|John Fidler: Secrecy Surrounds Removal of 2 Priests
October 8, 2010
The removal of two priests from the ministry by the Diocese of Allentown should be welcome news for survivors of abuse by priests within and outside the diocese, parishioners and others troubled by the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church.
After all, it wasn't long ago that when priests were alleged to have abused children, they were simply hustled off to anther parish while the church hierarchy looked the other way.
But much has changed since the The Boston Globe began reporting on the widespread crisis and cover-up in Boston in 2002.
Even Pope Benedict XVI has acknowledged what he called the unspeakable crimes against children and his shame, humiliation and deep sorrow over what the victims have suffered.
It's a start, but there are miles to go before anyone in the church hierarchy can sleep.
As for the survivors, some still do not sleep.
My own reaction to the removal of the Rev. Andrew A. Ulincy, 74, former pastor of St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church on North Ninth Street, and Msgr. Bernard Flanagan, 54, accused of abusing a minor in 1985 when he worked at Central Catholic High School, has been skewed.
I was ready to give the diocese some credit for doing the right thing by announcing the removals, but more recent events emphasize secrecy more than openness.
For help I reached out to Mark Rozzi, who told me his story of abuse in 1984 by the Rev. Edward Graff at Holy Guardian Angels School in Hyde Park for a previous column ("Abuse victim shows courage in quiet strength of his voice," Reading Eagle, May 7). Graff died in Texas in 2002.
Rozzi said last week that he'd been contacted by an investigator from the diocese named Brian Smyth. Smyth wanted to speak to Rozzi.
"I hope you keep this confidential," Rozzi said Smyth told him.
I wanted to learn more about Smyth, a former FBI agent and co-founder of Cornerstone Consulting Services LLC of Newtown, Bucks County, so I placed calls to Matt Kerr, spokesman for the diocese, and to Smyth.
Last Friday when I asked Kerr who Smyth was, he replied, "I'm not aware of his name."
On Monday, Kerr released this statement: "The diocesan sex abuse policy, which calls for outreach to victims by the victim assistance coordinator, also since 2008, calls for the diocese to use an investigator to look into allegations that are relayed to the diocese. That is Mr. Smyth's role in this process."
I wanted to ask Smyth how long he's been working for the diocese, how many victims he has interviewed and what he was going to do with the information he gathered.
I also wanted to ask him why he asked Rozzi to keep the meeting a secret.
A meeting was set up for last Friday in Rozzi's Reading office. He's president of Rozzi Brothers Inc.
According to Rozzi and Jay Abramowitch, Rozzi's attorney, Smyth showed up with a list of handwritten questions. Abramowitch also showed up and asked Smyth if he could see the questions.
Smyth wouldn't show Abramowitch the questions and walked out, Rozzi and Abramowitch said.
Earlier I asked Kerr if I could speak with Flanagan and Ulincy. Kerr said that they were not taking calls. When I asked where they were, Kerr said that they were in a treatment facility not in the diocese. I asked Kerr what they were being treated for, and he said that the facility dealt with abuse by clergy.
Flanagan's name interested me because Abramowitch said that his firm's investigation found that Flanagan had multiple victims at Central Catholic. The announcement of his removal referred to one victim.
The diocese and its investigator are injecting mystery and murk where clarity and light are needed.
John Fidler is a copy editor and writer at the Reading Eagle. He holds a master's degree in English from the University of Chicago. Contact him at 610-371-5054 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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