Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Gerald Slevin: Open Appeal To Philadelphia Inquirer Reporters II: The Philadelphia Archdiocese Priests Child Abuse Trial, the Pope, Secrecy, Santorum and the Upcoming Pennsylvania Primary

Jerry Slevin has now shared a supplement to his open letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer that I posted on his behalf two days ago.  As the trial of Philadelphia Catholic archdiocesan officials continues, Jerry continues to monitor the litigation and news about it, and this is his latest response to what's now unfolding in Philadelphia:

What follows is Jerry Slevin's second open letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

This supplements my April 1, 2012 Open Appeal I to you accessible here.  Hopefully, this will be of some help to you as you assess the continuing developments in this  hierarchical criminal case that is extremely significant for Catholics worldwide.

Yesterday on TV, convicted child sexual abuser, Fr. Avery, was hurried seemingly smiling past reporters into jail accompanied apparently by two well dressed lawyers. Avery's apparent lack of any remorse for his horrible crime or any obligation to give evidence against others, as well as his sudden plea bargain, mild  sentence, hurried imprisonment  and general public unavailability, have all been very disturbing to watch, but it  is only one example of what appears to be an  unwarranted almost veil of secrecy on too many  aspects of this important case. Many hundreds of Philly children were harmed by priest sexual predators with at least the tacit knowledge in many cases of bishops and cardinals; many thousands more were at risk of serious and permanent harm. Philly citizens are entitled to get the full story and we are depending on you to keep doing your best to get it.

For video footage from NBC's Philadelphia affiliate of Fr. Avery's smiling past reporters as he is whisked into jail, please see here.

To this day, the Philly Archdiocese still does not really require prompt reporting of all abuse claims to the police and apparently has only appointed persons that are accountable to Archbishop Chaput to monitor abuse claims. He is not accountable, it appears, to anyone and has not committed to a truly independent child protection audit procedure. He continues to operate, in the main, secretly as a typical medieval monarch. His cheerleading at a private priests' party several months ago for Monsignor Lynn and some suspended priests under suspicion of misconduct with minors suggests he has failed to get the true child protection message and merely mouths, like the pope,  pious platitudes about children. 

In thinking about this as a lawyer, I tried to think about what has been,  and what may still  be, important to the top hierarchical boss here, the pope. By now, the pope  must also be worrying about how the Philly case could hurt him in the related six month old abuse cover-up case against him and senior Vatican Cardinals Bertone, Levada and Sodano. Over six months ago, the priest abuse survivors network, SNAP, filed a criminal complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Netherlands alleging a worldwide priest child abuse cover-up. As reported in the March 12, 2012 NY Times, and recently on Cardinal Rigali's protege, NY Cardinal Dolan's website, Dolan and his longtime ally, Bill Donohue, appear hell-bent on demolishing SNAP before the ICC case advances too far.

Currently, as reported on March 21, 2012  in the NY Times and also the Irish Times, the Dutch parliament is in an uproar over a recent government commission's report that over 800 Dutch Catholic priests abused over several decades more than 20,000 children, a few of whom were reportedly castrated unjustifiably. This is an inauspicious national setting for the ICC prosecutor's office in the Netherlands to be reviewing the charges that the pope and his clique conspired to cover-up worldwide priest sexual abuse of children.

Since Philly's Cardinal Rigali, who was in charge of the Philly Archdiocese for over eight years until a few months ago, had also served for many years in senior Vatican positions as a colleague of the pope's, what happens in the Philly trial to Rigali's former top aide may be of considerable importance to the pope. Rigali still serves periodically in Rome on several important Vatican committees, including the  Committee of Bishops, which clears most worldwide episcopal appointments.

The University of Toledo in Ohio on Monday held an international law conference on the current status of the ICC case against the pope, as described below in  press and video links.

Given the above and what is otherwise available publicly, the pope's Philly options were and are limited. Retire Rigali and replace him with a strong executive, even though Rigali is much younger than the pope,  but protect Rigali at all costs. Hence, the pope recently "accepted" Rigali's tender of retirement and brought in Archbishop Chaput, who showed in Denver he would resist child abuse claims very vigorously.

Chaput also served the pope dutifully in assisting recently with the virtual ecclesiastical execution of Bishop William Morris of Australia, mainly for daring to propose consideration of opening discussions about married and women priests to help relieve the severe priest shortage in Morris' diocese.

How could Chaput protect Rigali and also reduce the ultimate financial drain on the Philadelphia Archdiocese, was the pope's and Chaput's challenge. Rigali had been Cardinal in Philly for two years when the 2005 Philly grand jury report reporting over 60 separate abuse claims was issued, although the abuse claims related mainly to Cardinals Bevilacqua's and Krol's tenure. Rigali appointed an investigator and in 2006 committed to take specific actions to curtail priest abuse. Last year, the new 2011 grand jury issued a further report, which identified almost two dozen Philly priests still working that had serious abuse charges. It also appeared that some of the specific actions committed to in 2006 had not really been implemented effectively. 

Several priests, including Fr. Avery, were indicted in 2011 on sexual abuse charges, as was Monsignor Lynn for alleged child endangerment. Lynn had served as priest personnel chief under Bevilacqua and briefly under Riglai, until he was appointed one of Rigali's top pastors, presumably available still to discuss predator priest cases, etc. 

How could Rigali possibly be spared legal jeopardy? Judging by the trial events so far, it appears that the pope's strategy is to try to  blame Bevilacqua and Lynn and hope that the Philly District Attorney (DA) will not look past 2004 when Rigali took over. Chaput can then dismiss this all as old news about his "bad" predecessors and hope Rigali can keep his head down. How could, and why would, the Philly DA fall for this ploy?  It would be a real travesty of justice if he did.

Judging by the witnesses and old cases selected to date, the pope's and Chaput's apparent strategy may be working so far. It is unclear whether and when the Philly DA will in the trial get past 2004, even though the cover-up apparently continued long after 2004. Hiding a crime is usually also a separate crime.  The apparent suppression from 2006 to 2011 of the copy of the memo implicating Cardinal Bevilacqua and Bishops Cistone and Cullen's possible complicity in destroying potentially incriminating evidence may also have been a separate continuing crime. The recent suspension of Chaput's top in-house lawyer has also not yet been explained or addressed by the Philly DA. Hopefully, one of you reporters will try to raise these and similar questions with the Philly DA.

Against this backdrop, the continuance of the gag order and the "silent" handling of Avery raise a lot of unanswered questions. Why can't Avery be interviewed by the press? Has  he received or will he receive directly or indirectly any financial commitments or assistance from the Philadelphia Archdiocese? Who is paying his lawyers?

Enough already! Defenseless Philly kids have been raped in a clerical conspiracy.and the lawyers are being gagged and reporters are being stymied. This isn't China or Syria or Iran. Philly citizens are entitled to know fully what is going on, in the name of God. 

Meanwhile, one of Rigali's other proteges, Opus Dei Bishop Finn of Kansas City, is expected this week to receive critical judicial decisions regarding his abuse cover-up related case. As reported in today's National Catholic Reporter, Finn is trying to weasel out on a technicality and possibly lay the blame on his monsignor subordinate, as his mentor Rigali appears to be doing with Lynn. For NCR's updated article on the abuse case involving the imminent decisions that are expected to affect Rigali's Opus Dei protege, Bishop Finn, please see here.

With the likely final contested presidential primary scheduled in Pennsylvania in three weeks on April 24, this will give reporters an excellent opportunity to ask the candidates about the Philly case. Rick Santorum is particularly relevant here. He has raised children in PA and held senior Federal legislative positions during most of the time periods covered by the Lynn trial. He likely knew Bevilacqua, knows Rigali and may even know Lynn. So Rick, what did you know and when did you know it?

As shown in this January 5, 2012 video footage from Boston's CBS affiliate, WBZ, Rick basically ran from Boston reporters when, a few months ago, they tried to ask him about priests sexually abusing defenseless children scandal in New Hampshire. Hopefully, some Philly reporters will wear their track shoes when they interview Rick. 

Kids were abused on his legislative watch. He should be man enough to discuss the subject and what he proposes to do to curtail priest predators in the future.  For example, will he push for a Federal mandate, with stiff penalties, to call the police promptly when an abuse claim is first made?.

Finally, the Philly trial setbacks and negative revelations on a daily basis are compounding the pope's and US bishops' other problems and, thankfully, undercutting some of the pope's unusual sexual prohibitions. The pope's "anti-contraceptive crusade" to replace Obama with a Republican has backfired and just increased Obama's women voter support significantly. 

As reported in yesterday's Washington Post, the pope's former student and theological collaborater, Cardinal Schönbrun of Vienna, has backed a gay Catholic, living openly in a civilly registered relationship with his partner, as a member of a local Catholic parish council. Today , the NY Times editorial board chastised the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) for its underhanded tactics to try to undercut gay marriage. NOM's leaders are among the co-signers with Rigali, Donahue, Dolan, Chaput, et al., on the late 2009 Manhattan Declaration that in many ways is the roadmap for the pope's 2012 election year strategy. The pope and US bishops appear clearly to be on the run and not just in Philly.


For details of Monday's conference at the University of Toledo Law School of the conference on the background and status of SNAP'S criminal complaint against the pope and his clique, please see here.

For video footage from Toledo's Fox News affiliate of yesterday's conference at the University of Toledo Law School about the current SNAP complaint against the pope at the International Criminal Court featuring SNAP'S president and SNAP'S lawyer from New York's  Center for Constitutional Rights, please see here.

For a useful summary of the Philadelphia Archdiocese's abuse scandal, with footnotes, please see here.

This posting is cross-posted at the Open Tabernacle site, 4 April 2012.

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