Unexcused Absence

There was very sad and disturbing news last week in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia with the arrest of Fr Armand Garcia who was charged with rape, sexual abuse of a minor, and corruption of a minor. When the year long criminal investigation began in March of 2018, Garcia was the newly appointed pastor at St Martin of Tours parish. In recent years he had been a parochial vicar at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Roxborough, from 2011 through 2017. The criminal charges allege the abuse occurred during his years at IHM.

The only initial announcement made by the Archdiocese last March was to the St Martin of Tours parish where police had executed a search of the rectory. There was no press release issued by the Archdiocese informing that a Philadelphia priest was under criminal investigation for misconduct with a minor. There was was no announcement by the Archdiocese to his former parish of IHM, where he had interacted with children and young people for the previous six years.

Last year many IHM parishioners first learned of the criminal investigation from the local news media who picked up the story from our blog post when we alerted our readers that Garcia was under investigation after we received a tip about situation. Catholic Philly finally ran a story 12 days after the rectory at St Martin of Tours had been searched.

We heard from an attendee at the 9:30 a.m. Mass at IHM this past weekend that the hierarchy was not present for the announcement that the pastor shared concerning Garcia’s recent arrest . The information from the Archdiocese press release from earlier in the week was shared in the pastor’s announcement and the information was available for parishioners to take with them. There was also the reminder for everyone to be charitable in their conversation with others concerning the situation. There were staff from the Office of Children and Youth Protection of the Archdiocese present and were noticed at a table when entering the Church but at the conclusion of Mass it got a bit confusing when the staff member now had her coat zipped up, which covered her name tag. She was now standing and greeting parishioners as they exited.

. When a priest is arrested for the rape of a 16 year old parishioner and the best the Archdiocese can do is to have a timeline of the investigation announced at Mass, and a representative from Victim Assistance in the vestibule, there is not much hope that Archdiocese will ever respond in a pastoral manner. The Archdiocese claims that in March 2018 they did not know that the crimes were alleged to have occurred at IHM so there was no announcement to the parish. A bizarre technicality when common sense would dictate that the parish where he had been recently stationed for 6 years should have been informed. Even now with the arrest and the timeline showing that the crimes occurred during Garcia’s time at IHM, the hierarchy was MIA at the morning mass. Even if they cannot provide answers at this time, an acknowledgment is deserved.

The Archdiocese will often state that they cannot comment on a case until after court proceedings but when the former CFO of the Archdiocese , Anita Guzzardi,was found to have embezzled close to a million dollars, Archbishop Chaput wrote an article about her alleged crimes prior to her arrest and before any guilty plea or conviction. Along with detailing the alleged crimes, he also talked about the anger concerning the financial loss, including his own anger. There was no mention of making sure our conversations were charitable about the situation

The arrest of Garcia a few weeks before Easter proves particularly troubling for the Archdiocese as Christmas and Easter are a source of “holiday revenue” for the Church . Maybe that is part of the reason the investigation was initially kept under wraps last March during the Lenten season. There is no worse time for bad PR for the Church than when parishioners’ donations are expected to exceed the normal Sunday collections.

Sadly, once again, the wolves have attacked the flock. As seems to be standard operating procedure the “shepherds” are nowhere to be found – protecting themselves rather than caring for those they have been entrusted to by God. At this point it is a good idea to stop acting as sheep.

This Lenten season may we all remember the suffering of the innocent children, young people, and adults who have been victims of abuse within the Church.

The Bishop is Back in Town

The lucky streak continues as it was revealed today that Bishop Michael Bransfield has been living in Philadelphia since last fall after leaving his diocese in Wheeling, West Virginia. Just the news we needed on the heels of a Philadelphia priest being arrested for rape last week.

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore has banned Bransfeld from ministry in two dioceses after completing the preliminary investigation into sexual harassment and misconduct allegations, as well as looking into possible financial improprieties.

Don’t count Bransfield out yet as he has been able to keep his head above water in the past amid allegations. His comments to a reporter today seem to be plotting his next move. He sounds quite confident given his circumstances. Hopefully we won’t see him doing the Rocky run up the Art Museum steps while he’s here.

“After Bransfield stepped aside, a person familiar with the matter told The Inquirer that at least three priests had come forward with claims that Bransfield had subjected them to unwanted sexual advances and physical contact. A hotline set up subsequently drew more than 75 calls alleging misconduct in West Virginia, Washington, and Philadelphia that stretched back decades.”

https://www.philly.com/news/michael-bransfield-catholic-church-pope-francis-sexual-harassment-william-lor-20190311.html

Breaking…Fr Armand Garcia Arrested

Closeup of the neck of a priest wearing a black shirt with cassock and white clerical collar

Catholics4Change broke the news in March 2018 that Fr Armand Garcia was placed on administrative leave while being investigated for possible misconduct with minors. At that time the Archdiocese made an announcement to the parish St Martin of Tours, but there was no press release or announcement to the local press

Today we share the news that Fr Garcia has been arrested and is facing charges of rape,corruption of a minor and sexual abuse of a minor. The time frame of the alleged crimes is 2014.

We pray for any child that was harmed and we pray for justice.

https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/flocknote-files/statement16.pdf

Dome to Dome: Philly Archdiocese Shares Vatican’s Slow-to-Reform Pace

In what might be the most epic delayed reaction in history, Pope Francis opened the Vatican Summit on clergy child sex abuse this morning. The publicized purpose of the four-day conference is to better educate and train Church leaders on how to deal with the global crisis. One would think a summit had already taken place given their universally executed coverup.

As the head goes, the body follows. From the Vatican dome to the dome of the Cathedral Basilica of SS Peter and Paul, coverups have been remarkably proactive and reform has been reactive and slow coming.

Big Problems In Child Protection 

  • It’s almost two years that we’ve advocated for a policy that would require the Archdiocese to inform parents when their child has been the victim of a boundary violation by church personnel. No progress and no policy.
  • The Archdiocese doesn’t include the Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries in the annual Safety Environment lessons given to students. How can students know when there’s been a violation, if they don’t know what they are? An example: clergy messaging a student via social media or text.
  • Grand Jury Reports and newspaper articles revealed that many priests, who pose a danger to children and young adults, have been sent to the St. John Vianney Treatment Center. This center is located directly across the street from Bishop Shanahan High School in West Chester, PA. With priests being shipped in from all over the US, it’s a lucrative gig for the Archdiocese. Money, not children, is the true treasure of the Church.
  • The recent discovery that Father John Meyers had been left in ministry for months while being investigated for child sexual abuse shows this generation of kids is still at risk.

Creepy Clerical Culture 

In the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, priests who violated the bodies of innocent children have their funerals presided over by Church leaders. Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, who heads the office of Child and Youth Protection, was the celebrant at Father John Cannon’s funeral in 2017. Cannon’s prolific abuse of children dates back to the 1960’s.

Some priests in good standing socialize with former or current priests who have violated children or had other child-related issues. Dinner and drinks with the creeps is concerning, but what about owning a home with a child predator? One priest doesn’t have a problem with it. Laity, get to Googling and scanning social media. They don’t even hide it.

Those who participated in the cover up receive heartwarming obits on CatholicPhilly.com and some parishes need to be told to remove glowing bios of abusive priests from their websites. Revisionist history.

Re-Victimizing Survivors

In November 2018, just as the statute of limitation/window legislation had its most promising chance in years, the Archdiocese announced the Independent Reconciliation and Reparation. With it, victims of clergy abuse may file a claim for financial compensation. Victims who were abused by religious order priests are left out of the program, even though the Archdiocese relied on religious orders to staff many high school and parishes. This is odd considering the Diocese is lead by a religious order priest – Archbishop Chaput.

A vigil arranged by young Catholic laity was interrupted by a priest who was unhappy the Cathedral staff had not been alerted. He was being a bit self-important considering the vigil took place in a public park across from the Cathedral. He said his concern, “was for the people in his Church.” Jesus, whom this priest represents, would have wanted victims, victims’ families and advocates to be seen and heard. He would have invited them IN!

A few weeks later, at yet another “Healing Mass,” the father of a deceased victim was asked to leave the sidewalk of the cathedral. Message received. “We will pray that you go away.”

Sheep Herd the Shepherds

In recent months, we’ve heard from more laity than ever before and we thank everyone for your interest and efforts.

In the Pittsburgh Diocese a newly-formed group of 1,000 lay members will address various issues of the sex abuse crisis with the hierarchy.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is currently being investigated by the Department of Justice.

There’s a long way to go, but we are in good company with all of you.

Retreating from the Truth

Fr John Meyers, former rector of the Malvern Retreat House, was found unsuitable for ministry in January of 2019 for a credible and substantiated allegation of the sexual abuse of a minor. The press release from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia stated that Meyers was placed on administrative leave in late 2018 and his priestly faculties were restricted following the receipt of an allegation that he had sexually abused a minor in the early 1980’s.

From the wording in the statement many might think that the allegation was received in late 2018. We attempted to clarify with the Archdiocese, but our email to John Delaney, Delegate of Investigations went unanswered.

We recently were provided with information that tells a different story than the information released by the Archdiocese. It seems that the allegation was first reported to the Malvern Retreat House and the information was quickly handed over to the Archdiocese on March 1, 2018. What didn’t happen quickly however was Meyers removal from the Malvern Retreat House. Meyers remained as rector for seven months after the allegation was known to the Archdiocese. During that time the criminal and internal investigations were carried out.

It seems that “restrictions” were in place during this time for Meyers being with minors. What clergy or staff at Malvern were tasked with watching a potentially dangerous man? What were their credentials for watching a possible child predator and enforcing the restrictions?

Was Meyers escorted from the grounds when the high school students showed up for the overnight Kairos retreats? Did Archbishop Chaput swing by and pick him up before the kids ages 4-12 from Camp Guadalupe came for the summer day camp? Did Leslie Davila of the Office of Child and Youth Protection take Meyers to the mall for the day while the teenage girls were at Malvern for the Young Women of Grace retreat? Did the staff announce to the families at the Family Labor Day weekend retreat that the rector was under investigation? Who watched him when the young people employed by the retreat house showed up for work?

The information was kept from parents. The parents who pack up their little ones up with snacks and drinks for the day camp. The parents who help their excited high school student zip up the overstuffed suitcase for Kairos weekend. The parents who drop off their nervous teenager for their first day of work at the retreat house.

There are dangerous people everywhere in the world, but for the Archdiocese to send children and young people into a situation knowing that someone in that environment could pose a risk, and to withhold that information from parents is something that defies the very relationship between parent and child. It defies basic nature. It defies basic respect.

My parents were long time supporters of the Malvern Retreat House. We have a bench dedicated to my father on the grounds. When I was 18 years old, the Men of Malvern came to my father’s funeral and shared stories with my family about my father that exemplified both his faith and his character. Many years later when my children went on their Kairos Retreats I told them to look for the bench and to enjoy their time at a place that meant so much to their grandfather.

My 19 year old daughter was devastated when I told her that one of the recently removed priests had been the rector at Malvern . Her Kairos retreat was a few months before Meyers arrived at Malvern Retreat, but the feeling that a person who had harmed a child was on that campus is a feeling that she can’t shake. She wanted to know how long they knew about Meyers and how long they left him at a place where children frequent. She wanted to email the Archdiocese and demand answers. A 19 year old was ready to go bat for the kids.

It was so difficult to explain to her that in this type of situation it is not just the decisions of Archbishop Chaput, but it is also the many people involved in these situations who are parents who go along with the decision to keep information secret from other parents. None of this works without lay staff willing to go along with the decisions.

If my father were alive he would be on the doorstep of the Malvern Retreat House demanding to know why an investigation of child sex abuse was kept from the retreat community. My father was a man of great faith and great character. It is possible to have both. Someday the Church might finally learn that lesson.

Thank you to everyone who provides us with information and trusts us to tell the story. The full truth will always come out. It just won’t be in a press release from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Double Trouble:

Second Investigation of Msgr. Logrip Reveals Two Archdiocesan Sins of Omission

It was deja vu when the Archdiocese of Philadelphia recently announced that Msgr. Joseph Logrip would be placed on administrative leave while being investigated for an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor. Logrip was first placed on administrative leave for an earlier investigation in 2011, along with 26 other Archdiocesan priests. He was reinstated in 2014.

Along with this second investigation, a related mystery has reemerged. When a priest is found unsuitable for ministry or placed on administrative leave, the Archdiocese includes that priest’s assignments in the removal announcement. But Logrip’s decades-spanning involvement with St. Aloysius Academy for Boys is missing in BOTH the 2011 and 2019 removal announcements.

Located in Bryn Mawr, St. Aloysius Academy is an all-boys, private, Catholic school for grades K through 8. It’s administered by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Logrip seems to have served as the school chaplain for many years. A book published in 1995, celebrating the Academy’s 100th anniversary year, reveals the following:

  • A photo of Msgr. Logrip from 1978 identifying him as the school chaplain.
  • In 1988, during Catholic Schools week, Msgr. Logrip blessed the new chapel at the main school building.
  • In the 1980’s the First Friday Masses were celebrated by Msgr. Logrip
  • In the 1990’s he celebrated the opening school Mass that kicked off the centennial celebration year for the school.
  • At the Centennial Gala dinner he gave the benediction and is identified as the school chaplain.

A former St. Aloysius student remembers Logrip being on the school campus a few times each week during the late 1980’s through the mid-1990’s. He says the priest was often accompanied by St. Charles seminarians.

Logrip is mentioned in a lawsuit filed in 2011 by a former student alleging abuse by Father Martin Satchell in the early 1990’s. Satchell seems to have been a seminarian at the time of the abuse. The former student alleges he told Msgr. Logrip in 1995 that someone had hurt him but that Logrip did nothing to help him.

Despite Logrip’s well-documented history at the school, nothing pertaining to his time at St. Aloysius is mentioned in the 2011 or 2019 official Archdiocesan removal announcements.

Back in 2014, we asked the Archdiocese why St. Aloysius was missing from Logrip’s list of assignments. They responded that Logrip had volunteered as their chaplain. They hadn’t assigned him. But they knew about it! A subtle distinction was their reason for omitting information that could aid an investigation, inform the public and spur important conversations among those who attended or worked at the school.

It seems the Archdiocesan definition of transparency and accountability is very, very limited.

In 2019, with Logrip’s second removal for investigation, in an era where transparency is preached from the pulpit, the Archdiocese had a second chance to get it right. They failed. Did they forget we are watching?

Once again, they withheld Logrip’s long history with St. Aloysius Academy for Boys.

One has to wonder why?

NY Senate Passes Child Victims Act

Survivors of child sex abuse and advocates won an important victory for justice and prevention when the New York state senate passed the Child Victims Act.

Catholics4Change thanks and congratulates all who fought this uphill battle for many years. May the headlines in New York be repeated in the many states where this legislation needs to be enacted – including Pennsylvania.

The new law does away with the statutes of limitations that have prevented some alleged abuse victims from going to court to seek damages. And it includes a one-year “look-back window” that will allow others who weren’t able to sue in the past to file fresh claims.

Passage of the Child Victims Act is an exhilarating and empowering moment for those of us who have been waging this battle in Albany for a dozen years,” Stephen Jimenez, a sex abuse survivor and advocate for other victims, said after the vote.”

Click here to read “N.Y. Senate votes to give victims of child sex abuse more years to sue, ending years-long battle” at NBC.com.