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Gerald T. Slevin: Philadelphia Criminal Trial Has Now Fully Exposed Catholic Leadership Worldwide

Jerry Slevin has sent another outstanding posting commenting on the Philadelphia trial, which is in the process of wrapping up, and what that trial means at a fundamental level for the Catholic church worldwide and for its future.  What follows is Jerry’s statement:


For almost a decade now in Philadelphia, the birthplace of American religious and civil liberties, government prosecutors have been examining closely and carefully the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s  medieval-style secret archives. The archives cover almost a half century of “problem priest” personnel, at times including files for almost a quarter of all Philly priests, who served under three  Philly Princes of the Catholic Church, Cardinals Rigali, Bevilacqua, and Krol. This long prosecutorial effort has culminated in the just completed  landmark multi-month criminal trial of a former top hierarchical official, with more criminal trials and likely many related civil lawsuits to follow. The trial has been well reported by Philadelphia Inquirer journalists in a brief review here and over a three month period in detail here. The pope has just tried to soften the significant adverse publicity from the trial and to preserve his Philly Catholic donor base by announcing a papal visit to Philadelphia in 2015, which already has been poorly received by many outraged Philly Catholics, as reported here.

The Philly trial court heard dozens of witnesses, including sexual abuse survivors, under oath. Prosecutors introduced as evidence hundreds of previously undisclosed documents from the Cardinals’ secret priest personnel archives. The trial revelations ranged from graphic details of nauseating and disgraceful assaults on children by priest predators, who had been previously known to the Cardinals to present serious safety risks for defenseless children, to shameless collusive document-shredding and almost limitless lying by top officials, as the dark side of the Philly clerical child sexual abuse scandal and its hierarchical cover-up was fully and relentlessly exposed.


Each of the three Philly Cardinals had similar life experiences as they ambitiously climbed the hierarchical ladder. Each had received a prestigious Roman Gregorian University graduate education. Each in varying degrees for many years had been close to the current pope, Benedict XVI, and to his immediate  predecessor, John Paul II, as well as to other major Roman curial Cardinals.

Cardinal Rigali, who was in charge in Philly for almost a decade until last year, had also worked closely in Rome for over a decade with Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, and with John Paul II.

Cardinal Rigali prior to Philly had headed the St. Louis Archdiocese, where he sponsored and mentored New York’s Cardinal Dolan. Dolan is now head of the US bishops’ national conference and is currently facing major criticism for misleading statements about  his role in “golden parachute” payments beginning several years ago to suspected Milwaukee priest sexual predators, as reported by the NY Times here and also discussed here.

Cardinal Dolan’s current treasurer at the US bishops’ conference, Wheeling’s Bishop Bransfield, was unexpectedly mentioned for unseemly behavior in sworn testimony several times during the Philly trial.  Bransfield has broadly challenged this sworn testimony as reported in the NY Times here. Embarrassingly for the pope, Bransfield several weeks ago had been visiting the pope with Washington DC’s Cardinal Wuerl and members of the “$1 million a head” elite U.S. donor group, The Papal Foundation, when the unxpected negative Philly trial testimony allegations about Bransfield became public.

Cardinal Wuerl had even given some of the elite donors as part of the visit a tour of the Vatican Bank during which Wuerl indicated boldly that it was a safe and sound bank. Apparently, Wuerl’s close ally, Carl Anderson, a former Reagan right-wing staffer, current head of the Knights of Columbus and a Vatican Bank supervisory board member, had overlooked warning Wuerl that the Vatican Banks’s CEO  was about to be sacked due to purported troubles at the Bank. The Vatican Bank’s  mess seems to just get worse on a daily basis as reported here.

Cardinal Rigali had also in St. Louis sponsored and mentored Kansas City’s Opus Dei Bishop Finn, who is currently awaiting a criminal trial for failing to report timely a priest child pornographer. Finn was recently stripped of much of his episcopal authority as reported here.

Cardinal Bevilacqua  prior to Philly had headed the Pittsburgh Archdiocese, after serving as an influential auxiliary Bishop in the large Diocese of Brooklyn, NY.

Cardinal Krol had prior to Philly been an important auxiliary Bishop in Cleveland and, as a fluent Polish speaker, was an important US confidante of John Paul II.

Each of these Cardinals also served for years in key roles on, or as advisors to, major papal Roman curial committees, as well as on major committees of the US bishops’ conference, which Cardinal Krol headed from 1971-1974 and Cardinal Dolan now heads.


The evident and significant conclusion can, and must, be drawn that the priest personnel management practices of these three Cardinals, which were consistently followed generally for over a half century as the recent Philly trial has amply demonstrated, are fairly representative and quite typical of the management practices not only of other US bishops, but of worldwide Catholic bishops.

All worldwide Cardinals and Bishops and their dioceses were, and remain, subject to the same Roman canon law and curial oversight as have the Philly, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Brooklyn and Cleveland bishops and dioceses. The close connections and frequent interactions of the Philly Cardinals with the Roman curia and Benedict XVI, and his predecessor, John Paul II,  strongly support the monumental inference that Philly’s three Cardinals were only following the Vatican hierarchy’s worldwide standard operating procedures. This is at the heart of the pending criminal complaint alleging crimes against humanity against the pope and Cardinals Bertone, Levada, and Sodano now at the International Criminal Court at the Hague. This complaint may be a motivating factor for the Vatileaks hysteria.

It must also be acknowledged, sadly but significantly, that it is not credible to assert the pope was unaware of what was happening  generally with the abuse cover-ups of these three Philly Cardinals, as well as the alleged misdeeds of Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Bransfield, both when the pope was as a Cardinal head of the curial Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith from 1981 to 2005 and, after 2005, as pope. Given the notoriety of the 2005 and 2011 Philly grand jury report and the related replacement of Bevilacqua by Rigali, then Rigali by Archbishop Chaput, both popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI must have been quite familiar with the widespread and long-term Philly predator priest scandal.

The pope clearly has had close personal contacts, as well as multiple administrative contacts, with each of these Cardinals, especially with Rigali and Dolan, and with Bishop Bransfield. Yet the only significant public papal action taken with respect to any of them appears to have been (1) to appoint Rigali last year, after the Philly indictments were issued, as an honored papal representative to a Czech Republic event, (2) to make Dolan Archbishop of New York then a Cardinal, and (3) to fete Bransfield annually at a Vatican ceremony for elite US donors, including one several weeks ago.  Now the pope plans to “reward” the beleaguered Philly Catholics with an unwelcome visit in 2015!

Of course, given Cardinal Dolan’s own widely reported abuse cover-up baggage from Milwaukee and New York, Cardinal Dolan has as head of the US bishops, unsurprisingly, failed to speak out publicly about either his mentor, Cardinal Rigali’s  pathetic management of Philly priest predators or about his treasurer, Bishop Bransfield’s alleged long-term association with the notorious and defrocked Philly priest, Stanley Gana.


What were these priest personnel management practices relating to sexual abuse allegations against suspected priests, as revealed in detail at the Philly trial and/or in the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s secret records, and what do they tell us? These practices include:

(1) Maintenance of detailed records of priest misconduct kept in secure secret archives with access limited to the Cardinal and a handful of his chosen top assistants. In Philly, this included secret files at one time on over 300 priests with  problems warranting secrecy, almost one quarter of the entire priest population at some times.

(2) Destruction of potentially incriminating records, most significantly, the destruction of several copies of a list of three dozen priests identified as serious sexual predator risks, some of whom abused more children after the list was shredded.

(3) Suppression of potentially incriminating records, most significantly, an unshredded copy of the list of three dozen suspected priest predators which was never produced as was legally required for either the 2005 or the 2011 Philly grand jury investigations.

(4) Lying to prosecutors, abuse victims, and abuse victims’ lawyers.

(5) Intimidating victims and their families generally, demanding unreasonable confidentiality and legal claims-release agreements as a condition to getting financial assistance for counseling, and using heavy-handed and expensive legal tactics to deter and/or delay victims from pursuing timely legal relief.

(6) Punishing potential whistleblowers, as well as pastors who resisted the placement of suspected priests in their parishes, as happened with one pastor at least.

(7) Accepting inadequate and/or incomplete psychological reports from “captive” psychological counseling institutions of predator priests’ fitness to return to ministry.

(8) Assigning known predator priests to unsuspecting parishes, without even informing the pastors of such parishes of the risks the predators presented.

(9) Selecting pliable and conflicted Catholics for review boards and agreeable “independent” auditors to review their performance, and then as well to cherrypick the files to be submitted to these biased review boards and auditors.

(10) Lobbying excessively and expensively to keep child abuse statutes of limitation narrow and short, and delaying victims by ruses and subterfuge until these short statutes of limitation legally barred the victims’ claims.


What do these practices indicate? They indicate clearly that the Philly Archdiocesean leadership and, by clear implication and fair inference, the Catholic Church’s hierarchy worldwide is, and has been, for decades engaged in a massive cover-up of widespread priest sexual abuse of defenseless children.

They also suggest strongly that few U.S.  political leaders, prosecutors, judges, and even journalists and TV news outlets have given the pervasive sexual assault by priests on minors the serious attention it requires.

As a consequence, over 100,000 American children have been sexually abused by priests with not one U.S. bishop tried and convicted for complicity. This number of innocent and defenseless American victims exceeds the combined total U.S. fatalities and casualties from the Iraq and Afganistan wars, yet American political leaders and media have barely given this outrageous epidemic any attention.


As noted in the comments, “Our Opportunistic Pope” here and “Is the Pope Losing it?” here, the current pope plays “hardball.” The pope appears to be in a frantic race with his own biological clock to downsize the Church to a controllable cultic empire before the priest sexual abuse scandal bankrupts the bishops, who understandably appear more focused on staying a step ahead of the prosecutors.

The pope put the fear of God into the entire hierarchy last year by sacking an Australian bishop for raising the subject of women priests, even though, as John Allen recently reported, the pope in his own hand-written notes found that “…there was no doubt about his (the bishop’s) very good pastoral intentions….” John also reported on a Cardinal who recently complained in a letter to the pope about being “yelled at” by the pope’s right-hand man, Msgr. Ganswein, for failing to approve almost instantly a papal document.

Pastoral bishops are out and episcopal puppets are in, it appears. For more on this blitzkreig approach, including a link to John Allen’s new papal report, please read here. For the papal financial urgency underlying the pope’s attack on American Sisters, please read here. For the theological and other inconsistencies of the pope’s position against the Sisters, please read here.


The evil of child sexual abuse by priests remains a major problem in the U.S., as indicated the recent talks by leading experts, Tom Doyle, O.P., here and by Richard Sipe here.

Many American Catholics continue to be very concerned about the sexual abuse of children by priests and the hierarchy’s attacks on women, including American Sisters, and on all gay persons. Many are planning on attending brief “counter” rallies at noon this Friday, June 8, in 133 US cities (A) to show their solidarity and support for (1) disrespected women, including American Sisters, (2) defenseless children and victims of sexual abuse by priest predators, and (3) insensitively maligned and innocent gay persons, and (B) to object to the pope’s contrived “religious liberty” political crusade. The rally details, including nearby locations, are available here.

The days  of “Pay, Pray and Obey” Catholics are growing shorter. Amen and Alleluia!!

Cross-posted from Bilgrimage, 4 June 2012.


2 Responses

  1. In the 1980s, an avalanche of fresh accusations of sexual abuse by priests surfaced. No one knows how many cases were reported since the bishops routinely followed the policy of protecting the reputations of the perpetrators and of doing damage control within the community. Reported cases of child sexual abuse across the United States reached epidemic proportions from 1980 to 1990, with a reported 322 percent increase from 1980 to 1990. Given the logic shared earlier, one can suspect that the bishops received an epidemic rise in reported incidents of sexual abuse by priests also during this period.

    At this point, no bishop within the United States was handing over evidence to the local police regarding the confirmed sexual improprieties of their priests. Their logic was that this was an internal affair, and that their responsibility ended when a priest had taken up residence in an addiction center and his case file, complete with the sworn testimony of witnesses pledged to secrecy, was transferred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, which was under the direction of Cardinal Ratzinger from 1981 to 2005. Ratzinger removed the authority of bishops to judge their own priests in this serious matter. Everything came to a halt on Cardinal Ratzinger’s desk.

    The old adage was that “Rome moves slowly” and, in the affair of wayward priests, this applied in full rigor. The notion that a tribunal of complete strangers in the Vatican could competently decide the juridical future of the accused on the basis of sworn testimony (wherein the accused never had to face his accusers; and, in many instances, was never even permitted to know the identity of his accusers and wherein no cross-examination of live witnesses was possible) may seem ludicrous to us today, but bishops were subservient to whatever the Vatican decided and were perhaps relieved that they could obediently hide behind the decision of a Vatican tribunal when the hard judgments were finally passed down. But the greatest failure o f the Vatican system is that neither the accused nor the accusers are present at the deliberations.

    Even the judges were sworn to secrecy and could never discuss the cases they decided with either the victims or the perpetrators. Such a system is thoroughly unsatisfactory since neither the victims nor the perpetrators have any way of knowing whether their case received a “fair hearing.” Moveover, there was no public scrutiny that would allow anyone to evaluate the reliability of the proceedings or for experts to make recommendations for improving them.

    This addiction to secrecy was the hallmark of Cardinal Ratzinger’s methodology. He knew more than any one else in the whole Church; yet, he did NOTHING and he seemingly learned NOTHING and he declared himself INNOCENT of any wrong-doing.

  2. It scares me to hear so many members of the hierarchy coming forward and excusing Benedict XVI from all wrong doing in every circumstance going all the way back to the Hitler years. Benedict XVI can demonstrate for the bishops of the world how to meet and hear the pain of the suffering and angry victims of abuse. He can demonstrate how to align himself with the victims and to threaten perpetrators with a policy of “zero tolerance.” Yet, he has not yet demonstrated to the bishops of the world how they can govern with confidence while exhibiting a transparency relative to their own personal shortcomings in the sexual abuse secrecy and cover-up. Yet, in my mind, this is where the current policy of the U.S. bishops is potentially doomed to a short-term success followed by a long-term failure. If the bishops continue to follow the lead of the Bishop of Rome, the depth of betrayal and the secret sins of bishops will never see the light of day. But, here, the courts of Philadelphia may do what the Pope is unwilling and unable to do. . . .

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