October 6, 2021
By Kathryn Robb and David Clohessy
Politicians know that image is everything. And if they know what’s good for them, they need to know what’s going on around them – personally and otherwise.
Politicians also tend to know many people, organizations, and community leaders. They need to know to stay connected and politically afloat, especially a politician like Senator Bob Mensch, who has been in public life for years and lived in Pennsburg township for nearly 50 years.
Mensch is from Pennsburg. That’s where Fr. Edward Avery worked at St. Philip Neri parish. Maybe Mensch knows Avery or knows of him. Avery admitted molesting a child and spent time in prison.
Or maybe Mensch knows Fr. Joseph R. Monahan, who also worked at St. Philip Neri. Monahan is accused, in a grand jury report, of molesting an eighth-grader. It’s a small world. In 2006, because of an abuse report, Fr. Monahan was suspended from a parish in St. Louis, Missouri, three miles from where one of the authors lives.
Mensch went to college in Wayne, PA. Maybe he knows Charles Ginn Jr., a deacon at St. Katharine of Sienna parish in Wayne. Ginn resigned in 2005 from an exclusive boys’ school thereafter admitting to having kissed and hugged boys in the 1990s. Who knows what else he did?
Or maybe Mensch knows Fr. John P. Paul, who, just a decade ago, was suspended from that same Wayne parish due to abuse reports.
How about Fr. Steven Harris? Maybe Mensch knows him. Harris was at St. Isaac Jogues church in Wayne. Harris was put on leave, also a decade ago, because of alleged child sexual abuse. Church officials deemed the accusation “unsubstantiated,” but, before you know it, they suspended him again in 2015 for a separate allegation of sexual abuse.
Mensch has an office in Lansdale. That’s where then Fr. Michael Bransfield allegedly fondled a student at the local Catholic high school. Later Bransfield became West Virginia’s bishop, a post he resigned in 2018 after Pope Francis ordered an investigation into allegations that he sexually harassed adults.
Lansdale is also where Fr. Nicholas V. Cudemo was an assistant pastor at St. Stanislaus parish. Nine years ago, a secret 1994 church memo was disclosed in which Fr. Cudemo was diagnosed as a pedophile. He was first sued for abuse in 1992. After allegations from more than a dozen girls, he was defrocked in 2005.
Fr. Lawrence Broughan, St. Stanislaus parish in Lansdale, was also deemed a sexually abusive priest in District Attorney Lyn Abraham’s report. Also, in Lansdale, in 2015, Fr. John H. Roebuck pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of indecent assault.
Whether or not Mensch knows any of these alleged abusers is, of course, pure speculation. We don’t know for sure if Mensch is even Catholic.
But based on what we know, we’d bet our right arms that Mensch does know victims of childhood sexual abuse – whether by priests or sexual offenders in other walks of life.
Why? Because it occurs in epidemic proportions. Data from CHILD USA, show that one in five girls and one in thirteen boys will be sexually assaulted before their eighteenth birthday. 13.5% of all children will be victimized by dirty hands of a sexual predator. And what are other state legislatures doing? They are responding to the science with sound public policy legislation, based on justice and service to the common good, primarily children. They are giving victims an opportunity for justice while exposing hidden sexual predators.
So, most of us know abuse victims, whether we’re aware of that fact or not. Whether we don’t know, or pretend not to know, we really should know.
Why on earth does any of this matter? Because Senator Mensch is one of a handful of Republican lawmakers that refuse to help all victims of horrific childhood sexual abuse. He stands shoulder to shoulder with Senator Kim Ward in blocking HB 951, legislation that would give victims the justice they deserve. More importantly, this legislation would protect Pennsylvania’s children by exposing hidden sexual predators.
Who knows? Perhaps, Sen. Mensch will awaken to the facts, data, and the national legislative trends. Then, maybe, just maybe, he will do to do the right thing.
God only knows.
Kathryn Robb, Esq., is Executive Director, CHILD USAdvocacy, Philadelphia, Pa.; and David Clohessy is a member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.