Archdiocese's Abuse File to DA Lacks Key Findings
Sexual Abuse: the Archdiocese Fails to Hand over a Report of a Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse, Which Angers the District Attorney.
By Steve Israel
April 12, 2002
The Rev. Francis Stinner rubbed his hand on the sixth-grader's crotch.
When the young man finally got the courage to tell his family, Stinner denied the charges. The Archdiocese of New York believed the priest who served at St. Mary's Church in Port Jervis and taught at John S. Burke Catholic High School in Goshen.
The young man again complained about the 1977 abuse when he read about the Rev. Edward Pipala abusing some 50 boys in Orange County. The church again believed the priest's denials – even though the abuse had been reported by at least one other person.
So the boy set out to find other victims. He called a former altar boy. Then another. And another. Each one said he was abused by Stinner. He asked for letters documenting the abuse. He got the letters. One described the abuse like this:
"He would get down on both knees in front of us, place his hands on our genitals and then proceed to fix the cassock while his hands pressed on our genitals."
"And the sick thing was," said the letter, "he would do this minutes before he said Mass."
The man gave those letters to the archdiocese. A top official called the charges "credible."
The church gave the man $50,000 and a new Honda Accord in exchange for a promise of silence and a promise not to prosecute. But Stinner still served in a parish with a school.
When the story hit the newspaper, the archdiocese hired a firm headed by former New York City Police Commissioner Robert McGuire to investigate the allegations. The firm's report confirmed the abuse.
Last week – three years after the report – the archdiocese included Stinner on a list of priests who were accused of abuse. Under the glare of a national scandal of abuse by priests, it turned over the list to local prosecutors.
It did not turn over the report confirming the abuse.
That shocked Orange County District Attorney Frank Phillips.
"I had no indication one was even done," said Phillips. "This is another count in the public indictment of the archdiocese."
What's worse, said Phillips, is that the lack of the report could hinder an investigation of any recent abuse. The statute of limitations for the old abuse, which occurred in the '60s and '70s, has long expired.
"You can use prior bad acts to show a pattern of conduct," he said.
Phillips should contact the archdiocese, said its spokesman, Joseph Zwilling.
"We will do all we can to be responsive," Zwilling said.
The bottom line for Phillips?
"This is one more glaring example of a problem the archdiocese has brought on themselves," he said. "To say it's a problem and troubling would be an understatement on my part."
Thirty years after he was first abused by Stinner, the man can hardly control his anger.
"They still cover up," he said, his voice quivering, "and they still don't tell the truth."
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