdiocesan officials considered the allegation unproven, the report said.

The grand jury said at first it believed that Bevilacqua and other church officials were “tragically incompetent at rooting out sexually abusive priests and removing them from the ministry,” the report said. But after the grand jurors reviewed thousands of pages of secret archdiocese files that contained the same “incompetent investigation techniques ... it became apparent to the grand jurors that Msgr. Lynn was handling the cases precisely as his boss [Bevilacqua] wished,” the report said.

The grand jury said that under Bevilacqua, a code of secrecy existed that managed to keep both parishioners and police in the dark.

“Cardinal Bevilacqua had a strict policy, according to his aides, that forbid informing parishioners,” the report said. “The cardinal, in fact, encouraged that parishioners be misinformed.”

Transferring abusers

The report said that in the case of Fr. Robert Brennan, removed from assignment in 1992 because of improper behavior with several parish boys, a parishioner was told to pray for the priest because “he was being treated for Lyme disease.” Even pastors at the new parishes who had the responsibility of overseeing the transferred sex abusers were “usually told nothing,” the report said, and as a result, they did not monitor the known sex abusers now on their staffs.

The grand jury report was punctuated with quotes from secret archdiocesan files that showed the level of secrecy in transferring known sex abusers. In 1992, Bevilacqua arranged a transfer for Fr. Michael McCarthy, who just months earlier had been accused of taking students from an archdiocesan high school to his beach house, plying them with liquor, sleeping nude in the same bed with them, and masturbating the boys and himself.

The cardinal had an aide tell McCarthy that despite the charges against him, he could be “appointed pastor at another parish after an interval of time has passed.” The new parish, according to the cardinal’s instructions, “would be distant as possible” from his former parish “so that the profile can be as low as possible and not attract the attention of the complainant.”

One priest, Fr. Gerald Chambers, was transferred so many times -- 17 different assignments in 21 years -- that according to the archdiocese’s records, church officials were running out of places to send him where his reputation for molesting children was not already known. One of the priest’s victims attempted suicide, slitting his throat and wrists with a razor, and has been in and out of mental institutions, the report said.

Bevilacqua agreed to harbor a known abuser from another diocese, Fr. John P. Connor, “giving him a cover story and a neighborhood parish here because the priest’s arrest for child abuse has aroused too much controversy” in Camden, N.J. A church official told the grand jury that Bevilacqua was operating according to a standard practice known as “bishops helping bishops.”

Retaliated against victims

At the same time the archdiocese was enabling abusers, it harassed and retaliated against victims and witnesses of sex abuse, the grand jury report said. Lynn -- “taking direction from archdiocese attorneys” -- treated victims as potential plaintiffs, the report said, and questioned the plaintiffs like he was conducting “cross-examinations.”

The grand jury report offered the following details of personnel incidents that occurred under Bevilacqua:

  • A nun, Sr. Joan Scary, was concerned about a priest, Fr. Edward M. DePaoli, still ministering to children after he was convicted of receiving child pornography. The nun began talking to parents, pressuring archdiocan officials to do something. She also sent a copy of a pornographic magazine that the priest was still receiving at the rectory to the cardinal. The magazine, Details, featured such articles as “Sex: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide,” and “Anka: The Naughty Daughter Talks Dirty to Her Mom and Dad.” “Is this appropriate for a Roman Catholic Priest?,” the nun wrote anonymously to the cardinal. The archdiocese’s response? The nun “was fired from her position as director of religious education,” the report said. The priest continued in ministry.
  • A seminarian studying for the priesthood came forward to reveal that he himself had been the victim of abuse as an altar boy by Fr. Stanley Gana. In response, Bevilacqua ordered an investigation -- of the seminarian. The seminarian was “subjected to investigation and intimidation,” the report said. Top archdiocesan officials spent weeks interviewing students, teachers and administrators at the seminary, seeking unsuccessfully to substantiate rumors of homosexuality. “They succeeded, however, in silencing and humiliating the victim,” the report said. The victim -- described by top archdiocesan officials as “damaged goods” -- was dismissed from the archdiocese. “Cardinal Bevilacqua, who had complete power over the seminarian’s future in the priesthood, punished the victim by refusing to allow him to become a priest in the archdiocese,” the report said. The victim became a priest in Connecticut by going to another seminary outside the archdiocese.
  • When investigating priests, the archdiocese’s primary tool was “self-reporting.” If the accused priest refused to admit he was a pedophile, the archdiocese “declined to treat any priest as a pedophile, no matter how compelling the evidence.” The diagnosis was also thrown off if the priest had other problems. For example, when Gana forced a 13-year-old boy to have oral and anal sex with him, the archdiocese failed to remove him from the priesthood because of other crimes. Gana not only had sex with boys, he also had sex with women, abused alcohol and stole money from parish churches, the report said. So that is why Gana “remained, with Cardinal Bevilacqua’s blessing, a priest in active ministry,” the report said. “You see,” explained Lynn to one of Gana’s victims, “he’s not a pure pedophile.”
  • Msgr. Lynn at times appeared more concerned with abusers than their victims; in one case he comforted one sexually abusive priest, Fr. Thomas Shea, who had previously confessed to sexually abusing at least two other boys, by “suggesting that the priest had been ‘seduced’ by his 11-year-old victim,” the report said.
  • In another case, an abuser priest -- Fr. John Gillespie -- who wanted to apologize to his victims for his crimes -- was transferred to another parish, not because he might molest his victims again, but because he might apologize to them, the report said. “If he [Gillespie] pursues making amends with others,” therapists at an archdiocese treatment facility warned, “he could bring forth ... legal jeopardy.”
  • Under Bevilacqua, archdiocesan officials who were too sympathetic to victims were sometimes in more trouble than the abuser priests. Msgr. Molloy, assistant vicar for administration under Bevilacqua, was reprimanded by his boss, Edward Cullen, vicar for administration, for telling a sex abuse victim that he believed her. Cullen, who is now bishop of Allentown, Pa., told Molloy “never to tell victims that he believed them,” the report said. “Doing so would have made evident the church officials’ knowledge of other criminal acts and made later denials difficult.”

Molloy was also instructed, “Never admit to a victim that there have been other cases,” the grand jury report said.

Serial molester honored

The report offered more examples of crimes committed by archdiocesan priests and acts of enabling by archdiocesan officials.

For example, Fr. Albert Kostelnick groped a teenage girl while she lay immobilized in traction in a hospital bed after an automobile accident in 1971, the report said. The priest stopped the attack only after the girl managed to ring for a nurse.

The archdiocese’s secret files also detailed “numerous reports” that Kostelnick sexually fondled young girls, the report said. The reported incidents spanned 32 years. The priest was reported to the police in 1987 for fondling an 8-year-old girl. Bevilacqua learned of additional complaints in 1988 and 1992, yet he allowed the priest to continue as pastor of St. Mark in Bristol, Pa.

In 1997, the report 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, Pa.” The priest was finally removed from ministry, after Bevilacqua retired, in 2004, after the archdiocese had accumulated reports from at least 18 victims, the report said. The priest admitted to an archdiocesan review board that he continued his “long-standing habit” of “fondling the breasts of young girls” after victims’ complaints were ignored in 1992.

Another archdiocesan priest, Fr. Raymond Leneweaver, had T-shirts made for a group of altar boys that he abused, a group he named the “Philadelphia Rovers.” The priest repeatedly pulled one boy out of class in the parish grade school, took him to the school auditorium, forced the boy to bend over a table, and rubbed against him until the priest ejaculated, the report said.

“Each time the priest’s crimes were reported to the archdiocese, he admitted his offenses,” the report said. By 1975, Leneweaver had confessed to sexual activity with at least seven children that he admitted he was “seriously involved” with, the report said.

“Cardinal Krol transferred this chronic abuser four times after learning of his admitted abuses,” the report said. “Predictably, Fr. Leneweaver continued to abuse boys in his new parishes.” When the priest finally requested a leave from ministry in 1980, Krol wrote in a secret memo to his chancellor that he knew the extent of the priest’s depravity and that the priest’s problem “will follow him wherever he goes.”

While the cardinal knew of the priest’s proclivities, the parents of his unsuspecting victims did not. One father of an abuse victim, the grand jury report said, beat the victim and his brother, one to the point of unconsciousness, when they tried to tell their father of the abuse. “Priests don’t do that,” the devout father replied, according to the report.

Another archdiocesan priest, Fr. David Sicoli, sexually abused a succession of boys, buying them computers, taking them on trips to Africa and Disney World, and giving them high-paying jobs in the church youth group, and inviting them to live with him in the rectory. Victims came forward to tell their stories, preserved in the secret archdiocesan records.

“Other [victims] now grown, told the grand jury that Fr. Sicoli sexually abused them and treated them as if they were his girlfriends,” the grand jury report said. “Despite reports in Fr. Sicoli’s Secret Archives file of inappropriate relationships with these four victims and five other boys, Cardinal Bevilacqua appointed the priest to four pastorates between 1990 and 1999,” the report said.

The results of the cardinal’s decisions were predictable. “At each one he [Fr. Sicoli] seized on a favorite boy, or a succession of favorites, on whom he showered attention, money and trips,” the report said. “Three of these boys lived with Fr. Scioli in the rectories with the knowledge of Msgr. Lynn,” the report said. The priest was finally removed in 2004, after a review board found “multiple substantiated” allegations involving a total of 11 minors between 1977 and 2002.

Another archdiocesan priest, Fr. Francis P. Rogers, raped and sexually abused a number of boys during his 50 years as a priest. One of his victims, at the time, a 12-year-old altar boy, described “waking up intoxicated in the priest’s bed, opening his eyes to see Fr. Rogers, three other priests, and a seminarian surrounding him,” the report said. “Two of the priests ejaculated on him while Fr. Rogers masturbated,” the report said. Rogers then continued to molest the boy, the report said.

The reports on Rogers’ victims began in the 1960s, but the priest was not taken out of circulation until 2004, when he agreed to live “a supervised life of prayer and penance” at Villa St. Joseph, a retirement home for priests, the report said. He died this year.

Another archdiocesan priest, the previously mentioned Fr. Gana, “sexually abused countless boys in a succession of parishes, the report said. One 14-year-old boy came to the priest for counseling after a family friend had abused him. “Fr. Gana used his position as a counselor and the ruse of therapy” to escalate the abuse. The “therapy,” which continued for five years, involved “genital touching, masturbation, and oral and anal sodomy,” the report said.

The report documented the abuse of another boy who couldn’t tell his family. “He [the victim] knew that his parents’ view of priests could not be reconciled with his reality -- the obese priest pushing the boy’s scrawny, undeveloped body across a rectory bed ... ignoring the boy’s cries of pain and forcibly penetrating him anally,” the report said. This victim was the one who came forward as an adult seminarian, only to be expelled from the archdiocesan seminary, under the orders of Bevilacqua.

The cover-up that enabled the archdiocese’s pedophile priests to continue to find new victims was so extensive that archdiocesan officials censored their own secret files, the report said. The grand jurors were horrified at the “delicate euphemisms” used by archdiocesan officials in their own secret records. They offered this graphic example:

“One night in a Poconos motel in the spring of 1981, Fr. Fancis X. Trauger repeatedly tried to anally penetrate a 12-year-old altar boy and for hours manually manipulated his penis. After the fifth grader’s parents reported the abuse through their parish pastor, the archdiocese recorded the event this way: ‘They shared the same bed and there were touches.’ ”

Meanwhile, Trauger was allowed to abuse even more victims: “Ordained in 1972, Fr. Trauger was transferred eight times during his long career, each time to a parish with a school attached, each time without a warning to parish parents about the priest’s predilections. Six of the transfers occurred after 1981, when the archdiocese began recording abuse allegations,” the report said. In 2003, after the priest’s files were subpoenaed by the grand jury, the archdiocese finally announced it was removing Trauger from ministry, after the priest admitted to Lynn that he had sexually abused three boys who had made allegations against him.

‘Untruthful’ testimony

The grand jurors went so far as to accuse Bevilacqua of attempting to deceive them regarding the case of Fr. John P. Connor, an admitted child molester in his home diocese of Camden, N.J. The priest was arrested in 1984 for molesting a 14-year-old freshman honor student at a Catholic high school. The priest, according to the report, invited the boy to the Jersey shore for a weekend, where he had a trailer. The priest served beer and invited the boy to share a “religious experience,” which the boy described to the prosecutors as “mutual masturbation,” according to the report.

The priest was arrested, but did not go to jail or even trial. Lawyers for the Camden diocese negotiated a pretrial deal where the priest admitted to molesting the boy in exchange for having the arrest expunged if the priest was not rearrested within a year.

The bishop of Camden, George H. Guilfoyle, was a friend of Bevilacqua, then bishop of Pittsburgh. So under what one Pittsburgh diocesan official described as a “tradition of bishops helping bishops,” Bevilacqua approved a transfer of Connor to a parish in the Pittsburgh diocese, where nobody knew his background.

Guilfoyle told Bevilacqua that the priest had been arrested and was coming out of a program at the Southdown Institute outside of Toronto, a facility that treated sexual offenders, the report said, and that the priest needed to be relocated because of concern over scandal. Bevilacqua granted the favor, despite a Southdown report he received that said Connor had a drinking problem and a “sexual preference for late adolescent males.” The Southdown report also “specifically warned against giving the priest responsibility for adolescents,” the grand jury report said.

After talking with Guilfoyle, Bevilacqua wrote on a diocesan memo, “I cannot guarantee that there is no serious risk” in accepting Connor. Bevilacqua approved the transfer anyway. When Bevilacqua was promoted to archbishop of Philadelphia, Connor followed, and from 1988 to 1993, he served as assistant pastor of St. Matthew Parish in Conshohocken. The pastor, Fr. James Donlon, did not learn of Connor’s earlier arrest for child abuse until 2002 when contacted by a newspaper reporter.

Meanwhile, Connor’s original victim was so humiliated by the local newspaper publicity over the priest’s arrest that he “fled the school, changed his name and moved far away,” the report said. When the victim sued the Camden diocese in 1993 for sex abuse, Bevilacqua promptly transferred Connor back to New Jersey.

When Bevilacqua was brought before the grand jury to explain the transfers of Connor, he defended his actions by “falsely denying knowledge of Connor’s offense,” even though he had received the reports from Southdown, the grand jury report said. Bevilacqua told the grand jurors, “My memory is I [that] thought [the incident] involved an act of homosexuality or possibly heterosexuality with an adult woman.” The cardinal also testified that he first learned that Connor had been at Southdown from a newspaper story in 2002.

The grand jurors thought otherwise. “Documents from the files of both Camden and Pittsburgh demonstrate, however, that Bevilacqua did know, from September 1985 on, that Fr. Connor’s arrest involved a minor and that the priest had been at Southdown,” the report said.

“The grand jury finds the cardinal’s testimony in this regard untruthful,” the grand jury report said. Bevilacqua in his own handwriting had acknowledged that accepting the priest in a transfer proposed “a serious risk,” the report said. “The grand jury specifically finds that Cardinal Bevilacqua chose to subject the parish’s boys to that risk in order to help his friend, Bishop Guilfoyle, avoid scandal. Why he compounded this risk by choosing to keep Fr. Donlon in the dark is not clear, unless it was simply so that the cardinal could later claim he knew nothing.”

Anatomy of a cover-up

“Grand jurors heard evidence that Cardinals Bevilacqua and Krol, and their aides, were aware that priests in the diocese were perpetrating massive amounts of child molestations and sexual assaults,” the report said. “The archdiocese’s own files reveal a steady stream of reports and allegations from the 1960s through the 1980s, accelerating in the 1990s (with nearly 100 allegations in that decade), and exploding after 2001. In many cases, the same priests were reported again and again.

“Notes in archdiocese files prove that the church leaders not only saw, but understood, that sexually offending priests typically have multiple victims, and are unlikely to stop abusing children unless the opportunity is removed,” the report said.

“In the face of crimes they knew were being committed by their priests, church leaders could have reported them to police,” the report said. “They could have removed the child molesters from ministry, and stopped the sexual abuse of minors by archdiocesan clerics. Instead, they consistently chose to conceal the abuse rather than to end it. They chose to protect themselves from scandal and liability, rather than protect children from the priests’ crimes.”

The report said the grand jurors believed the problem in the Philadelphia archdiocese exceeded even the number of allegations contained in the 45,000 pages of secret archdiocese files. “There are many more Philadelphia-area priests who have molested and sodomized parishioners’ children than are named here,” the report said.

The report said that under Krol, who ruled the archdiocese for 27 years, “concealment mainly entailed persuading victims’ parents not to report the priests’ crimes to police, and transferring priests to other parishes if parents demanded it or of if ‘general scandal’ seemed imminent.”

For example, while Krol was archbishop, an abusive priest, the previously mentioned Leneweaver, raped one 12-year-old altar boy while he was helping to clean a church nursery. The boy’s father found his son curled in the fetal position, crying on his parents’ bed. The father discovered a pair of bloody underpants, and his son told him about three other boys the priest was abusing. The father and other parents went to confront the church pastor, who promised the parents that reporting the crime would not be good for the victim or the parish. The pastor promised that the church would take care of the situation.

When the father of the victim confronted Krol one day, and asked what was being done about the priest who raped his son, the cardinal replied, “What do you want, a public confession?” the report said.

“Despite the archdiocese’s knowledge that Fr. Leneweaver was a chronic sexual offender, each time angry parents confronted church officials with new complaints, Cardinal Krol merely transferred him to another assignment, where the priest remained in active ministry.” In 1980, when the priest was transferred for a fourth time, an archdiocesan official wrote that the priest’s latest assignment was “one of the few remaining areas where his scandalous action may not be known,” the report said.

“When Cardinal Bevilacqua took over as archbishop in February 1988, concern over legal liability had joined fears of scandal,” the report said. “Cardinal Bevilacqua was trained as an attorney. (He holds degrees in canon law from Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy, and in American law from St. John’s University Law School in Queens, N.Y.),” the report said.

“The grand jurors find that, in his handling of priests’ sex abuse, Cardinal Bevilacqua was motivated by an intent to keep the record clear of evidence that would implicate him or the archdiocese,” the report said. “To this end, he continued many of the policies of his predecessor, Cardinal Krol, aimed at avoiding scandal, while also introducing policies that reflected a growing awareness that dioceses and bishops might be held legally responsible for their negligent and knowing actions that abetted known abusers,” the report said.

“To protect themselves from negative publicity or expensive lawsuits -- while keeping abusive priests active -- the cardinals and their aides hid the priests’ crimes from parishioners, police and the general public. They employed a variety of tactics to accomplish this end,” the report said.

Under Bevilacqua and his secretary of the clergy, Lynn, the report said, “the only ‘investigation’ conducted after a victim reported being abused was to ask the priest if he did what was alleged. If the accused priest, whose very crime is characterized by deceit and secretiveness, denied the allegation, archdiocese officials considered the allegation unproven,” the report said.

“Msgr. Lynn professed to the grand jury that he could not determine the credibility of accusations -- no matter how detailed the victims’ descriptions, or how many corroborating witnesses there might be or how many similar accusations had been made against a priest by victims who did not know each other, or how incriminating a priest’s own explanation of the events,” the report said.

‘Indifference to suffering’

“The reason for Msgr. Lynn’s apparent lack of judgment, curiosity or common sense in refusing to acknowledge the truth of abuse allegations became evident when Cardinal Bevilacqua testified,” the report said.

“The cardinal said that, when assigning and promoting priests, he disregarded anonymous or third-party reports of sexual crimes against children that were contained in many priests’ files,” the report said. “The cardinal, like his secretary for clergy, claimed to be unable to determine whether the reports were true. He told the grand jury that he could not know without an investigation. And yet the staff, with his approval, never truly investigated these reports -- no matter how serious, how believable, or how easily verified,” the report said. “This was the case even when victims were named and other priests had reported incidents.”

“The cardinal conceded under questioning that allegations against a priest were generally not labeled ‘credible’ unless the priest happened to confess,” the report said. “The grand jury is convinced that the archdiocese could have identified scores of child molesters in the priesthood simply by encouraging other clergy to report what they witnessed -- for example, incidents in which they saw fellow priests routinely take young boys, alone, into their bedrooms.”

The report said that archdiocesan priests observed seven of the most abusive priests “as they were abusing young victims,” but “none of the witnesses helped the children or reported what they saw,” the report said. “Fr. Donald Walker (one of Krol’s top aides in the Chancery Office charged with investigating sex abuse allegations) confirmed what we came to believe -- that the archdiocese had an unwritten rule discouraging ‘ratting on fellow priests,’ ” the report said.

Instead, the archdiocese continued its practices of transferring priests, eluding authorities and avoiding scandals at all costs. “The result of the archdiocese’s purposeful action was to multiply the number of children exposed to these priests, while reducing the possibility that their parents could protect them,” the report said.

The archdiocese would usually “transfer the priest to an especially distant parish, in hopes of escaping notice,” the report said.

“The hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse by priests that the archdiocese received since 1967 have included serious crimes -- among them, the genital fondling and anal, oral and vaginal rape of children,” the report said. “Sometimes the abuse was ongoing at the time it was reported,” the report said. “The obvious response would have been to report such crimes to law enforcement, to allow the police to investigate and to stop the perpetrators,” the report said. “The archdiocese managers, however, never reported a single instance of sexual abuse -- even when admitted by the priests -- and did everything in their power to prevent others from reporting it,” the report said.

One such priest was Fr. Peter J. Dunne, who remained an archdiocese priest for seven and a half years after the archdiocese learned that he had sexually abused an altar boy in the priest’s Boy Scout troop. During those years, Dunne was diagnosed as an untreatable pedophile, the report said. The priest personally paid $40,000 to silence one of his victims. Archdiocesan memos in 1989 describe the priest as a “powder keg” and “ a very sick man,” who should be taken out of service, the report said.

Only after a victim threatened a lawsuit in 1994, did the cardinal finally remove the priest from ministry. The priest’s therapist recommended the priest be placed in a supervised living situation, and the cardinal’s advisers concluded in Dunne’s case that “overwhelming evidence of pedophilia is here,” the report said. But the cardinal “responded to concerns that the archdiocese might risk being held liable for the priest’s crimes if it tried to supervise him,” the report said.

“Cardinal Bevilacqua permitted Fr. Dunne to retire (with full benefits) to his rural cabin where he was known to take boys for sleepovers,” the report said.

When Bevilacqua testified before the grand jury, he was repeatedly asked why he and his aides never reported these crimes to law enforcement. “His answer was simply that Pennsylvania law did not require them to,” the report said. “The answer is unacceptable (as well as the result of a strained and narrow interpretation of a law specifically intended to require reporting sexual abuse of children),” the report said. “It reflects a willingness to allow such crimes to continue, as well as an utter indifference to the suffering of the victims,” the report said.

The report said that Bevilacqua’s policies were the reason why Leneweaver, an admitted abuser of 11- and 12-year-old boys, “was allowed to receive a clean criminal check and teach Latin at Radnor Middle School last year,” the report said.

The report said Bevilacqua had a policy that required aides to immediately inform him of allegations of sex abuse, but the communication was usually oral, “not in writing,” the report said. Therefore, the cardinal’s “initial response and instructions were not recorded.”

‘The priest often said no’

In 1985, the report said, Bevilacqua was given a copy of the Doyle-Moulton-Peterson “manual” that contained several medical articles on sexual disorders and legal and pastoral analyses. Bevilacqua discussed the report with one of its authors, Fr. Thomas Doyle, who testified before the grand jury. Doyle and the other authors had hoped to alert U.S. bishops such as Bevilacqua about the problems presented by pedophilia, and how to handle cases as they arose.

Read NCR's 1998 profile of Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua: Lavish spending in archdiocese skips inner city

“Cardinal Bevilacqua, however, used this knowledge about pedophilia not to protect children, but to shield the archdiocese from liability,” the report said. “Central to his [Bevilacqua’s] scheme” was a policy the cardinal instigated that was “designed to sound tough” -- a policy of zero tolerance for pedophile priests. But the cardinal and his aides “made a mockery of evaluation and therapy to avoid reaching these diagnoses,” the report said.

“In the absence of a formal designation of pedophilia or ephobophilia (somebody with an enduring sexual attraction to adolescents), archdiocese officials perverted logic to reach the converse of the cardinal’s ‘rule’ -- if a priest was not diagnosed a pedophile, he would be given an assignment,” the report said. “Never mind the church leader’s full knowledge that the priest had abused children.”

The institutions that examined many abuser priests found evidence to suggest pedophilia, but did not have sufficient information to make a conclusive diagnosis, the report said. The institutions -- primarily the archdiocese-owned St. John Vianney Hospital -- did not “use up-to-date tests and technology” to make diagnoses, but instead relied “primarily on self-reports of the priests,” the grand jury report said. In other words, the treatment facility often “simply asked the priest” if he was a pedophile, the report said, and “not surprisingly, the priest often said no.”

The report said that when a treatment facility put the wrong label on a priest, the archdiocese simply stopped sending its problem priests there. In 1993, the archdiocese stopped using St. Luke Institute in Suitland, Md., a facility with up-to-date evaluation tools, after the facility diagnosed an archdiocesan priest as an ephebophile after the priest admitted to therapists he was sexually attracted to adolescent males.

After that, the archdiocese “almost exclusively” sent priests to St. John Vianney -- “a facility under Cardinal Bevilacqua’s purview and supervision and more attuned to his priorities,” the report said. As a result, archdiocesan officials were able to easily “manipulate treatment and diagnoses to keep priests in the ministry,” the report said.

So when asked by the grand jury why he placed “obviously dangerous men in positions where they could abuse children,” Bevilacqua “repeatedly testified that he relied on the advice of therapists,” the report said. The therapists, the report said, “worked for him” and “understood their role as protecting the archdiocese from legal liability.”

When the priest pedophilia scandal broke in Boston, Bevilacqua tried “to hide all he knew about sex abuse committed by his priests,” the report said. He had his spokesperson tell the media in February 2002 that there had been only 35 priests in the archdiocese credibly accused of abuse over the last 50 years, even though the archdiocese “knew there were many more,” the report said. The grand jury put the number of abusive priests at 63.

The cardinal also announced to the public in April 2002 that no priest with accusations against him was still active in ministry, even though several still were. “He certainly was not credible when he claimed before this grand jury that protecting children was his highest priority -- when in fact his only priority was to cover up sexual abuse against children,” the report said.

Ralph Cipriano, a former reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, is a freelance writer living in Philadelphia.

National Catholic Reporter, October 7, 2005

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