Priest Alleged to Have Made Hush Payments to Sex Abuse Victims

By Ralph Cipriano
Philadelphia Priest Abuse Trial Blog
April 9, 2012

Father Thomas F. Shea was "very emotional," Msgr. William J. Lynn wrote in his secret archdiocese files. "Why now after 20 years?" the priest wanted to know.

Father Shea was upset because a former altar boy hired a lawyer in 1994 to press a legal claim against the archdiocese, saying he had had sex with the priest numerous times between 1972 and 1977.

Msgr. Lynn asked Father Shea if the young man's accusations were true.

"Maybe it might be true," Father Shea replied, according to the secret files. Then the priest changed his story. "Yes, it did happen," Father Shea confessed. The lawyer for the former altar boy had also told Lynn about a second victim who claimed to have had sex with Father Shea.

Lynn asked if there had been genital contact between the priest and the two boys. Yes, Father Shea admitted. Where did it happen, Lynn wanted to know. In a motel and the rectory, the priest responded. How many times? The priest couldn't remember.

Monsignor Lynn, the former archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy, is on trial in Courtroom 304 of the Criminal Justice Center for allegedly conspiring to endanger the welfare of children by allowing predator priests to continue in ministry.

In confidential documents displayed in the courtroom Monday, Father Shea asked Lynn if the young man's accusations "will hit the papers?"Lynn replied that "he hopes not." The young man was asking for money. Lynn told Father Shea that "the archdiocese does not make cash settlements, but does pay for therapy."

But then the monsignor told the priest that since he had confessed to having sex with a minor, archdiocese policy also required that he would have to leave his parish post at St. Clement's immediately.

In the documents shown in court, Lynn appeared to have more sympathy for the priest than the victim. "We're here to help," Lynn told the priest. The monsignor asked if it was possible "Tom Shea was seduced into it" by the former altar boy.

Here, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington asked the detective reading the files into the record if the monsignor was theorizing that a sixth grade boy had seduced the priest.

"That's what it appears to be," dead-panned Detective James Dougherty.

In a subsequent note to Cardinal Bevilacqua, Lynn said that Father Shea admitted he had sex with the altar boy, but "intimates he was seduced." The priest was sent to St. John Vianney, the archdiocese treatment center, where he was diagnosed as a pedophile.

A hospital administrator wrote Lynn that although Father Shea had admitted to having sex with one boy, it was likely that since he was a pedophile, there were other victims. The 59 year-old priest also admitted in 1995, while still being treated at St. John Vianney, that he had paid hush money to another boy he had had sex with who subsequently died in a motorcycle accident.

The archdiocese wanted the priest to submit into voluntary laicization, the process where a priest gives up his ministry, and goes back to being a lay person. But Father Shea didn't want to do it.

So in 1995, Cardinal Bevilacqua allowed Father Shea to retire "due to medical reasons." But that wasn't the end of the accusations against Father Shea.

In 2002, an anonymous letter writer wrote to Cardinal Bevilacqua to charge that Father Shea had made payments by check to a boy who was a relative. The money was paid initially in exchange for sex, and then to keep the boy quiet. The checks from the priest continued for years until recently, the anonymous letter said. The writer also said he knew of three other boys that the priest had had sex with.

The district attorney asked Detective Dougherty if there was any evidence in the files that church officials had done anything to investigate the allegations.

"None," the detective said.

Since his retirement, Father She has lived at Villa St. Joseph, where he is still allowed to say Mass.

Some of the secret archdiocese files shown in court had been heavily redacted. When Thomas Bergstrom, Lynn's defense lawyer, asked Dougherty about the blank spaces on the documents, Dougherty suggested several times that Bergstrom ask his client what had happened.

That prompted several objections from Bergstrom. After a discussion in chambers, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina told jurors that the lawyers had agreed that the files were found to be redacted when they were turned over to the grand jury, and no further explanation would be forthcoming. The judge said it had also been "inappropriate" for Detective Dougherty to suggest that Lynn knew something about the redacted files.

Defendant Lynn has no burden to prove anything, the judge instructed the jury. Instead, the prosecution has the burden of proving its case against Father Lynn beyond a reasonable doubt.

Dougherty promptly apologized.

Also on Monday, Sister Joan Scary took the witness stand to tell the jury how in 1995, she had discovered pornographic magazines mailed in plain wrappers to Father Eward M. DePaoli at St. Gabriel's rectory in Stowe, Pa.

Scary, a Sister of Mercy who wore cross earrings and a cross necklace, testified how she mailed one magazine along with an anonymous note to Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua that said, "Your Eminence, Is this appropriate for a Roman Catholic priest?"

The note shown in court was attached to a Details magazine that featured articles such as "Sex: The Ultimate Buyer's Guide," and "Anka: The Naughty DAughter Talks Dirty to Her Mom and Dad." On the witness stand, however, Sister Scary testified that the prosecutors had the note attached to the wrong magazine. Scary testified that she sent the cardinal a magazine that had two men on the cover embracing.

Father DePaoli had previously been convicted in 1986 of receiving child pornography through the mail. Postal inspectors found under DePaoli's bed in his rectory room at Holy Martyrs Church in Oreland, Pa., an estimated $15,000 worth of pornography, including more than 100 magazines. After his conviction, Father DePaoli was transferred to St. Gabriel's, where he never said Mass or heard confessions. "It seemed strange," the nun said.

Scary, a nun for 50 years, testified that when she complained about the magazines to Father James Gormley, pastor at St. Gabriel's, he told she "might as well pack [her] bags and get out of here" if she was going to continue to speak out against Father DePaoli. "He was very angry, very hostile," Sister Scary said.


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