Philadelphia Catholic Faithful Reeling from Latest Scandal

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.

Father Michael McCarthy

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.

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About Diva Daria

Diva Daria was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and raised in the nearby suburb of Media. The youngest of five children in a close-knit family, she earned a B.A. in English from Villanova University before relocating to South Florida at age 27. A passionate wordsmith from a very early age, her professional experience includes copywriting, website content, e-proposal and RFP writing, blogging, book editing and social media marketing. Her first novel, Water Signs: A Story of Love and Renewal, was released in September of 2008; she is hard at work on a sequel, Sea to Shining Sea. Daria has appeared on numerous internet talk radio programs on BTR, including The Neidner Show, Blurb! Talk Radio, Red State Town Hall, Patriot Action Live, The Catholic Revolver and Young Gun Conservative. After a stint as Premo Mondone's co-host on Red State Talk Radio, she began co-hosting Conservative Republican Forum with local friend and activist Steven Rosenblum in May, 2009, where she remained for four years. In 2013, Daria founded the Writestream Radio Network and co-founded the We Built That Network with Zook Zangsten. When not on the air or blogging, Daria ghostwrites books and provides social media marketing services for a variety of clients.
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10 Responses to Philadelphia Catholic Faithful Reeling from Latest Scandal

  1. Pingback: Priests For Life rescue Baby Joseph from Canadian “Death Panel” | The Conservative Diva

    • f0yXQhW says:

      I want to post quick hello and want to say appriciate for this good article. 6dCnTPgtRj4nwY

      • Diva Daria says:

        Hey Catholic Mom,

        Thanks for the reply. I agree with you that the Philadelphia Archdiocese should release the records they saw that prompted them to pull Father Close from St. Katharine of Siena. My sister-in-law is planning to write a comment about the meeting that was held about a month ago at the school in which the Vicar told them that there were “sexual allegations” against Father Close. Unfortunately, the school administrators felt it appropriate to use that same term when they were explaining Close’s absence to my 11 year-old niece’s 5th grade class — highly inappropriate if you ask me.

        Nevertheless, I can only conclude that it must have been credible enough to compel the church to take no chances and remove him from the parish as a precaution. As soon as I find out more information, I will write another post.

  2. Diva Daria says:

    Concerned,

    Here is the other post to which I am referring: http://theconservativediva.net/the-catholic-churchs-conspiracy-of-silence/

    I hope this qualifies as “doing better” in your eyes. I cannot excuse the crimes nor the conspiracy to remain silent and continue to shuffle these monsters all around the diocese. I trust this account re. Father Close will prove to you I am not making it up, if the newspaper links I told you to click on aren’t enough. If not, I don’t know what else to say except pray for the victims.

  3. Diva Daria says:

    So it’s not enough for you that the archdiocese suspended him — finally — after this Grand Jury investigation: http://www.inmytrends.com/priests-named-in-philly-church-sex-abuse-case.htm. The only ones who can do better with respect to this case are the so-called leaders of the church who let these priests get away with this abuse for over four decades. And of course, the child abusers themselves.

    Obviously, the Grand Jury Report was damning enough for Rigali to at last do the right thing. Charges of sexual allegations against minors are quite serious, and I highly doubt the Grand Jury would implicate Close without sufficient evidence.

    My family’s history with Father Close goes back years, as I mentioned in my post. I stand by everything I’ve written.

    Thank you for your comments.

  4. Diva Daria says:

    Hey Chris, thanks for your comment. You make a very valid point, and it’s part of a larger problem in our society today — we accept deviant behavior as “normal” in the PC rush to be “tolerant”.

    I don’t agree with the witch hunt aspect as I’ve read the Grand Jury report…these crimes are specifically detailed and I haven’t yet heard one priest deny their culpability (although maybe some will do so at a future date). Furthermore, the higher-ups exacerbated the problem by listening to psychologists instead of their moral compass, then moving the offenders from place to place so they could commit more crimes. So if anyone perceives this as a witch hunt, the cardinals and bishops have a role in creating it.

    Also, in terms of “cashing in”, when kids are sexually abused it inflicts severe psychological damage that is often buried for years. So I am not going to engage in blaming the victims, especially after reading the nauseating things that were done to them. And once again, had the bishops and cardinals listened to their conscience and done the right thing back in the 1950s, these cash settlements would not be an issue now.

  5. Diva Daria says:

    Hi, thank you for your comment. Yes, in the Grand Jury Report, which I linked to in the above piece and in another post, you will find extensive, in-depth descriptions of the nature of the crimes committed, not just by Father Close (whom as I mentioned, my family knows personally) but all of the priests involved.

    I will caution you that it is very shocking and graphic — the thought of these authority figures committing such heinous crimes against minors is absolutely outrageous. Thank God my nephew — who served as an altar boy under Father Close — was not one of his victims. However, he was told just a day before this news broke, to change his vestments in another room by Father Close — who knew it was all about to hit the fan that evening.

    Believe me, I take no pleasure in writing about this but it is a story that needs to be told. I am also dismayed that so many of the offenders are from my high school. I know many of these criminals and if I live to be a thousand years old, I will never understand or forgive the powers-that-be within the church for allowing this to go on as long as it did.

  6. Diva Daria says:

    Ok, how is this? My brother and sister-in-law have four kids who attend SKS. I mentioned this in one of my posts, but the kids at SKS were told — including those in the 5th grade (my niece Alexa being one of them) — that there were “sexual allegations” against Father Close, which was why he was removed.

    On March 13, the parents were summoned to SKS for a special meeting, where a vicar apprised them of the charges against Father Close. I am not making this up, I spoke them both at length and wrote about it in another post on this site.

    I know it’s easy to get defensive, but I would never post anything that wasn’t true. So I apologize for my mistake in thinking he was included in the Grand Jury Report. However, there are several links in both of my posts that lead to newspaper articles in which Close is named as a sexual offender.

    Please take the time to read. If you are still unsatisfied, I am sure my sister-in-law Lisa and brother Mark will be more than happy to comment here. I do not make things up, I assure you.

  7. Diva Daria says:

    I’ve heard of the terms “Kool Aid Drinker” and “denial” as well, which I suspect is the case here. After the Church spent years and years reshuffling pedophiles and punishing good priests who blew the whistle (I know at least one of them and his name is Father Chieffo from St. Mary Magdalen parish…he’s as appalled as everyone else by the Cardinals and other so-called “leaders” who did nothing but allow more kids to be harmed).

    I have not stooped to any level other than reporting the truth. The Grand Jury has been nothing but honest and aboveboard in their conduct pertaining to these cases, so yes I believe that Rigali finally realized, based on their findings on Close, that his time around children needed to end asap.

    I stand by my blog and my reporting. If that’s not good enough for you, I suggest you stop reading since you cannot handle the truth. To call this a “witch hunt” after reading 423 pages of abuse by other priests — very detailed testimonials from the victims who, like you, trusted these monsters — is ludicrous. Obviously, the Grand Jury’s report on Close was damning enough for even Rigali to take him away.

    Frankly, I am disappointed that someone who has children isn’t relieved that he’s gone. Wouldn’t you prefer to err on the side of caution? Don’t innocent kids merit at least that much? As I said, I trust the Grand Jury. I no longer trust the Philadelphia Archdiocese – and with good reason.

    I am thrilled close is gone as I love my nieces and nephew dearly. Their safety comes before anything else. Thank God their parents feel the same way.

  8. Diva Daria says:

    As a matter of fact I do, Catholic mom. My mother was President of the Home and School Association for Cardinal O’Hara High School in Springfield, PA in the 70s and 80s. During at least a good chunk of this time, she worked with Father Close for whom, among other things, she would volunteer each year to distribute religion books. So my mother, my brother Paul (who graduated in 1981) and me all knew Father Close.

    Additionally, when the higher-ups thought it was appropriate to move him to St. Katharine of Siena parish in Wayne, PA, Father Close got to meet my young nephew Mark and my nieces Alexa and Julianna, who attended school there. So yes, my family has had much interaction with Close — which is why this is so utterly devastating.

    If you would like further evidence, I will ask my mother to reply as well and she will be happy to give you the exact years between the decade of the 70s and 80s that she consulted with Close on school matters. But I suspect it wouldn’t be enough for you. Perhaps I am wrong.

    So there you have it: I gave you a time period, the exact names of the schools and the towns in which they were located. Feel free to Google.

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