Philly Archdiocese Breaks Promises

There was recent news that may have been shocking to many parents who volunteer in the Archdiocese and have to go through what sometimes feels like a Secret Service level of background checks and clearances before being allowed to simply chaperone a school dance, or hand out candy canes at the school Christmas party. In the past two months, in separate incidents, an Archdiocesan priest was arrested for the rape of a minor and a Catholic lay teacher was arrested for institutional sexual assault. The priest allegedly raped the teen in his private quarters in the rectory. The lay teacher used his school office for the alleged assaults. Both perpetrators also were charged with providing alcohol and drugs to minors.

Promise to Protect

Before a situation rises to the level of sexual abuse there is often a period of misbehavior by the adult that includes what the Archdiocese refers to as “boundary violations.” A person with bad intentions is never going to follow the rules, so many times it is up to others to realize that rules are being broken. With that thought in mind, one would expect that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia would incorporate the Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries into the yearly Safety Environment lessons for the students . If a teacher, coach, or priest is contacting kids through social media, isolating them alone in an office or rectory, or giving them gifts, many kids observing the behavior will recognize it as creepy. But do they know that this grooming behavior is actually violating specific Archdiocesan Standards and should be reported to a trusted adult? Currently the Archdiocese teaches safety in general, not specific to the environment where these kids live, eat, and breathe each day. The actual population that would be targeted by a perpetrator remains an uninformed “sitting duck”. We have advocated for the Standards to be incorporated in an age appropriate level into the yearly Safety Environment lessons. We have not been successful.

Parents, you know the Archdiocese is quick to get in touch if a tuition payment is late, but is your phone ringing if your child’s safety is at risk? When a boundary violation has taken place and the Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries are violated, it would seem logical that the first phone calls would be to the parents of every child or student who was a victim of the violation. Unfortunately there is no written policy of parental notification when a child is a victim of a boundary violation. Not only is there no policy, but from our own first hand experience it is not even the practice of the Archdiocese to inform all parents. So a child could be subject to grooming behaviors that the Archdiocese is aware have occurred, but the parents have no clue. Sound like a good plan for child safety? We have advocated for parental notification. We have not been successful.

Many students in Archdiocesan high schools turn 18 years old before graduation. In every instance the Archdiocese continues to treat the student as a minor. Permission slips still require a signature from a parent, absent notes need to be written ,the school nurse calls if an 18 year old student is ill. Literally nothing changes when the student turns 18 years old, except maybe your child’s safety. Is it possible that the Archdiocese does not consider 18 year old students as being included in the specific Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries that are in place to protect minors? Not only is it possible, but in a phone conversation about boundary violations with the Investigations Office of the Archdiocese, it was actually stated in reference to boundary violations that “some of these students are already 18.” We have advocated for the Standards to be updated to use the word “student,” rather than “minor,” so that that every young person’s safety is equally protected. We have not been successful.

We have advocated for these simple, common sense, child protection policies for the past 2 years after these issues came to light on a boundary violation that we reported. The Archdiocese at this point has shut us down and will no longer communicate with us about these advocacy efforts. All that is expected from parents is their tuition payments and background clearances. They do not want to hear from parents who are informed about the gaping holes that exist in their “Promise to Protect”.

A teen is raped. A student is sexually assaulted. Drugs and alcohol are brought into a parish and a school campus by Church personnel. Sounds like they have it all under control. Why would they listen to us?


Shanahan Grad Reveals Unawareness of Vianney Center Concerns

by Kathy Kane

For years, we have sounded the alarm about the proximity of the St. John Vianney Treatment Center to Bishop Shanahan High School in Downingtown, Pa.

As a Shanahan parent, I sat in the school parking lot waiting for my daughter and watched a patient from the facility walk by my car. Neither the school nor the Vianney Center had any idea of his presence on the school campus. He was supposed to be on the Vianney Center grounds and simply walked off. That priest patient was not a child abuser, but the encounter gave me a front row seat to the cast of characters employed by the Vianney Center and the Archdiocese who are supposed to be protecting our children.

We have documented cases of child predators sent to the facility in recent years. My youngest child graduated from Shanahan in 2017. This is a current issue. Priests who possessed child pornography. Priests who have assaulted children and young people. It’s not just my word. Grand Jury reports and newspaper articles name allegedly abusive priests from around the country sent to the facility.

On this blog, I’ve shared my communications and the details of my meeting with Vianney Center administration as well as school administration. A Shanahan mother appeared on a news segment. A handful of parents were supportive but not nearly enough to make an impact. I guess parents believed the misleading statements issued by the Archdiocese. Parents should use Google to get to the truth. Any concerned parents can still always contact us, I have enough information to give a PowerPoint presentation about the concerns related to the Vianney Center.

It’s refreshing to see a Bishop Shanahan graduate address this issue in a published commentary. Thank you, Ian. You give me hope. Maybe it will be the young people who will make a difference.

“The Pennsylvania report focuses on many small towns throughout the state.  One of those towns — mentioned more than a dozen times — is an outlier. It’s a town you wouldn’t think to look for unless, like me, you were born and raised there.

In 2002, around the same time the Boston Globe published its bombshell report on sexual abuse of children in the Archdiocese of Boston, I was a freshman at Bishop Shanahan, a Catholic high school in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

I don’t remember paying much attention to the Boston Globe report. Nor was I aware that, during this same time, multiple priests accused of child abuse were being sent to a clergy treatment center directly across the street from my high school

Click here to read the entire story: “How the Catholic Church Used Treatment Centers To Hide Priests Accused of Child Abuse” WHYY


If any Shanahan parents are inspired after reading Ian’s article, I can be reached at kmkane242@gmail.

Finding Fr. Meyers: A C4C Investigation

By Kathy Kane

The strangest thing happens when you are not even looking for an abusive priest – you end up finding him. What started from an obnoxious comment by a priest on the C4C facebook page created a series of events that led to the discovery of Fr. John Meyers’ new life in Tucson, Arizona. Meyers was found unsuitable for ministry in January 2019 by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for a credible and substantiated allegation of the sexual abuse of a minor.

Sometimes the way things fall into place can’t be explained although Jeremy Roebuck did a fantastic job chronicling the series of events in his article. Thank you to Carolyn Fortney who is a tireless advocate for children . Carolyn is a clergy abuse survivor and her eagle eye helped crack this case wide open. Maybe someday the Pennsylvania legislators will join the efforts to protect children by enacting very important SOL Window legislation. Until then it is amazing what a few women with a laptop can accomplish.

Click here to read: “From victim to vigilante: Clergy sex abuse survivor finds accused Philly priest online, working for charter school system in Arizona,” by Jeremy Roebuck, The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 23.

Excerpt: “This is a prime example of survivors working together to take the law into our own hands,” said Carolyn Fortney, the Harrisburg woman who uncovered Meyers’ new life in Tucson. “We’ll do what we have to do to protect children.”

Philadelphia Priest Placed on Administrative Leave

Fr William Waters, pastor of St Augustine Church in Philadelphia, has been placed on administrative leave while being investigated for an allegation of the sexual abuse of a minor. News outlets in the Boston area reported on this development yesterday as Waters is one of two Augustinians accused of the abuse which is alleged to have occurred in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Ken Gavin, of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, stated that Fr Waters has been placed on administrative leave however one full day after this news broke Waters name remains on the Archdiocese clergy list. The clergy list shows all priests with full faculties in the Archdiocese. As many who have followed our efforts over the years are aware, we have had to contact the Archdiocese many times for errors on their list.

Stay tuned.

https://www.wgbh.org/news/local-news/2019/04/09/andover-philadelphia-pastors-put-on-leave-amid-sexual-abuse-allegations

No Thank You

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

There are 19 pages highlighting the case of Fr Peter Dunne in the 2005 Grand Jury report of the Philadelphia Archdiocese. ” Father Peter J. Dunne, ordained in 1954, served the Philadelphia Archdiocese as a teacher, pastor, administrator of a school for delinquent boys, and assistant director of the Archdiocese scouting program for 40 years. He remained a parish priest for seven and a half years after Archdiocese officials learned, in 1986, that he had sexually abused an altar boy who had been in the priest’s Boy Scout troop. During those seven and a half years, Father Dunne was diagnosed as an untreatable pedophile. He personally paid $40,000 to silence a victim. The Archdiocese was warned repeatedly that he had many victims, that he was most likely continuing to commit sexual offenses, that he should not be in a parish setting, and that he should not be around children or adolescents.”

Recently it came to our attention that Fr Dunne’s name is included on a parish website along with other priests who have served at the parish. The section expresses gratitude to all of the priests who have shared their time and talent.

Last year we had to contact the Archdiocese to have the flattering biographical paragraphs of abusive priests Fr John Paul and Msgr John Gillespie removed from a parish website. Msgr Gillespie was accused of abusing children at the very parish that still listed his information as a former pastor.

While there obviously needs to be Archdiocesan policy on how all parishes should handle the issue of abusive priests being included in parish literature and websites, we are asking the C4C community to weigh in. We think that a common sense policy should be that each parish has a section on their website listing any abusive priest who has served at the parish. No more whitewashing with information that omits the abuse history of the priest, and no “thank- you’s” to priests who have violated innocent children.

Please share your thoughts on this subject in the comment section or join the conversation on the Catholics4Change facebook page .

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