Philly Monsignor Admits Lying to Abuse Victim: Report

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Grand Jury testimony of a Philadelphia Monsignor reveals shocking statements about how he handled rape accusations against other priests

NBC Philadelphia

Friday, Sep 2, 2011  |  Updated 10:32 AM EDT

By Teresa Masterson

Priest Admits Lying to Abuse Victim: Report

Monsignor William Lynn

The Philadelphia monsignor, who is charged in the recent sex-abuse scandal for allegedly transferring predator priests to unsuspecting parishes, told a grand jury that he lied to a man who complained he’d been raped by a priest.

Monsignor William J. Lynn told a Northeast Philadelphia man, who accused the Rev. Stanley Gana of repeatedly raping him when he was a teenager, that Gana had denied the allegations, when in fact the priest had admitted the assaults, according to court documents obtained by the Inquirer.

“I just thought he wanted money,” Lynn told a grand jury, reports the Inquirer.

Monsignor William Lynn told a grand jury he lied to the boy because he believed the priest’s admission was a confidential matter between the priest and his doctor, reports the Inquirer.

This was not the only case that Lynn handled that was laid out in the 2,000-plus pages of grand jury testimony. It came to light after the District Attorney filed it as part of his conspiracy case against Lynn and four others–two priests, an ex-priest and a former teacher, who are charged in the same case with raping boys

The Inquirer reports Lynn told a previous grand jury he also opted not to pursue complaints against priests if they were reported by parents of an alleged victim instead of the child.


What Lynn told grand jury on abuse

02 Septmber 2011

By Nancy Phillips, Craig R. McCoy, and John P. Martin

Inquirer Staff Writers

Msgr. William J. Lynn was dismissive when a Northeast Philadelphia man reported that a priest had repeatedly raped him as a teenager, attacks that took place on the priest’s farm, in a church rectory, and on a trip to Walt Disney World.

“I just thought he wanted money,” Lynn later told a grand jury.

Not long after the victim came forward, Lynn told him that the accused priest, the Rev. Stanley Gana, had denied the attacks.

In fact, Gana had already admitted the abuse, something Lynn, as the main investigator of sexual-abuse complaints for the Philadelphia Archdiocese, knew but purposely kept from the priest’s accuser.

Lynn’s handling of that case and others is laid out in more than 2,000 pages of grand jury testimony made public this week. The testimony – as well as that of two bishops who once served at the top of the Philadelphia archdiocesan hierarchy – presents a newly detailed account of how the church dealt with abuse complaints.

In the testimony, taken between 2002 and 2004, the officials portrayed themselves as hamstrung by canonical laws and edicts from Rome favorable to accused priests. They said they were unwilling to notify police of abuse cases if a parent, not the victim, raised the complaint. Their efforts to investigate and monitor abusers were often incomplete, they acknowledged.

The once-secret testimony was compelled by a grand jury investigating sexual abuse by archdiocesan priests. It was recently filed in Common Pleas Court as part of the District Attorney Office’s effort to build a conspiracy case against Lynn and two other priests, a defrocked priest, and a former parochial-school teacher.

The testimony led to a scathing 2005 grand jury report that lambasted the archdiocese and top officials, including Lynn. No criminal charges were brought; prosecutors said they were barred by the statute of limitations.

In filing charges against Lynn this year, prosecutors said that new victims had come forward and that state laws had changed in their favor.

Lynn, 60, is charged with child endangerment for allegedly enabling abusive priests. He is the highest-ranking church official in the nation to be charged with such a crime.

He has pleaded not guilty. Church lawyers have quoted Lynn as saying he believed his grand jury ordeal reflected a “definite anti-Catholic bias” on the part of prosecutors. His lawyers, Thomas A. Bergstrom and Jeffrey M. Lindy, declined to comment. They are bound by a judicial gag order in the case.

Lynn’s testimony was filed along with the grand jury testimony of Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua’s, Lynn’s superior for 11 years. The Inquirer at the time was able to obtain a copy of the cardinal’s testimony, but not Lynn’s or other officials’, before Common Pleas Judge Lillian Ransom forbade the release of any additional grand jury documents.

At a hearing Tuesday, Ransom lifted her ban in response to a challenge by lawyers for The Inquirer.

The record shows that Lynn made 14 appearances before the grand jury between June 2002 and February 2004. He spoke in detail about church policy, practices, and specific cases. His testimony ended when he asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Lynn told jurors that church officials thought they did not have the authority to take action against an abuser unless the accused priest admitted his misconduct or a therapist diagnosed him as a pedophile.

Therapists applied such a label fewer than five times, according to grand jury testimony.

Complicating matters was a reluctance by therapists to declare a priest a pedophile if there had been drinking involved at the time of an incident, according to grand jury documents. A sexual assault then was seen as a momentary lapse of impulse control.

According to the testimony, the church investigations could be incomplete, and follow-up and oversight at times nonexistent.

Asked about the early complaints against Gana, Lynn said flatly, “I just didn’t follow up on it. It fell through the cracks.”

Lynn acknowledged he was at times reluctant to follow leads or reach out to other possible victims because to do so might stir up buried memories and “revictimize” them. And if he talked to priests who were colleagues of the accused abusers, Lynn said, this might up unfairly fuel rumors about those under investigation.

Lynn said he rarely, if ever, called police to report complaints – especially if a parent, rather than the child victim, was the one leveling the accusation.

“I always thought I had to have a [victim] sitting in front of me making the allegations,” Lynn said.

Along with the testimony from Lynn, Ransom also released the transcripts of two former top officials of the Philadelphia archdiocese – Edward P. Cullen and Joseph R. Cistone. Cullen, who served as Bevilacqua’s second-in-command for a decade, became bishop of Allentown in 1998. Cistone, who replaced Cullen in Philadelphia, became bishop of Saginaw, Mich., in 2009.

As aides to Bevilacqua, the three said they kept him abreast of key issues.

“As the leader at the top,” Cullen said of the cardinal, “he shouldn’t be responsible for the dysfunction down the line.”

For his part, Cistone had a good word for Lynn as well: “He has an awesome and a very widespread responsibility, and I think he does – he responds to that in a very, very responsible way.”

During Lynn’s testimony, a prosecutor pressed him about a memo in which he recommended that an accused priest be reassigned as chaplain to a community of nuns rather than to a parish with a school. This, Lynn wrote in the memo, would forestall “the possibility of a matter becoming public.”

Lynn testified that discretion was important and was not designed to protect abusers.

“Like any family, church family, you don’t always put all your dirty laundry out, so to speak,” Lynn said.

Cullen made a similar point.

“Public relations is in everything,” he testified.

When the Rev. Robert L. Brennan was accused of misconduct with boys, the church sent him to a hospital for treatment. Parishioners were told he was on a religious retreat.

Asked about the cover story, Cullen conceded, “It’s not the truth.”

It was a lie, wasn’t it? prosecutors asked.

“You could call it that,” Cullen said.

Prosecutors repeatedly returned to Lynn’s handling of the Gana case.

The church had fielded allegations about the priest dating back to 1980, when Gana reported that his own relatives were calling him a “deviate.”

He told a high-ranking church official that his relatives were telling members of his parish that Gana was an alcoholic and drug user who had an affair with a married woman. In a memo, a top church official dismissed those allegations as “defamation.”

A dozen years later, in 1992, a seminarian told church officials that Gana had abused him for years when he was a teen, but Gana remained in ministry.

In 1995, the Northeast Philadelphia man came forward to accuse Gana of repeatedly raping him when he was a teenager. This was the man who Lynn felt was looking for a financial payment; he had asked Gana for money in the past, including help with parochial school tuition.

When Lynn met with this victim, he misled him by saying Gana had denied the assaults.

Gana, in fact, had previously admitted to a church-assigned doctor that he had assaulted that victim and others. Lynn told the grand jury he withheld that information from the victim because he considered it a confidential matter between Gana and his doctor.

Asked about his handling of the allegations against Gana, Lynn testified that church officials did not alert anyone in Gana’s previous parishes or ask about possible victims. They did not reach out to the priests who had lived with Gana. They did not seek out witnesses.

Lynn said he initially questioned the Northeast Philadelphia man’s credibility and noted that under canon law, the priest had a right to his reputation.

“As soon as you ask questions like that, the reputation is gone,” he said. “You don’t get the reputation back.”

After first expressing “reasonable doubt” about the man’s claims, Lynn concluded that the allegations were credible.

Yet Gana was allowed to remain as pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows in Bridgeport for several months before church officials sent him for treatment.

Lynn pressed Gana to quietly resign.

His accuser was “the type of person that will not go away,” Lynn told Gana. In a memo, he recounted telling Gana to “weigh whether he wants the publicity that surrounds such a situation if [the victim] were to go to the press.”

A prosecutor asked Lynn whether adverse publicity had been his primary concern.

“Primary?” asked Lynn. “I don’t know whether it would be primary. It would have been a concern. . . . I mean, just for the good of the church.”

In the end, Lynn persuaded Bevilacqua to seek Gana’s resignation. In a memo to the cardinal, Lynn wrote, “There is concern that [the victims] could make this matter public and having Father Gana here could exacerbate the situation.”

After reading the memo, Bevilacqua wrote: “Noted, AJB.”

Gana was removed from ministry and agreed to lead a supervised “life of prayer and penance.”

Lynn said he had little training for investigating sex crimes. He said he attended a few seminars at a treatment facility, but in general, “I didn’t have any specific skills for that kind of work.”

Shortly after he was named secretary for clergy in 1992, Lynn said, he reviewed all the files in the so-called secret archives, the pair of file cabinets on the 12th floor of the archdiocesan headquarters off Logan Square where sensitive allegations against priests were kept under lock and key.

At the cardinal’s direction, he said, anonymous complaints were ignored: “He just said we can’t give in to anonymous allegations or complaints.”

Third-party complaints also were set aside. For example, if someone came forward to say that a friend had been abused, Lynn said he would tell the person he needed to hear that directly from the victim.

Prosecutors questioned him about the handling of allegations against the Rev. John A. Cannon. In 1964, eight male teenagers told the archdiocese the priest had abused them in the early 1960s and late 1950s. Cannon remained in ministry.

In 1992, one of those victims contacted the church again, and Lynn was assigned to investigate. He decided that Cannon should be sent for treatment, but the priest remained in ministry until 2003.

Asked why, Lynn said: “My view on Father Cannon was, I never had conclusive evidence that he had been guilty of misconduct.”

Assistant District Attorney Maureen McCartney asked what kind of evidence he was looking for.

“Well, if I had an admission on the part of the priest, that would have been conclusive enough,” Lynn replied.

Absent such an admission, she asked, was there anything else that might persuade him?

“If a report said he was diagnosed that way, had a sexual disorder or something like that,” Lynn said.

McCartney pressed: “Aside from a priest saying, ‘I did it. I molested these kids,’ or a psychiatric institution determining that someone fit within a specific criteria of pedophile. . . . or if there’s nothing else, then that’s the answer.”

“There’s nothing else,” said Lynn.

6 Responses to Philly Monsignor Admits Lying to Abuse Victim: Report

  1. Sylvia says:

    Lies. Deception. Excuses. Cover-up.

    When will they learn? When will it stop?

    Note the following:

    ” In a memo to the cardinal, Lynn wrote, ‘There is concern that [the victims] could make this matter public and having Father Gana here could exacerbate the situation.’”

    Oh my but isn’t publicity their Achilles Heel? And, sad to say, when the likes of Lynn and Bevilacqua seem at times to do ‘the right’ thing – kicking and screaming all the way I might add -and actually remove a molester from ministry, it is only to spare further bad PR if and when the story breaks. It has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with protecting children. It has nothing to do with ensuring that priests are leading a moral upright life.

    There’s something seriously wrong with these men. They are no better than the molesters and do just as much damage, albeit of a different nature.

    The poor victims who have had to deal the likes of these men.

  2. JG says:

    Not so long ago we were only talking about and questioning the abusive priests…Now we are starting to hear from and about the lying Bishops!! It is a sad move in the right direction of a very bad situation no one within the church was willing to admit to. It seems they are now entangling themselves in one lie after another, regardless of the country or the continent we hear from.

    For this bishop Lynn to say that he thought the admission by this Gana was “a confidential matter between Gana and his doctor” brought me back to a thought which struck me previously and concerning the “seal of confession” …We are starting to see through their deception and I was wondering …what could or would have happened in a case of a pedophile priest confessing to another pedophile priest or bishop??…one is forgiven and the other is bound by cannon law(!!!) to keep the secrecy of confession and, therefore, the matter is closed, for ever and ever??… What a well orchestrated deception and they make it sound perfectly normal, according to their law!!! I am not saying this EVER happened. Hypothetically speaking…unless we consider their other deception referred to previously: “mental reservation”…What spawned THAT malformation?..

    Lynn concedes that “bad publicity” was a primary concern “for the good of the church”…Needless to say anything more on this repeated worldly theme!

    Then, what a surprise: they have “secret archives on the 12th floor of the archdiocesan headquarters”…I say this should be a red flag not only for Philly but probably everywhere around the world. Get the warrants out and do as was done for any other group accused of repeated criminal offenses …This white glove treatment is beyond ridiculous! Further more, they were investigating their own crimes…DUHHH!… I don’t really know about criminal law outside of Canada but I am pretty sure I have never seen anywhere that priests, bishops or whatever in the church were also peace officers, legal agents… I need to be enlightened about this anomaly in our Justice system!

    All in all we have to draw some degree of satisfaction that someone somewhere is starting to ask the hard questions and they are getting some results seasoned with detectable orchestrated lies. It has nothing to do with having an “anti catholic bias” as Lynn tried to portray it… Pro children, definitely; pro society, absolutely; pro family, undeniably… and anti abusive organization , completely!
    They are creating their own ugly entity without anyone’s help…and getting very good at it. Such a monumental failure; we should congratulate all bishops!…and their boss, of course.


  3. Sylvia says:

    Actually JG it is MONSIGNOR Lynn – he’s the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

    The Archbishop is the CARDINAL Archbishop of Philadelphia, Anthony Bevilacqua. He’s the one who responded to the Lynn memo with “Noted, AJB” and then, by the sound of it, removed Gana from ministry, – apparently taking heed of Lynn’s advice: “There is concern that [the victims] could make this matter public and having Father Gana here could exacerbate the situation.”

    As for confession, I really and truly doubt that any of them go to confession. They don’t have a conscience, if they did they wouldn’t be denying, denying, denying until, at the 11th hour out might come a guilty plea to earn them a favour with the judge and reduced sentence. And if they did have a conscience they would be begging their victims for forgiveness long before the 20, 30 or 40 years it takes their victims to speak up. And finally if they did have a conscience they would be begging for laicization because they recognize that they sully the priesthood by their presence.

    I think some might SAY in court that they went to confession time and time again because the burden of their sins was so great, but I think that’s another ruse to give the appearance of contrition and remorse to the judge. There was one like that in the papers in Ireland just recently. I don’t think I got around to getting it posted, but when I read it I didn’t believe it. He claimed that for years he was heading into confession almost weekly, and, if not weekly, bi-weekly. In other words, he was molesting weekly and claimed he felt so badly about it that he had to go to confession, ……and then away he went and molested again. And again and again and again. No. I just do not believe him. But, it’s a good story for the judge – shows remorse and the terrible struggle he was having trying to control these presumably uncontrollable urges to sexually abuse and destroy the faith and innocence of the children who trusted implicitly, and in the process betray God, Church, his fellow priests, parents and all the faithful.

    And there’s no way to prove his story! We have to take him at his word.

    I have a thought. Perhaps the answer with confession for clerical molesters who MIGHT want to avail themselves of the Sacrament is to amend the Code of Canon Law. There could be a Canon stipulating that priests who molest must go to police, and once they have turned themselves in to ‘the proper authorities’ for their crimes, they can ask for a priest to hear their confession to deal with sins? That would show true contrition, would it not?

    A directive could go out worldwide to every bishop with the stipulation that every priest in every diocese is to know the new Canon, and every seminarian in every seminary is to be instructed on it.

    I don’t know. I think something like that might be a possibility. I need to think on it a little more 🙂

  4. JG says:

    Wow! Incredible…we are now into the “Monsignors”…nothing for me to add to your comments Sylvia…except that you are facing the “challenge” head on…and you do it better than anyone else.
    Thank You on behalf of “the children”.

  5. JG says:

    Read your last post above, again, and think it could be a “most excellent idea”… but to be truly meaningful and once for all “corrective”, such an amendment to “canon law” should be made retroactive for at least 20 -30 years…I do believe we would see quite a variety of job openings, empty buildings …It would probably feel like the first day of spring when you open all the windows of the house and you feel the fresh air coming in!! …and that puts a smile on everyone’s face and a “Thank You” on their lips…”Happy” is probably the best way to describe this “new” feeling…

    We need the fresh air of a warm spring day, the fragrant breeze that calls everyone to their garden with “seeds” in hand and the hope for a good crop.
    We need to return to basics.

  6. Sylvia says:

    Agree wholeheartedly JG 🙂

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