Thursday, June 28, 2012

Gerald T. Slevin: Will the Philly Abuse Cover-Up of Bishops and Priests Ever End?

Drawing on his wide legal expertise, Jerry Slevin has sent another critically important statement about the recent Philadelphia trial and what remains still to be done.  What follows is Jerry's statement:


Almost a year and a half ago, Philly's Cardinal Rigali suddenly suspended three dozen priests of the Philadelphia Catholic Archdiocese (Philly AD) on perceived suspicion of sexual misconduct with children. Over half of these priests' cases were "news" to Rigali's lay child protection review board chairwoman. Over a dozen of these cases still remain open under Archbishop Chaput at the Philly AD. These remaining suspected priests are apparently still generally unmonitored and may yet be possible risks for defenseless Philly children. Yet, the Philly AD's newly convicted felon, Monsignor Lynn, had barely broken in his new prison mattress when the Catholic bishops' spin-machine went into over-drive to try to whitewash Lynn's criminal trial's findings and almost to suggest that an "abuse free" Philly AD had arrived.

The U. S. Catholic bishops' occasionally unofficial mouthpiece, Bill Donohue, exclaimed here that the alleged "witch-hunt" against the Philly AD had failed with Msgr. Lynn's conviction.  According to Bill Donohue, the "witch-hunt" against the Philly AD was initiated in 2001 by former Philly District Attorney (DA), Lynne Abraham, who is of the Jewish faith, with her purportedly biased pursuit of Philly Catholic clergy.  Bill Donohue claimed pointedly, gratuitously and irrelevantly that  DA Abraham investigated priests, but not rabbis and others. Bill has previously made similar seemingly anti-Semitic diversionary allusions to her alleged religious bias against Catholic clergy as a factor in her investigation of Philly predatory priests.

The Philadelphia Inquirer has recently provided a brief and fairer history of the Philly prosecutors' efforts, including DA Abraham, in investigating the Philly AD here.

Sadly, almost a half century after Vatican II endeavored to turn the shameful, two-millennia old, page on blaming Jews for Catholics' sins, the Catholic League appears to be still trying to deflect responsibility onto a Jewish prosecutor for the more than 300 "secret archive" files of Philly AD "problem priests" that Monsignor Lynn first began investigating in the early 1990's, secret files that at times included almost a quarter of all Philly priests. No, Bill, these priests were not DA Abraham's fault.

Bill Donohue surprisingly omitted laying blame for Monsignor Lynn's conviction on Bill's frequently imagined source of all child abuse evil in the Catholic Church, namely, gay Catholic priests, even though Bill's seemingly homophobic view has been convincingly discredited by the bishops' own experts after careful analysis.  One wonders whether the pope's new PR hire from Fox News will be able to keep the significantly overpaid Bill Donohue from so often shooting Catholic Church bishops in the foot. If not, the bishops will continue to reap the communications chaos they sow under Cardinal Dolan's failed leadership.

What also is disturbing is that Bill Donohue, father of two, grew up with connections to Garden City, NY, a Long Island community with two Catholic parishes. As reported at, one parish, St. Anne's,  was the residence  of an alleged  priest sexual predator and the other, St. Joseph's, was the residence of Cardinal Bevilacqua's nephew, Msgr. John Alesandro, probably well known to Bill. Alesandro, the diocesean chancellor, was reportedly involved in orchestrating the cover-up of a dozen alleged Long Island priest sexual predators' misdeeds. So Bill should know better than to try so dismissively to spin away from the serious priest scandal by patently anti-Semitic allusions. 

Bill Donohue is not alone in the attempted whitewash of the Philly AD. Another frequent supporter of the Philly hierarchy, Philly attorney, Christine Flowers, in a recent Philly News column similarly claimed that Msgr.  Lynn's jury didn't find ANY evidence of an institutional cover-up by the Philly AD of  sexual abuse of children by predatory priests. She must be a very busy attorney indeed, because she seems to have overlooked her own news organization's extensive Philly AD cover-up reporting over the last  three months as found here.

The current Philly DA, Seth Williams, on Fox News TV here indicated that Christine's remarks were coming from someone who defends anything the Catholic hierarchy does. Seth himself was trying feverishly on Fox to spin Msgr. Lynn's guilty verdict, on just a single charge, as constituting almost the monumental death blow forever to all future priest sexual assaults on defenseless children worldwide. Not quite, Seth!

Seth Williams' bluster may have something to do with the fact that Seth has been mentioned in media reports as a prime Democratic prospect for the next Philly mayoral race by, among others, Ed Rendell. Ed is the very politically influential former Democratic Philly mayor and DA, as well as the former two-term Pennsylvania governor until last year. Ed also spearheaded a group that recently took control of Philly's major media group, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, and is also a regular contributor on MSNBC. 

Of course, Ed's current law firm also appears to be generating substantial fees from the efforts of Ed's law partner, a former Philly Assistant DA in charge of prosecuting sex offenders, Gina Smith. She has been exerting extensive efforts to protect the Philly AD hierarchy, including Cardinal Rigali, from possible criminal prosecution by Seth Williams' Philly DA's office.  So Ed Rendell's near touting of Seth Williams' political future could have other motives. Neither Gina nor Seth, it seems, has publicly addressed this apparent conflict of Ed's near touting of Seth's political prospects, while Seth simultaneously investigates Ed's firm's clients for possible criminal misconduct. Let's hope they publicly clear up this apparent conflict soon.

Regular defenders of the Catholic hierarchy in priest abuse cases, including litigation analyst, David Pierre here, have cut off Seth Williams' premature victory lap by highlighting the meager legal results the Philly DA actually obtained in the Lynn criminal case. After a decade of  extensive and expensive Philly DA investigations, Seth obtained in Lynn's case only a single conviction on one count against just one of the two defendants out of an overall seven charges filed against them. Seth will have to do much more to protect Philly's children if he wants to run for mayor successfully on his prosecution record.

The theme of meager trial results and underwhelming prosecution efforts was echoed by the often more balanced reporter, Ralph Cipriano, here. Ralph underscored that the Lynn case was, after all, only prosecutorial "bottom feeding," apparently because Seth Williams has, so far at least, not gone after any of the big fish, like Cardinal Rigali, and his present and former bishops, including Bishops Cullen and Cistone. All of these former bosses of Msgr. Lynn were implicated in the trial "cover-up related" testimony and apparently remain to be fully investigated by Seth Williams.

Why Seth Williams has failed to pursue the "bigger fish" to date is mainly inexplicable, and so far apparently Seth has successfully been able to avoid talking publicly about this critical issue. Might it have anything to do with any mayoral aspirations and the likely related anticipated need for maximum financial and political campaign support if he decides to run for mayor? Will Philadelphia Inquirer reporters under its new management ask Seth about this? Until Seth explains more fully his prosecutorial strategy publicly, such unfavorable inferences are inevitable. Time may tell.


Not surprisingly and notwithstanding the appeal made by me here, neither the pope nor the head of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Dolan, nor apparently any other bishop anywhere, has so far publicly commented upon the unanimous jury finding of twelve randomly selected and unbiased American citizens, including several Catholics, that Monsignor Lynn, a former top aide to two influential Cardinals, including Rigali who "ruled" the Philly AD up until some months ago, had been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of endangering children. This hierarchical silence is amazing, if not very surprising given the hierarchy's track record to date.

Lynn's main defense was that he was only following the orders of his Cardinal and bishop bosses as part of the Philly AD's decades-old cover-up program of priest sexual abuse that was overwhelmingly described in shameful detail during Msgr. Lynn's trial. So far, DA Williams has apparently not pursued vigorously those who gave Msgr. Lynn his orders.

The Philly AD's press office issued an innocuous short press release after Msgr. Lynn's conviction, with no comment by Archbishop Chaput. The Vatican may soon be forced to address Lynn's unprecedented conviction, now that Lynn's bail request has just been conditioned on Lynn waiving extradition if he were to flee to Rome while out on bail. This condition was added by the Philly judge apparently in light of the three dozen Catholic clerics so far, including Boston's Cardinal Law, who have fled the U.S. to avoid actual or likely criminal prosecution in connection with cases involving predatory priests. 

A few days ago, however, Archbishop Chaput tellingly weighed in  here on the Philly abuse scandal, although not on the Lynn trial.  He praised, incredibly, Cardinal Rigali's purported efforts last year, " reach out to victims and to prevent future abuse...." Even more amazingly, Chaput also blamed the priest child sexual abuse problems on BOTH church leaders AND lay Catholics who  "...have been greedy to lose themselves in America's culture of consumerism and success."

So there you have it from Archbishop Chaput himself. Chaput has just clearly indicated that he thinks a main reason that over 100,000 American Catholic children were sexually abused by priest sexual predators was that their parents apparently left them unattended and easy prey for predators, while these parents chased consumer goods and the American Dream. Shame on all survivors' parents for thus tempting the poor priest predators!

This obscene episcopal nonsense is both unsupportable and is also insensitive, if not cruel, to tens of thousands of abuse survivors and their families who have innocently and greatly suffered, and who will continue to suffer, some forever. Chaput's remarks are especially galling as they come from a bishop from a typical Archdiocese with a huge bishop's mansion and from an Archbishop who is spending much of his time helping elite Catholic 0.1% donors, including some members of the Knights of Malta and The Papal Foundation, to extend the Bush tax cuts favoring the wealthy with a phony "religious liberty" anti-contraceptive crusade .

Included in these elite groups are likely members whose greed contributed to the recent Wall Street debacle that has devastated the livelihood and even lives of millions of innocent people worldwide, yet such members do not appear to want to pay their fair share of U.S. taxes that bailed out Wall Street and to reverse the growing and unChristian income inequality in the U.S. And Chaput dares to call abuse victims' parents greedy.  

What is clear from all of this is that Cardinal Rigali and Archbishop Chaput and their conflicted apologists have learned little from Msgr. Lynn's trial. They just want to put the Philly AD scandal behind them by spin or silence. They are clearly seeking to limit the public's attention to dead Cardinal Bevilacqua and his convicted "rouge" lackey, Msgr.  Lynn, and to deflect attention away from Msgr. Lynn's other boss, Cardinal Rigali, who is understandably trying to keep a very low profile.

Interestingly, Ralph Cipriano reported from Msgr. Lynn's recent bail hearing on an aside by Lynn that the Philadelphia Archdiocese won't even talk to him anymore. Lynn has fallen a long way from the cheerleading that Chaput led for Lynn at a private Philly priest shindig a few months ago, presumably when it was feared Lynn might still cut a deal with Seth Williams and testify against his bosses, including possibly Rigali.

Of course, Lynn could still cut a deal for a lower sentence, especially if he now realizes that after sentencing he may be set up by the Philly AD as a "rogue felon" with little legal leverage left against the Philly AD. Chaput pays Lynn's lawyers so they may not propose pursuing this deal to him. I would if I were his lawyer and I think they should.

Hopefully, similarly situated monsignors and chancery priests throughout the U.S. are noting how much they are at the mercy of bishops they may have helped with priest abuse cover-ups. It would be significant if Lynn sought to cut his sentence by offering to testify against his bosses and thereby helped end the ongoing Philly cover-up.

Of course, Lynn was not convicted of specific conspiracies with Fathers Brennan and Avery mainly due to techical legal complexity under Pennsylvania law. The trial proceedings never even addressed the really significant conspiracy of Lynn and his bishop bosses, although Bill Donohue and Christine Flowers above try misleadingly to suggest otherwise. Lynn could bring this major conspiracy to the forefront if he agreed now to testify against his former bosses in exchange for a lesser prison sentence. Of course, he might also jeopardize his pension and whatever else Rigali and Chaput may have promised him.


After almost three decades' service earlier in important Vatican positions, Cardinal Rigali then spent a good part of a another decade "ruling" the St. Louis Archdiocese as described here.   

Cardinal Rigali next replaced Cardinal Bevilacqua as head of the Philly AD in 2003 in the midst of DA Abraham's First Grand Jury investigation, which was focusing on Bevilacqua and Lynn significantly. Rigali kept Msgr. Lynn on for some period, perhaps until the prosecutor's pressures got to be too great, and then transferred Lynn to head a key parish, where Lynn was of course still accessible to Rigali for priest personnel input. And evidentally, Lynn filled Rigali in on the open "hot button" issues in the secret archives files.

By 2005, the First Grand Jury had found more than sixty Philly priests to be alleged sexual predators, but was unable to call for any indictments due mainly to Pennsylvania's short criminal statute of limitations. At least one Philly Assistant DA, William Spade, as noted above in the link about the prosecution history, resigned at the time, in part at least, because he thought Msgr. Lynn and other officials could be indicted for a cover-up conspiracy, but DA Abraham apparently disagreed.

No one was indicted in 2005, it appears, and Rigali acted canonically on some of the allegedly predatory priests, mounted a massive "child safety" PR campaign and attacked the Philly DA's office broadly for purported unfairness and incompetence. Apparently, when the publicity lights dimmed, so did Rigali's enthusiasm for curtailing predatory priests, it seems.

The Philly DA, Lynne Abraham, then lobbied successfully for Pennsylvania law changes and in 2008 began a Second Grand Jury investigation of the Philly AD, which was well under way when Seth Williams succeeded DA Abraham in 2010. Many of the key Philly Assistant DA's continued working on the case under Seth. He had to carry the case forward, whether he wanted to or not.

In February 2011, the Second Grand Jury Report was issued. Msgr. Lynn and three other priests and a lay Catholic parochial school teacher were indicted for various crimes related to sexual abuse of children and/or child endangerment.  The Second Grand Jury report also alleged that several dozen other current Philly priests had sexually misbehaved with children. 

The extensive Philly trial legal filings with helpful summaries and a timeline are now available at here.

At first, as described here, Cardinal Rigali early last year indicated voluntarily that the Philly AD had no admitted or established predator priests actively ministering. Apparently after consulting further with his criminal lawyer, Rigali suddenly a few weeks later announced that he was suspending three dozen Philly priests for varying degrees of suspected sexual misconduct with children.  More than half of these cases had not previously been reviewed by Rigali's own child protection board according to its chairwoman's article included in the link above in this paragraph. 

Cardinal Rigali was then conveniently "retired" by the pope and replaced last September by Archbishop Chaput. To date, Rigali apparently has failed to explain his numerous troubling actions and his even more troubling longstanding inaction. Cardinal Rigali clearly was the man in charge at the Philly AD for almost a decade until just a few months ago. He must be held fully accountable under the law.

After now well over a year of investigations, apparently led mainly by the Philly AD's hired criminal lawyers like Gina Smith and not by prosecutors, some of the suspended priests' cases were recently resolved privately by Archbishop Chaput with little accompanying disclosures as described here.  

Still at present, now 16 months after Rigali suspended them, over a dozen priests' situations and fates remain mysteries. This is serious and unacceptable to Philly citizens, notwithstanding Bill Donohue's and Christine Flowers' premature and misleading cheerleading discussed above. It is also time for Seth Williams to act on Cardinal Rigali. As recently as last year, Seth was speaking publicly favorably about Rigali and still addressing him as "Your Eminence"!  Seth, you are not some medieval sheriff in the Papal States. The Middle Ages are over. The U.S. has a constitutionally mandated separation of church and state. Please make Cardinal Rigali account under the law.


If Philly DA Seth Williams really has mayoral aspirations or only wants another term as DA, he must overcome the challenges at hand or the citizens of Philadelphia will unlikely vote for him again, despite his ineffective attempt to hype the Lynn conviction as "monumental." Seth needs to get control of the cases involving the Philly AD and, after a decade of investigations, zero in on the 'big fish." He also needs to get some answers to key questions for Philly citizens, including the following:

(1) Was Cardinal Rigali endangering children with the more than three dozen cases of suspended priests he apparently sat on for several years?

(2) What role did Rigali play regarding the elusive 1994 "shredded memo" that was only turned over to Seth Williams recently?

(3) Why is Seth letting Archbishop Chaput's criminal lawyers control the  investigation, timing and dispostion of the cases of the three dozen  suspected priests Rigali suspended last year?

(4) Why was Fr. Avery given such a sudden and sweet plea deal at the last minute, thereby jeopardizing several of the charges against Msgr. Lynn?

(5) Will Seth support Msgr. Lynn's getting a reduced sentence if Lynn agrees to testify against his former Philly AD bosses?

The gag order is gone. Too many important questions in this criminal proceeding have gone unanswered. Some of them surely will come up again in related pending criminal and civil cases.  Philly citizens have gotten a painful education during this past year. They will be watching all Pennsylvania politicians carefully and will surely remember what they learned and observed the next time they vote. Hopefully, this prospect at least will move some politicians to protect children and survivors better than they have so far.

Cross-posted at Open Tabernacle, 28 June 2012.

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