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.