Archdiocese of Philadelphia

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When the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report was published in the summer of 2018, there were two noticeable omissions in the list of Pennsylvania dioceses covered by the grand jury investigation and report.  The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia were omitted from consideration because separate grand juries had been empaneled for them. 

In the case of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia grand jury report, the ripple effects continue to this day.  The report concludes that Philadelphia priests were allowed to sexually abuse children because Cardinals Krol and Bevilacqua did nothing to stop it.  In fact, the Report accuses both of them of aiding and abetting the abuse.

The Report states, “Indeed Cardinal Bevilacqua himself was a lawyer, with degrees from both a canon law school and an American law school.  Documents and testimony left us with no doubt that he and Cardinal Krol were personally informed of almost all of the allegations of sexual abuse by priests, and personally decided or approved of how to handle those allegations. Here are some incidents that exemplify the manner in which the Archdiocese responded to the sexual abuse of its most vulnerable parishioners:  

  • The Archdiocese official in charge of abuse investigations described one abusive priest as “one of the sickest people I ever knew.”  Yet Cardinal Bevilacqua allowed him to continue in ministry, with full access to children – until the priest scandal broke in 2002.
  • One abusive priest was transferred so many times that, according to the Archdiocese’s own records, they were running out of places to send him where he would not already be known.
  • On at least one occasion Cardinal Bevilacqua agreed to harbor a known abuser from another diocese, giving him a cover story and a neighborhood parish here because the priest’s arrest for child abuse had aroused too much controversy there.  Officials referred to this sort of practice as “bishops helping bishops.”
  •  A nun who complained about a priest who was still ministering to children – even after he was convicted of receiving child pornography – was fired from her position as director of religious education.
  • A seminarian studying for the priesthood who revealed that he himself had been abused as an altar boy was accused of homosexuality – and was dismissed from the diocese.  He was able to become a priest only by relocating to another area.
  • When the Archdiocese did purport to seek psychological evaluation of a priest, the primary tool for diagnosis was “self reporting” – in other words, whether the abuser was willing to admit that he was a pedophile.  Absent such a “diagnosis,” the Archdiocese declined to treat any priest as a pedophile, no matter how compelling the evidence.
  • Even when admitted, the abuse was excused: an Archdiocese official comforted one sexually abusive priest by suggesting that the priest had been “seduced” by his 11-year-old victim.
  • An Archdiocese official explained that the church could not discipline one especially egregious abuser because, as the official put it, he was not a “pure pedophile” – that is, he not only abused little boys; he also slept with women.
  • When one priest showed signs of seeking penance from his victims, the church-run “treatment” facility urged Archdiocese officials to move him to another assignment away from the victims – in other words, transfer him before he apologizes again.
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These are just some of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia horror stories.  The Grand Jury Report describes the Cardinals’ and bishops’ operation of the Archdiocese as possessing a callous disregard for children and their welfare.  In the words of the Report, “What  makes  these  actions  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  –  did  not  result  from  failures  or  lapses,  except  of  the  moral  variety.  They were made possible  by  purposeful  decisions,  carefully implemented policies, and calculated indifference.”

On more than one occasion, the Report describes Cardinal Bevilacqua’s testimony to the grand jury as “not forthright”, “misleading”, and “not credible”.  The Report points out that unlike his predecessor, Cardinal Krol, Cardinal Bevilacqua was a trained canon (church) lawyer and a civil lawyer.  He was skilled at avoiding liability at all costs, to the point he didn’t speak to a survivor for the first 14 years of his tenure in Philadelphia. 

The Grand Jury Report describes Cardinal Krol’s role in the abuse of hundreds of children in simpler, yet no less sinister terms.  Krol would attempt to talk parents out of reporting abusive priests to the authorities and transfer priests out of the area to avoid scandal. 

When the Report was published in 2005, a new cardinal had assumed the reins in Philadelphia.  Justin Rigali, a career Vatican diplomat arrived in Philadelphia in October 2003, some 17 months after the grand jury convened.  Rigali, however, was left to deal with the fallout from the Report.  His strategy was to minimize the damage and speak about all the new initiatives the Archdiocese had begun to deal with the sex abuse crisis.  At one point in an interview, he encouraged Catholics to avoid reading the Grand Jury Report altogether.  At another point, he stated, “”But what we cannot accept is the inference that there was any intentional unlawful or criminal behavior on the part of officials of the archdiocese.”

“Mistakes are one thing,” he said. “Intentions are another.”

In spite of a Report that contains 483 pages of details concerning his predecessors’ intentions and actions, Rigali attempted to spin it in a favorable light.  Anyone who read the Report knows that attempt failed miserably.

While Bishop Accountability lists 140 Archdiocese of Philadelphia priests accused of abuse, the Grand Jury Report focused on 63 priests, detailing their abuse as reported to them by direct survivor testimony and an investigation of the church documents, most of which were located in the secret archives.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s history of sexual abuse has been revealed thanks to the Grand Jury’s investigation.  In a state where it is difficult to file sexual abuse lawsuits because of the restrictive statute of limitations.  Thanks to the Philadelphia Grand Jury Report, we know who the worst offenders were in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and how their superiors (Cardinals Krol and Bevilacqua) dealt with them.  The Report documents the behavior of the worst priests in the Archdiocese including Stanley Gana.  Here is an excerpt from the Report concerning Gana:

“Father Stanley Gana, ordained in 1970, sexually abused countless boys in a succession of Philadelphia Archdiocese parishes.. He took advantage of altar boys, their trusting families, and vulnerable teenagers with emotional problems. He brought groups of adolescent male parishioners on overnights and would rotate them through his bed. He collected nude pornographic photos of his victims. He molested boys on a farm, in vacation houses, in the church rectory. Some minors he abused for years. Archdiocese officials were aware of the priest’s criminality. At least two victims came forward in the 1990s to describe specifics of their abuse and provided names of other victims. They begged the Archdiocese to take away Fr. Gana’s cover as a priest in good standing, to stop facilitating his exploitation of minors. Instead, the Archdiocese managers tried to silence the victims and conceal the crimes. When Cardinal Bevilacqua and his aides heard that one of Fr. Gana’s victims, “Tim,” was telling fellow seminarians about his sexual abuse and might sue the Archdiocese, the Cardinal initiated a top-level investigation – against Tim. Based on unsubstantiated charges, he was expelled from seminary and forced to seek ordination outside the diocese. Meanwhile, Church officials limited their probe of Fr. Gana to a single interview with the priest himself. They never sought to contact named victims brought to their attention. With no further inquiry, and the seminarian out of the way, Cardinal Bevilacqua permitted Fr. Gana to remain a pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows in Bridgeport for three more years – until another victim, who refused to be silent, came forward. When the threat of scandal forced them to act, Archdiocese managers pursued “treatment” for the priest, but this seemed clearly designed to protect the church from liability rather than victims from his assaults. Church officials purported, on paper, to limit Fr. Gana’s ministry while doing little in practice. Instead of reporting his crimes to police, they advised the priest to keep a “low profile.” In 1998, the former seminarian who had been forced out of the Archdiocese spoke with Cardinal Bevilacqua’s aide, Secretary for Clergy William J. Lynn. Msgr. Lynn asked the victim, who had been forced to have oral and anal sex beginning when he was 13 years old, to understand that the Archdiocese would have taken steps to remove Fr. Gana from the priesthood had he been diagnosed as a pedophile. But Fr. Gana was not only having sex with children and teenage minors, Msgr. Lynn explained; he had also slept with women, abused alcohol, and stolen money from parish churches. That is why he remained, with Cardinal Bevilacqua’s blessing, a priest in active ministry. “You see, [Tim],” said Msgr. Lynn, “he’s not a pure pedophile.” The Cardinal removed Fr. Gana from ministry in 2002, only after the national scandal arising from sexual abuses by Boston’s clergy had made it more difficult for the Archdiocese to continue to protect Fr. Gana and other sexually abusive priests.”

Another Philadelphia priest, under the supervision of Cardinal Krol, was an admitted pedophile who continued to abuse children even after Krol knew about his propensities.  Here’s what the Report says about him:

“The abusive history of Father Raymond O. Leneweaver is remarkable for the number of victims who brought allegations of molestation and rape to Archdiocese managers while they were still being abused by the priest, or shortly thereafter. It is also remarkable because, even with these prompt reports and Fr. Leneweaver’s repeated admissions of guilt, Cardinal John Krol allowed him to continue as a teacher and a priest, transferring him from parish to parish, thereby providing him unrestrained access to ever more unsuspecting victims.  Father Leneweaver told the Grand Jury in January 2005 that, for the past year, he had taught Latin at Radnor Middle School. In fact, Cardinal Bevilacqua and his aides had known since 1997 that the admitted child molester was teaching in suburban public schools.            

Ordained in 1962, Fr. Leneweaver began admitting his sexual abuse of boys to Archdiocese officials in the late 1960s. In response to specific complaints made in 1975 to the Archdiocese by victims or their families, he admitted that he had “seriously” abused at least seven young boys. These sexual assaults began when the children were as young as 11 years old, usually lasted a few years, and included fondling, anal rape, and attempted oral sex. In addition to these “serious” involvements, Fr. Leneweaver told Archdiocese officials that he molested other boys “in an incidental fashion,” for example, in the swimming pool at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary. Still more victims, about whom Fr. Leneweaver was not questioned, came to the Archdiocese’s attention during his 18-year tenure in active ministry. Given the typical reluctance of young sexual-abuse victims to come forward, these boys, though considerable in number, were most likely a tiny portion of the total. Over the years additional victims of Fr. Leneweaver, now adults, reported their childhood abuse by this priest. 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. By the time Fr. Leneweaver was transferred for the fourth time, the Archdiocese Chancellor, Francis J. Statkus, noted in a September 1980 letter that ‘he was appointed to this area of the diocese because it is one of the few remaining areas where his scandalous action may not be known.’”

These are just two excerpts from the Report detailing the abusive behavior of 2 of the 63 priests detailed in the Philadelphia Grand Jury Report.  The 61 not mentioned here are no less scandalous or remarkable.  The Report is a damning indictment of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, its leadership, and its scandalous disregard for the welfare of children.