Thursday, May 3, 2012

Gerald T. Slevin: Is Another Shoe about to Fall in the Philly Priests Horror Story?

Jerry Slevin continues to follow the trial of Philadelphia archdiocesan officials carefully, and has provided another statement responding to news that Archbishop Chaput convened archdiocesan priests yesterday and will hold a press conference tomorrow.  What follows is Jerry's posting:

ONGOING TRIAL: The Philly criminal trial of alleged predator priests, including Fr. Brennan,  and their protector, Monsignor Lynn, former top aide to the Philadelphia Archdiocese's Cardinal Rigali, has continued for its sixth week with no end in sight. The Philadelphia Inquirer has continued its play-by-play reporting of more obscene and bizarre episodes of priestly perversions and clerical cover-ups revealed at the trial and Inquirer news coverage of the trial is online here.

The Philadelphia Archdiocese has been the subject of almost a decade of periodic criminal grand jury investigations culminating in a 2005 grand jury report and a second 2011 grand jury report as discussed by me previously here.

NEW DEVELOPMENT: A new related development occurred yesterday afternoon in a suddenly scheduled, closed-door meeting of Archbishop Chaput with many of his Philadelphia Archdiocese  (Philly AD) priests in attendance.  Apparently, Chaput also has a press conference planned for tomorrow  presumably to report on the matters discussed with his priests.

Despite reports that Chaput admonished his priests to keep yesterday's  discussions confidential, Rocco Palmo, well known Philly blogger of "clerical whispers," had reported some of the details at his Whispers in the Loggia site last evening.

As reported, Chaput informed his assembled priests generally on the current status of the more than two dozen  priests suspended en masse 14 months ago by Cardinal Rigali as reported last July in Philadelphia Magazine.

Serious questions had existed about many of the suspended priests going back apparently at least two years or more, given the ongoing grand jury investigation during 2010, among other factors. Notwithstanding this, the head of the Philly AD's child protection review board shockingly reported last year that she had never heard anything about more than half of the suspended priests as reported here. Her report also offers direct links to the two shocking grand jury reports that are important to read.

After all the investigations over this long period, mainly by lawyers hired by the Philly AD, reportedly less than half of the suspended priests' Philly AD reviews have to date been completed.  Of the 27 cases under review, Palmo reports Chaput will disclose his findings on eight of them tomorrow, with another six having been referred for review and action by the Philadelphia District Attorney (Philly DA), Seth Williams.

After all this time, the final report cards on the remaining half of the suspected priests, reportedly, are still not ready for public disclosure by Chaput.

From the perspective of Philly Catholics,  especially parents, this  really raises some very troubling questions.  Permitting some, if not many, of these suspended priests to have had past, and in some cases possibly present, access to unsuspecting children has presented, and still presents, a danger to these children.  Failure for so long to address these dangers is just unacceptable and could even possibly constitute criminal endangerment, the same crime that Msgr. Lynn is being prosecuted for.  Moreover, any failure to have reported required material information about some of these suspects might also have constituted a separate crime of suppressing evidence.    

Hopefully, the press and other media will be able to get some answers to relevant questions tomorrow from both Chaput, and possibly also from Cardinal Rigali and the Philly DA . The current "gag order" in the Philly trial should not apply here, since these cases are different from the current cases involved in the ongoing Philly trial. These questions include:

As to Archbishop Chaput:

(1) Why has it taken so long to get to a point where half the cases still remain publicly unresolved; and do any of the priests involved in the open cases have access to children?

(2) Why did he resolve the cases he is announcing tomorrow the way he did, and, if any suspended priest is going back to work with children, how will Chaput monitor him?

(3) What has Chaput said to the pope about the Philly abuse situation, when did he say it and what was the pope's response?

(4) Why did he replace his main outside law firm on abuse legal matters and why did he suspend his in-house general counsel?

(5) What does he know about the disappearance, and then reappearance, of the elusive shredding memorandum?

(6) Knowing now that documents were shredded and lies told to victims, how can he in good conscience hide behind statute of limitations defenses to victims' claims and how can he oppose the pending statute of limitations reform?

(7) Will he support new legislation requiring the prompt reporting to the police of all abuse claims?

As to Cardinal Rigali:

(1) When did he first learn about the allegations of each of the 27 priests suspended, what did he learn and   which other senior officials also knew about the allegations and when did they first learn of them?

(2) What has Rigali said to the pope about the Philly abuse cases, when did he say it and what was the pope's response?

As to Philly DA Williams:

(1) What is the status of the cases of suspected priests referred to him by Chaput and why is he relying on Chaput to make the determination of which of the suspected priests should be criminally investigated?

(2) Are Rigali, Chaput, any other current or former senior Philly AD officials or any of their current  or former lawyers being investigated in connection with any of the cases involving any of the 27 suspended priests; if yes, what are the significant details?

(3) Is the document shredding memorandum the subject of any investigation; if yes, what are the significant details?

Hopefully, reporters will be able to ask Archbishop Chaput, Cardinal Rigali and Philly DA Williams in due course the above and other relevant questions.  The citizens of Philadelphia are entited to some answers.

Cross-posted at Open Tabernacle, 3 May 2012.

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