Rudy Giuliani's Father Confessor: A Molester?
Priest, Long-Time Friend of Rudy, Covered up Dozens of Abuse Cases on Long Island, Accused in Attacks on Students
By A. Kronstadt
May 4, 2007
A dark cloud is hovering over the head of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, threatening to dampen his prospects with socially conservative Republican voters as he heads into the beginning of his presidential campaign.
By now, many people have heard or read that Giuliani has been married three times and divorced twice, and some of us even know that his first wife was also his second cousin. Rudy's second divorce from his second wife Donna Hanover was more a matter for Barnum and Bailey than for the Family Court. As part of the media circus, which lasted though both of his terms in office, Giuliani announced his intention to end their marriage at a press conference in 2002, before he had even informed Ms. Hanover that they were getting divorced. Toward the end of Rudy's term, when the actual divorce was imminent, Ms. Hanover told TV reporters, with the camera running, that "for several years it was difficult to participate in Rudy's public life because of his relationship with one staff member." In New York, that staff member is usually identified as Giuliani's communications secretary Cristyne Lategano, with whom Giuliani was continually seen in public during the heyday of his administration. Giuliani eventually dumped Lategano, bestowing upon her a $250,000 a year job as head of the NYC Convention and Visitor's Bureau as a consolation prize, and began keeping company with pharmaceutical company executive Judi Nathan, herself a divorcee.
Donna Hanover, who was still married to Rudy during this whole period, learned of her estranged hubby's new love upon seeing the two marching side by side down 5th Avenue during the St. Patrick's Day Parade in 2000. Finally, in 2002, just after leaving office, Giuliani was granted a divorce from Donna Hanover on the grounds of "cruelty," which when invoked by the husband usually refers to the withholding of sexual services. Hanover had filed a counterclaim requesting a divorce on a more concrete charge of "serial adultery."
Believe it or not, however, the story becomes even more lurid.
Giuliani's own shame-faced attempt to mitigate the potentially bad effect on his political career of his first divorce, from his cousin Regina Peruggi, involved yet another unsavory associate of New York City's authoritarian, divisive mayor—sleazy priest and lawyer Alan Placa, whose spiritual corruption may well drive a deeper nail in Rudy's political coffin than the worldly corruption of Bernard Kerik or Russell Harding.
Placa attended Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn along with Giuliani during the 1960s, and the two young Italian-American go-getters became great friends. Peter Powers, a former NYC deputy mayor whose friendship with both Giuliani and Placa dates back to their days at Loughlin, reminisced about occasions when he accompanied them to the opera and participated in their late-night discussions touching on philosophy and theology (http://www.bishop-accountability.org/). Giuliani and Placa collectively daydreamed about becoming, in Rudy's own words, "professional philosophers, just sitting somewhere, developing ideas and thoughts." Placa, however, decided on the priesthood as his profession, while Giuliani, whose political ambitions crystallized early in life, went on to law school. After ordination in 1970, Placa also attended law school, and his educational attainments in both the theological and legal realms made him uniquely qualified to serve in later life as a bureaucrat of the Roman Catholic Church.
In 1968, while still a seminarian, Placa was best man at the wedding of Rudolf Giuliani and Regina Peruggi. As Wayne Barrett wrote in "Rudy: An Investigative Biography of Rudolf Giuliani" (Basic Books, 2000), Rudy's mother Helen Giuliani, a devout Catholic who approved of her son's friendship with the student priest, consulted with Placa about the second-cousin problem and was informed that the degree of consanguinity was not an obstacle to the marriage under canon law. That information was, however, not accurate. Apparently, there was a form that the couple was supposed to fill out reporting their blood relationship, and the marriage would then have needed a special dispensation from the diocese in order to proceed. The form was not filled out, and the priest officiating at the marriage, Rev. James Moriarty, was not informed that Peruggi and Giuliani were cousins.
In 1982, after almost 14 years of childless marriage, then U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani obtained a legal separation from Regina Peruggi. Giuliani was already living in Washington D.C., sharing living quarters with Donna Hanover. Rudy's new girlfriend, who had previously worked as a broadcast journalist in Pennsylvania and Florida, was then estranged from her husband, Stanley Hanover. Both Giuliani and Ms. Hanover would soon be initiating divorce proceedings from their former spouses to clear the way for their own marriage.
At the time, Giuliani was just preparing to enter the political arena and believed that the Catholic vote would be essential to his future success. His divorce, as well as that of Hanover, might prove to be political stumbling blocks in the future, as the church refuses to recognize civil divorce and deems divorced people who remarry to be living in sin. To help him get around the problem of living in sin, he turned to his old friend, Monsignor Alan Placa, now a high-ranking aide to Bishop John R. McGann of the diocese of Rockville Center, Long Island., a New York City suburb. Placa's office was located a few doors away from the diocesan marriage bureau that had the authority to grant nuptial dispensations and annulments.
Although the Catholic Church forbids divorce, it has long granted annulments of marriages ruled contrary to canon law; an annulled marriage is understood by the Church never to have existed in the first place. Placa interceded on behalf of Giuliani, and his 14-year marriage to Regina Peruggi was declared null and void by the bishop on the grounds that Giuliani and Peruggi were had not obtained a special dispensation for their second-cousin marriage in 1968. The process was highly irregular, but the hermetically sealed environment of the diocesan headquarters kept the machinations well out of public view. In general, once a marriage has been consummated, the Church will not grant an annulment, but the fact that Giuliani and his wife had no children apparently gave them "plausible deniability." After the divorce and annulment, Ms. Peruggi went on to obtain a Doctorate in Education from Columbia University and has since served as president of Borough of Manhattan Community College and as the director of the Central Park Conservancy.
We already know about Rudy's soap opera relationship with Donna Hanover, but the story of Monsignor Alan Placa in the years following his intercession in the annulment of Giuliani's first marriage is even more melodramatic. Placa's formal title at the Archdiocese of Rockville Center was Vice Chancellor and Secretary for Health Affairs, but behind the scenes, he acted as legal council for the Bishop. In that capacity, all cases of alleged sexual abuse by clergy were referred to him. When speaking with families of victims, Placa acted as if he were trying to dispense justice in their cases, but was in fact acting as the bishop's lawyer. In his interviews with the victims of sexual molestation by priests, Placa would steer them into making statements supporting the diocese's case and enabling the offending priests to get off the hook. Placa was a nationally recognized expert on sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy and was personally in charge of the diocese's policy on abuse. In short, that policy was to badger the victim into backing down or shutting up, or, in some cases, getting abusive priests reassigned to other parishes where they often continued to work with children.
In the 1980s, unbeknownst to other high-ranking priests in the Rockville Center diocese, Placa also acted as legal council to the House of Affirmation in Whitinsville, Massachusetts, a treatment center for priests with problems including those related to sex abuse, where he strove to negotiate settlements with abuse victims in the range of $20,000 to $100,000 each.
In 2002, Placa's decades-long efforts to cover up sexual abuse by clergy came back to haunt him. In April of that year, he was asked to resign by Bishop William Murphy, who had replaced Bishop McGann, as Suffolk County was convening a grand jury to investigate possible obstruction of justice by officials of the Archdiocese of Rockville Center in regard to clerical sex abuse cases. During the course of the grand jury proceedings, not only was Placa's role in covering up clerical abuse brought to light, but the grand jury report also identified Placa himself as "Priest F," who, while a teacher at St. Pius X Preparatory Academy in Uniondale during the 1970s, before he became an official of the diocese, accumulated a string of sexual abuse accusations, including one of attacking a teenager and feeling him up while preparing banners for a right-to-life demonstration. In connection with these accusations, Placa was suspended in 2003 from performing the mass and exercising other functions of the priesthood, pending an investigation. Summing up the grand jury report, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said that the grand jury could have indicted 23 Long Island priests for sexually abusing children had the right laws been in place at the time.
Placa denies these allegations. He cannot be criminally charged in any of these incidents because they are alleged to have occurred in the mid-1970s, and the statute of limitations has expired. In September, 2002, in the midst of these investigations, but apparently before his suspension, Placa was personally engaged by ex-Mayor Giuliani to officiate at the funeral of his mother Helen Giuliani, who had passed away at the age of 92. When asked to comment on the accusations leveled against Placa, Rudy stated: "Alan Placa is one of the finest people I know. He has helped thousands of people as a priest, as a teacher and as a friend."
Prosecutors are also interested in the timing of a real estate transaction in which Rev. Thomas A. Kane, the founder of the House of Affirmation who resigned in 1986 charged with embezzling money from his own institution, mysteriously transferred some Florida properties to Alan Placa and another priest, Monsignor Brendan Riordan of Great Neck, Long Island. The Suffolk County DA's office suspects that this may have been an attempt by Kane to conceal some of the funds stolen from the till at the House of Affirmation. Father Kane, who was involved in a case of molestation that cost the archdiocese of Worcester, Massachusetts $44,000 to settle, was a close friend of Placa and Riordan for many years. Among the long string of misdeeds attributed to Kane, a notorious figure in the scandal-plagued Massachusetts Catholic Church, are that he obtained his job as the head of House of Affirmation by means of a phony Ph.D. and that he used his good offices as a vehicle for procuring boys, some as young as nine, to provide sexual favors to priests, including Monsignor
Riordan. After Placa was suspended from his job at the Rockville Center diocese, he moved into Riordan's rectory at St. Aloysius Church in Great Neck.
To handle his own legal problems, Placa called upon Michael D. Hess, ex-corporation council to Rudolph Giuliani when he was mayor and yet another longtime friend of both Giuliani and Placa. At the time when he became Placa's lawyer, Hess was a senior managing partner of Giuliani Partners LLC, the "crisis management" company founded by the ex-Mayor in 2002, with several major players in the former Giuliani Administration as its top executives. In 2003, Giuliani gave his old friend Alan Placa, now all but defrocked, a job at Giuliani Partners. It is unclear at this time whether Placa still works for Giuliani Partners, which was recently sold to an Australian firm to avoid conflict of interest allegations as Giuliani has commenced his presidential campaign, or what effect his association with a man like Alan Placa will have on his campaign.
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