Msgr. Lynn on Sex Abuse Investigation: "the Case Fell through the Cracks"

By Ralph Cipriano
Philadelphia Priest Abuse Trial Blog
April 19, 2012

In formerly secret grand jury testimony that was read into the court record Thursday, Msgr. William J. Lynn tried to explain back in 2002 why the archdiocese chose not to investigate when told about minors who were possible victims of sex abuse.

The issue came up when a prosecutor in the grand jury asked Lynn about an interview he had with Robert D. Karpinski, a seminarian studying for the priesthood who came forward in 1992 to allege that he had been sexually abused as a 13-year-old by Father Stanley M. Gana.

Karpinski, who testified in court earlier this week, told Lynn back in 1992 that the abuse from Father Gana, namely oral and anal sex, continued for five years. Karpinski also told Lynn that Father Gana was living with himself and two other boys at a 110 acre farm in northern Pennsylvania that the priest owned. The priest used the boys as farm hands, and put them on a nightly rotation, so they could take turns sharing his bed.

Karpinksi identified the other two boys being abused by Gana as "Toby" and "Mark." But the archdiocese decided not to talk to either boy, Lynn told the grand jury. As a result, Father Gana continued in active ministry and the archdiocese did nothing until 1995, when Mark Berkery came forward and essentially told Lynn the same story that Karpinski did, namely that Berkery had been abused by Father Gana for years, including oral and anal sex, beginning when he was 14.

Lynn told the grand jury that the reason the archdiocese did nothing was because it was worried about inflicting more trauma on the alleged victims. The archdiocese decided on their non-investigation policy after conferring with psychiatrists and therapists, Lynn said. "You might re-victimize them again," Lynn told the grand jury about former minors who had been sexually abused. "They might have moved on with their lives."

Msgr. Lynn, the archdiocese's former secretary for the clergy, is the first Catholic administrator in the country to be charged with conspiracy to endanger children in connection with the pedophile priest scandal. He watched from the defense table Thursday as the prosecution reenacted his grand jury testimony.

Assistant District Attorney Anthony Pomerantz sat on the witness stand, playing the role of the monsignor, as he read Lynn's grand jury answers into the record. And Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington, playing the part of the grand jury prosecutor, read the questions to Pomerantz, for the benefit of the jury in the ongoing Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse case.

In his grand jury testimony, Lynn was asked why the archdiocese didn't follow its own policies when it was notified back in 1992 about the sex abuse allegations against Father Gana, and send the priest out for psychiatric evaluation.

"The case fell through the cracks," Lynn told the grand jury.

Lynn told the grand jury back in 2002 that the archdiocese couldn't do anything about Karpinski's allegations against Gana because, "all we had was one word against the other."

"I didn't have any hard facts," Lynn told the grand jury. Lynn said he also didn't fully believe Karpinski's story. "With Karpinski, there was some doubt about his credibility since he was under investigation himself," Lynn said.

Karpinski had told other seminarians that he had been abused by Father Gana, who kept showing up at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary so he could spend more time with "Robbie." While in his eighth and final year at the seminary, Karpinksi found out he was under investigation for allegedly having sexual relations with another seminarian, and questioning church teaching.

The inquiry concluded the charges against Karpinski were inconclusive. Karpinski was given a choice; find another diocese to become a priest, or the archdiocese was going to laicize him, the formal process of getting busted down to a lay person. Karpinski opted to relocate to Bridgeport, CT, where he became a priest.

But when Berkery came forward in 1995, and made the same charges against Father Gana, "it added more credibility to Karpinski's claims," Lynn told the grand jury. That's when Father Gana was shipped out for psychiatric evaluation.

"Looking back, it was one of those things that just fell through the cracks," Lynn told the grand jury.

In 1995, after Berkery came forward, the archdiocese removed Father Gana as pastor of Our Mother of Sorrows Church in Bridgeport, and granted him a leave of absence "for reasons of health," rather than explain that Gana was under investigation for sexually abusing minors.

While undergoing in-patient treatment in 1996 at a facility in Canada, Father Gana confessed that the allegations against him were true.

Even though the archdiocese had heard credible allegations from Karpinski and Berkery, Father Gana was given another assignment, as chaplain of a convent of Carmelite nuns. He continued to work as a visiting priest, saying Mass and fraternizing with altar boys. In 2002, after the Boston priest abuse scandal, the archdiocese of Philadelphia granted an administrative leave to Gana. In 2004, when threatened with involuntary laicization, Father Gana decided to live "a supervised life of prayer and penitence" under the direction of the archdiocese. He is still a priest.

Also in court Thursday, the prosecution called as a witness Jack Rossiter, a detective who had worked on behalf of the archdiocese, investigating sex abuse. Rossiter only testified for 15 minutes until there was a problem. The prosecutor introduced as an exhibit typed notes of Rossiter's interview with Father James J. Brennan, who is charged with attempted rape of a 14-year-old.

When Judge M. Teresa Sarmina found out that Rossiter still had hand-written notes from his original interview with Father Brennan, Rossiter's testimony was suspended until the detective could return to court with both his hand-written and retyped notes from his interview with Father Brennan.








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