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Exploitation in the name of God
Catholics like Jehovah's Witnesses exploit law to get away with rape of children
Posted on Thu, Sep. 22, 2005


BUT NO JUSTICE FOR VICTIMS AS GRAND JURY'S POWERLESS TO ACT


bunchw@phillynews.com

The devil is in the details.

For example, there is the Philadelphia-area Roman Catholic priest who raped an 11-year-old girl, causing her to become pregnant, and then took her to have an abortion, and who also molested a 5th-grader inside the confessional booth.

There is also the case of the teenage girl who was immobilized in traction in a hospital bed and was molested by a priest.

And another priest is said to have been a sadomasochist who paid boys to place him in bondage - and then perform acts such as defecating so he could lick their excrement.

When the Roman Catholic clergy sex-abuse scandal exploded in 2002 in Boston, many wondered if Philadelphia - the 7th-largest archdiocese in the country with more than1.4 million parishioners - could have similar problems.

That April, Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham convened a grand jury to look into sexual abuse in the archdiocese and whether there had been a cover-up by church leaders.

The results, announced yesterday, show the child sexual-abuse problems in the archdiocese were worse than anyone could have imagined.

"I want to correct the misconception that this was inappropriate touching - we're not speaking about a misplaced pat or overly enthusiastic hug," Abraham said at a packed news conference yesterday. "We're talking about child rape. Our children were used as masturbation tools and [in] disgusting acts of sadomasochism."

The grand jury, which issued a comprehensive 418-page report, said it was able to document the sexual abuse of hundreds of children by at least 63 priests in the archdiocese - and speculated there was much more it could not uncover.

"We heard testimony about priests molesting and raping children in rectory bedrooms, in church sacristies, in parked cars, in swimming pools, at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, at the priests' vacation houses in the Poconos and the Jersey shore, in the children's schools and even in their own homes," the grand jury reported.

But the panel, and Abraham, saved some of the most blistering words for the two men who led the archdiocese during the period covered by the probe - retired Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and the late Cardinal John Krol, who was a 20th century icon of Philadelphia.

The report said the two cardinals took part in a cover-up that greatly increased the number of children who were abused - by simply moving pedophile priests to other parishes or leaving them in their posts with no punishment.

"[I]n its callous, calculating manner, the archdiocese's handling of the abuse scandal was at least as immoral as the abuse itself," the report stated.

However, the grand jury did not charge anyone with committing a crime. Its report said that was only because either the statute of limitations had expired, or because of other flaws in current laws.

"We are left, then, with what we consider a travesty of justice: a multitude of crimes for which no one can be held criminally accountable," it states.

The long-awaited report drew a strangely mixed response from the archdiocese. Cardinal Justin Rigali, who took over when Bevilacqua reached mandatory retirement age in 2003, apologized again to the victims at a news conference. Yet the archdiocese also issued a blistering 70-page report that blasted the probe's findings and even sought to link it to anti-Catholic prejudice of the 1840s.

The written response from the archdiocese said Abraham's probe was "a 40-month investigation with a pre-determined end result and a report that is actually a biased advocacy piece."

Indeed, yesterday's back-and-forth showed that the grand jury report did not come close to resolving the controversy over the archdiocese's handling of child sexual abuse. Abraham asked yesterday: "Has anything changed? Does the archdiocese get it? Do they understand fully their responsibility? The answer to that is an emphatic, 'No.' "

Nevertheless, the report brought some Philadelphia-area victims of priest sexual abuse, and their advocates, closer to a state of closure than at any time since the scandal broke.

"The silver lining today is that now other people will know this," said Pat Hitchens, a local member of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, who said she was abused in the 1960s by a priest operating in Southwest Philadelphia and Darby. "The district attorney is giving a voice to so many people who have suffered for so long and who had no voice."

"We need to begin an atmosphere of reconcilation where the leadership and priests are not afraid to talk about this instead of saying this is past history," said Bud Bretschneider, of Voice of the Faithful. "It is not history. It is very much real and alive."

The report spoke extensively of the lingering adult problems of those who were abused decades ago as children, including what it referred to as "soul murder" - when their defilement leads to a loss of faith.

"In order for a priest to satisfy his sexual impulses, these children lose their innocence, their virginity, their security, and their faith," it said. "It is hard to think of a crime more heinous."

One victim, identified by the grand jury as "Billy," said that when the Rev. James Brzyski thrust his hands down Billy's pants when he was just 11, it "turned this good kid into this monster.

"I had no God to turn to, no family, and it just went from having one person inside me to having two people inside me," he testified. "This nice Billy... that used to live, and then this evil, this darkness Billy... that had to have no conscience and no morals in order to get by..."

That account is just one of many gut-wrenching anecdotes in the lengthy report.

Some of the harshest words are for the Rev. Nicholas Cudemo, who was described by a top aide to Bevilacqua as "one of the sickest people I ever knew."

It was Cudemo, the report said, who abused a girl, "Ruth," in the late 1960s when she was nine or 10, raped her when she was 11, took her for an abortion, and continued to abuse her until she was 17. "She has suffered severely ever since," the report stated.

Cudemo, also the priest who molested a 5th-grader in the confession booth, taught at three area high schools - Bishop Neumann, Archbishop Kennedy, and Cardinal Dougherty and was repeatedly tranferred because of, the report said, "what were recorded in archdiocese files as 'particular friendships' with girls."

The report said that numerous reports of the Rev. Albert Kostelnick fondling young girls "spanned 32 years, beginning in 1968, when he fondled the genitals and breasts of three sisters, ages 6 to 13 years old, as he showed slides to their parents in the family's darkened living room."

The grand jury reported a fourth sister was the girl that Kostelnick fondled as she lay in traction after a 1971 automobile accident. "They said the injured girl had to ring for the nurse to stop her molestation," it said.

Despite the long history of complaints about Kostelnick - including a 1987 report to police that he'd allegedly fondled an 8-year-old girl - he was kept on for years as pastor of St. Mark in Bristol, and in 1997 he was honored by Bevilacqua with a luncheon at the cardinal's house.

The grand jury said that the Rev. Raymond Leneweaver, at Saint Monica's, in South Philadelphia, named a group of altar boys the "Philadelphia Rovers" and made up T-shirts for them. It said he repeatedly molested the 11- and 12-year-old boys and anally raped at least one boy.

When one boy tried to report Leneweaver, it said, his own father beat him until he was unconscious and said repeatedly, "Priests don't do that."

The report also documents repeated efforts by archdiocese officials to cover for pedophile priests. One, it said, was transferred so many times that church officials worried they had run out of places to put him. In another case, the grand jury found, when a nun complained that a priest who had been convicted of receiving child pornography was still ministering to children, the woman was fired from a post directing religious education.

The grand jury found that it could not find the archdiocese guilty of corporate criminal liability because the church is not organized as a legal corporation.

The panel recommended several changes in state law to address any future problems, including abolishing the statute of limitations for sexual offenses against children - a step already taken in some other states.

It also recommended tightening the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law to require those who learn of abuse to report it to authorities, and to require background checks on employees of any organization that supervises children.


Staff Writer Kitty Caparella contributed to this report.

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