Scholarship Is Renamed to Break Its Link to Priest

By Jim Remsen
Philadelphia Inquirer
October 4, 2005

The Rev. Francis A. Giliberti was one of their benefactors. And, unbeknown to them, he was also a child molester.

In a postscript to the Philadelphia grand jury report on Catholic priest abuse, West Catholic High School officials have renamed the school's $100,000 Giliberti scholarship fund to distance it from the school's onetime chaplain, who was one of 63 priests identified as perpetrators in the report.

Brother Tim Ahern, the school's principal, said he told the 68-year-old priest last week that the name of the Giliberti Fund had become a problem. Giliberti - who lives under supervision in a church retirement home - agreed, but noted that he had endowed the money in his father's memory.

So the fund has been recast as the Michael and Anna Giliberti Scholarship Fund, in his parents' names. The school, which administers the fund, will still award scholarships from it to needy students - but no longer in the priest's name, which Ahern said would be "inappropriate" because of the credible abuse allegations.

"Now, it has no connection with Father Frank," Ahern said yesterday. "That's the most important thing."

The fund was a happy story about 17 years ago, when Giliberti bestowed it after winning a $1 million slots jackpot at the Trump Castle casino in Atlantic City.

Ahern said West Catholic officials were shocked to learn of Giliberti's long history of abusing boys, which the grand jury said included walking on boys as they masturbated. The church suspended Giliberti in 2004, two years after victims first stepped forward with complaints.

Giliberti could not be reached for comment at Villa St. Joseph in Darby. Archdiocesean spokeswoman Donna Farrell declined comment.

As the abuse scandal has unfolded around the country, dioceses have wrestled with whether to remove honors from clerics accused of wrongdoing.

The Philadelphia Archdiocese's two former archbishops, Cardinals John Krol and Anthony J. Bevilacqua, engineered extensive cover-ups of abuse, according to the grand jury. The archdiocese has a Cardinal Bevilacqua Community Center in Kensington, and its seminary has a John Cardinal Krol Chair of Moral Theology and a new Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua Theological Research Center.

Farrell said the archdiocese has gotten no complaints about those designations and has no plans to change them.


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