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  Case Built on Archive of Memos

By Craig R. McCoy
Philadelphia Inquirer
September 22, 2005

http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/news/12707655.htm

The grand jury report on sex crimes within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia yesterday painted unforgiving portraits of Cardinals John Krol and Anthony J. Bevilacqua - as architects of a decades-long cover-up that exalted damage control above the cries of children.

With an unremitting fury, the report dipped deep into the church's secret archive of internal documents to make the case that the two cardinals protected scores of child molesters with clerical collars - enabling many to attack again and again.

It said the pair sabotaged investigations, transferred priests to hide them, made a mockery of abusers' therapy, and punished whistle-blowers - all the while keeping police, victims, parents, parishioners and the public in the dark.

In one church memo, Bevilacqua's aides said the cardinal was open to reinstating an accused abuser as a pastor - after an intervening "distant" posting "so that the profile can be as low as possible and not attract the attention of the complainant."

In another memo, Bevilacqua pressured church therapists for "accommodations" in their demand that a molester be closely supervised, the jury said.

In another case, Bevilacqua had the archdiocese harbor a convicted sex offender from the Camden Diocese, then told the pastor supervising him that the priest had been transferred to be near his sick mother, the report said.

The grand jury said Krol and Bevilacqua were alike in their "calculated indifference" to human pain and their unswerving goal of squelching scandal and lawsuit payouts.

But the panel also walked to the brink of calling Bevilacqua a liar.

It said he was "not forthright" in his testimony, that he had been "untruthful," and that his credibility was questionable.

"He certainly was not credible when he claimed before the grand jury that protecting the children was his highest priority," the grand jury report found, "when, in fact, his only priority was to cover up sexual abuse against children."

Striking in its angry tone and its no-holds-barred denunciation of a living cardinal, the report was the result of an investigation that church insiders say has left Bevilacqua shaken. Attempts to talk to the 82-year-old cardinal, who lives behind gated and guarded walls at the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary off City Avenue, were unsuccessful yesterday.

The archdiocese rallied to the defense of both cardinals yesterday, especially Bevilacqua.

In a rebuttal as sharp in its rhetoric as the grand jury report, the church's lawyers said that Bevilacqua had received "perhaps the report's cruelest treatment" and that prosecutors had tried to "bully and intimidate" him - "to trap His Eminence, and to humiliate, prosecute and disrespect him."

Krol, who died in 1996 at age 85, led the diocese from 1961 to 1988. Bevilacqua followed him and served until he reached retirement age in 2003, stepping down a year after the national scandal over abuse broke.

In exhaustive and graphic detail, drawing on 30,084 pages of church documents, the grand jury said Krol was intent on avoiding what the church called "general scandal," transferring priests and pressuring victims not to go to the police.

Bevilacqua, it said, shared his predecessor's obsession with public relations, but also had an abiding interest in limiting the church's legal exposure during years when the abuse problem was beginning to spawn lawsuits elsewhere.

It depicted him as presiding over an institution in which many players had a role in suppressing the truth - investigators who did no investigating, priests who saw abuse and kept silent, staffers who threatened and investigated victims, even therapists as concerned with legal matters as with psychological ones.

In one case during Bevilacqua's tenure, Msgr. John E. Gillespie told his therapists that he wanted to apologize to his victims.

"If he pursues making amends," the therapists wrote church officials, "he could bring forth fresh difficulty for himself and legal jeopardy."

Of the two cardinals, the panel portrayed Bevilacqua, who holds a degree in civil law from St. John's University in New York and a doctorate in canon law from Rome's Gregorian University, as the more sophisticated in his orchestration of the cover-up.

The jury contended that Bevilacqua had his staff cripple the church's investigatory process, shutting a case down as soon as a priest denied assaults and deliberately refraining from interviewing victims and church staff or seeking to corroborate accounts.

The report singled out for repeated criticism Msgr. William J. Lynn, whose staff was charged with investigating abuse complaints.

After saying it was "initially incredulous" that Bevilacqua had praised Lynn's work, the report said, "it became apparent to the grand jurors that Msgr. Lynn was handling the cases precisely as his boss wished."

In their statement, the church's lawyers quoted Lynn as vigorously defending himself and as saying the grand jury had showed a "definite anti-Catholic bias."

The grand jury said Bevilacqua promoted policies designed merely "to sound tough," even as he instructed his staff to mislead the press, the public and parishioners.

When one offending priest was removed from his assignment, the parishioners were told to pray for him - because he had Lyme disease, the grand jury said.

It dismissed as a sham Bevilacqua's policy of "restricted ministry," under which abusers were to be posted to monasteries or nursing homes where contact with children could be minimized.

In fact, the report said, many "restricted" abusers continued to have unchecked access to children.

In part by shopping for favorable therapeutic diagnoses, the grand jury said, Bevilacqua assured that very few priests were actually diagnosed as pedophiles.

While treating abusers with leniency, the grand jury found, Bevilacqua lashed out at those within the diocese who tried to raise an alarm.

After a seminarian came forward to report that the Rev. Stanley Gana was an abuser, "Cardinal Bevilacqua ordered an investigation - of the seminarian," the jury said.

Bevilacqua refused to allow the victim to complete his studies and forced him to seek ordination outside the diocese. In their rebuttal, the church's lawyers said Bevilacqua's rejection of the seminarian as a priest had nothing to do with his abuse complaints.

In another episode under Bevilacqua, the jury said, a nun was fired from her post as director of religious education after raising concerns about a priest convicted of possessing pornography who seemed to be intent on seducing a boy.

Among the findings about the retired cardinal:

Bevilacqua included one molester, the Rev. Albert Kostelnick, at a 1997 luncheon honoring priests, and promoted him, even though the church had received a constant stream of abuse allegations against him, including an eyewitness account from a fellow priest.

The grand jury said Kostelnick had the church's highest documented count of victims - 18.

He was not removed until last year, after Bevilacqua had left office, the jury noted.

Kostelnick confessed last year to a church review board that, even after Bevilacqua promoted him, he had kept to his "longstanding habit" of "fondling the breasts of young girls," the jury said.

Bevilacqua worked a deal with church officials in New Jersey to temporarily take in a Philadelphia priest, the Rev. Edward DePaoli, after DePaoli was convicted of possessing $15,000 in child pornography.

This, Bevilacqua wrote in a memo, would "put a sufficient period between the publicity and the reinstatement in the active ministry of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia."

DePaoli was reinstated.

Bevilacqua returned the favor with a convicted sex offender from New Jersey, the Rev. John Connor, putting him in a Conshohocken parish, where the priest later "showered attentions and gifts on a boy in the parish grade school," the jury wrote.

In an internal church memo, this trading off of problem priests was called "bishops helping bishops."

Bevilacqua added a handwritten note to a church memo that Connor posed a "serious risk," but later told the grand jury he had not known that Connor's conduct involved a minor.

It was this testimony that the grand jury said was "untruthful."

Bevilacqua promoted the Rev. David C. Sicoli to a head pastor's post even though Sicoli's career had been punctuated with abuse allegations, including the abuse of four boys in the 1980s.

Sicoli continued to harm new victims once promoted, the jury found, but Bevilacqua did nothing, leaving him as pastor despite complaints from parish staff that the priest kept boys living with him at rectories.

According to the grand jury, Sicoli was also still in ministry when Bevilacqua stepped down. The cardinal quit without asking for an investigation of Sicoli, despite assuring the public that the church now had a "zero-tolerance" policy.

A church review board, scrutinizing Sicoli after Bevilacqua's departure, determined that he had abused 11 boys during his career, including victims assaulted after the cardinal ignored the earlier charges against him.

While the grand jury brought no charges, it suggested that archdiocesan officials ultimately would face a verdict in some other forum.

"We do not mean to imply here that the motives of the archdiocesan officials were less blameworthy than those of abusive priests," the report said.

"Indeed, judged on a moral scale, the opposite conclusion might be reached, and we trust that someday there will be such a judgment."


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Contact staff writer Craig R. McCoy at 215-854-4821 or cmccoy@phillynews.com. Contributing to this article were Inquirer staff writers Stephanie L. Arnold, Benjamin Lowe, David O'Reilly, and John Sullivan.

 
 

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