Guest blog by Gerald T. Slevin, retired lawyer.
After 16 years of Catholic schools, followed by Harvard Law School, where he worked as a law student for Archibald Cox, the Watergate prosecutor, Gerald Slevin practiced law for over three decades at the Wall Street law firms of Sullivan & Cromwell and Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.
Barely twelve months ago, the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s Cardinal Rigali emphatically, but artfully, denied he had any active priest with “admitted or established ” allegations of child sexual abuse. This misleading statement was in the face of (1) the second devastating Philadelphia grand jury report on his watch describing a widespread priest pedophile conspiracy, and (2) the multiple criminal indictment of the former top priest personnel chief for the Archdiocese.
By Spring, Cardinal Rigali, under intense public scrutiny, reversed himself by suspending 21 priests on suspicion of abuse. Their fates still remain mainly unknown.
By Summer, the Cardinal’s Child Abuse Review Board lay chairwoman was accusing him of materially misleading her about priests suspected of child abuse.
By Fall, the pope apparently declined to give Rigali more time in Philadelphia by accepting his resignation and replacing him with Archbishop Chaput. Archbishop Chaput promptly threw a private party for Philadelphia priests, where he led the cheers for the indicted priest personnel chief and several of the suspended priests present at the party.
By Winter, the chief’s former boss, Cardinal Bevilacqua, was interrogated by prosecutors in a video deposition, only to die shortly thereafter. The deposition has yet to be made public by the court.
For most of the year, the Archdiocese and its apologists strongly denied any widespread priest child abuse conspiracy, as Archishop Chaput lobbied to deny victims legal remedies by opposing Pennsylvania state legislative relief, and blamed victims claims, rather than the Archdiocese’s considerable legal defense expenses, for his decision to close numerous schools and churches.
Last week, an unexpected bombshell exploded as clear evidence emerged that a two decade old cover-up of priest child sexual abuse existed, going back at least to a 1994 shredding of potentially incriminating evidence. Cardinal Bevilacqua ordered the shredding, which was reportedly effected with the support of Bishops Cullen and Cistone.
To date, neither Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop Chaput, Bishop Cullen nor Bishop Cistone have personally publicly spoken about the shredding bombshell.
These fast moving events have at times been dizzying for hundreds of thousands of Philly Catholics that have tried to follow the horrible story in the daily media.
Fortunately, these events have been laid out clearly in a few comprehensive and comprehensible articles available here. They lay it all out and should be read by all concerned about protecting defenseless children and preventing future priest predation.
The early months’ events with Cardinal Rigali are described well in Philadelphia Magazine by reporter Robert Huber in, “Catholics in Crisis: Sex and Deception in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia”.
The charges against Cardinal Rigali by his Review Board Chairwoman, Ana Maria Catanzaro, are described well in the article, “The Fog of Scandal”.
The description of the Archdiocese’s secret abuse file archives and the operations of transferring accused priests to unsuspecting parishes are covered in detail by Rolling Stone writer, Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s article that revealed a high-level conspiracy to cover-up decades of sexual abuse by Catholic priests – “The Catholic Church’s Secret Sex-Crime Files.”
The recent revelation confirming the abuse file document shredding operation of Cardinal Bevilacqua and Bishops Cullen and Cistone and the implicit two decades of stonewalling that this indicates is described well in last week’s Philadelphia Inquirer editorial: “Couldn’t Shred the Truth.”