SECRET Church Files Detail Anguish
By Beth Miller and Sean O'sullivan
February 19, 2012
[View documents released by the diocese]
[Diocese of Wilmington's accounting of abuser priests, as required by the terms of its bankruptcy settlement]
|Monsignor J. Thomas Cini has been called negligent for not reporting the abuse. |
It was March 4, 2009, and the bishop's right-hand man, Monsignor J. Thomas Cini, was sitting in a conference room in Bart Dalton's Wilmington law office.
Cini, vicar general of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington and pastor of St. Ann's Catholic Church, was surrounded by lawyers, answering questions under oath about a priest who had sexually abused children while working as a teacher in two Catholic schools.
The priest in this case, Paul Daleo, was a Capuchin friar, not a diocesan priest. But he was under contract to teach in the diocese, and no priest can minister here without the bishop's permission. So attorney John Manly was pressing Cini to learn what the diocese knew about Daleo before granting that permission.
Manly zeroed in on a controversy that arose in 1979, when Daleo was teaching sex-education courses at St. Edmond's Academy and St. John the Beloved. "What in Father Paul's resume stands out at you as making him qualified to teach kids about sex?" Manly asked Cini.
"Well, he did a lot of it," Cini replied.
"Well, you may think that's funny," Manly shot back. "I don't, and I'm sure Mr. Conaty doesn't."
Matthias Conaty, sitting nearby, was in fourth grade at St. Edmond's when Daleo first took an interest in him. For almost four years, Daleo raped and sexually assaulted him. Now a grown man with children of his own, Conaty was suing Daleo, the diocese, the school and the religious order.
He could file suit because he fought to change Delaware's statute of limitations. A 2007 law opened a two-year window for suits that would otherwise have been barred. As scores of lawsuits were filed, the Diocese of Wilmington filed for bankruptcy protection. Conaty, who works in marketing for The News Journal, served on the survivors' committee that negotiated settlement terms, which included $77 million in payment to victims and the release of thousands of secret files that trace the history and inner workings of the priest abuse scandal in Delaware.
Last week, as those files reached the public for the first time, Conaty was among those calling for the resignation of Cini and two other top diocesan officials -- monsignors Joseph Rebman and Clement Lemon -- for their failure to report predatory priests to the authorities, to warn parents of their presence in the community, and their failure to place the safety of children above their concern about public scandal.
Evidence of that failure, they said, is in the church's own words, the reams of documents that Conaty's nonprofit group Child Victims Voice and the Boston-based website BishopAccount ability.org started to release last week, first ensuring they don't contain information about victims whose identities have not been made public.
But after sifting through hundreds of files and hours of court hearings, Conaty said what haunts him most is still that throwaway remark Cini made almost three years ago.
Church officials were not available to discuss specific documents last week, said diocese spokesman Robert Krebs. About 60 to 70 priests and other church leaders were at the St. Mary Refuge of Sinners parish in Cambridge, Md., for several days of long-range planning last week, he said, and Saturday schedules were too full with other church duties for Cini, Rebman, Lemon or Bishop W. Francis Malooly to comment.
But, Krebs said, Cini did talk to him about that remark in the Daleo deposition and said he believes the attorney took his comment out of context. Cini told Krebs he wasn't saying Daleo had engaged in a lot of sexual activity, but that he had taught a lot of sex-education courses.
Krebs said the diocese "never fought" to keep the files secret, and now that they are becoming public, he stressed the importance of reading them in their proper context.
Conaty said he hopes many people will read the files and see for themselves what they say.
"They made light of very devastating crimes that were committed on little boys and little girls," Conaty said. "That is one of the biggest takeaways that I have from the files -- the very unpastoral, un-Christian approach by church leaders in ultimately failing to do even the minimum to protect children."
Shifting priorities by church leaders
A sampling of the diocese files reveals gut-wrenching, graphic descriptions of abuse, anguished letters from victims and family members, glowing letters of support from parishioners who didn't believe the accusations they heard against their pastors, and notes church authorities took during their discussions and meetings with victims and priests.
Throughout the files, notes are made of the priests' admission of guilt, repentance or defiance, willingness to accept treatment, and -- often -- their return to ministry after psychiatric treatment ended.
Some files include disturbing words and pictures. One 2009 letter mentions a report that abuser priest Joseph A. McGovern, removed from ministry about two decades ago, had expressed his desire to move overseas to a place more amenable to "man/boy pedophiliac relationships." A file on the investigation into allegations against one abuser priest includes photographs the priest took of a young boy emerging from a shower, wrapped in a towel. Scrawled across them are the priest's handwritten notes, most with sexual connotations.
A series of recordings from the answering machine of the late Rev. Edward Carley in the mid-1990s reveal the anguish of one victim, who was in trouble with the law, deep in debt and threatening to tell what Carley had done to him. Diocese files show the priest admitted the allegations to church authorities.
[Listen to back-to-back excerpts of some of the voice mail messages left for Carley.]
The files also reveal church authorities' ongoing struggle to contain the abuse, control information and rumors, negotiate payments and confidentiality agreements (no longer permitted) with those who said they were abused, remove priests from parishes where they had abused children and respond strategically whenever problems became public.
Among the church documents included in the files is a 1962 publication explaining how church officials must handle allegations of a sexual nature. Complete secrecy is demanded, under threat of excommunication -- which, in church terms, means eternal damnation.
The files show that the diocese negotiated with the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales to house at least one of its abuser priests at the Oblates' retirement facility in Childs, Md.
The frustration of the late Bishop Michael Saltarelli emerges in the files of Douglas Dempster, an abuser priest removed from ministry in 1993 in Marydel, Md. Dempster defied repeated instructions not to perform any priestly duties or present himself as a priest. He was known throughout town as "Father Doug." And even after Saltarelli revealed Dempster's name among other abuser priests in 2006, many in the town did not believe the reports about him. The files, though, reveal the concern of the pastor of the Marydel parish and the concern of some residents who worried about Dempster's interaction with children.
The memos of Cini and Lemon, who investigated abuse allegations for the diocese for many of the years covered in these files, include strategic considerations and characterizations of those they encounter. In his 1996 notes, Lemon says public disclosure about Gerard Smit, a priest then serving in Elkton, Md., and later removed from ministry, would be "catastrophic." In a 1997 entry, Lemon reports telling a priest that one of his victims had recorded a phone conversation with the priest and given a copy to the bishop. "We have a real problem," Lemon wrote.
In a 2003 memo about abuser priests, Cini writes, "We need to sever relationships" with abuser priests McGovern and Edward Dudzinski "because of potential liability."
But many memos also express concern for the health and welfare of the abuser priests.
In a 2008 memo, Cini expresses his discomfort in asking eight of the priests -- Francis G. DeLuca, Dempster, Dudzinski, Kenneth Martin, McGovern, Francis Rogers, John Sarro and Charles Wiggins -- to participate in a survey by John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The college was commissioned to study the causes of the abuse scandal, but Cini told researchers he considered the request "an affront."
To the priests, he wrote: "Frankly, I feel uncomfortable in making this request of you, recognizing the pain and difficulties that events which have unfolded in the last couple of years have caused you personally. However, I am bound to act upon the request of the Bishops of the United States and advise you that this study is being undertaken and the authors of the study believe that participation by priests who have had the unfortunate experience of being accused of committing abuse of minors is important."
Cini wrote about the demeanor of many victims, noting that one victim of Dempster "has not caused the church any problems and has not been confrontational."
More difficult people -- including the late John Dougherty, whose public disclosure opened the door to many other accounts -- drew scorn from Cini, especially after Dougherty emailed details of his abuse to hundreds of people around the nation.
But in one entry -- summarizing his 2004 discussion with Felix Flanigan, a DeLuca victim -- Cini describes Flanigan as "respectful, mature and unemotional" and apologizes to him for the church's "cover-up" and its "inability to cope appropriately with the situation" during that period. That apology was pastoral, not an admission of a cover-up, Cini explained in later court testimony.
James Olivere, 56, a lifelong Catholic and a member of St. Ann's parish in Wilmington, believes that is Cini's true approach to the abuse scandal. He said he stands behind Cini "100 percent."
Olivere said DeLuca molested 10 of his friends. "We're all saddened by it," when discussing the ongoing cloud over the Catholic Church, he said.
But, he said, the blame belongs with those who perpetuated the abuse.
"Who could possibly agree with the decision to move anybody? I don't know who did that. I don't know that [Cini] had the hammer to do that," Olivere said.
"He's not the type of man that is uncaring and insensitive enough to realize ... " Olivere said, his voice trailing off. "They didn't know how to deal with it."
Some files reveal that tension, and some suggest discrepancies in public and private communications.
A 2009 deposition of Lemon includes his denial that the Rev. Leonard Mackiewicz had ever had treatment for the abuse he was charged with. But Lemon's handwritten notes in 1987 show that he drove the priest to a treatment center himself. Filed with those notes is a 1987 document he co-signed with Mackiewicz granting release of the hospital records to the bishop.
A 1998 letter from Monsignor Joseph Rebman, five years after DeLuca's removal from ministry, explains to the priest that he would not be among those honored at a celebration of priests with 40 years of ordination "after consideration by the Bishop and his staff of the consequences that could happen if you were publicly involved in such a ceremony. ... Your own welfare as well as that of the diocese is involved."
Furthermore, Rebman writes, "While it is difficult to do, it is advisable that you advise others who ask that you were simply unable to attend."
Many details edited out
Diocese policy changed after the national abuse scandal emerged in 2002. Following the lead of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Diocese of Wilmington adopted tougher protections, requiring allegations of abuse to be reported to civil authorities, forbidding confidentiality agreements, and requiring criminal background checks for all adults who work in programs for children and youths.
Pope Benedict XVI, who investigated many abuse cases for the Vatican before ascending to the papacy in 2005, called sexual abuse a "scourge" and called for continued vigilance, not only in the church, but through every sector of society.
Publicly, local church officials have apologized for the way things were handled in the past, vowing that the secretive practices that perpetuated the problem and put other children at risk would not be tolerated in the future.
Much information has been scrubbed from the diocese files, including medical records, other data the diocese considered irrelevant, and information that could
identify victims who had been assured confidentiality, according to diocese attorney Anthony Flynn.
Some redactions, though, make it appear that the diocese is continuing to protect some abuser priests.
An example is in the file of McGovern, the defrocked priest whose name first emerged publicly in a 2005 grand jury report to then-Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham. The file includes a December 2003 letter from former Bishop Robert E. Mulvee to then-Delaware Chancellor Monsignor John Barres.
"As the years go by, many things can dull the memory," Mulvee wrote. "There are however, three things concerning Father McGovern that are seared into my memory because I found them so terribly disturbing at the time."
Much of the letter is redacted, including those three things. Only the final sentence remains: "I still am incredulous after all these years that a priest could say such a thing to his bishop."
A long June 2009 letter to the Vatican from the Wilmington Diocese asking the pope to remove McGovern from the priesthood refers to that letter from Mulvee, describing McGovern's comments as "truly horrifying," requiring "decisive and swift action." But, again, the offensive comment is blocked out, marked "Redacted -- Medical Records," though it appears clear the comments were made to Mulvee and not to a doctor during treatment.
Flynn defended the redaction, saying McGovern's comments were made "in the context of treatment" and that made them confidential. "This was our judgment, that unredaction would disclose the nature of treatment," he said.
A hint as to what might be in the redacted portion is contained in a different document. In a November 2003 letter to Mulvee, Barres writes "Msgr. Cini suggested that you might be able to offer some helpful testimony regarding Fr. McGovern. My understanding is that Fr. McGovern said directly in your presence that he might move to the Middle East (?) or Africa (?) or some place that is tolerant of man/boy pedophiliac relationships."
Broad 'reach of the church'
Despite the gaps and redactions, the files provide an unprecedented view into the church's internal deliberations, often confirming what advocates have charged for years -- that the reddest of red flags were ignored by church officials for many abuser priests and that church officials looked for ways to avoid public scandal.
A May 1967 letter from a pastor at Holy Rosary Church in Claymont to then-Bishop Michael W. Hyle complains that Mackiewicz was "openly defying" him, disappearing after a Boy Scout retreat and leaving only a note to say he was "taking an overnight on Sunday" and would return Monday.
The pastor also complains that on May 13, 1967, Mackiewicz "took a layman up to his room on the third floor, telling me that he wanted him to help move something, which was a lie" and how that night, May 14, "he took a young High School boy up to his room" while the pastor was busy saying the Rosary at a wake.
Efforts to hide the sexual abuse of children by the Rev. Walter D. Power apparently extended to local police.
In a 1970 memo from the late Monsignor Paul Taggart to Bishop Thomas J. Mardaga, Taggart reveals that a criminal warrant was issued in Delaware, sometime prior to 1957, for Power "on a morals charge" because "several families with young boys" had gone to the police.
Power was not arrested, the memo says, because a trooper "contacted Bishop Cartwright at that time, informed him of the impending action, suggested that unless immediate transfer out of State took place, Fr. Power would be served a warrant."
The bishop went immediately to St. Helena's Church, where Power was assistant pastor, and ordered him out of the state. Later, Power was appointed to a parish on Maryland's Eastern Shore, out of Delaware's jurisdiction.
According to the file, Power went on to become the national chaplain for the American Legion in 1977 and retired as a priest in good standing in 1983 before his death in 1998.
Attorney Stephen J. Neuberger, whose firm represented the majority of survivors who filed suit from 2007-2009, said Power's file "shows the reach of the church" at that time.
"You have an officer who violated his legal duty and allows a suspect to flee," he said.
He called it "a smoking-gun example of the Diocese of Wilmington's bishop literally taking a priest out of state to stay ahead of an arrest warrant."
'Nobody stopped anything'
A rambling, 10-page typewritten letter -- now public for the first time -- is the one document of the thousands he has reviewed that disturbs Neuberger most.
The letter was sent to church officials in August 1965 by a priest who was a friend of the Rev. John Lind. The priest's conscience had troubled him for years, he said, and he finally felt compelled to report Lind to superiors.
The priest -- whose name was redacted -- reveals that he had homosexual encounters with Lind dating to the summer of 1958, when he was in college, Lind was training to be a priest, and both were working summer jobs at Delaware Park racetrack.
The author expresses guilt over what he described as his own "homosexual weakness" and his periodic sexual trysts with Lind.
But the man's real concern, over the course of the letter, is with Lind's increasing sexual abuse of young boys.
He writes about a 1961 visit to Lind at St. Francis de Sales parish in Salisbury, Md.
"I then learned from Jack [Lind] that he was seducing a number of young boys in the parish, including one who was not even Catholic but was living in the parish confines. He spoke of taking them on rides to the Ocean City rectory when no one was there so he could have sex with them. He spoke too of having sex with some of the young men in the parish area."
The priest then describes a pattern that would play out in other abuse cases: Lind said he would take young boys on long trips, sexually abuse them on the trip, and, if the boy's mother did not want her son to go with him, "he acted so indignant about her suspicions of him that she let him go anyway."
Neuberger said Lind was a "mentor" in sexual abuse and how to get away with it to Francis G. DeLuca, who served with Lind in Salisbury and went on to prey on children at subsequent assignments throughout the diocese, ultimately pleading guilty to sexually abusing a young relative in Syracuse in 2006.
"I couldn't get off my mind the evil [Lind] was causing the Church and the dishonor he was heaping on the priesthood," the priest wrote. He said he eventually went to the diocese chancellor, but all that happened was Lind was transferred from Salisbury to St. Catherine of Siena, just outside Wilmington.
In 1963, the priest said Lind fondled a teenage boy in front of him and invited him to participate in a game of strip poker.
"It was clearer than ever to me that Jack had no control whatsoever of what he was doing, that his sex appetite seemed to be insatiable, that he had not even the trace of moral remorse."
The priest said he heard Lind call a boy on the phone and ask him to come over because, "I got the knack for it now." In 1964, this priest confessed he participated in sexually abusing a boy at Lind's invitation in an encounter at the home of Lind's parents.
The abuse continued into 1965, when the man recalled visiting Lind at St. Elizabeth Church and invited him to check out "a 'real dream' in the back seat" of his car -- a 13-year-old boy from the parish.
This convinced the priest that Lind had grown "progressively more evil" and the situation had to be stopped. In July 1965, he visited Lind one last time at St. Elizabeth, and Lind "bragged about how in less than a month at his new parish, he had made a sex playmate out of one of the best looking teenagers in the parish. ... He said he had the boy trained to do almost anything sexually with him."
"It is one of the most disgusting things I've ever read," Neuberger said. "It shows how widespread the priests' knowledge of priest abuse was in the late 1950s and 1960s" -- from the seminary to the top levels of the diocese.
"Nobody stopped anything," he said. The priest who wrote the 1965 letter -- who has never been identified, despite admitting he abused boys -- was repeatedly advised by his mentors not to say anything and not to denounce Lind, Neuberger said.
"They were protecting themselves and protecting the institution," he said. "No one is thinking about the kids."
More to come? Views disagree
Conaty said he expects much more information to emerge when the Capuchins and Oblates of St. Francis de Sales comply with the terms of their settlement agreements and release their secret files.
But Wilmington attorney Mark Reardon, who represents those orders, said he expects no further release. The files promised in those agreements, he said, already exist in court records.
Information about four of the priests who were named by the diocese as abusers -- Kenneth Martin, Francis Rogers, Harry Walker and Charles Wiggins -- were not included in the diocese's release because all four are asking U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Christopher Sontchi to prevent the diocese from releasing their files.
Staff reporter Andrew E. Staub contributed to this story. Contact Beth Miller at 324-2784 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Sean O'Sullivan at 324-2777 or email@example.com