Jurors Told That Church Put off Abuse Complaints

By Jon Hurdle
New York Times
April 3, 2012

PHILADELPHIA A victim of alleged sexual abuse by a Roman Catholic priest told a court on Tuesday that church officials took more than 10 years to resolve his complaint that he had been molested at a summer camp.

Walter J. Daly, 64, told jurors at the landmark trial of a senior church official and another priest that he wrote to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in October 1992 complaining that he had been abused by the Rev. John Cannon, a priest who ran the camp in Lancaster County, Pa., where Mr. Daly went as an elementary and high school student.

In response, Mr. Daly was invited to a meeting in November 1992 with three church officials, including Msgr. William J. Lynn, the former secretary for clergy at the archdiocese and the first senior church official in the United States to be tried on charges that he endangered children by placing priests in positions where they were able to molest them.

The officials listened to Mr. Daly's description of having been abused an estimated 25 times over successive summers at the camp but did not appear to resolve his complaints and did not seem very sympathetic, he told the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

"Was defendant Lynn asking a lot of questions?" asked an assistant district attorney, Jacqueline Coelho.

"It was a very formal business meeting," Mr. Daly replied.

Mr. Daly said he spent parts of his summers at the camp between 1956 and 1965, first as a camper and then as a counselor.

When he was in seventh or eighth grade, he said, Father Cannon would come to his bed in the middle of the night. "I would be awakened in the night by the fact that someone would be touching me inappropriately," Mr. Daly said in a sometimes shaky voice.

Asked by Ms. Coelho whether the priest would do "more than just touching," Mr. Daly replied, "He would take my hand and put it on his penis to force me to fondle him."

Mr. Daly said he signed a statement for church officials confirming what had happened to him but did not hear anything more, so in 2002 he made another complaint, this time to the bishop of Harrisburg.

"In 10 years, you would expect to hear something," Mr. Daly said. "In my mind, it was never resolved."

In 2003, he was finally approached by an archdiocese investigator who appeared to be taking his complaints seriously. Asked by Ms. Coelho whether there was a difference between his meeting with the investigator and that when he made his first complaint in 1992, Mr. Daly said, "I felt that there was a willingness to listen to me."

Father Cannon retired in 2004.

Under questioning by Thomas Bergstrom, a lawyer for Monsignor Lynn, Mr. Daly said that he recalled first being abused as a fifth grader, and that he had the same experience every year for 10 years at the camp but did not tell his parents or anyone else in authority.

In testimony earlier Tuesday, Mr. Bergstrom sought to establish that the church's response to abuse allegations was directed not by Monsignor Lynn, now 61, but by the late Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua or other officials more senior than the defendant.

After investigating allegations of abuse by another priest, the Rev. Stanley Gana, Monsignor Lynn recommended that any decision to allow him to resume work as a priest would depend in part on the cardinal's acceptance of a report on Father Gana's treatment at a rehabilitation center in Ontario, Mr. Bergstrom said. Confidential memos outlining allegations against Father Gana were read to jurors.

Church officials, including Bishop Edward Cullen and the cardinal, decided that the archdiocese would not prevent Father Gana taking a post in another diocese, but that policy was not the responsibility of Monsignor Lynn, Mr. Bergstrom said.

"Monsignor Lynn did not recommend that the archdiocese shift Father Gana to some other diocese," Mr. Bergstrom said. "The recommendation came from Bishop Cullen and was approved by Cardinal Bevilacqua."

The trial, now in its second week, is also hearing the case of the Rev. James J. Brennan, 49, who is accused of trying to rape a 14-year-old boy in 1996.


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