Bishop will not seek their resignations
25 February 2012
Bishop W. Francis Malooly on Friday released a letter saluting three of his top deputies, saying they had his “complete support and gratitude” and rejecting charges that they engineered a cover-up of child sexual abuse by priests in the diocese.
Malooly said he will not ask for the resignations of monsignors J. Thomas Cini, Clement Lemon or Joseph Rebman, all of whom, in the bishop’s view, have served honorably.
“These men love God, the Church and the people of our diocese, and they take very seriously the work of protecting children,” Malooly wrote. “They have my complete support and gratitude.”
In the letter, posted Friday afternoon on the website of the Dialog, the diocese newspaper, Malooly acknowledges the mistakes of previous bishops and says the diocese would have served abuse survivors, their families and the church better by disclosing the names of abusive priests.
The letter is a response to calls by sex abuse survivors and their advocates for the three monsignors to resign following the release last month of a cache of secret diocese documents to meet settlement terms of the diocese’s bankruptcy case. Those files are slowly are being made public through the Boston-based website BishopAccountability.org.
The documents, spanning more than half a century, reveal in handwritten notes, photographs, audio files, memos and other personnel and court records the anguish of scores of abuse victims and the strategy and response of church authorities as allegations arose.
Victims and victim advocates say the documents also show that Cini, Lemon and Rebman knew of abusive priests and did not report them to authorities or warn the community and demonstrated that the church hierarchy cared more about preventing scandal than assisting victims and stopping the abuse.
“I’m not surprised by this reaction from Malooly,” said Matthias Conaty, who was raped by a Capuchin friar while he was a student at St. Edmond’s Academy and was among those who fought to change Delaware’s statute-of-limitations law. After the diocese filed for bankruptcy protection, Conaty served as co-chairman of the survivors’ committee in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. “These are essentially the bishop’s men. But I really think he’s wasting a great opportunity to finally do something right. … These men are responsible for participating in a conspiracy of silence, and I believe it’s still in place today.”
In his letter, Malooly rejects allegations that the three monsignors were “architects” of a strategy to cover up the crimes.
Rather, he says, the documents show that in 1985, then-Bishop Robert Mulvee adopted a “zero-tolerance” approach to sexual abuse by priests, the three monsignors carried out that policy and “in no case handled by them was an abusive priest ever returned to ministry by the Bishop.”
Conaty said priests removed from ministry remained dangerous to children — as illustrated by former priest Francis G. DeLuca, who was allowed to retire quietly to his hometown in Syracuse in 1993.
DeLuca pleaded guilty in 2006 to sexually assaulting a young relative, prompting Bishop Michael Saltarelli to change his policy and release the names of abuser priests in the diocese. Saltarelli died in 2009.
“They seem very focused on whether someone is in ministry,” Conaty said. “I think that’s immaterial. What’s really important is that they didn’t warn the communities. … Here is a guy who was abusing kids for many, many years. They enabled despicable crimes to be committed by DeLuca when they could have exposed it.
“The problem that this letter makes clear is that the bishops and church leaders always take the side of their fellow priests and not the side of protecting children. That is borne out in the files and in this reaction,” said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
“What Catholics and citizens need and deserve are straight answers and real explanations, not vague rallying behind accused wrongdoers,” he said.
“There are pages and pages and pages of documents that the bishop should explain why he reads them so very differently than many others.”
Instead, he said, Malooly is following a well-worn path.
“There are a handful of cases where bishops have very belatedly and grudgingly moved corrupt officials sideways,” Clohessy said.
“But almost never have they clearly demoted someone for ignoring or concealing child sex crimes — and of course that’s the crux of the problem. Sometimes predator priests are disciplined, but almost never are their corrupt supervisors disciplined, and so the problem continues.”
Malooly said the three monsignors serve as pastors of busy parishes — Cini at St. Ann’s in Wilmington, Lemon at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Brandywine Hundred and Rebman at St. Joseph’s on the Brandywine — and also are responsible for many administrative duties. All are committed to protecting children, he said.
“I repeat the pledge I made at my Mass of Installation on September 8, 2008, to continue my work to bring healing and reconciliation to survivors of clergy sexual abuse,” he wrote.
In addition to the release of the documents by the diocese, the settlement of lawsuits filed by almost 150 abuse survivors included payment of more than $77 million to survivors and their attorneys.
On Tuesday, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Sontchi signed off on the final fee applications related to the bankruptcy case, including more than $5.7 million to the diocese attorneys at Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, $4.4 million to the Los Angeles-based firm of Stang, the attorney hired to represent abuse survivors in the bankruptcy case, and $1.1 million to the Ramaekers Group for management of the case. In all, the diocese paid more than $13 million in fees to attorneys, researchers and other consultants.