The Archdiocese's " Charitable Concern" for a Sex Abuse Victim

By Ralph Cipriano
Philadelphia Priest Abuse Trial Blog
April 3, 2012

The man wrote the archdiocese in 1996, claiming that as an adolescent, he had been sexually abused by Father Stanley M. Gana. The man wanted the archdiocese to pay for his therapy, which he said, were a direct result of the abuse he had suffered from Father Gana.

There was a problem, however, Monsignor William J. Lynn explained in writing to the victim. The archdiocese had a policy where it would only pay the bills of alleged victims if the priest accused of abuse had confessed. Father Gana, Lynn explained, was still denying the allegations. So the archdiocese, according to its own policy, was not required to pay for the man's therapy.

However, Lynn wrote, out of the archdiocese's "charitable concern" for the victim's "emotional, physical and spiritual well-being," the archdiocese had decided to make an exception in this case, and pay the victim's therapy bills. The letter was signed, "Sincerely yours in the Lord, William J. Lynn."

Sadly, as far as the archdiocese was concerned, however, this wasn't a charity case, as was revealed Tuesday in the ongoing sex abuse trial. Father Gana had made a full confession, according to formerly confidential documents that the prosecutor entered into evidence. The documents showed that Monsignor Lynn knew about the priest's confession, but decided not to share this knowledge with the victim.

Why Msgr. Lynn chose not to tell the truth was a matter of dispute. According to the prosecutor, Lynn flat-out lied. According to Thomas Bergstrom, Lynn's defense lawyer, however, state mental health privacy laws prohibited Lynn from disclosing what he knew about the priest's condition.

But when the defense lawyer tried to make that argument, the judge sustained an objection, and then sent the jury out on a break. After she heard Bergstrom's argument, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina told the defense lawyer that there was nothing in the state mental health law to support his position.

"I'm not allowing you to ask the question," the judge said. "I think you're just dead wrong on the law." Furthermore, the judge told Bergstrom, by making that suggestion while court was in session, the defense lawyer was "attempting to mislead the jury."

Here's what Lynn knew: Donna Markham, a nun and psychologist, had called the monsignor to tell him about the success she was having in her therapy sessions with Father Gana, whom she referred to as "Stan." The therapy sessions took place at Southdown in Ontario, Canada, a facility that treated priestly addictions such as sex, alcohol and drugs. Donna Markham was the executive director at Southdown.

"He (Gana) broke down," and admitted that "all the allegations against him are true," Markham told Lynn. The quotes were from notes Lynn made in his own private file, which were read into the record by Detective Joseph Walsh.

Markham, however, concluded that Gana resorted to sex abuse only when he was under the influence of alcohol and drugs. So according to Markham, Gana was not really a pedophile.

"He's admitted to having sex with 11 and 12 year-olds, but he's not a pedophile?" Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington asked incredulously.

"That's what this report says," deadpanned Detective Walsh.

In the confidential archdiocese records, Markham told Lynn that Gana had admitted to having sex with eight people from the late 1970s through the mid-1980s, including three adolescent boys and five adult women. One of the adolescent boys Gana had admitted to abusing was the former victim who had written to Lynn. Since 1986, however, Gana claimed to Markham that he had led "a clean life."

Gana was pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows parish in Bridgeport, Pa., when he wrote to Cardinal Bevilacqua in 1995, requesting that he step down as pastor, "due to health considerations." This was another lie. The priest was already on the radar as a known offender, there were new allegations against him, and Gana was being shipped out for psychological evaluation at St. John Vianney, the archdiocese treatment center for addicted priests.

In a letter to Cardinal Bevilcqua, Joseph Cistone, vicar for administration, had warned in a 1995 letter that Father Gana had the "potential for becoming a PR problem." The cardinal's advisors were hoping to remove the potential problem, and they wanted the priest to cooperate. "He seems interested in removing himself from public scrutiny," Cistone wrote.

The cardinal wrote back that he would accept Gana's resignation for the stated reason of Gana's health. Bevilacqua closed the letter by writing, "Best wishes, I remain, sincerely yours in Christ."

The counselors at St. John Vianney concluded that returning Gana to active ministry "demonstrates significantly impaired professional conduct such that he is at risk for further inappropriate and dangerous behavior." The recommendation was that Gana receive treatment at a residential facility.

While he was being treated at Southdown, Gana, however, decided he had had enough therapy. He told Markham he was going to call a taxi, and take a plane home. "He knew it was stupid, but he was going to do it anyway," Markham told Lynn. Markham was "very saddened that Stan chose to do this," Lynn noted.

On the morning that Gana checked out of Southdown, Lynn took another phone call from Markham, and wrote in his secret file that Gana "sees no hope and no future for him in the church." Now that he had confessed to sexual abuse, Gana didn't think he would get another assignment in ministry. The priest retreated to his home in Florida.

Later that same year, Lynn received a note from a nun in the diocese of Orlando, Fla. The nun reported that Gana was having men in their late teens and early 20s stay at his house, and he was also sponsoring students from Slovakia, who wished to study in America. The nun did not think it was a healthy situation, especially in the light of recent sex abuse scandals.

After Father Gana checked out of rehab against doctors orders, he traveled to Slovakia, where he wrote to Lynn on Aug. 16, 1996, saying, "I do want to remain active in the ministry."But Lynn was worried about the possibilities of future scandal.

In a note to is file, written Sept. 25, 1996, Lynn noted that the victim who wrote to him for assistance in paying his therapy bills "is probably the type of person who is not going away." The victim had already threatened to sue, and requested a cash settlement, but Lynn wrote back that such awards were contrary to archdiocese policy. Lynn also wrote in his private files that Father Gana shared the concern that the former victim "will always be hounding him."

While Lynn was pondering a future role in ministry for Gana, Cistone wrote to Lynn saying "He will not stand in his way" if Gana wanted to seek a job as a minister in another diocese.

In his files, Lynn suggested that if Gana was to continue in ministry, it should be an assignment in a parish without a school. Lynn also noted that Gana should not be allowed to work in a parish in Northeast Philadelphia, where two of his victims lived.

In spite of Gana's confession that he had had sex with eight people, Cardinal Bevilacqua in 1997 decided to appoint Gana as chaplain to an order of Carmelite nuns. Gana was also given permission to help out as a substitute priest at his home parish of Immaculate Conception, a parish that Lynn noted did not have a school.

In 2001, however, the archdiocese changed its policies. Lynn informed Gana that any priest who had confessed to sexually abusing a minor could no longer be active in ministry, no matter how restricted, because the archdiocese could not guarantee an "adequate level of supervision." Father Gana was deposed as chaplain of the Carmelite nuns, and told he could no longer work as a substitute priest.

When it was time for cross-examination, defense attorney Bergstrom pointed out that Cardinal Bevilacqua's aides seemed eager to have Father Gana find a minister's job outside of the archdiocese.

"That would certainly be one way of getting rid of Father Gana, wouldn't it?" Bergstrom told Detective Walsh, who agreed. It was one of the few points Bergstrom was able to make in his attempt to lessen the damage to his client.

Bergstrom wasn't the only frustrated defense lawyer in the courtroom.

William J. Brennan, representing Father James Brennan, pressed the judge to allow him to question an alleged sex abuse victim about an incident where he allegedly filed a false statement with police about a non-existent home invasion. The alleged victim has, according to attorney Brennan, been in and out of jail. "He made up a home invasion story," Brennan yelled. "This guy makes up stories."

"Quit yelling at me," the judge told Brennan. The judge accused Brennan of violating her gag order that prevents attorneys in the case from talking to the press, by venting in front of happy reporters. But the judge agreed to take a two-page motion filed by Brenann under advisement. The motion concerned ground rules for questioning the alleged victim on Wednesday morning.

Assistant District Attorney Blessington countered that this argument had already been ruled on by the judge in preliminary trial motions. The only thing new in the debate was that attorney Brennan had raised his volume, Blessington said, because he was "on shaky ground."


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