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.


31 thoughts on “Mom Gets Kiss-Off; Abusive Priest Gets Great Send-Off

  1. I have to make a correction that I did receive one email from Bishop Fitzgerald over a year after my first contacts back in 2011. There was a possibility of a meeting but that all fell apart and in reading the emails this morning from back in 2011 between myself and the Archdiocese, Chaput, and the one and only response from Fitzgerald, I am basically treated like a child and it is an alternative universe where if you act like an informed adult you are then told you are being intimidating.

  2. A porn addict gets the plum assignment of the Archdiocese …
    One of the most abusive priests in history gets a sendoff by a Bishop – and an obituary that sounds like he was Bing Crosby in Going My Way –

    The more things change – the more they stay the same.

    Archbishop Chaput presided over Bishop McDevitt’s graduation today. Sitting in the audience were faculty members who worked at the school when at least two – and possibly more – priests were abusing McDevitt students. I could have attended – I chose not to – I could not stomach it.

    As I said – the more things change – the more they stay the same.

  3. I would pay some serious money to be sitting on a bar stool at that funeral luncheon to hear the celebratory stories about how Chaput and The Arch got out of another abuse case unscathed. .

  4. I really wish I had pulled up these old emails earlier. After no response from Fitzgerald for a full year, Chaput was actually going to see about a meeting taking place. The one and only email from Fitzgerald is that he will meet with Chaput first and then be in contact ,short and sweet . Well no meeting ever happens and it seems once Chaput talks with others there now will definitely not be a meeting and my behavior is termed odd, confusing, intimidating, aggressive and exhausting. But having a pedophile be buried by a Bishop and Concelebrants is normal? I know the evil Cannon was capable of and people thinking this is normal need to have their heads examined. I will just keep on being odd, confusing, intimidating, aggressive and exhausting while they celebrate the pedophiles at their funerals. Where is the shame?

  5. Of course Cannon was assigned to the altar boys at my parish. After the Archdiocese knew of the prior abuse he was made a teacher at a high school, assigned to a parish full of kids and put in charge of the altar boys. Like a glutton given a free ticket to the buffet. He abused my friend 20 years after the first boys came forward. Sickening.

    1. Yeah he was in charge of the altar boys and the ones that had perfect attendance he took to Philies games and breakfast etc. My brother was one of these altar boys. He doesn’t remember any abuse but he did come home one day and asked my mom if he could see the trains in Father Cannons bedroom as Fr. Cannon had asked him to see the trains and my brother said he needed to check with his mom first as we had a lot of neighbor kids hang out at our house and the family rule was you play outside or in the playroom not upstairs. My brother was so close to being abused it sent shock waves thru my family when we read the grand jury report. My brother was so quiet back then he said he probably would have kept it to himself if he had been abused. Odd? Father Cannon was odd. He acted like he was 10 yrs old and was always on a liquid diet among other things. Making you feel crazy/odd is part of the Nariccissts head games or “gaslighting” as it is called formally.

      1. Beth: I am glad your brother did check with your mom, otherwise he too could have ben one of us. Many of these priests used such simple, non threatening ways to groom those that they eventually molested. Many of them were very clever. When thinking about the priest who abused me, I could never clearly think that I was groomed. But of course I was. My abuser took groups of altar boys on bus trips. Once we went to West Point and to a monastery in upstate New York Another trip was to Washington and Gettysburg .I believe the way we were groomed the most was the relationship that these priests had with our parents. In a sense they groomed the parents to get close to the kids. Parents truly believed that their kids were in good hands. Turns out they were not.

        1. Jim I totally agree with you on the grooming the parent comment and I also think anyone including myself could have been a victim. Like they said in Spotlight.” It could have been me”.My dad thought highly of the priests at our parish but after he read the grand jury report he was furious at the betrayal. My dad was a very stoic history professor but he would have punched someone in the mouth he was so angry after reading about Fr.Cannon being on the list and I remember him saying all the Catholic Standard and Times had in it was so stupid article on the Harry Potter.

  6. My uncle, a parish priest under ‘the bev’, used to have us at Jersey shore every summer with his priest pals. When I was about 9 I overheard adults talking and asked my older sister what ‘punch and Judy’ meant. Those were priests with drink or women problems.
    The line they hold to “We did not know” is crap as priests are as big as any other gossip.
    I am from ‘keepers’ town. Knew some of those poor women. Read another Sharon May/Arch story re Dontee Stokes shooting priest Blackwell story. Keeler gets credit for posting abuser names as if he did for altruistic reasons, but I think he did it to keep that story from going any deeper.

  7. There is only one way to make the archdiocese and the Vatican to sit up and take notice – go on strike against the local Bishops and Cardinals, work on a protest and not attend church for several weeks in a row, and stop registering students for Catholic schools next Fall. Hit the hierarchy in the pocketbook. Otherwise, if Catholics let this blow over, ignore it, believe “they” will change finally (that kind of faith has been wasted for centuries), do not take strident action, more choirboys, school students will be raped. And I say raped, because these children are all under age, cannot give consent, are groomed and exploited by male adults, and words like sexually molested or abused do not legally and morally call out what they went through.

    How many more Lord, how many more?


  8. It’s interesting that the meeting never happened and they had it all handled just fine without meeting with a Mom who could hold their hand and walk them through the holes in their policies. Since that time there is a section added to the Phila Archdiocese Charter for Protection of Children because of something I brought to their attention. It’s amazing the work you can do on child protection as a Mom when you don’t spend your time at pedophile’s funerals

  9. I would just like to add that every survivor is a hero but Mr. Anthony Foster who was buried in Australia today he is in my mind a ‘supreme being’. I feel so sad.

  10. I didn’t realize that Fitzgerald is the Bishop in charge of the Office of Investigations AND the Office of Child Protective Services.

    Now I am even more disgusted.

    1. Yes which is why I was emailing him . I had been advocating for a specific child safety policy to be implemented and the Archdiocesan staff I was dealing with did not want to bother him at first because he had recently been appointed Bishop. You or I start a job and it starts when we walk in the door but the employees did not feel they could approach him to quickly… he needed time. Okay? After that I had done so much research on child safety comparing our policies to other Diocese. I had first hand experience where we fail children as well as comparable info to other Diocese.

  11. Kathy and Susan, thank you so much for your great spirit of true love and care for these many victims and the families. You keep alive hope that maybe this Church could be cleansed of this arrogant sin of clericalism and cover up for perpetrators of sexual abuse
    And the leadership which has allowed this to exist in our community.
    You keep us informed, but each person and family needs to take personal responsibility to say ” no more, no more. We will not take this insolence any more!”
    We do not need a leadership which applies “alternate facts and truth”. Either they are with
    us or against us. If they act against us, they are no longer our leadership, our bishops.
    This is the Argument Jesus used against the Temple authorities. His death was the result of their arrogance. He did not die to save us from sin.he died because of the sinful arrogance of
    The hierarchy of the Temple.

  12. Good news from New York state. The New York Assembly passed a child victims act today. Five year statute of limitations clock would start at age 23 instead of age 18. The statute of limitations for civil cases would be extended to age 50.It would also create a one year window for past victims whose time period has passed to file a civil lawsuit against their abuser. The bill still needs to pass the state senate. If passed, it is expected to be signed by the governor.

  13. I am constantly disgusted and horrified. How can Chaput and the others stand to look themselves in the mirror each day. I, personally, cannot stand to look at Chaput and these other “reverend” archbishops. This is a sickness that goes to the highest levels–permeates the whole church. You are good people for attempting to bring these travesties to light and and trying to help things change. I’m afraid I don’t have your optimism. It’s a shame for the good priests and nuns out there trying to do their best, but they belong to an organization that has so much evil and corruption in it, that it seems to overwhelm the good they do. Organize kids to try to teach them and save their souls, and you’re also organizing them for the perverts to have an easy time accessing them. They will continue to do so and the hierarchy will continue to protect them instead of the children they abuse. I’ve seen no attitude change, only changes compelled by being “found out” and closely monitored, and they seem able to get around a lot of that.

  14. An in-depth study of cults will illuminate the types of men who enter the priesthood, why they “care” for each other the way they do, and why you and I find their “different” rules, standards, terms, behaviors, ecclesiastical laws, and actions to be insensitive, callous, self-serving, self-protecting, wrong, dangerous, and threatening.

    I refer to the priesthood as a cult not in order to heighten concern, pour fuel on the fire, be inflammatory, or prompt the imagination. The priesthood meets every condition of a cult. Period.

    No one sees themselves as a cult-member. “Cult” is derogatory. Priests will scoff at the term. We scoff back… as Kathy did in her excellent piece.

  15. Shortly after the release of the GJR in September 2005, I reached out to Father Fitzgerald at St Charles Seminary since he was the first Director of the Office of Legal Services for the Arch.of Philadelphia, appointed to that post by Cardinal Bevilacqua in 1990. My question, repeated several times to the office assistant, attempted to find out what Fitzgerald’s office did when the allegations of clergy sexual abuse were sent to the Office of Legal Services. In true Bishop and civil attorney style, he never did speak with me directly but told his assistant to inform me that the Office of Legal Services did not receive or handle allegations of clergy sexual abuse. Certainly, the Cardinal assigns a priest/civil attorney to lead his legal services office and the abuse claims go ??????
    And now, 12 years later, our archdiocesan leadership, its accountability and integrity, has not changed but the cultural, political and societal understanding and awareness of child sexual abuse sure has………………the legislative proposals for SOL’s and a window will pass eventually, there is no doubt, since legislators are finally realizing if they want to get reelected, they have to ditch their allegiance to the Catholic Conference and the Insurance industry.

  16. When will this all be finally in the open. When will those miserable sad humans be. Jailed defrocked bishops lose their priveledged and be. Sent to a specially built monastery where they will do penance. And not speak to each other

  17. A friend of mine is in the Marine Corps and his experience of brotherhood is very similar to the”cult”of priesthood. Bound together and support each other.
    So this does not excuse, but it also describes commraderie since maturity with women is severely lacking.
    Also at ordination, each new priest is asked personally in the Rite, ” will you promise to me and my successors OBEDIENCE AND REVERANCE”? And the response of each is,
    “I do”.
    This sounds a lot like present congressional hearings. Where is the loyalty? To the leadership or to the teaching of Jesus or the Constitution? What does Loyalty really mean
    In an Authoritative community??

  18. What does Loyalty really mean in an Authoritative community? In the case of the priesthood, the Authority-figure is God. Loyalty to God is the objective. But discerning the will of God can be difficult, “hidden,” lead to multiple interpretations, etc. In Catholicism, the problem is altogether eliminated by the cultish belief that God imbues His will in hierarchy-figures. They are “in-the-Divine-know.” Thus, in promising obedience to them, the newly ordained priest, one and at the same time, promises obedience to God. Conversely, to fail to obediently follow hierarchy-figures is, one and at the same time, to fail God. Is that correct, Fr. Wintermyer?

    Were it not so dangerous, irrational, and defied by human experience, it would be humorous.

    Why do priests believe such nonsense?

  19. The basic premise, esp. Of the past that this is true. Sometimes priest’s say that the have taken a “vow” of obedience to the bishop and that excuses them from taking a public stand against the bishop.
    But there are “whistleblowers” in ministry and they are often penalized by eccesial authorities. Matthew Fox has a book THE POPES WAR, at the end he publishes a list of 93 theologians who had been “fired” under JPII and BEN XVI.
    They refused to “obey and be quiet”.
    There are a very few bishops who have broken ranks.

    1. Before a priest is elevated to bishop, he is carefully vetted and deemed trustworthy to maintain and defend Tradition. Wearing a mitre essentially indicates “I am a quintessential ‘company man.'” When confronted with institutional weaknesses, injustices, failures, sins, crimes, secular challenges, etc., he maintains Tradition via secrecy or positive spins. Because “change” is neither an option nor in his vernacular, whistle blowing or other forms of disobedience are effectively disabled because they altogether depend on change. In the priesthood, it’s sickening the degree to which the promotion-culture fosters, fuels, and maintains the “company man.”

      As a “company man,” a bishop has exchanged his true character and conscience for the character and conscience of the company or institution. Its traditions and customs rule his conduct. The philosopher John Stuart Mill would argue that bishops have forfeited one of the principle ingredients of human happiness, and the chief ingredient of individual and social progress, namely, to be one’s own person. Thoughtful 21st century minds will associate the dwindling priesthood, to some extent, with its forfeiture of independence of thought, feeling, and action. If Mill is correct that it compromises human happiness, then we ought to consider the morality of it.

  20. A couple of friends of mine have recently been named Bishops in WDC and BALTIMORE. I wrote them and said, “please do not let them corrupt you”, but in reality, just by accepting, they have already been corrupted.
    The same goes for titles like Monsignor, a truly
    Corrupted title. Luckily, Pope Francis has not been allowing nor appointing them.
    A Great move to reduce clericalism.

    1. I think on the surface it seems like not appointing or naming Monsignors reduces clericalism. But in reality, the only thing it does is reduce the number of “players” of clericalism. As long as the “game” (or culture) exists, it will persist. Francis is not that fantastic, Fr. Wintermyer. You give him way too much credit. He, himself, is a “company man.” He won’t make the changes to Tradition that would annihilate clericalism once and for all. His Monsignor Band Aid remedy says it all. It’s useless, “company man,” positive spin.

  21. “Micklega”, you are correct.
    Pope Francis is part of the problem. We would hope he could just snap his fingers and bingo we will have a radical shift. I am not excusing. like you i am also frustrated and discouraged. But I am out of the clerical closet and challenge authorities as much as possible. I accompanied an abuse victim to see Rigali in 2006, that visit was a waste of time. From that point on, I had no respect for him. I have supported SNAP, and Robert Hoasten’s
    organization. I have supported Victims and their parents.
    All reform programs seem to give encouragement for change, but they seem to collapse after time. Maybe it is useless to even try to turn this Juggernaut ecclesial vessel around. Maybe we have to hit the lifeboats and move away, and just let the shoals do their job of dismantling as this vessel crashes head on into one disgusting
    Episode after another.
    The community that never learns from its most serious mistakes, probably just needs to
    self destruct.

    1. I have always had great respect for you, Fr. Wintermyer, as far back as the time you posted on C4C about accompanying an abuse victim to see Rigali. I have never forgotten that post. I am aware of how you have stood up for victims and supported victim organizations. Because you are out of the clerical closet, you have enlightened C4C followers over the years with clerical truth, and you have advanced the rights of victims.

      I don’t think about reform programs or lifeboat remedies, whether the shoals, eventually, will get them, or whether self destruction will ensue. I focus on doing what I think is right, and doing it. It’s clear, deep down, you do too.

    2. Jack
      Pax Christi!
      Send me your address
      I tried to see Tim the other day but my iPhone went dead
      4662 M/m Pt Rd
      WS LanCo VA

Leave a Reply to micklegaCancel reply