Four Priests Have Tried to Help Prosecution in Sex Abuse Scandal


by Jeremy Roebuck for The Philadelphia Inquirer

“At least four priests, described by lawyers as “whistle-blowers,” have come forward hoping to aid in the prosecution of current and former clergy members accused in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex-abuse scandal.

However, an archdiocesan policy requiring them to notify church lawyers before talking to law enforcement could stifle the testimony they are willing to give, city prosecutors told a judge Wednesday.

“They’re muffling us,” said Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington, paraphrasing the response he said he had heard from at least one priest. “Priests have told us that this is the same thing the [archdiocese] has done all along….”

Click here to read how Archdiocesan policy blocks their effort: “‘Whistle-blower’ priests say policy thwarts them,” by Jeremy Roebuck, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 21, 2011

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48 Responses to “Four Priests Have Tried to Help Prosecution in Sex Abuse Scandal”

  1. Policy not to talk? Really? Since when does “policy” trump doing what’s right – especially when it’s one of the people who’s supposed to set an example for what’s right? The church disgusts me.

    • Since bishops make policy.

      Priests take an oath to their bishop, and it apparently overrides the First Commandment. Bishops then command them to lie to protect the church’s reputation, which is one of the cases where you get to override the Ninth Commandment. Moses brought two stone tablets with the 10 commandments, but the bishops modified them in the cases where God wasn’t smart enough to get them right, like in the case of child sex.

      Now, God, who clearly hasn’t read the bishops addendum, keeps bringing the truth out in the open. Pretty soon, the bishops are going to denounce God completely.

      • Patrick, once again your right on the ball. I cannot help but believe that you are still a Catholic at heart.
        For clergy to become “whistle blowers” and remain in the priesthood AND survive doesn’t ring true.
        Maurie Crocker a Wollongong priest, who became the first {and last} whistleblower was treated worse than a leper, in the end taking his own life. ‘Death of Father Maurie Crocker: NSW Parliment Ajournment of Condolence. The speaker, The Hon Franca Arena didn’t last long either, indirectly, hounded out of her job, all it comes at a price.
        Not just a few, still holding her up as a woman with the strength of her convictions.

      • L. Newington – Please remember Fr. John Minkler of the Diocese of Albany, another case of a whistle blower who was placed under such pressure that he also took his own life. The bishops, by their actions have already denounced God.

        http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/abbott/100315

    • Angela …You are so completely right. My husband and I are 82. We left the RCC on our 50th Wed. .Anniv. in 2001. We love our Lord Jesus enough to not be considered complicit in these hideious CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY… This is not a Church of My Lord.! .

      Remember, the kingdom of God is Within You.

      • Gloria, that is certainly having the strength of your convictions. There would be many others of the “old school” unable to accept what been going on behind closed doors.
        God will honour you for that, regardless of what anyone tells you to the contrary.

    • The Kansas City Star’s article was longer than the quote cited above and the entirety of the article is as follows:

      “At this point, the archdiocese has become an alumni association for former assistant district attorneys,” he said.

      But Welsh’s representation of at least four employees whose testimony could hurt the church and its leaders poses a clear conflict of interest, as the archdiocese is paying his legal bills, Blessington maintained.

      Whatever Sarmina decides, it could significantly affect the ongoing prosecution of two current priests, a defrocked priest and a former schoolteacher on charges that they sexually abused young boys in the 1990s.

      A fifth defendant, Msgr. William J. Lynn, is accused of child endangerment and conspiracy for allegedly placing two of the priests in positions where they could abuse children despite previous accusations of inappropriate behavior.

      As secretary for clergy until 2004, Lynn was tasked with investigating sex-abuse allegations against priests and recommending treatment or new assignments for them.

      The archdiocese is paying Lynn’s legal bills and stands to gain if he is acquitted, Blessington noted.

      Wednesday’s hearing came a day after Common Pleas Court Judge Lillian Harris Ransom ruled that Bernard Shero, the former schoolteacher charged in the case, could be tried separately from the other four defendants.

      Shero is accused of sexually assaulting the same Philadelphia altar boy that two other defendants, the Rev. Charles Engelhardt and Edward Avery, allegedly abused in the late 1990s.

      His attorney argued, though, that the former teacher deserved a separate trial because he is not charged with participating in a broader conspiracy to cover up abuse.

      Shero’s trial is now set to begin after the prosecution of the four others. Their trial is scheduled for February.

  2. There are whistle-blower policies…in the real world.

    Those priests don’t live in the real world though…they live in the rcc.

    They will be made examples of by the archdiocese, thereby teaching other priests exactly what happens when you don’t listen to the powers that be. If there is a way to know who the priests are, a show of support from victims, advocates, and the faithful would be very helpful!

    Let the AD know that this policy is unacceptable and those telling the truth will be supported, not silenced or ostracized.

  3. In the Kansas City version of this story, our own drwho13 asks a great question in the comments section: Do the whistle-blower priests have any legal recourse against the AD’s muzzle order? Anyone have the answer to that question?

    http://www.kansiscity.com/2011/12/21/3332205/whistle-blower-priests-say-policy.html

    (There are other C4C bloggers who have left comments as well on the Kansas City site.)

    drwho13… I want to commend you, again, for speaking the truth back then, and for enduring the injustice inflicted upon you.

    • sorry… not sure why that link does not work.

    • Thanks haditCatholic.

      As I said in the past, we were openly told (during class) in seminary (not located in PA) that one never, ever, under any circumstances, ‘snitches’ on a brother priest. We were also told that a violation would result in our priesthood being made unbearable! Well, that did it for me. I knew at that point that I did not have a vocation within the Church. I snitched on a pedophile priest (still in prison), and got out of Dodge (figuratively.) It was actually a major archdiocese.

      If these four priests are known to the chancery, I can’t imagine how they can continue to serve as priests, ANYWHERE. The RCC Inc. will cover for and hide pedophile priests, but a snitch will not have a place to lay his head within this corrupt syndicate.

  4. Those four priests better have a deal with the Witness Protection Program.

  5. The four priests who wish to come forth and share what they know have constitutionally guaranteed rights, indeed responsibilities to share their knowledge. These are criminal trials and as US citizens they are obligated to speak up.

    The AD has no such constitutionally protected right to silence them, indeed it sounds like an obstruction of justice. Jerry could comment on this or any other legal guy!

    One hopes that Judge Samina will make a good decision soon!

  6. These 4 priests have a constitutionally protected right, and indeed responsibility to share what they know in a criminal trial.

    To try to obstruct their testimony smacks of obstruction of justice. My Christmas prayer is that the judge will settle this issue, soon and appropriately.

    The AD should be ashamed of itself at the birth of the Lord of Justice and Truth.

    • Does witness tampering apply only in Federal cases? Any lawyers out there?

      http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/usc_sec_18_00001512—-000-.html

      • No, PA has a Witness Tampering legislation and here it is

        The Statute Governing Intimidation of a Witness in Pennsylvania
        Below you will find the actual text of the Pennsylvania statute governing intimidation of a witness in Pennsylvania. This was current as of July 2010. Our Pittsburgh criminal defense law firm is primarily in the business of fighting for defendants’ rights; we are not in the business of updating websites, but wanted to at least give you some information for educational purposes, only. You should talk to a lawyer for legal advice to fully learn your rights in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington, and Westmoreland Counties. Our Pittsburgh attorneys explain to you the intimidation-related crime, possible punishment, and all your options.

        Call today for a FREE CONSULTATION.

        Intimidation of Witness
        § 4952. Intimidation of witnesses or victims

        (a) OFFENSE DEFINED.– A person commits an offense if, with the intent to or with the knowledge that his conduct will obstruct, impede, impair, prevent or interfere with the administration of criminal justice, he intimidates or attempts to intimidate any witness or victim to:

        (1) Refrain from informing or reporting to any law enforcement officer, prosecuting official or judge concerning any information, document or thing relating to the commission of a crime.

        (2) Give any false or misleading information or testimony relating to the commission of any crime to any law enforcement officer, prosecuting official or judge.

        (3) Withhold any testimony, information, document or thing relating to the commission of a crime from any law enforcement officer, prosecuting official or judge.

        (4) Give any false or misleading information or testimony or refrain from giving any testimony, information, document or thing, relating to the commission of a crime, to an attorney representing a criminal defendant.

        (5) Elude, evade or ignore any request to appear or legal process summoning him to appear to testify or supply evidence.

        (6) Absent himself from any proceeding or investigation to which he has been legally summoned.

        (b) GRADING.–

        (1) The offense is a felony of the degree indicated in paragraphs (2) through (4) if:

        (i) The actor employs force, violence or deception, or threatens to employ force or violence, upon the witness or victim or, with the requisite intent or knowledge upon any other person.

        (ii) The actor offers any pecuniary or other benefit to the witness or victim or, with the requisite intent or knowledge, to any other person.

        (iii) The actor’s conduct is in furtherance of a conspiracy to intimidate a witness or victim.

        (iv) The actor accepts, agrees or solicits another to accept any pecuniary or other benefit to intimidate a witness or victim.

        (v) The actor has suffered any prior conviction for any violation of this section or any predecessor law hereto, or has been convicted, under any Federal statute or statute of any other state, of an act which would be a violation of this section if committed in this State.

        (2) The offense is a felony of the first degree if a felony of the first degree or murder in the first or second degree was charged in the case in which the actor sought to influence or intimidate a witness or victim as specified in this subsection.

        (3) The offense is a felony of the second degree if a felony of the second degree is the most serious offense charged in the case in which the actor sought to influence or intimidate a witness or victim as specified in this subsection.

        (4) The offense is a felony of the third degree in any other case in which the actor sought to influence or intimidate a witness or victim as specified in this subsection.

        (5) Otherwise the offense is a misdemeanor of the second degree.

         

         

      • These priests should take heart…Fr John Conley in San Francisco A/D ‘snitched’ on an abusing pastor to the local DA..and was suspended by Cardinal Levada then A/B in San Francisco. Fr John was a US Attorney before he was ordained. Fr Conley sued Levada for wrongful abuse of employment and got a settlement 15 minutes before jury was seated..,Settlement was, SF Condo, retirement funding, status as a priest in good standing and a half ass apology ” Fr Conley did the right thing in reporting abusing priest’

      • Friscoeddie, what a perfectly delightful contribution!

  7. I pray that these 4 priests follow their conscience and go forward despite restrictions from the AD. I’ve been in that whistle blower position before, and you just get to the point where you cannot live with yourself for not coming forward to speak up. I give them my support, and I hope they all have others in their lives providing support. We all know how the powers-that-be operate. These priests will surely be facing retaliation.

    From the article:
    <>
    As I read this, Jon Lovitz character from the SNL skit “Pathological Liars Anonymous” came to mind immediately, and now I can’t shake it. Yes, it brings a chuckle, but the disgust of the continued subterfuge by the RCC is overwhelming.

  8. Probably one of the tricky knots is a question as to whether religious obedience to the archbishop is an issue here. But I think it probably is not because this is about a
    criminal matter rather than a matter related to the teaching of the church and/or the
    manner of orthodox practice—criminal matters are not in the jurisdiction of the archbishop.

    • Molly, Obedience is always the ace where clergy are concerned, believing that criminal matters are out of the duristriction of the Archbishop, well….
      There’s more than one taking early retirement for “health reasons” worldwide.

  9. Just a hunch and I may be wrong but I believe many will spill the beans at the criminal trials. I think with the current climate in Pa. with seeing the Penn State hierachy indicted or fired -is a game changer in many ways. I hope many will be truthful for moral reasons but I can’t help but think a possible charge of perjury also carries some weight.I am referencing witnesses that will be called,not the actual defendants themselves.

    • You know, this whole idea of the diocese demanding that witnesses be accompanied by diocesan attorneys in a criminal matter, has a really obnoxious flavor.

      First if all it feels like the diocese doesn’t trust it’s employees, second it feels like the employees are being treated in a childish manner, ie small undependable children, third, if the employees are adults and US citizens, surely they understand the gravity of a criminal proceeding and the necessity of truth telling, with a babysitter.

      Fourth, and this just seems so obvious that it should not need mentioning, but the employee can choose any lawyer he or she wishes to accompany him and that choice may well NOT be a diocesan attorney as there may well be a conflict of interest.

      If I were being called as a witness, I would check out my rights, and my responsibilities with several legal guys, before I did anything else.

      • Oops….surely they understand the gravity of a criminal proceeding and the necessity of truth telling, WITHOUT a babysitter.

    • Kathy, it would be great if that happens, it may then set a precedent in Australia. With such a large proportion of catholics in high places, there’s a bit of a strangle hold having the obligation of protecting the image of the church.
      We had an Archbishop who told a spiritually and sexually abused woman, [an ex-religious if my mememory serves me well] to “get lost b….” that was minimized.

  10. Oops. “withOUT” a babsitter!

  11. Oops….withOUT a babysitter

  12. I am glad to see their are priests that truly believe in an after life…………….your in my prayers……..and Jesus is on your side…………..the side of truth because HE is TRUTH……….God Bless and keep you close to his heart………..

  13. S. Reid Warren, III Reply December 24, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    OBEDIENCE. It seems to me obedience may be useful for little children to obey their parents in order to not come to harm. When believers and priests and nuns are told to be obedient to to their “superiors/betters/Church authority” that’s when free will and personal judgement go out the window. I am in the middle of reading THE CAP by Roman Frister – his tale of growing up a Polish Jew during WWII and Holocaust. The real followers of The Prince of Peace where the all too few Christians who DISOBEYED the Nazis and local Polish Christian bullies and harbored Jews – at GREAT peril to their own safety and lives. The few Christians were doing God’s will, and as I recall from history the part played by the Vatican was none too stellar or courageous. Whistleblowers within The Church would be the real Christians.

    Reid

  14. I have been trying to find a whistleblower blog I wrote a few months ago from a while back, sort of out of the blue…which may or may NOT have some relevance :

     3 2 Rate This
    Vicky, SW and Kathy, that was a very thoughtful interchange.Which made me think about ‘whistleblowers’ and what made them tick.

    I went looking for some data and came up with the thought that they are folks, either gender, who saw a very serious problem, tried to deal with it internally, perceived that the power structure would not budge and finally went outside their comfort zone and world to the media, or some outside power system.

    One of the things that came up in a google search was SNAP’ s piece on a guy who had worked in the archives section of the Chancery Office in KC. He had been very concerned about the treatment of abuse victims in KC, and the general atmosphere in the office. He tried internally to address those issues, was fired…..And there he was on the Internet, telling his story.

    This doesn’t address the timing issue…why didn’t this guy speak up sooner, but the ‘character’ question ….what caused him to speak up at all…had a lot to do with his disgust, his efforts to work internally, and the intransigence of the system, and being fired. Sound familiar?

  15. I went looking for a thing I wrote on ‘whistleblowers ‘…..

     3 2 Rate This
    Vicky, SW and Kathy, that was a very thoughtful interchange.Which made me think about ‘whistleblowers’ and what made them tick.

    I went looking for some data and came up with the thought that they are folks, either gender, who saw a very serious problem, tried to deal with it internally, perceived that the power structure would not budge and finally went outside their comfort zone and world to the media, or some outside power system.

    One of the things that came up in a google search was SNAP’ s piece on a guy who had worked in the archives section of the Chancery Office in KC. He had been very concerned about the treatment of abuse victims in KC, and the general atmosphere in the office. He tried internally to address those issues, was fired…..And there he was on the Internet, telling his story.

    This doesn’t address the timing issue…why didn’t this guy speak up sooner, but the ‘character’ question ….what caused him to speak up at all…had a lot to do with his disgust, his efforts to work internally, and the intransigence of the system, and being fired. Sound familiar?

    • I think these whistleblowers first try to work in the system because they believe those around them are reasonable and compassionate when they realize otherwise it is a shock and then you find it is you working against a system too big to handle yourself then you go outside. I think this process is what takes time. You think people are dealing constructively with the situation later to realize they are not.

  16. drwho13, Remembering Fr John Minkler, it is good to bring these men to life, they are soon pass away into oblivion unfortunately to other than family, especially at this time of the year when families gather together.
    What came to mind when reading your comment was the words of “Fr X” in Australia, back in 1993; “even if bishop/s are thought to fail in their duty, we owe them faith filled respect because these men are the successors of the Apostles”. Is it any wonder they have to be protected at any cost, even at the cost of a mere priest, what hope would a lay person have.
    They can get away with murder, sometimes literally, in this life any way.

    • L. Newington – “…even if bishop/s are thought to fail in their duty, we owe them faith filled respect because these men are the successors of the Apostles.”

      If we were to accept the above axiom (and you clearly do not) the crimes of the Church would continue for another two millenniums. When bishops commit crimes, they deserve no more respect that any other common criminal. It’s this mentality (Fr. X’s) that has placed bishops above the law in the past. The statement by “Fr. X” is simply incorrect.

      I have a moral responsibility to disrespect bishops, and to keep their crimes fresh in the minds of all citizens of free nations. I am not an obedient subject of Benny 16. I was indoctrinated to believe that I was. However as S. Reid Warren, III aptly stated, “It seems to me obedience may be useful for little children to obey their parents in order to not come to harm.”

      Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 13:11 – “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things.”

      Putting away childish things involves directing one’s own life, by using one’s own moral compass. An informed conscience leave no doubt about our individual duty to disobey and disrespect all criminal, and immoral bishops.

    • drwho13…..please call me I am John’s sister

  17. I would strongly suggest that any potential ‘witness’ for the prosecution really read the words of the Intimidation statute and ponder their meaning very carefully. They are clear and relatively unambiguous and the presence of a diocesan attorney might very well make them virtually impossible to execute. THEY ARE:

    Intimidation of Witness
    § 4952. Intimidation of witnesses or victims

    (a) OFFENSE DEFINED.– A person commits an offense if, with the intent to or with the knowledge that his conduct will obstruct, impede, impair, prevent or interfere with the administration of criminal justice, he intimidates or attempts to intimidate any witness or victim to:

    (1) Refrain from informing or reporting to any law enforcement officer, prosecuting official or judge concerning any information, document or thing relating to the commission of a crime.

    (2) Give any false or misleading information or testimony relating to the commission of any crime to any law enforcement officer, prosecuting official or judge.

    (3) Withhold any testimony, information, document or thing relating to the commission of a crime from any law enforcement officer, prosecuting official or judge.

    (4) Give any false or misleading information or testimony or refrain from giving any testimony, information, document or thing, relating to the commission of a crime, to an attorney representing a criminal defendant.

    (5) Elude, evade or ignore any request to appear or legal process summoning him to appear to testify or supply evidence.

    (6) Absent himself from any proceeding or investigation to which he has been legally summoned.

  18.  1 0 Rate This
    Talk about Christmas gifts….please take a very close look at this link where for the first time in the nation victims, survivors and clergy have come together in a way that is genuinely useful.

    In Wisconsin today, in a paid ad that you can access from this link, I think what you will find is in many ways an answer to prayer. http://www.snapwisconsin.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/The-Ad2.pdf

  19. Thanks for bringing this to our attention Joan. Here is the news clip. http://www.fox6now.com/news/witi-20111227-priests-and-snap-restitution-deadline,0,5760712.story

  20. What would Jesus do????????????

    If you have to stop and think what is right then maybe you should look for another religion…

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