All the Cardinal's Men: Who Are These Guys?

By Ralph Cipriano
Philadelphia Priest Abuse Trial Blog
May 20, 2012

For the past eight weeks, as the prosecution presented its case against Monsignor William J. Lynn, district attorneys and defense lawyers kept mentioning three names: Cullen, Molloy and Cistone.

The same three names appeared over and over again on documents marked "confidential" that were repeatedly displayed on courtroom computer screens, as evidence of a conspiracy from the secret archive files.

Cullen, Molloy and Cistone were the three top guys in the archdiocese chain of command just below Cardinal Anthony J. Bevliacqua. All three outranked Msgr. Lynn, the lone man at the defense table left holding the bag for the sins of an entire corrupt organization.

When the defense presents its case next week in the archdiocese sex abuse trial, expect to hear a lot more about Cullen, Molloy and Cistone. Defense lawyers are apt to invoke the trio as often as possible in their efforts to convince a jury that Lynn was just a lackey down at Archdiocese HQ, and not a guy who wielded any power.

So who are these guys, and why aren't they sitting at the defense table with Msgr. Lynn?

Edward P. Cullen, 79, bishop emeritus of Allentown, Pa., formerly served as Cardinal Bevilacqua's vicar for administration from 1988 to 1998, while he functioned as the number two man in the archdiocese. Bevilacqua gave him the title vicar general in curia.

Msgr. James E. Molloy was the former assistant vicar for administration under Cullen who testified before the 2005 grand jury that investigated sex abuse; the following year, Molloy was found dead, at age 60.

Joseph R. Cistone, 63, now bishop of Saginaw, Mich, served in Philadelphia as the former assistant vicar for administration under Cullen from 1994 to 1998; he was subsequently promoted to vicar for administration, serving from 1998 to 2009.

Molloy is dead; Cullen and Cistone aren't talking, and nobody expects them to be called as witnesses this week.

William R. Spade is a former assistant district attorney assigned to the 2005 grand jury that investigated sex abuse in the archdiocese; he's now a criminal lawyer. Spade got to know the cardinal's top aides, as well as the cardinal himself, while working as a grand jury prosecutor.

Cullen, according to Spade, was "much more likable than Bevilacqua, he seemed more forthright. He seemed like he was trying to be of help, but looking back on it, I think he kind of played us a little bit," Spade said.

"He came across as a better salesman than Bevilacqua," Spade said of Cullen. "He came across as being earnest. He acknowledged that the archdiocese had made mistakes in dealing with these priests."

One such mistake was published last year in transcripts obtained by The Philadelphia Inquirer. The grand jury questioned Cullen about an abuser priest, Father Robert L. Brennan. Brennan, accused of misconduct, had been shipped off for psychiatric evaluation to St. John Vianney, the archdiocese facility for sex addicted priests. But parishioners were told Father Brennan was off on a religious retreat.

"It's not the truth," Cullen told the grand jury.

"It was a lie, wasn't it?" a prosecutor asked.

"You could call it that," Cullen said.

Cullen, a former football and track star at West Catholic High "could be a charming guy, a man's man, a little rough," Spade said. "You could picture him having a few beers and talking sports if he wasn't a priest." Unlike the rest of the crew at the archdiocese, "Cullen was not cold, he laughed, he told jokes," Spade said.

But to John Patullo, a financial analyst who worked for nearly a decade at the archdiocese, from 1985 to 1995, Cullen had a different image.

Cullen was "a cigar chewing Main Line guy with a cell phone and a car phone in his Buick LeSabre Limited that had to have every option," Patullo said. "Be good to yourself," Cullen used to tell Patullo. When Cullen's new Buick arrived minus front-seat dual climate control, the only option Cullen didn't get, the vicar for administration reprimanded the archdiocese employee who ordered the Buick, Patullo recalled.

Cullen dined at Yangming, the Bryn Mawr landmark voted the best Chinese restaurant in America, and turned in weekly expense receipts to the archdiocese, Patullo said. Every Friday, Cullen left archdiocese headquarters early to drive down to his ocean-front summer home in Avalon, valued at nearly $1 million, and every Monday, he showed up late for work, his cigar in hand.

"This guy is a potentate," Patullo said. "He's all about himself. He was like a corporate executive all dressed in black."

Cullen didn't live in a rectory. As chaplain of St. Edmund's Home for Crippled Children in Rosemont, he had his own apartment in a wing of the building. "I was in there, it was beautiful," Patullo said. "He continued to use those private quarters even when he became the bishop of Allentown."

As vicar for administration, Cullen had the power to sign the cardinal's name, Patullo said. "He had all the administrative power of the cardinal over the diocese." Cullen was often seen walking with the cardinal outside archdiocese headquarters at 222 N. 17th St. The two men were usually deep in conversation, Patullo said. He had no doubts that Cullen knew everything that was going on in the archdiocese.

* * *

Msgr. Molloy was a complicated guy.

"Looking back on it, I really had affection for the guy, but it's hard now not to draw the conclusion that he wasn't completely honest with us," Spade said.

At the grand jury, Molloy was asked whether he knew about any document shredding at the archdiocese. No, he said. But after Molloy died, in 2006, a note in Molloy's handwriting was discovered, describing how in 1994 he had shredded four copies of the same document, at Bevilacqua's request, but kept one copy just in case. The "shredded memo" was a list of 35 abuser priests drawn up by Lynn. On the handwritten note, Molloy said he did the shredding, and Cistone wrote that he was a witness.

Molloy had a wry sense of humor, was paranoid, and a conspiracy theorist, Spade said.

"He told me that the archdiocese [and the church] was 100 times more sophisticated than La Cosa Nostra in their criminal activity," Spade said. "He told me a couple of times that he expected retribution for his betrayal of the organization, but he said it would be done so subtly that he would never know it," Spade said. "No lie. So when I heard he 'died' of a heart attack while alone in his room in the rectory, I remembered what he had told me."

Patullo agreed that Molloy was a conspiracy theorist, especially about the Kennedy assassination. "He loved James Bond, he loved intrigue, he loved spy stuff," Patullo said. "He was secretive, conspiratorial, loved mystery, intrigue, and thought of himself as being highly intellectual."

Molloy, Patullo said, always quoted the cardinal's favorite Latin motto: "Non est scripti, non est in mundo," which Patullo translated as, "If it's not in writing, it doesn't exist, or it's not in the world."

"His job was to put everything in writing," Patullo said of Molloy. "The cardinal wanted everything in writing. Everything had to be legal, everything had to be documented."

The cardinal also wanted complete control over the archdiocese, Patullo said, and Molloy was there to help implement martial law. Patullo said he learned that lesson early on while working as capital projects coordinator in the office of vicar for administration.

The cardinal got upset with the construction of St. Cornelius Church in Chadd's Ford. "The parish building committee pushed the design of that church," Patullo recalled. "The cardinal thought it looked like a barn," Patullo said. His Eminence preferred medieval-looking churches. After St. Cornelius was built, the cardinal wanted to have control over all church buildings projects.

Archdiocese officials debated another capital project in 1993, the purchase of a $260,000 house in Radnor Township, Delaware County, as an office and residence for the regional vicar, as well as additional parking for the parish.

Patullo was against the purchase because the house was a single home located next door to the parish. The price was far above appraised value, and the township most likely would not approve any additional parking, Patullo told his bosses. Also siding with Patullo was the archdiocese's real estate lawyer, and the director of temporal services who was the former managing partner of a Big Eight accounting firm.

But none of that business savvy impressed Molloy. All that mattered was that the cardinal wanted this done.

"Whose side are you on anyway," Patullo recalled Molloy snarling at him. "It's us against them," Molloy told Patullo, meaning the cardinal and his guys were taking over the archdiocese, and it didn't matter what the professionals had to say.

Molloy, however, could be charming, Patullo said. He was a former parish priest who was overjoyed to be working for the cardinal. Bevilacqua had drafted Molloy into the archdiocese bureaucracy because he was impressed by him.

"Molloy was tickled pink to be working for the cardinal," Patullo said. "I respected Molloy, but I never trusted him. because I always knew he had a hidden agenda."

When the shredded memo showed up in a locked safe, Patullo thought it was "classic Molloy."

"He always had to have the goods on somebody," Patullo said. "He was like J. Edgar Hoover."

* * *

Spade and Patullo didn't have much to say about Cistone.

Cistone, Spade said, was an "up and coming ambitious guy who saw himself as going places."

"He seemed to be a pleasant guy but more business-like, more professional maybe less needy," Patullo said.

Spade and Patullo disagreed about Msgr. Lynn.

"He had no personality, he was just a big zero," Spade said of Lynn, who was a frequent witness in front of the grand jury. "He's got no real warmth, no sense of humor," Spade said. "He was kind of a lackey, a company man, the man in the gray flannel suit."

"I liked Msgr. Lynn," Patullo said. "What was there not to like? he was a friendly, polite, nice guy. He didn't really belong in that group."

Lynn's office was two doors down from Patullo's on the 12th floor of archdiocese headquarters, adjacent to the storage room that contained the secret archives. "I think he was very scared, very nervous about working for Bevilacqua," Patullo said. "You could see he was on edge a lot, maybe in over his head."

"Any time I ever walked into his office, he would turn a piece of paper on his desk upside down," Patullo said. "He would be rushed, in a hurry, secretive, and moving pretty fast for a big guy."

Spade and Patullo agreed on Bevilacqua.

When Bevilacqua was subpoenaed to the grand jury, Spade's boss, District Attorney Lynne Abraham, warned him to be careful, because the cardinal was "so smart and charming."

"She was kind of gushing in her praise," Spade recalled. "But after I had spent 30 hours with the guy in the grand jury, I thought to myself, what the hell is she talking about? He had no charm at all and did not seem particularly smart to me either. He was extremely self-important and condescending, and was obviously not accustomed to people challenging him."

"I never felt a second of sympathy for the guy, which is unusual for me," Spade said. "I have managed to summon feelings of empathy for cold-blooded killers, and can generally find something redeeming in almost anyone."

Patullo knows what Spade is talking about. Patullo used to like Bevilacqua until he took a temporary job chauffeuring Bevilacqua around town for four or five weeks, after the cardinal's regular driver suffered a heart attack.

Patullo figured the move would help his career; he envisioned himself getting tight with the boss. But he wound up hating the cardinal.

"You had to be on time to the minute when you were going anywhere," Patullo recalled. "You had to be at his beckon call seven days a week."

If you were early to an appointment, Patullo said, you had to pull over a couple of blocks away and wait, until you arrived precisely on time.

When Patullo pulled the Ford Crown Victoria up to cardinal's mansion, he had to park the car just right so that the car door would open up right across from the brass rail at the front door. The car couldn't be parked a foot to the left, or the right, it had to be right in line with the front door of the mansion, so that the cardinal could walk down the steps and climb right into the car.

"When waiting for the cardinal, you couldn't walk on the carpet in the sitting room in the mansion, because the cardinal didn't like indentions on the rug," Patullo said. You couldn't put your hands on the brass rail outside the mansion front door, because the door man had just polished it.

And of course, you were not allowed to speak to His Eminence, unless he spoke to you first.

"He's just a cold hearted guy," Patullo said. "A loner, a recluse. He would pass right by the dining room where Cardinal [John] Krol was, and not even utter a word."

His Eminence had the same effect on the grand jury.

"The grand jurors, in my opinion, loathed Bevilacqua, and would have indicted him in a minute," Spade said. Spade thought the cardinal and all of his aides should have been indicted in 2005, but his bosses disagreed. That was a big reason he left the district attorney's office. He's still mad about it eight years later.

Spade believed that the cardinal and his aides, including Monsignor Lynn, were engaged in a conspiracy to obstruct justice and endanger the welfare of children. His bosses said the law wasn't there, but Spade said that in his opinion, the DA should have pushed the envelope, indicted the cardinal and his men, and let a judge or jury decide.


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