Since the Boston Globe published the secret documents of Cardinal Law in 2002, hundreds of bishops and other senior Catholic supervisors in the U.S. have been accused in attorney general reports, grand jury investigations, news articles, and victims’ lawsuits of enabling child sexual abuse. However, public prosecutors in the U.S. have criminally charged or sued fewer than twenty complicit officials and dioceses for enabling child sexual abuse. BishopAccountability.org presents below a list of these cases with links to key documents.

Note: This list includes prosecutorial charges only for enabling sexual abuse. For a list of bishops charged or accused of perpetrating sexual abuse, see Bishops Accused of Sexual Abuse and Misconduct: A Global Accounting.

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Bishops Accused of Sexual Abuse and Misconduct: A Global Accounting

Criminal charges and civil case against Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis MN (2015-2016)

On June 5, 2015, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi announced criminal charges against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis on six gross misdemeanor counts of failure to protect children from child molester Father Curtis Wehmeyer. He also initiated a civil case against the archdiocese, pursuant to Minnesota statute 260C.335, citing three counts (one for each of three Wehmeyer victims) of ‘contributing to the need for services for, or protection of’ a child.

In December 2015, Choi and the archdiocese settled the civil case, stating in their written agreement that the settlement did not constitute “any admission of liability.” The settlement required the archdiocese to apologize to the victims in the Wehmeyer case and pursue restorative justice. It also: attached specific requirements to pre-existing archdiocesan “safe environment” procedures; called for an independent audit of the archdiocese’s compliance; and gave the county prosecutor access to the audit report, the auditing personnel, and to “work papers and underlying supporting documents.” 

On July 20, 2016, Choi announced that the criminal charges had been dropped in exchange for new provisions to the December 2015 agreement, including the archdiocese’s public admission of wrong-doing. In the amendment to the agreement, the archdiocese stated that it had “failed to keep the safety and well-being of these three children ahead of protecting the interests of Curtis Wehmeyer and the Archdiocese.”

The settlement also included Choi’s appointment of Patty Wetterling, a recognized child welfare advocate, to the archdiocese’s Ministerial Review Board.

Within hours of announcing the dropped charges and amended agreement, Choi released revealing documents related to alleged sexual misconduct by Archbishop John Nienstedt.  The released documents include a July 2014 memo by the archdiocese’s Delegate for Safe Environment alleging that in April 2014, the papal nuncio to the United States asked two auxiliary bishops to take back and destroy a letter they had written to the nuncio objecting to his instruction to shut down a church-commissioned investigation of Nienstedt by the law firm Greene Espel. [The memo is included as an exhibit in this affidavit by assistant county prosecutor Thomas E. Ring.]

“We were willing to admit to failures and even moral culpability, but we could not go into court to plead guilty to a crime we did not commit. Committing a crime implies a criminal intent and is something altogether different from failing.”

Criminal charges against former Ministers Provincial of the Third Order Regular Franciscans, Immaculate Conception province, Hollidaysburg PA (2016)

On March 15, 2016, Pennsylvania attorney general Kathleen Kane announced criminal charges against Friars Anthony J. (Giles) Schinelli, TOR, Robert J. D’Aversa, TOR, and Anthony J. Criscitelli, TOR, three former Ministers Provincial of the Third Order Regular Franciscans, Immaculate Conception province, based in Hollidaysburg PA. Each was charged with one count of child endangerment and one count of criminal conspiracy. The men were accused of enabling Brother Stephen Baker, TOR “to have contact with children and the public as part of his ministry” from April 1992 to January 2010. During that period, Baker allegedly abused more than 100 children in the area of Johnstown PA, including 88 students from Bishop McCort High School, where Baker taught religion and acted as an unofficial sports trainer.

On October 23, 2017, Blair County Judge Jolene G. Kopriva dismissed the charges against Anthony J. (Giles) Schinelli, on statute of limitations grounds.

On May 4, 2018, Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro announced that he had accepted pleas from former provincials Robert D’Aversa and Anthony Criscitelli. The two friars entered no contest pleas to endangering the welfare of children, a first-degree misdemeanor. In exchange for the pleas, the AG “withdrew the felony charge of criminal conspiracy and allowed the felony child endangerment charge to be regraded as a first-degree misdemeanor.” Judge Kopriva sentenced D’Aversa and Criscitelli to five years’ probation and fined them each $1,000 and the costs of prosecution.

Criminal charges against Bishop Robert Finn and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph MO (2011-2012)

In October 2011, Jackson County MO prosecutor Lynn Baker indicted both the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese and Bishop Robert W. Finn for failing to report child sexual abuse by Rev. Shawn Ratigan. Eleven months later, the cases against the diocese and Finn were separated, the case against the diocese was dropped, and Finn was convicted. 

More background:

In November 2011, the prosecutor in neighboring Clay County made an agreement with Finn rather than indicting him or the diocese. Jackson County prosecutors, however, continued to press their case. In May 2012, Jackson County prosecutors split the initial charges into two separate charges for separate time frames.

In early September 2012, the cases against the diocese and the bishop were separated, as diocesan lawyers had been requesting for months. On September 6, 2012, Finn was found guilty during a brief bench trial of one misdemeanor charge of violating Missouri’s mandated reporter statute. He was found not guilty of a second charge.

Finn agreed to a “stipulation of testimony,” consisting of 69 points that could be cited as evidence if his criminal case were to go to jury trial. [See Stipulation of Testimony, with links to other documents.]  He was sentenced to two years of probation. [See terms of probation.]  After Finn’s conviction, prosecutors agreed to drop the charges against the diocese.

Criminal case against Msgr. William J. Lynn, Archdiocese of Philadelphia PA (2011-2018)

On February 10, 2011, Philadelphia’s district attorney R. Seth Williams announced that Monsignor William J. Lynn, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua’s Vicar for Clergy 1992-2004, was charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child and two counts of criminal conspiracy. The charges related to Msgr. Lynn’s supervision of Rev. Edward V. Avery and Rev. James J. Brennan, whom Lynn kept in ministry despite previous allegations that they had molested children.

Lynn’s indictment was the first time a senior diocesan official was charged criminally because of his supervision of dangerous priests.

On May 17, 2012, Common Pleas court judge M. Teresa Sarmina dismissed the charge that Lynn had conspired with Rev. Brennan.

On June 22, 2012, Lynn was found guilty of one count of child endangerment, regarding his management of Avery. He was acquitted of conspiring to protect Avery and of endangering the child allegedly molested by Brennan. On July 25, 2012, he was sentenced to three to six years in state prison.

In December 2013, Lynn’s conviction was reversed by the Superior Court, which agreed with Lynn that the child endangerment law in effect at the time of Avery’s crime “imposed criminal liability only upon those directly supervising children” (page 23 of Superior Court ruling). In April 2015, however, Lynn’s conviction was reinstated by the state Supreme Court. It ruled that the pre-amended law applied not just to direct supervisors of children but to those supervising children’s welfare and that the law therefore applied to Lynn, “because, as a high-ranking official in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, he was specifically responsible for protecting children from sexually abusive priests” (page 2 of Supreme Court ruling).

In December 2015, the Superior Court overturned Lynn’s conviction again, granting him a new trial — this time, on grounds that the trial court had admitted a “high volume of unfairly prejudicial other-acts evidence.”  

On July 26, 2016, the PA Supreme Court refused the district attorney’s March 2016 petition for a review of the appellate court’s ruling. On August 2, Lynn was allowed to leave prison on $250,000 bail, and D.A. Williams vowed to try him again.

In June 2018, the Superior Court rejected Lynn’s motion to prevent a new trial. Lynn’s lawyers had argued on double jeopardy grounds, saying that prosecutors had committed misconduct by deliberately allowing a witness to give false testimony. Judge Jack Panella disagreed, writing that Lynn had not demonstrated prosecutorial intent to deny him a fair trial.

At a status hearing in July 2018, assistant D.A. Patrick Blessington said his office was considering an appeal to a Superior Court ruling that in the new trial, prosecutors would be able to admit only a few “prior bad acts.” The new trial may take place in 2019.

Bishop Daniel Walsh, Diocese of Santa Rosa CA, avoids criminal charges (2006)

In November 2006, Bishop Daniel F. Walsh of Santa Rosa CA agreed to enter a four-month counseling program, thereby avoiding a criminal charge for violating the state’s mandatory reporting law earlier that year.

In April 2006, Rev. Francisco Xavier Ochoa had admitted to Walsh that he recently had offered a 12-year-old boy $100 for a strip tease and had kissed him repeatedly on the lips. Walsh suspended Ochoa that day but waited three days before reporting the priest to civil authorities, during which time Ochoa fled to his native Mexico. As a cleric, Walsh was a mandated reporter of suspected child abuse in CA; state law required him to report the incidents immediately by phone and to submit a written report within 36 hours.

Ochoa eventually was accused of abusing at least 10 boys and girls. The alleged abuse included oral copulation and forcible rape. He was never apprehended by authorities and died in Mexico in 2009.

Archdiocese of Boston MA avoids criminal charges (2005)

In November 2005, federal prosecutors in Boston found that archdiocesan officials had falsely certified an accused priest’s fitness for military chaplaincy in 1999. U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan agreed to end a grand jury investigation without bringing charges. In exchange, the archdiocese agreed  to provide detailed information for three years about all Boston clergy in federal service and about chaplain candidates. The archdiocese also had to promise to a more extensive self-audit of its child protection measures.

The agreement stipulated that it did not constitute an admission of guilt or liability by the archdiocese.

Background:

In 1999, while serving as Cardinal Bernard Law’s vicar general, auxiliary bishop William F. Murphy (later bishop of Rockville Centre NY) had signed a federal document certifying that he knew of no “adverse information” about Rev. William J. Scanlan that would render him unfit to work at a Veteran Affairs hospital in Palo Alto CA.
At the time, Scanlan’s archdiocesan file contained a 1987 allegation that he had “fooled around with kids.” It also included a summary of a 1986 psychological evaluation that cited his infatuation with a young man. In 2000, the archdiocese received another allegation about Scanlan but did not inform the priest’s supervisor at the Veteran Affairs facility.

While working at the veterans’ hospital in Palo Alto, Scanlan lived at St. Pius parish in nearby Redmond CA. In June 1999, Murphy assured the San Francisco archdiocese that Scanlan was fit to minister at the parish, which had an elementary school. Murphy signed a Request for Faculties form stating that Scanlan “had manifested no behavioral problems in the past that would indicate that he might deal with minors in an inappropriate manner.” 

Archdiocese of Cincinnati OH pleads guilty to failure to report (2003)

In November 2003, the Cincinnati archdiocese, represented by Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, pled no contest to five misdemeanor counts of failure to report a crime. According to Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen, the archdiocese “knowingly failed to report” sexual felonies against minors by five priests in 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, and 1982. A judge fined the archdiocese $10,000, the maximum allowed, after the archbishop entered a no-contest plea.

In addition, the archdiocese signed an agreement to set up a $3 million victims’ compensation fund and to give prosecutors access to certain church documents. The archdiocese also agreed that all of its personnel would be obligated legally to report all alleged child sex abuse incidents to the Hamilton County prosecutor, even though the state did not mandate clergy to report: “[B]y this Agreement [the Archdiocese] is obligated to meet a more stringent reporting requirement than provided under current Ohio law.”

This was the first criminal conviction of a Catholic diocese in regards to its handling of child sexual abuse by clergy.

Bishop Thomas O’Brien, Diocese of Phoenix AZ, avoids indictment (2003)

In May 2003, Bishop Thomas O’Brien of Phoenix avoided an indictment for obstruction of justice by agreeing that he had concealed cases of child sex abuse by clergy and that he would not handle such allegations in the future. See the two links below for background; the first link also includes the agreement O’Brien signed with county prosecutor Rick Romley (scroll down a bit):

Diocese of Manchester NH avoids charge of child endangerment (2002)

In December 2002, the NH Attorney General announced that his investigation had found sufficient evidence to prosecute the Manchester diocese for child endangerment. The diocese avoided criminal charges by agreeing to submit to audits of its handling of abuse allegations for a period of five years. Below are links to the resulting agreement and to the NH Attorney General’s report:

This page was last updated February 1, 2019.