Archdiocesan Response to Philly Mag

Can you imagine what ended up being cut by Philly Mag’s lawyers? I’m sure it was a treasure trove of unverifiable truth. That’s the article the laity needs to read. The portrayals and facts related in this article mirror my own experiences and private conversations with a variety of sources. Huber and his editors showed tremendous restraint and respect.

An Archdiocesan response to any news outlet is complete hypocrisy for many reasons. But here’s one of my own. When I worked as a sections editor for The Catholic Standard & Times (the official “newspaper” of the archdiocese) any article that was even the slightest bit controversial was reviewed and edited by the Tierney Group – an expensive public relations firm hired by Cardinal Bevilacqua. That, my friends, is not a newspaper. It’s a giant press release. It’s about control and they couldn’t control Philly Mag. I’m buying a subscription!

Below is the response from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to Robert Huber’s article, “Catholics in Crisis: Sex and Deception in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia,” published in Philadelphia Magazine, July 2011.

“This is Donna Farrell, writing on behalf of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Unfortunately for Philadelphia magazine readers looking for honest, in-depth reporting, this piece is an agenda-driven travesty of salacious innuendo masquerading as journalism. It is built almost entirely on unsubstantiated comments recklessly offered by unattributed sources that Mr. Huber is all-too-ready to accept as fact.

In reality, “facts” are hard to come by in this article. Mr. Huber fails to accurately represent everything from the simplest of factual details to more intricate truths.

Regrettably, this 7,630-word piece, which is entirely one-sided, does not address the full story. It ignores fundamental and far-reaching changes Archdiocesan leaders have implemented and continue to implement in light of the 2005 and 2011 grand jury reports.

This inaccuracy is especially galling because the Archdiocese arranged meetings between Mr. Huber and Mary Achilles, the Archdiocesan victim services consultant, and Gina Maisto Smith, the veteran child abuse prosecutor hired by Cardinal Rigali. Despite these and other conversations about the significant steps taken by the Archdiocese to protect children, prevent child abuse, and assist victims, Mr. Huber chose to omit these perspectives from his piece — which left it sensational, wildly unfair, and incomplete.”

23 thoughts on “Archdiocesan Response to Philly Mag

  1. To me this response from Donna Farrell is a new low even for the Archdiocese. Children were raped,sodomized molested and the AD thinks they have been done wrong by an article in a magazine.
    Have you ever screwed up so bad that you know that you deserve what’s coming to you? Maybe betrayed a friend,were caught in a lie. If you are truly sorry you take the criticism,the anger the attacks on your character. You don’t complain about they way you are treated when you have screwed up so badly. Again this isn’t a screw up -this is abuse of children and children still being put at risk.
    The victim Joe,is not even mentioned in their response.It is all focused on how they were done wrong.I imagine their were many meetings at the AD this morning about the article,I can bet you Joe and the victims weren’t mentioned once.

  2. This is exactly what you would expect. Donna Farrell won’t point out what is true and untrue. For instance, when she said parts of it were untrue, maybe she was referring to the phrase ” a priest, a revered adult”.

    She never points to a specific paragraph that is untrue, hoping the congregation will think it’s all untrue and will trust the archdiocese. People are starting to become smart enough to see that technique. No one trusts the archdiocese.

    I thought Huber was too easy on Rigali. When Rigali said “no archdiocesan priests in ministry today who have an admitted or established allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against them”, he implies that Rigali might have been given some bad information.

    I think Rigali absolutely knew, and just tried to hide it once again. I think they all discussed it, including the lawyers, and tried to use the same technique the John Jay report used, which was to define a “minor” as someone under 10 years old. The lawyers would say that it was legally defensible, but the congregation would assume they meant 18 years old. Perfectly evil.

    When the report came out, and it was clear a few people read it and told others, Rigali had to backtrack. The Catholic church will never tell the truth until it is dragged out of them in court. Let’s take them to court, Rigali included, and specifically for his statement above and his practice of leaving known, accused pedophiles near children, which is reckless child endangerment.

  3. Archdiocese: The truth hurts– doesn’t it? It should for the innocent lives you hurt from your lies and cover ups — from you not having enough cojones–that’s right–the Spanish word for balls.You did not have enough balls to do the right thing. Shame on you- blaming the media for your CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR. You have NO CASE. You are just on damage control, mad all this has gotten out. And worried your donations will decrease-and they should and they WILL. I challenge ANYONE reading this who donates to the Church to CEASE all donations and send your money to

    And as for us laity– the truth will set us free! Free at last we are! Free to read what we want in magazines articles- free to read the Grand Jury Report and free to come to our own conclusions. I don’t care what the Diocese has done to try and correct the problems–it was too little too late– so don’t start tooting your horns. The bottomline is they lied to us- and the lies came straight from the top. How are we suppose to sit in the pews and listen to how birth control is wrong, how being Gay is wrong when the priests themselves who are saying this could be the same ones who are raping a child, knew about a rape, covered up a rape, etc. Isn’t the criminal act of raping a child MORE wrong than a married couple using a birth control? None of it makes sense anymore–think about it people! Read books by Former priest Tom Doyle who is quoted in the Philly Mag article- this issue has been around for centuries! But the church cannot cover it up anymore.

  4. Donna I see you picked up where ‘sasso’ left off, you and the ‘rcc’ can no longer hide behind a collar, people are starting to see the light !

  5. Donna seems to take issue with the fact that the article doesn’t address the efforts that the Archdiocese has undertaken since 2005 to assist victims. We continue to hear both on and off site the bad experiences that victims have had with the Archdiocese. It was probably a good thing for the Archdiocese that the article chose not to focus on assistance to the victims.

  6. If it weren’t true, they wouldn’t need a response…they’d have the truth on their side.

    Most people see through this…and those who don’t, will be dying off soon enough.

    1. Donna if the article is so wrong then let the AD sue for libel. Wouldn’t it be a great trial to get at the truth. Time to put up or shut up.

  7. Donna as you are the communications director please communicate to us where ‘charles newman and regis howitz are and why even though the allegations of sexual abuse were deemed creditable they have not been removed from ministry and their pictures are not on the arch’d of Phila web site , there is a loop hole right ? Just to refresh your memory read the article ‘SINS OF THE FATHER’ in the Phila Magazine written by Richard Rys !!!! Oh yea if you have time point out the errors and inconsistencies in this article as well .

  8. I am beyond disgusted, enraged, sickened, betrayed and broken-hearted by this “supposed church”..They are not “shepherds” at the archdiocese — they are corrupt CEOs! They don’t give a “flying hoot” about the real little boys and little girls who were raped by priests – this “hierarchy!?!” love themselves and their image above all else – and still continue to hide behind a skirt.

    1. Jane, your are more than correct!! You have said the truth. The hierarchy are CEO’s who have the firm belief that the CIVIL LAW does NOT apply to them!!

      Protesting in front of TV cameras can have a good effect. Whatever we do, we the laity, must continue to keep these problems in the public eye. We need more articles like the recent article in “Philadelphia.” We need all the comedians to make pointed jokes about the catholic clergy We must make the clergy know that we are not going away.

  9. The only thing I object to in Richard Huber’s otherwise powerful and prophetic article in Philadelphia Magazine is his constant reference to “the Church” as if “the Church” is just the hierarchy. When he writes “The Church prefers. . .,” “the Church has known about. . . ,” “the Church was handling. . .” he clearly has in mind the bishops and cardinals.

    No. No. No. The Church is the People of God–all of us, including a billion lay people throughout the world. This is spelled out clearly in Vatican II’s “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church” in its Chapter II, “The People of God.” Although the hierarchy wields enormous power, they make up far less than 1% of the membership of the People of God. We, the laity, make up over 99%.

    So what are we, this enormous body of lay Catholics, going to do in the face of the corruption in the hierarchy that Huber’s article points out so vividly? According to the Catholic Directory, the Phila. archdiocese has approximately 1.5 million Catholics. What do we do with our outrage? Just complain? Write angry letters? Leave the Church?

    Through careful organizing, couldn’t we get 1% of Phila. Catholics into real action? That would be 15,000 people. What if 15,000 of us stood in vigil in front of the Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul in center city, demanding the resignation of Cardinal Rigali, Msgr. Lynn, and any other officials who are implicated in the sexual abuse cover-up? What of 15,000 of us, for a whole day, marched round and round the Cathedral on 17th Street and the archdiocesan offices on 16th street, demanding that we have a say in the appointment of the next Bishop of Philadelphia? What if Christ’s Spirit were to lead some of the 15,000 to camp out in the park in front of the Cathedral, keeping our demands alive with signs and banners, speeches and leaflets, prayers and songs? What if we allowed the Spirit to lead us in next steps? With God’s help, could we do it?

    Dick Taylor (

    1. I like it. Cardinal Rigali’s mansion might be another good spot for 15,000 people to show up at! My family and I would be there!

    2. Dick,

      I was actually protesting at the Cathedral in Philly back during the winter when an older gentleman came up to me an said, “If one-tenth of one perect of Catholics in Philadelphia joined you guys in protest, that would only be 150 people.”

      I wonder if you are that guy?

  10. To Dick Taylor,
    Picketting & protesting make for great theater, but rarely accomplishes anything in the Catholic Church. Hit them where it hurts: Have all 1.5 million Catholics refuse to give to the Church–not only for the archdiocesan collections/assessments–but even the Sunday offertory. You’ll have them on their knees in no time.

    1. Mark? As a victim of clergy sexual abuse, my protesting the Catholic Church makes me feel like I’m doing some good. Besides, come join us at a protest and see how we are treated by parishioners and priests. They wouldn’t give us a hard time and insult us if we weren’t hurting them. I also have talked to hundreds of people during protests and I’ve been able to enlighten quite a few. I take it that you don’t get involved with protesting, so my answer is “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!”

      1. I believe every action causes a chain reaction either for good or bad. Sometimes you can’t see the results right away but it does not negate change has happened.

  11. Here’s a better idea. 15000 people = 300 school buses circling the state capital until Rep. Ron Marsico moves House Bills 832 and 878 out of the Judiciary Committee and onto the floor of the House of Representatives. Or even better 200 buses circle the state capital and 100 buses circle Ron Marsico. Richard and Jane, are you up for a road trip? We only need 14,997 more Catholics to get off their butts. Maybe we can use some of the bishops’ tactics. WE LIE and tell the flock that passage of H832 and H878 will force the NFL to play football this season.

  12. Does anyone have any idea how much Donna Farrell gets paid to lie so much? It must be alot, because ‘hers’ is the only voice that seems to come out of the AD (Philly). Just curious about the price you could put on your consience. She, like many others in the AD, should be ashamed of herself.

    Buddy, how about the right to lifers get on that bus too? So many will protest abortion, but how about also defending the weak who have been preyed upon who are already here and living thier lives, only to be harmed and abused. The Catholic school kids are encourage every year to participate in the right/respect life rally, shouldn’t abuse of kids be a part that too?

  13. John Schmeer taught me in 1967-68 as a 14 year old Roman freshman. I would be happy to provide my yearbook to Ms. Farrell. She might pick 10 or 15 alumni at random, call them and ask them to describe Schmeer’s unsolicited “guidance” sessions. There was a regular pattern. He would give the class an assignment, take one of us out outside the room, literally back the boy into a corner, and standing inches away, would ask probing questions about the kid’s sexual experiences and fantasies. Mine was the class of 1971, it would be a safe bet that 50 students from that class would independently report the same experience. Maybe the archbishop could arrange a reunion wherein Schmeer apologized to all of us. The Schmeer-Ernie Durante duo and their antics must have been obvious to other priests and teachers.

    1. Know a few of the priests. Their appearances have changed and considering I worked with more than one everyday and did not recognized them it is possible that there are victims that need that photo. I would rather you send it to snap or bishopaccountablility. I know my friends won’t forget the face of those scum, but they “ministered” at parishes and possibly abused there. Might have been banned from going to that parish and left to abuse elsewhere As some of these cases could be within the SOL a case could be made. Know a few of my friends very upset that some(scum) were arrested, but somehow the case was dismissed. We need to help the DA not the AD.

  14. I really do not know how Donna Farrell can sleep at night. Seriously, how does she look her 7 year old twins in the eye. I wonder what she tells them that mommy does at work. I wonder how she explains why she moved her family into one parish just to yank her kids out of catholic school after just one year. It must be truly exhausting defending the AD while plotting the demise of the catholic school she seemed to be protecting at one time. If schools weren’t so trusting maybe they would have smelled the stench a mile away and screamed conflict of interest. Yes, that is right working for the AD is a conflict of interest with catholic schools.

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