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

Consider the Source: Archdiocesan Press Release Short on Facts

As we predicted, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia waited until late Friday afternoon, a dead-zone in the news cycle, to issue a revised press release about three priests removed from ministry.

We alerted the Office of Communications to specific inaccuracies in their press release a week prior. Even though we provided corrections, they needed a lot of time to confirm the truth. Go to Google and people in the pews if you want clergy sex abuse facts.

As was likely intended, local new sources relied upon and quoted the inaccurate and incomplete press release during the week it remained unrevised. Read the updated press release here.

Rev. Raymond Smart’s parish service has been updated. The date of the sexual abuse of a minor allegation is also revised.

Negligent or Deliberate?

In an email regarding the inaccuracies, Ken Gavin, of the Office of Communications, explained his office used the official clergy personnel assignment list. This means, that despite three separate investigations since 2011, the Archdiocesan Office for Clergy didn’t have accurate records of Father Smart’s living arrangements and ministry for the past 16 years. Or, they didn’t pass on complete information to the Office for Communications.

Maybe a bishop’s after-dinner drink spilled and damaged pages? Maybe a clergy office staffer lost a few pages after tripping over the cot we suspect is set up for Father Joseph Gallagher, an alleged abuser who is M.I.A. We will never know. We’re just really glad we could help update their records.

The Archdiocese was also off by an entire year in regard to when the allegation was received. It stands to reason it would be the Office for Investigations responsibility to ensure the accuracy of allegation dates.

In the past, clergy suspension and removal announcements have been coordinated between the Office of Investigations and the Office of Communications. We know this because an investigator once hit “reply all,” forgetting to remove us from an email thread.

It’s still unclear when the allegation concerning Father John Meyers was received by John Delaney, Delegate of Archdiocesan Investigations. He has not replied to our emails.

Scooby Doo Where Are You?

We will publish a separate post this week on the now twice-removed Msgr. Joseph Logrip. His assignment record in the press release still does not show where he resided between 1983 and 1990, nor does it indicate his many years serving as St Aloysius Academy’s chaplain.

A few years ago, we shared troubling information about an Archdiocesan priest with the police and the Archdiocesan Investigations office. When we followed up with the police, they said the Archdiocese told them the priest was in his 90’s and living in a private residence. We knew this was wrong based on our limited information and were quickly able to estimate his age based on his ordination date and a newspaper article found online. Why were we able to land within one year of his actual age but the Archdiocese was off by decades? Also, the priest wasn’t living in a private residence.

The Archdiocese had supplied the police information on an elderly relative of the priest, who happened to share the same name. The detective said the Archdiocese should hire us.

But does the Archdiocese of Philadelphia really want accuracy and transparency?

The Waiting Game

Within minutes of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia issuing the press release announcing that three priests were removed from ministry, it was obvious to anyone capable of doing a Google search that the information contained in the statement was not accurate. The press release of January 13, 2019 can be read here: http://archphila.org/archdiocese-of-philadelphia-places-one-priest-on-administrative-leave-and-announces-two-others-have-been-found-unsuitable-for-ministry/.

While we wait for the Archdiocese to correct the inaccuracies, we’ll take a closer look at  one removed priest, Fr John Meyers, and some information we found of interest. Fr Meyers resigned his position as pastor of St Martin of Tours parish for health reasons in January 2017 and was assigned as a parochial vicar to St Anthony of Padua parish.  Just a few months later in June of 2017 he was assigned as Rector pro tem of  the Malvern Retreat House.  Somehow, even though Fr Meyers needed to resign from his parish just a few months earlier due to health reasons, he was able to take on the position as Rector of the largest retreat house in the country.  Even more interesting is that Fr Meyers was replacing the former rector of the retreat house who needed to step down due to his own health issues. In this case the former rector truly did have health issues, but why would the Archdiocese replace him with Meyers who had his own “health issues?”

Within a few months Meyers went from a pastor, to a parochial vicar, to the rector of a retreat house.  We have repeatedly emailed John Delaney, Delegate of Investigations, asking him to clarify when the allegation of sexual abuse of a minor involving Meyers was received by the Archdiocese.  No answer so far from Delaney and the questions about Meyers continue. Did the Archdiocese allow Meyers to act in the role of rector of the Malvern Retreat House while an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor was being investigated?  Many Archdiocesan students attend the overnight Kairos retreats at Malvern Retreat.  Is this a new low, even for the Archdiocese?

Another interesting twist is that when Fr Meyers resigned from St Martin of Tours parish in January 2017, he was replaced by Fr Armand Garcia. Garcia is now on administrative leave after the police searched the parish rectory last year, investigating him for possible misconduct with minors..  We broke that story after we were tipped off that Garcia was removed from the parish.  An announcement had been made at the parish but no statement issued from the Archdiocese or notification to Garcia’s past assignments.

Folks, you simply can’t make this stuff up.  We will post the corrected press release from the Archdiocese when it becomes available.  For now, we wait.

PA Senators Vote This Week: Tell Them Window Protects Kids

Dear Senators Scarnati, Corman and Costa,

As a kid, you might have been told you had a guardian angel who watched over and protected you? We were. It was fascinating to think there was an invisible presence keeping us from harm. Some kids even named their guardian angel and wondered if they’d meet them in heaven.

We’ve met our children’s angels. Their names are Vicky, Mark, Mike, Shaun, Julie Ann, Mary, John, Patty, Carolyn, Jim, Jeanne…. Every victim and survivor in Pennsylvania who has spoken out about their clergy abuse is helping to protect kids. They’ve sacrificed privacy and emotional wellness to warn future generations of Catholic families about predator priests. They’ve done everything in their limited power to ensure no child endures the horror they experienced. But it’s not enough.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been the subject of two Grand Jury reports (2005 and 2011), which lead to dozens of abusive priests being removed from ministry and some legal reforms. The PA Grand Jury Report has revealed so much more.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia touts their victims’ assistance program and child protection efforts. But the devil is in the details, literally.

  • The PA Grand Jury Report points out what we already know, that child predator priests from all over the country are shipped to a Catholic facility in Pennsylvania located across the street from 1,000 Archdiocesan students.
  • The Archdiocese has a set of standards for all church personnel who interact with children and young people but they don’t educate the kids and teens on the standards. How will they know what to report?
  • The Archdiocese will not agree to implement policy agreeing to notify parents of a child when church personnel violate the standards. 
  • In Philadelphia, a victim can pick up a newspaper and read that Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, the head of Office of Child and Youth Protection/Victims Assistance has celebrated the funeral of a child predator priest.
  • Parents at a parish find out that a priest being investigated for child sex abuse was left at the parish for almost a year while being investigated.

When Archdiocesan leadership promises they will report sexual abuse, that’s because it’s the law now. Anything less than law leaves it to their judgment, which has been proven to put children at risk.

Yes, their victims assistance program provides free therapy. Imagine if a car manufacturer knowingly sent cars with defective brakes out on the road and then offered free physical therapy for those injured as a result. Would that be enough? We’ve witnessed victims, and family members of deceased victims, ignored and even hassled.

This institution takes more guidance from attorneys than the Gospel. We say this as Catholic moms, both the product of Catholic schools, who sent our kids to the same. Lucky to have only been betrayed, we trust in God and in our legal system. We don’t believe the bishops. Neither should you.

Window legislation benefits all Pennsylvanians. Civil suits can expose even more abuse and cover ups. A copy of memo, made prior to it being shredded, listing the names of 35 abusive priests was introduced during a criminal trial in Philadelphia. One priest from the list was still in ministry at the time. Archdiocesan leadership knew, but did nothing until his name was revealed in a court room. Children are the safer for it. Civil suits will offer the same opportunity for discovery.

The victims, survivors and their family members have been heroic in their efforts to protect our children. They deserve justice and they deserve to be released from the clutches of the Church, whose reach extends to our commonwealth’s capitol. And what about abuse survivors who aren’t Catholic? The bishops and Catholic Conference lobbying efforts block justice for those abused by a uncle, coach or neighbor. 

Who is lobbying on behalf of our kids?  It’s the victims, those who were raped and molested as children. It’s tragic and beautiful that they are the ones on the front lines. We wish we could offer the words that express the empathy, gratitude and respect they deserve. But you can offer those words in new legislation.

Please extend an opportunity for civil justice, an opportunity to expose child predators and the institutions that hide them, and an opportunity to better protect all Pennsylvania children.

Sincerely,

Kathy Kane & Susan Matthews

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WRITE & EMAIL YOUR LETTERS TODAY

Please  share your thoughts with these senators and your own:

jscarnati@pasen.gov

https://www.senatorcorman.com/contact/

http://www.senatorcosta.com/contact/

This week is the final time the Pennsylvania Senate will be voting before the two-year session ends in November. So much is at stake for victims and children.

Excerpts from: As Pa. Senate session winds down, last-minute push would allow two-year window for clergy abuse victims, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 14, 2018

Senator Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, has declined interview requests and “his office circulated a counter-proposal calling for the creation of a ‘tribunal’ of judges appointed by the state’s appellate courts that would, in turn, select an administrator to manage a compensation fund. Mr. Scarnati’s proposal also would create some sort of public registry that would allow victims to petition courts to have an abuser’s name added to it.

The proposal was swiftly opposed by victims and their advocates, many of whom characterize it as a bailout for the Catholic Church and the insurance industry. Both have argued that it could lead to devastating financial blows.

‘We don’t need more bureaucracy,’ said York-area advocate Kristen Pfautz Woolley, who was abused as a child. ‘We need a two-year window for survivors to use the existing court system to obtain justice.’

Ms. Woolley said her abuser was not a priest, but a man her family trusted. She said for many victims, compensation has little to do with achieving justice.

‘I want to face my abuser in court,” she said. “I want to make sure that he never harms another child.’

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, declined a media request made last week through his spokeswoman.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, said he believed there was support in his caucus for the measure, but he didn’t have a specific vote count.

‘I think there are a number of members in our caucus who would like a two-year window, but I don’t believe that that is where our colleagues in the Senate Republican caucus are at,’ Mr. Costa said.”

 

 

 

We Can Handle the Truth

“We believe the Archdiocese should make public its files on sexual abuse allegations, including any “secret archive files.” This should be done in a way to protect the privacy of the victim. At the very least, parishioners deserve to know whenever an allegation of abuse is made against their priest. If the priest is cleared following an investigation, the reasons, along with the evidence, should be shared with the parish.” – 2011 Grand Jury Report

Click here to read: “A day of questions at parishes affected by abuse cases,” by Michael Matza, The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 9, 2012

Prosecuters Hope to Include Former West Chester Chaplain Allegations and Others

Editor’s comment: I’m heartsick knowing the situations in this article merely scratch the surface of what investigators found. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” So many in leadership did nothing and would continue to do so, if left unchecked by the law, media and concerned Catholics. Msgr. Lynn should not be the only member of our leadership on trial. Others knew. The Vatican knows. They don’t want to answer to governments, but they will answer to God.  – Susan Matthews

Click here to read: “Lawyer: Pa. Church Official Threw Peer ‘Under Bus,'” by Maryclaire Dale, Associated Press, ABC News, January 25, 2012

Excerpt from article: The cases include a priest who allegedly pinned loincloths on naked boys playing Jesus in a Passion play, and whipped them, in keeping with the drama; a priest who held what prosecutors called “masturbation camps” at the rectory, having boys strip naked and teaching them to masturbate; and a pastor written up for disobedience for complaining to Bevilacqua about an accused priest being transferred to his parish.

“I truly would love a jury to see how these were handled,” Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington said in court. “The more cases they see … the clearer the picture becomes.”

Stay Tuned: Archdiocese to Remove Priests

The Philadelphia Archdiocese may have finally suspended accused priests from active ministry, according to credible sources. The number is unclear, but could range from 25 to 34. According to the grand jury report and an article in The New York Times, there are as many as 37 credibly accused priests in active ministry.

The announcement may take place later today. This action was most likely prompted by media coverage, pressure from the D.A.’s office and the threat of more costly civil suits.

Morality and common sense would have dictated immediate removal of all credibly accused priests. Apparently the Archdiocesan hierarchy falls woefully short in this area.

This action is far too late for countless victims. Putting our children at risk for even an additional day after a credible accusation is inexcusable. Will they name the 37 priests who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse and harassment? Will those parishes and institutions show their outrage at being put at risk. I pray they will.

Typically, the archdiocese makes these announcements late morning. Check your local news stations at noon.