Archdiocese Collar Blind to Red Flags


Last Spring, my 17-year-old daughter who at the time was a student at an Archdiocesan high school, texted me a screenshot of a Facebook friend request she received from a religious order priest who was a complete stranger to our family. This was a clear violation the Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries of the Archdiocese. A quick look at his Facebook page showed other young looking “friends,” at least 10 of his Facebook friends were students at my daughter’s high school.

In the Philadelphia Archdiocese, religious order priests are required to complete the same background checks and Archdiocesan Safe Environment Training as diocesan priests. However, the Archdiocese does not supervise their work/ministry with children. A religious order priest can come to Philadelphia and be “freelancer” of sorts. He can set up shop and work with kids. The Archdiocesan Office of Investigations is in charge of following through on any reports concerning religious order priests working in the diocese. So I emailed my concerns along with the screenshot of the Facebook friend request to that office.

I requested to be informed of any resolution with the case. I was concerned, not just for my daughter, but for all of the minors who were “friended” on his personal Facebook page. The reply I received from the Office of Investigation included an explanation of the priest’s actions. This was all “unintentional.” How could they possibly know it was unintentional? Because the priest said so? Yes, the Office of Investigation not only shared the rule breaker’s explanation but also relayed that information as factual. The explanation was utterly ridiculous. If this didn’t involve children, it would be comical.

Somehow a priest whose ministry includes young adults and minors, mistakenly friend requests minors on Facebook without knowing they are minors as a way to advertise his religious programs. Anyone reading this have a Facebook page? Are you able to distinguish if you have friended kids or adults? I sure am. I just want to make sure I’m not the only one out there with this special gift. Somehow, Father was suddenly able to distinguish the difference when he deleted anyone he could not confirm was an adult. Were these deletions made BEFORE parents could be notified of the boundary violation? The archdiocese would not tell me. Did they keep a list of the kid’s names? There seems to be no written protocol or policy on how the Archdiocese will handle this type of violation.

Yes, this incident was considered a violation of the Standards. He was required to go through retraining and a warning letter was sent to his Order. Guilty but yet innocent (if you go by the explanation I received from the Archdiocese.) What a slippery slope they have chosen.

So this has been reduced to a priest’s “ministry marketing mix up.” No mention of all the other minors involved. No mention of whether or not parents were informed. If I were an Archdiocesan investigator, prior to the deletion, I would have contacted the parents of the minors and had them check their child’s Facebook page, especially the private messages, to make sure there was no private communication sent. I also would have had the parent’s check their child’s Facebook page to see if the priest had commented on their pictures or posts.

The Archdiocese might want to file this case under U for unintentional, but I would file it under A for alarming. I agree with Father Tom Doyle. The Philadelphia Archdiocese is somehow managing to be a little bit worse. Here’s how:

· Order priests who work with and minister to minors in the Archdiocese are not supervised by the Archdiocese. While religious orders have authority over their individual priests, the Archdiocese should monitor all Catholic ministry involving minors.

· While many of the Standards are in place dissuade grooming behavior, there is no supervisory period after someone has committed a boundary violation. 

· There is no written policy about alerting parents if their child has been the victim of a boundary violation. Let that sink in for a few minutes.

· Not only are the order priests not supervised by the Archdiocese but months after this priest was reported, he was still not listed on the Archdiocesan Clergy List. I had to report this inaccuracy months after reporting the boundary violation.  I believe this is the 6th time that Catholics4Change had to report errors on the official clergy list.

· A clergy member can break the rules of the Archdiocese, offer an explanation, and now that explanation is relayed as factual. Pretty scary from a child protection point of view. The Archdiocese seems to forget there are real kids involved in these situations and the LAST thing you do is explain something away when a rule involving children has been broken. Was I supposed to tell my daughter this was unintentional simply because that is what the rule breaker claimed? Thanks Archdiocese for once again screwing up the message sent to kids. The rule was broken. Hold off on relaying explanations that CANNOT BE PROVEN. The only good place for a boundary violator’s explanation is the infamous Archdiocesan paper shredder. Put it to good use for once.

· Clergy, teachers, coaches who have committed boundary violations against children are known to the staff at the Archdiocese. All the info is loaded into the OCYP database, but the parents of the children who interact each day with boundary violators have no idea. So, people sitting in an office building in Philadelphia have all the info and parents have none.

The archdiocese was given the opportunity to update any progress prior to the publishing of this post. No reply. 


Photography Lesson: Developing from the Negative

By Anonymous

A few years back, a close family friend asked me to do some modeling. He’d signed up for a photography class at a local college. I was happy to help out and was flattered that someone would want me as a subject.

 We met to go over details. He brought along albums given to him to use as a guide. They were filled with photos of women in dresses. He referred to some of the dresses as nightwear – long, slip-like gowns. He offered to supply the clothes, if I didn’t own what was needed. We also went over how my makeup and hair should look. I would see the proofs prior to his handing in assignments and, after he was graded, the prints and negatives would be given to me.

Our first photo session was at my home. Sit this way. Turn that way. Smile. I’d change into a new outfit and repeat the poses. It was simple but exhausting. After three hours, I hoped this was the only and last session. But he needed more photos for class. The shoots continued on weekends.

He called to say a friend’s newly-painted house would be a great place to take photos. I was more comfortable in my own home and reluctant. He must have sensed my hesitation, because he began offering reasons for me to say yes. “I’ll bring sandwiches.” “Don’t worry I have the clothes and everything set up there.”

Everything went as promised. After eating our lunch, he showed me that the clothing I was to wear was neatly hung in the bedroom closet. We started taking pictures in the basement, then on the steps and ended up in the bedroom. Then, he handed me “nightwear” to put on. But this wasn’t a long slip dress like I’d seen in the albums. It was a green slip that barely reached mid-thigh.

 I felt like a deer in headlights. Robotically, I walked to the bathroom and put it on. With camera in hand, he met me in the bedroom. First, he had me stand by the bed post. Then, he had me pose on the bed. He must have realized he’d pushed me too far and said we’re done for the day. Still in shock, I went home.

Unsure of how to handle what happened and what I was feeling, I made an appointment with a therapist. That sick feeling in my stomach was validated when my therapist explained that the photo sessions were totally inappropriate. There was no photography class with homework like this. Any nagging feelings I’d pushed aside seemed obvious now. How could I have been so naive? I began questioning everything. Who else saw the photos? Why me? Who were those other women?

There’s something else you need to know about my family friend. He is a priest. He was the one I confessed my sins to, the one who married me and baptized my child.
He’d been “grooming” me for several years. This was a carefully calculated plan to build and take advantage of my faith and trust. By treating me to meals, giving me presents and always going beyond the expected, he’d paved the way for my cooperation in his abuse.

He knew exactly how to manipulate me. I’d always been a giver and felt I owed him my help. Wasn’t I obligated? People may read this and question my reactions instead of his actions. But they should know it can happen to anyone – at any age. In writing this, I hope to give a voice to others – especially those other unnamed women in the photo albums.

Note from the editors:

As the #MeToo movement emerges, people are learning that sexual abusers aren’t usually strangers threatening with guns or knives. They are friends, family or bosses who wield psychological weapons with just as much force. If it’s still difficult to understand how the story above could happen to an adult, consider the following:

  1. Many people have a driving desire to help others and meet obligations – even when it’s at one’s own expense. You’ve probably heard the term “people pleasers.” Have you ever pushed down your own discomfort because you didn’t want another person to feel uncomfortable? Have you ever felt guilty saying no to a request?
  2. Do you believe there are people who take advantage of others for their own personal gain or satisfaction. “The Sociopath Next Door,” a New York Times bestseller, reveals that 4% of people are conscienceless sociopaths. Have you watched an otherwise “smart person” fall for manipulation? Can this rise to a criminal level? Yes, of course.

Put one and two together and that equals an opportunity for abuse, at any age and in any situation. What can you do? Demand better laws and support for victims. One victim shared that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia only offers six months of counseling for victims who suffered clerical abuse as adults. Surely, they can and should do more.

Playboy Cardinal Eluded Justice

Please read: “Catholic Church Priests Raped Children in Philadelphia, But the Wrong People Went to Jail” By Ralph Cipriano, Newsweek, November 30, 2017

Excerpt: “While Bevilacqua was partying in those casinos, dozens of priests on his payroll acted as though they had license to rape and molest children. Those priests didn’t worry about being arrested because for decades the archdiocese had followed Vatican law—and flouted American criminal law—by keeping all of its records involving priests accused of sexual assaults locked up in bulging file cabinets in a nondescript room on the 12th floor of archdiocese headquarters. Only top archdiocese officials such as Bevilacqua and Lynn, the archdiocese’s secretary for clergy, had the access code to get into that room.”



Fatal Fallout of Clergy Child Sex Abuse Continues

I’ve been told, “Just let it go. It’s over.” The cover story from the The Philadelphia Inquirer linked below is an example of why Kathy and I won’t let “it” go. The clergy sex abuse scandal continues to claim and destroy the lives of victims and those who love them. “It” continues to put children at risk. Read James Brzyski’s timeline to see how. PA’s current statute of limitation laws allow these men to evade justice and live among us undetected.

We will shut down this site when the Catholic church makes real and lasting corrections, when the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference stops fighting child sex abuse legislative reform and when victims feel fully supported by society. In other words, we hope our nursing homes have good wifi.

Please read: “Stolen Childhoods,” by Maria Panaritis, The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 26, 2017.

We believe the victims. Please let us know how we can help.


Brzyski Finally Faces Judgment

The archdiocesan coverup of sexual abuse in Philadelphia successfully protected James Brzyski from prosecution. A monster to at least 100 victims, he has been found dead in a Texas hotel. The priest was only defrocked after the 2005 Grand Jury report exposed the hidden allegations of rape and molestation.

Please read: “James Brzyski, infamous Philly priest, found dead in Texas hotel,” by Maria Panaritis, The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 13, 2017.

Excerpt: “But, like 62 other priests the grand jury said abused hundreds of children over decades in the five-county archdiocese, Brzyski was never criminally charged or prosecuted. After top archdiocesan officials learned about his assaults, Brzyski admitted to acts of sexual misconduct, and he was sent to a Catholic treatment center, where a top clinician said the priest manifested pedophilia.

Brzyski walked out on treatment, however, and refused to stay in ministry. Church officials chose not to report him to law enforcement and only told parishioners at St. Cecilia’s that he had left for medical reasons. The church further issued a policy instructing that no effort be made to locate victims from St. Cecilia’s, the grand jury found.

By the time prosecutors conducted their expansive probe of clergy abuse decades later, the statute of limitations had expired, barring the filing of criminal charges or any lawsuits against him or the church that had once overseen him.

Editors’ Note:

Kathy and I would like to extend our thoughts and prayers to his victims. We know his death brings far more complicated feelings than just relief. Please know that you can reach out to us and the Catholics4Change community.

Philly Diocese Fogs Up Again

Is there a new transparency issue? Why isn’t Father Louis Kolenkiewicz listed in the online Archdiocesan clergy directory? He is listed in the clerical appointments that went into effect today.

Father Kolenkiewicz is returning from a removal from ministry and his new gig as parochial vicar at the Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul prompted an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Given this, you’d think all the i’s wouldn’t have been dotted and t’s crossed. But as of 3pm today – his name does n

The clergy directory omission is important. Both priests and laity have come to rely on the directory as a source of information. For example, a bride may request a specific priest for her wedding. Her pastor may check the clergy list to see if the priest has full faculties. Some priests don’t want to enable those removed to falsely present themselves. They know these guys bring them down and I’m sure they resent the tarnish.

Child safety and victim advocates also routinely check this list to track information.

If a priest has been removed from ministry for any reason, his name is taken off the list. Priests who do not have a clerical assignment remain on the list as long as they have full faculties. Does Father Kolenkiewicz have his full faculties? Maybe not.

The removal of faculties is a bit different than laicization. It means the bishop has removed that priests ability to perform ministry in that diocese, such as celebrating the Mass. This removal can be temporary or permanent. The removal can be specific or general. An example of specific would be if the bishop said the priest could not give homilies but could say Mass. General means that all faculties have been removed. Laicization is decided at the vatican and can be voluntary or involuntary.

Bottom line: Transparency and clericalism issues persist.


Mom Gets Kiss-Off; Abusive Priest Gets Great Send-Off

by Kathy Kane

Father John Cannon, an Archdiocese of Philadelphia priest, passed away recently. A traditional obituary was published and, as is custom, a bishop will preside at his funeral Mass. In this case, Bishop Michael Fitzgerald along with other con-celebrants.

John Cannon was a child abuser. He violated the bodies of children. The Archdiocese knew about him since the 1960’s when he abused boys at a summer camp. The group of boys who reported the incidents were believed by other priests. John Cannon even provided a half confession.

They could have gotten rid of him and reported him to the police in 1964. Instead, they implemented the tried and true Archdiocesan parish shuffle. He was assigned as a teacher at an Archdiocesan high school and put in residence at local parishes.

John Cannon was a priest for many years at my childhood parish. I believe he heard my first penance. In October of 1985, my father died and my mother asked him to preside at the funeral because he had graduated in the same high school class as my dad. Cannon called her the day before the funeral and told her he was “suddenly and unexpectedly” called into the Archdiocesan offices. He was worried he wouldn’t be back in time for the Mass.

Another priest filled in but John Cannon did make it back in time.  He was on the altar and then stood in the back of the Church crying as the funeral procession left the Church. It always struck us that he cried at the funeral, at the time we thought it was out of sadness at my father’s death. But that was not the case.

John Cannon was gone from our parish by the time my mother went to drop off a thank you card. He was also pulled from the Archdiocesan high school and reassigned to an all-girls school and a nursing home. A mid-year, overnight switch.

It seems that “sudden and unexpected” meeting he was called to at the Archdiocese must have been very critical. However, you wouldn’t guess that while sitting in the courtroom during the Lynn trial. When evidence regarding Cannon was introduced, there was no information about why he was pulled in 1985 – only evidence from the 1960’s. Did they “lose” those notes? Something triggered another sudden shuffle a full 20 years after the first reports.

John Cannon continued to abuse children after 1964. And the Archdiocese gave him the ability to do so. He lived his final years in the Prayer and Penance program rather than prison where he belonged. His funeral will be celebrated by Bishop Michael Fitzgerald. I have emailed and called Bishop Fitzgerald many times about child safety in the Archdiocese. He has never responded. Not once. I guess a pedophile ranks higher than a concerned mother in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.


Note from Susan:

The enormity of this coverup hits home when you realize how many lives one abusive parish priest can touch (literally). While I was at work a few years ago, a colleague shared his own story about Father Cannon. As a high school student in South Phildelphia, his friends learned to avoid the priest during summer days swimming at the pool.  He was prone to grabbing their genitals under the water. Because he was a priest and because they assumed he’d say it was an accident, they never told anyone. It didn’t matter. The archdiocese already knew.

The opportunity for this to happen again exists because clericalism continues.


Don’t Miss ‘The Keepers’ On Netflix

“The Keepers” is a seven-part documentary series about the unsolved murder of a nun who knew too much about sex abuse in Maryland 50 years ago. It’s now available on Netflix. Click here to read The New York Times review.

Porn Addict to Parochial Vicar

Click here to read: Priest to return after porn investigation but questions remain,, May 2017

As Kathy comments in this article, imagine what would happen to an archdiocesan lay employee in the same situation? Would he or she get another good job within administration? No.

In the two most recent cases of archdiocesan embezzlement, the woman was fired and charged while a priest kept his leadership position.

Compare and contrast: Monsignor admits to embezzling $500K to cover gambling debts

Former Philadelphia Archdiocese CFO Gets Prison Term

Clericalism is alive and well. And it still puts our Church at risk.


‘The List’ – Watch Here or On WHYY

“The List” tells the hidden story of one of the worst criminal cover-ups in America’s history – the clergy sex abuse scandal in Philadelphia. The victims, hundreds of children whose lives were destroyed. The perpetrators, Catholic priests protected by their church.

Catholics4Change is honored to have been a part of the making of this documentary. It will appear on WHYY, Friday, May 12th at 10:30 pm. You can also view it through this link:

Watch “The List.”