A Parish in Turmoil
Bucks County Courier Times [Pennsylvania]
November 1, 2005
I'll hand it to Monsignors Samuel Shoemaker and Francis Statkus of St. Ignatius of Antioch Church in Lower Makefield.
They took a chance last week when they appeared before parishioners who confronted them about their roles as "enablers" - men who helped shuffle pedophile priests around the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for years.
I'm not sure the move paid off.
I can't see how Monsignor Shoemaker can survive as pastor - even if he does have the support of Cardinal Justin Rigali.
Fact is, the most sustained applause of the evening last week came when a parishioner told Shoemaker, "You must go!"
Statkus, by his stony silence, and Shoemaker, by reading a chilly statement that smelled of lawyers, did not endear themselves to any in the auditorium but their ardent supporters.
Perhaps those supporters haven't read the Philadelphia grand jury report.
Prior to their service at St. Ignatius, both worked in the chancery office and managed personnel matters, including those pertaining to the archdiocese's most notorious predator priests.
They knew of hundreds of allegations of rape and sexual molestation of children and adolescents. In some cases, they knew that priests had admitted to the crimes.
Statkus knew as far back as 1970 that Father John H. Mulholland had recorded, in letters, the perverse details of sadomasochistic abuse of parish boys.
The details of the abuse are too grotesque to publish in a family newspaper.
Yet, Mulholland remained in parish ministry for decades, and was stationed at Immaculate Conception Church in Levittown from 1996 to 2002.
Shoemaker was present in 1985 when U.S. Customs Service agents raided the room of Father Edward M. DePaoli and seized a cache of child porn magazines and movies. DePaoli was transferred to a faraway parish in Colonia, N.J.
"Even Monsignor Shoemaker acknowledged to the grand jury that this transfer put the children in the New Jersey Parish at risk," the grand jury report states.
Shoemaker was "well acquainted" with the depraved record of Father James Brzyski, who "sexually abused a hundred young victims during just seven years he spent in two parishes," the report states.
Brzyski admitted he was a child molester, too.
Eleven of his victims were from St. John the Evangelist Church in Lower Makefield.
"The Archdiocese's managers, however, never reported a single instance of sexual abuse - even when admitted by priests - and did everything in their power to prevent others from reporting it," the grand jury report says.
The archdiocese told me that neither monsignor would talk beyond last week's meeting.
Shoemaker did not return a call Monday, and Statkus was said to be out of town.
Each week at Mass, we Catholics pray to the saints for their divine intercession.
The saints are people who willingly gave up their lives to give witness to the Word.
They were martyrs, like Ignatius of Antioch, whom the Romans tossed to the lions in a public spectacle.
Bearing witness to the Word by blowing the whistle on Cardinal John Krol and Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua probably would have cost both monsignors their careers.
Yet, as Ignatius would tell them, in suffering, we are redeemed.
Shoemaker and Statkus could have spared untold numbers of children an awful fate, if only they had had the guts to do the right thing.
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