Lawyers Spar over Archdiocese's Secret Archive Files
By Ralph Cipriano
Philadelphia Priest Abuse Trial Blog
April 2, 2012
What do you do when the prosecution is using hardened police detectives to enter into evidence against your client a pile of the archdiocese's secret archive files?
Jeff Lindy, representing Monsignor William J. Lynn, went through those same files on Monday, trying to point out whatever positive things there was to say about his client.
Lindy asked Detective Joseph Walsh about the files involving Father Michael Murtha. He's the priest who was discovered in 1995 to have a large gay porno collection in his bedroom at the rectory, as well as a love letter that he wrote to a seventh-grader named [School Boy #1].
Referring to the priest's literary efforts as "that awful letter," Lindy asked, isn't it true that the priest admitted the letter was a fantasy, and that there was no allegation that the priest had ever touched the boy?
"That is correct," Detective Walsh said.
And isn't it true, Linday said, that the letter was never sent, and that detectives who interviewed [School Boy #1] years after the fact were able to confirm that [School Boy #1] had never seen the letter?
"That is correct," Detective Walsh said.
Prosecutors in the archdiocese sex abuse case contend that Msgr. Lynn entered into a conspiracy to endanger the welfare of children by customarily transferring pedophile priests, without notifying anyone.
Lynn, the archdiocese secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, is the first Catholic administrator in the country to be charged in connection with the pedophile priest scandal. Lynn has plead not guilty to charges of conspiracy and endangering children. His lawyers have claimed that the monsignor was just following orders, and that the ultimate decisions about where priests were assigned were made by the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.
Lindy asked the detective if it was true that the pastor who first heard the allegations that Father Murtha had a gay porno collection in his room, and was having pornographic videos delivered to the parish rectory, sat on that information for "four or five months?"
"That is accurate," Detective Walsh said.
And isn't it true that when the porno collection and the love letter were finally reported to Monsignor Lynn, that within four days, Msgr. Lynn had the priest in his office and he got the priest to confess that yes, the porn was his, and yes, he had written that letter but never sent it?
That is correct, Detective Walsh said.
And isn't it true that when he found out about what Father Murtha had done, that within days, Msgr. Lynn notified everyone in the archdiocese's "chain of command?"
That is accurate, Detective Walsh said.
Also on Monday, prosecutors used Detective David Fisher to introduce into evidence confidential archdiocese records that showed that back in 1964, five teenage boys had accused Father John A. Cannon of sexually molesting them while they were lying in bed at a church summer camp sponsored by St. Monica's in South Philadelphia.
The boys told priests at St. Monica's that they had been sleeping in a cabin when they were visited by a prowler, Father Cannon. The victims said they awoke to find the priest fondling their genitals. They said the priest repeated his offenses again over a two-to-three year period while the boys were in grades seven through nine. Also in 1964, three more alleged victims reported to another priest at St. Monica's that they had also been abused by Father Cannon at the camp. When confronted with the accusations from the eight boys, archdiocese records said that Father Cannon admitted to two instance of masturbation, but denied the rest of the accusations.
By 1992, Father Cannon had been on the staff of Cardinal O'Hara High School for 20 years.
One of the eight alleged victims wrote Cardinal Bevilacqua in 1992, saying as a boy, "he would wake up and find Father Cannon fondling him. "He wants a cash settlement from the archdiocese," the records said.
When Msgr. Lynn confronted the priest, he again denied the allegations, and said he did not remember confessing to any previous abuses. In 1993, Lynn wrote that he didn't think that giving Father Cannon any assignment involving contact with children "is not considered wise at this time." Nevertheless, Cardinal Bevilacqua permitted Father Cannon to serve as chaplain at Villa Joseph Marie, a girls school in Holland, Bucks County for another decade.
Finally, in 2003, the archdiocese review board decided to investigate the allegations. A detective was dispatched to interview Father Cannon. During the interview, Father Cannon once again denied everything. But as the detective was getting ready to leave, the priest called the detective back and confessed. Father Cannon "admitted he fondled the three boys in their sleep 30 years ago,"the records said.
The archdiocese review board also unanimously concluded that after fondling the boys, Father Cannon guided the boys' hands to his own genitals, to have them masturbate him.
In 2004, Father Cannon, who was ordained in 1948, put in an application for retirement. The request was granted. He was required "to live a supervised life of prayer and penitence" at Villa St. Joseph, a retirement home for priests.