Published April 16, 2012
PHILADELPHIA – A college administrator testified Monday that a Philadelphia priest sexually assaulted him several times a week throughout high school.
The witness, a one-time priest, said he told church supervisors in the early 1990s that the Rev. Stanley Gana had abused him from 1980 to 1984. Yet Gana was not defrocked until 2006.
The man testified at the trial of Monsignor William Lynn, the first U.S. diocesan official charged with child endangerment for allegedly burying abuse complaints in secret files.
The witness said he never told his late parents of the abuse because they believed priests could do no wrong.
“They loved the church so tremendously that I could not break their hearts,” said the 45-year-old, who said he left the priesthood because of the pain the church had caused him. He now works at a college in Illinois.
Gana had been a close family friend, sometimes bringing surplus grocery items to the boy’s large, middle-class family in northeast Philadelphia.
His mother worked in the parish school library, and he and his siblings worked nights and weekends at the rectory. He called their family life typical for Roman Catholics in that era.
“Our life revolved around the Catholic church,” he testified.
Gana started grooming the skinny eighth-grader soon after the 300-pound priest arrived at Our Lady of Cavalry in northeast Philadelphia, and before long he had the boy playing cards in his rectory bedroom, the witness said. That led to stripping naked, oral sex and, ultimately, painful anal rape, he said.
The abuse also took place at Gana’s farmhouse near Scranton, he said. The inner-city teen had never seen anywhere so beautiful.
The Associated Press could not locate a phone listing for Gana. The archdiocese declined to comment on the testimony, citing a gag order.
The witness said he suspected Gana was abusing at least two other boys. Gana also had a photograph of about eight friends from the Class of 1970 at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. Gana called them “the Mafia,” the man said.
The group includes defrocked priest Edward Avery — who agreed days before trial to serve 2 1/2 to five years in prison for sexually assaulting an altar boy at church in 1999 — and several others named as suspected abusers in two grand jury reports.
The man broke off the relationship with Gana during his first year in seminary. Gana went to the seminarian’s dorm room to plead with him.
“The chains of that relationship — that bound me — were breaking apart for me, but I don’t think they were breaking apart for him,” the witness said.
Lynn was dean of seminary students at the time, and became secretary for clergy at the archdiocese in 1992.
In 1991 or 1992, in his last years of training, the witness reported the abuse to the Office for Clergy. He relayed the names of the other potential victims.
The archdiocese accused him of suspected homosexual activity with a classmate, and forced him out of the seminary, he said. He was instead ordained in Bridgeport, Conn.
Over time, he grew increasingly concerned that Gana was still a priest. He wrote a 1997 letter to Lynn, and met with him in person. He said Lynn told him that Gana was never deemed a pedophile because he was also suspected of involvement with women, and of stealing church funds. Gana by then was in a restricted ministry at a monastery, Lynn assured him.
Gana was defrocked nine years later, after an explosive 2005 grand jury report named him and 62 other priests as suspected child abusers.
The trial, now in its fourth week, is expected to last several months.
Lynn, 61, has pleaded not guilty to two counts each of conspiracy and child endangerment. He faces years in prison if convicted.
The Rev. James Brennan, a co-defendant, has pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting a boy in 1996.