Alleged Abuse Victim Tells of Efforts to Remove Priest
By Joseph A. Slobodzian
April 16, 2012
|File photo: Monsignor William Lynn enters the Criminal Justice Center. Lynn is accused of shuffling and protecting priests suspected of sexual misconduct or abuse. (ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER )|
His was the typical Philadelphia Catholic family, the witness said.
Mom and Dad were regulars at Mass. He and his sister helped out at the rectory. And no one was held in higher esteem than a priest.
"We were raised with the belief that a priest never did anything wrong," he told a Common Pleas Court jury.
In that sense, the man, now 45, echoed other alleged abuse victims at the landmark conspiracy and child-sex abuse trial of two Archdiocese of Philadelphia priests. But as the trial entered a fourth week Monday, he offered a deeper account - a story with two parts.
One detailed how the Rev. Stanley Gana first raped him when he was 13 and developed a fierce, controlling grip that took years to break. The second outlined how, after becoming a priest himself, he spent another decade trying to get church officials to remove Gana.
Prosecutors are telling jurors about Gana and 20 other local priests who were accused but never charged with child-sex abuse to demonstrate how they say church officials routinely handled - or ignored - allegations of priests' misconduct with minors.
Msgr. William J. Lynn, the archdiocese secretary for clergy between 1992 and 2004, is accused of child endangerment and conspiracy for recommending two priests for parish assignments despite knowing or suspecting they would abuse children. The Rev. James J. Brennan is accused of trying to rape a 14-year-old boy in 1996.
Gana, now 79, was one of the most notorious priests highlighted in two grand-jury investigations of clergy sex abuse within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He was defrocked in 2006.
The witness met him a quarter-century earlier, he said, when Gana arrived at Our Lady of Calvary in Northeast Philadelphia.
The boy, then 13, was chosen to read at his eighth-grade graduation Mass, and was nervous. Gana, he said, complimented him after Mass. "That meant the world to me," he testified.
The boy's sister had a rectory job. He became a regular there, too, playing cards with Gana on Gana's bed.
When the priest raped him for the first time, Gana said he loved him, the man recalled.
That summer, Gana asked the boy's parents whether he could take the boy to his farmhouse north of Scranton. Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington asked the man why he went.
"For my parents, it was a no-brainer," the accuser said. "That's an honor to be asked to go [with a priest]. So I went."
The abuse continued three and four times a week during high school, he said, often at the rectory or farmhouse.
Gana asserted a fierce grip on his life, demanding his free time and blocking him from others, the man said.
When the teen was invited to join his high school's National Honor Society, he said, Gana told him he wasn't smart enough and would end up embarrassing his family.
When a girl asked him to a prom, Gana told him she didn't really like him but felt sorry for him.
When the teen went to Wildwood for his high school senior week, Gana showed up and whisked him away for a day, he said.
Gana also abused others, the man said. He knew of two other boys, including one who often left the rectory as he was arriving.
He also told jurors about a photo on Gana's bedroom wall of seven close friends from his 1970 class at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. Gana called the group his "mafia." Four of the priests - Edward Avery, Edward DePaoli, James McGuire, and Francis Giliberti - have since been defrocked or removed from ministry over abuse allegations.
After high school, the man joined the seminary. Finally, he began to understand the abuse and break away from the priest. But he didn't report Gana to church officials or Lynn, who at the time was the dean of men at the seminary. He said he feared the repercussions.
"I felt so ashamed - the seminary would never keep me around," he said. "I couldn't help but blame myself for letting it go on."
Toward the end of his studies, he found himself under investigation for speaking out against church teachings and having inappropriate sexual relations with other seminarians. During that investigation, he told church officials about the abuse by Gana, who by then had been made pastor at Our Mother of Sorrows in Bridgeport, Montgomery County.
Still, Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua gave the seminarian two options: seek voluntary laicization or find another diocese.
He chose the latter. He moved to Connecticut, serving as a priest and assistant high school principal.
Twice more over the next decade, he contacted Lynn or Bevilacqua, pressing them to make sure Gana was out of reach of children. Lynn portrayed Gana's problems as substance-related, he said, and assured him that Gana's ministry was restricted. But the man later learned that Gana was assisting at parishes in the area, including in the Northeast, where one of his victims had lived.
Under cross-examination from defense lawyer Thomas Bergstrom, the man acknowledged that Lynn told him he did not act "independently" of the cardinal.
The alleged victim also told jurors he recognized how much pressure Lynn was under, as the effective personnel director for hundreds of priests.
"It's not an easy job. That's just the truth," the man testified.
When the clergy sex-abuse scandal exploded in Boston in 2002, the alleged victim again wrote a letter to Lynn, demanding Gana's removal or threatening to go public.
"I think I was getting more angry that Stanley Gana had a place in Philadelphia and I, selfishly, did not," he testified.
That same year, he agreed to testify before a Philadelphia grand jury about the abuse. He also soon decided to leave the priesthood.
"I knew I could no longer represent an institution that allowed harm to me," he said.
Contact John P. Martin at 215-854-4774, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @JPMartinInky on Twitter.