I debated whether or not I wanted to write about this after receiving a phone call about it the other day from my devastated mother, who’d spent countless years volunteering at Cardinal O’Hara High School — Alma Mater to three of my siblings and me — and a great deal of time around some of these despicable child-abusing and mostly homosexual priests. From the WSJ:
The news this week that the Philadelphia Catholic Archdiocese placed on leave 21 priests accused of sexual abuse of minors was a reminder that the U.S. church abuse scandal is far from resolved nearly a decade after it came to light.
The leaves followed a grand jury report last month that lambasted the archdiocese for allowing 37 priests to remain around children despite “substantial evidence of abuse.” That report and the investigation that led to it were made possible because the diocese had supplied prosecutors with information following an earlier grand jury report in 2005.
The earlier report concluded that dozens of priests had sexually abused children dating back at least a half-century. But prosecutors were powerless to bring criminal charges because statutes of limitations had expired.
While prosecutors can’t bring charges against the 37 priests due to statutes of limitation, prosecutors say the cases “show a pattern of the church looking the other way when it came to investigating these charges,” said Tasha Jamerson, spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office.
In addition to the 21 priests placed on leave, three others were placed on leave after the grand jury report and three others were on leave or no longer in active ministry. Two others no longer serve in the Philadelphia archdiocese, and the bishops where they reside have been notified. Eight of the priests weren’t placed on leave because the diocese concluded no further investigations were warranted.
I’m not sure what’s worse: the actual crimes or the cover-ups that allowed these monsters greater opportunities to hurt even more innocent minors as the powers-that-be within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia continually swept their pedophilia under the carpet and shuffled them around to various parishes in some sort of sick justice-evading, face-saving strategy. Too bad the vulnerable, underage victims — whose lives have been no doubt damaged beyond repair psychologically and spiritually — weren’t granted the same deference.
Among the guilty: Father Michael McCarthy and Monsignor John Close, both of whom had been teachers at Cardinal O’Hara in the 60s, 70s and 80s, two of whom I recall vividly. The former I remember as having a reputation for “liking the young boys”, though I’m not sure anyone — other than McCarthy’s superiors — truly knew or suspected just how hideous and criminal his “affection” for young boys actually was. Here’s just a snippet of “David’s” testimony:
On November 27, 1991, “David,” a married father of two daughters, called the Archdiocese to report that when he was a student at Cardinal O’Hara High School in Springfield, a priest had befriended and then sexually abused him in the years 1974-1976. On December 23, 1991, he met with Monsignor James E. Molloy, the Assistant Vicar for Administration, and his aide Msgr. William J. Lynn, and named Fr. McCarthy as his
abuser. David related that Fr. McCarthy had been his Advanced Placement Biology teacher his sophomore year at O’Hara (1974-1975). David said he had done poorly on a test and Fr. McCarthy bet him a dinner that he would get a 90 or better on the next test. David said he got a 63 on the next test, but when he subsequently received a 94 on another test, Fr. McCarthy took him to dinner. The two began to talk frequently at school. The teacher took
the boy to his shore house in Margate, New Jersey. There they went to the beach and out todinner. The priest’s house had a well-stocked bar and David said Fr. McCarthy provided boys with liquor. At night, the priest slept in the same bed with the student even though there were two bedrooms in the house and one had two beds. The priest always slept naked. David reported to the Archdiocese managers that, as time went on, Fr. McCarthy told the student not to take his clothes into the bathroom when he showered so that the boy had to walk naked in front of the priest. The boy initially slept in underwear, but after the priest wrestled them off of him one night, he also took to sleeping in the nude. The priest began to put his arm around the boy in bed, then to touch his nipples. Eventually, he fondled the boy’s genitals. David described one night when the priest took him to Atlantic City for dinner. According to David, Fr. McCarthy was “pumping drinks” into the boy and insisted he drink some of the priest’s Chivas Regal. Back at the beach house, in one bed, nude, Fr.
McCarthy began to touch and stroke his student’s penis. After the boy reached orgasm, he said, the priest tried to kiss him with his tongue.David told the Archdiocese managers that he then asked whether the priest did this same thing with other boys he brought to the beach. Father McCarthy answered that he did. He then masturbated himself.
As a kid, I remember my brother Paul, a student of Father McCarthy’s, coming home one day and telling our mother he’d been invited to a weekend at the Jersey Shore with Father McCarthy and some other classmates — all of whom were boys. To which (thank God) our astute and rightfully concerned mother replied, “Well you’re not going. It’s inappropriate”. It gives me chills now to think of the horrors she most likely spared my brother. Knowing him, he would have put up a fight, as possibly the others did. But when you’re a minor entrusted to the care of a priest — an authority figure that tragically many parents believed to be beyond reproach — finding yourself in such a violating, shameful and unwinnable situation had to be absolutely terrifying.
In some of the documents I’ve read, mothers did confront the priests in charge (disappointingly one of them being former O’Hara principal Father Cribben, who originally ignored the report). I just wonder how many other young victims buried the abuse and lived with their dark secrets for fear their parents wouldn’t believe them. Horrific, any way you look at it.
Which brings me to Father Close, a man of the cloth my mom had known for years, thanks to her endless volunteerism at O’Hara. Most recently, he’d been serving as pastor of St. Katharine of Siena Church in Wayne, PA — where my nephew is an altar boy and my three nieces, 5th, 3rd and kindergarten students. While thankfully, none of them were harmed by Close (whose crimes are exclusively against young boys), the revelation has devastated the entire family.
Talk about an abject failure of leadership. And to think, as the church solicited the faithful, much of the money they gave in good faith was most likely allocated to the defense of these sick and mainly homosexual pedophiles.
Why cover it up? Why reshuffle the offenders to other schools and parishes, thus enabling the abuse of countless other kids?
One thing’s for sure: it’s about time the Philadelphia Archdiocese was held to account. Restoring the faith of the faithful won’t be so easy.