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Sex Abuse Charges Put Catholic Prosecutor Front and Center

c. 2011 Religion News Service
PHILADELPHIA (RNS) For Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, leading the sex abuse prosecution that has roiled this city’s Catholic community is not an attack on the church in which he was raised, and to which he remains deeply committed.
But the Philadelphia native says he is determined to bring to justice the “evil” clergy his office accuses of harming children.
Earlier this month (Feb. 10), Williams announced criminal charges against three priests and a parochial school teacher for allegedly raping boys in the late 1990s. In addition, Monsignor William Lynn, the archdiocese’s former secretary of clergy, was charged with endangering the welfare of a child because he allegedly transferred abusive priests without warning schools and parishes. All four clergy have been suspended by the archdiocese.
Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali has also pledged to reexamine other cases flagged by the grand jury, which said in a scathing report that at least 37 other priests remain in ministry “despite solid, credible allegations of abuse.”
“I tell people that this is not about the Catholic Church. I love my church” said Williams in an interview. “This is not … some form of Catholic-bashing. This is about evil men being held accountable for their evil behavior.”
But some Catholics wonder if Williams, who remains active in his West Philadelphia parish and on various church committees, will feel torn between his legal mission and his faith.
Williams said he isn’t troubled by prosecuting the clergy and school teacher for raping children. “All reasonable people would come to that conclusion,” he said. But Williams is bothered by the thought that some parts of the church, such as schools and youth organizations, might suffer because potential contributors grow reluctant to donate.
Adopted at 18 months by devout Catholics Rufus and Imelda Williams, the district attorney worships in the same West Philadelphia church building where he was baptized, served as an altar boy, and married.
The district attorney, who was elected in 2009, is on the board of Catholic Social Services and the St. Martin de Porres Foundation, which supports lay leadership among African-American Catholics, and participated in a study of the future of churches in his neighborhood.
Williams also spent many years on the parish council of the former St. Carthage Church, and was instrumental in helping the church merge with another local parish to become St. Cyprian.
But he is proudest, he said, of the carnival he organized on church grounds. “The goal, of course, was to raise money for the church, but the accomplishment was a huge undertaking. People in the community had the opportunity to have a lot of fun on our church grounds for a week every year for 10 years.”
Williams has also been close to the Catholic hierarchy, serving on an advice panel for Rigali. Williams lauded Rigali’s actions in the wake of the grand jury report. “I commended the cardinal on his actions and his words. I look forward to working with the cardinal and others for the protection of children,” Williams said.
The district attorney’s connection with Rigali has raised questions in the minds of some Catholics, however.
“The question I have to ask is that if he (comes to) feel Cardinal Rigali is somehow involved, how he could face him?” said Leonard Norman Primiano, a Catholic who heads the Department of Religious Studies at Cabrini College in Radnor, Pa. “I’d be curious as to how this will affect his relationship (with Rigali).”
The Rev. James Bajorek, pastor of St. John Chrysostom Church in Wallingford, Pa., has worked closely with Williams on church business.
“He’s very talented, he’s articulate,” Bajorek said. “He is absolutely committed to his parish, the Catholic Church, his family first, but also the community.”
Williams brings the same drive for fairness that informed his work in his local Catholic community to his current task, the priest said.
“He needs to make sure the law is followed,” said Bajorek. “Yet this is about his church family, and not showing favoritism.”
Terence McKiernan, who tracks abuse cases nationally as the head of the website, commends Williams in prosecuting the abuse cases “aggressively.”
McKiernan said that “it’s got to make people uneasy that he’s got that strong relationship with Rigali,” but that Williams is “breaking new ground” in going after not only allegedly abusive clergy, but also the monsignor who supervised them.
Any church leader who had a role in handling the cases of clergy who were found guilty of abuse is going to feel chilled by that move, said McKiernan. “Taking that step is evidence that he’s serious … having started, he will finish the job.”
For his part, Williams is hopeful the current wave of indictments and the grand jury report will have a positive effect on the church he loves.
“From ridding the church of these bad priests, to more people becoming informed, to more victims coming forward … this is a clarion call,” he said.

  • mike ference

    Mike Ference
    817 Worthington Avemue
    Clairton, PA 15025
    Is Pennsylvania a Pro-Pedophile State?
    You be the judge
    By Mike Ference
    How many grand jury investigations need to be held in PA before the lives of innocent children are deemed more precious and important than dysfunctional sex freaks from the ranks of PA catholic clergy and hierarchy? This article was written almost three years ago. How many survivors of clergy abuse in PA could have been changed for the better; if only some one in PA government actually did their job. Kudos to Seth Williams, the District Attorney of Philadelphia; just for the record, I’m a security guard making $8.50 an hour.
    Here’s the link:
    Former PA State Rep. Lisa Bennington, D-Allegheny County, held a press conference on May 12, 2008 in Harrisburg, PA to discuss legislation known as the Child Victim’s Act of Pennsylvania, which addressed statute of limitations and identifying sex abusers.
    If the bill had passed, it would have changed the age at which a civil suit could have been filed from until the accuser is 30 to 50, bringing the civil statute of limitations in line with the criminal statute. The bill would also have suspended the civil statute of limitations for two years in child sex abuse cases in which the statute had expired so that people over the age limit could file a suit. And it would have allowed the filing of such actions against child sex abusers and their enablers in both public and private institutions.
    According to Bennington, it was the private institutions (like in Ireland) where offenders were allowed to move on and continue with their lives. “Their victims left behind to pick up the pieces, never getting their day in court and or a chance to see justice carried out. They live with this horrific crime for the rest of their lives,” she pointed out.
    A 2005 Philadelphia Grand Jury Report uncovered 63 priests in the Philadelphia archdiocese who had abused hundreds of children over several decades. In some cases, archdiocese leaders intentionally concealed the abuse to protect the church.
    And Bennington stressed, her bill did not target the Catholic Church. Rather, “it pertains to all religious institutions, public schools, youth groups and any organization where child sex abuse has occurred. It would have given all Pennsylvania victims their fundamental right to hold those accountable that afflicted or allowed the abuse to occur.
    Sounds reasonable and seems like a good thing. Similar legislation has passed in California and Delaware in recent years. In California, about 1,000 victims came forward and 300 predators were identified. Yet, there’s one PA lawmaker who strongly opposed the legislation and never even intended to give the bill a hearing.
    State Rep. Thomas R.Caltagirone D., (Berks County), the House Judiciary Committee chairman, said the proposed bill was driven by victims’ desire to win large legal payouts. Caltagirone goes on to say the bill is all about money, not about justice.
    Ironically, Caltagirone was quick to vote with fellow legislators for a 50 percent increase in their pensions in 2001 and the infamous middle of the night pay raise in 2005. The state rep along with other lawmakers chose to take the self-induced pay grab immediately in unvouchered expenses. Many PA residents felt this made the elected officials look like money-hungry crooks, as it was eventually declared unconstitutional.
    As expected, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference deplored the bill. Choosing to continue to protect perverted priests, rather than seek justice. Likewise, the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania was also against the bill. And, while Caltagirone officially declared the legislation dead, his puppy-protection HB 39 bill – which would forbid dog owners from performing surgery on their pups – is still very much alive.
    As someone who has been investigating clergy abuse in Pennsylvania for almost 20 years, this writer can’t help but think that something is amiss in the commonwealth – just like things were amiss in Ireland.
    On the eastern side of Pennsylvania the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office issued a scathing report on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for the high level of sexual abuse among Catholic priests and the cover ups and the reassigning of credibly accused Catholic priests by Cardinals Anthony Bevilacqua and John Krol and their aides. It should be noted that Bevilacqua first served as Bishop of the Pittsburgh Diocese before his transfer to Philadelphia. Insiders claim Bevilacqua left his successor, Donald Wuerl, quite a mess.
    For example, while Bevilacqua was still assigned to the Pittsburgh Diocese he agreed to place Fr. John P. Connor, an admitted child molester first within the Pittsburgh Diocese and later, after Bevilacqua took over in Philadelphia Fr. Connor was assigned there. According to testimony in the Philadelphia Grand Jury the arrangement was based on a “tradition of bishops helping bishops.” Sadly, Fr. Connor went on to abuse others and Bevilacqua was found to be a liar according to the grand jury report.
    One has to wonder why the Pittsburgh Diocese voluntarily settled with 32 alleged survivors of clergy abuse. $1.25 million for crimes the Pittsburgh Diocese will never have to admit ever occurred. The settlement would not tarnish the stellar reputation of Archbishop Donald Wuerl who never had to pay a dime of diocese money to any clergy abuse victims during his tenure as bishop in the Pittsburgh Diocese.
    Oddly enough, an underling – so to speak – Auxiliary Bishop Bradley reconciled the situation, only weeks before Bishop David Zubik was to be installed as the new leader of the diocese. So it seems everything fell into place.
    32 survivors received a few bucks, the diocese is off the hook for any future civil or maybe even criminal suits based on the settlement. Wuerl continues to do in Washington D.C. whatever it is that Archbishops do and Zubik was allowed to get a fresh start in the Pittsburgh Diocese without the interference of those civil suits that were resting in limbo for several years.
    The settling of the civil suits certainly allowed for an impressive and dignified installation of Bishop Zubik, no hecklers or demonstrators from any groups with compassion for children sexually abused by Catholic priests.
    And, although I have no proof, nor anyway to calculate, I would be willing to bet the farm that more money was spent on Zubik’s festivities than was awarded to 32 survivors of alleged abuse by Catholic priests from the Pittsburgh Diocese. No big deal, the worst is over.
    Unless of course, somewhere down the road – maybe a year, a few months, a couple of weeks, or perhaps in the next few days – information turns up that the cases of sexual abuse actually occurred and that cover ups were the norm in the Pittsburgh Diocese just like cover ups and shifting priests from parish to parish was the norm in the archdiocese of Philadelphia.
    Anyone with a little common sense would be concerned that a man of the cloth might be tempted to hide crimes of clergy sexual abuse of young children only on the eastern side of the commonwealth of PA and not the western side as well.
    That’s a lot of ifs ands or buts – only time will tell if Pennsylvania is indeed a pro-pedophile state. For now, we can only laud former Rep Bennington for trying to make a difference in the lives of those sexually, physically and emotionally abused as children; as for Rep. Caltagirone – one politician who obviously cares more about puppies than children – maybe it’s time for the law maker to rollover and play dead.
    Mike Ference has been an advocate for clergy sex abuse survivors for over 21 years. He has written about the problem and works with clergy abuse families in Pennsylvania and across the United States helping victims work through the corrupt bureaucratic maize of injustice. He attributes much of the problem to corrupt leaders in government, organized crime and Catholic Church hierarchy more concerned about power and money than the salvation of souls. He has labeled the commonwealth of Pennsylvania a Pro-pedophile state where Catholic clergy sex abuse cover-ups are still the norm. Mike can be reached at 412-233-5491 or email him at

  • Keith Richard Radford Jr

    Exorcism and sex?
    Let me tell you about my families setting me up for an exorcism and her need for money through political, and religious pandering concerning sex.
    I remember living behind a church were Brian Lamb, and a bunch of these Cspan guys used too have a wood shop. At that place of residence my mom thought I needed an exorcist, after playing in the mud the way very young children will sometimes with my uncle who mixed a glass of this red clay in water and told me it was chocolate milk.
    After drinking it as he would force me to do thing all the time like the time he made me cut off the limb I was sitting on and the device came out of my shoulder being more powerful and in control I broke out with ring worm all over my body and my mom told me it was writing that could not be understood so she had priests come in from the church.
    I guess my Dad did not know that one of the people at the church was in line for being my new dad but that was not in the cards because I guess he felt I was in need of discipline after an accident in the wood shop. I had been check out on the band saw by my grandfather who was a millwright in Arkansas/Yakama Washington and to do some jobs the blade shield had to be removed. Some kids came in and wanted to use the saw, then got mad that I wanted to warn them to put the guard on and they told me they owned it all and I was not to tell them anything, and after this head strong kid cut his thumb off the other kids said they would tell their fathers it was all my fault, but it was not.
    I had a fever of well over a hundred and I was a bloody mess with the infection. The priests came in with outer guys and one had a camera. The priests would throw me across the room well the other snapped a picture. I would fall on furniture and the floor and they would tell me get on the bed, don’t get off the bed very loud and when I would crawl back on the bed they would pick me up and throw me over and over again well the other priest would snap another picture and this went on till one guy said we have enough picture and they left me in the blood, mud, and bedding, then my aunt came in with some save that was for ring worm.
    She spread the save and kidded me about dying when the rings got to my heart. After getting well I went back to the wood shop and the guys had made me a special shield and gave me my sword which were both made of wood and I had to fight one of the guys in my shorts because I did not want to remove them and the other guy was naked (he know who he is). I was still not up too speed and lost the battle. They then called me the bad guy and this group was supposed to be my gate keeper or something like that appointed by the priests. My Dad did not like them much also but that did not matter much because someone at the church was going to be my new dad till he said no, my mom cried allot, my dad was gone, I healed up, but I still have a case.
    Please know that there is nothing any of you can do to make what you and the rest of the ones involved can do to make this my fault. See at the time I was about seven years old. Since then the church has made an effort to kill me, to the extent of trying to pass laws to kill sex offenders.
    Come on, keep it up, keep pushing laws that you as a group of very said individuals know have no value. Take me too court so I can own a network. I have met with your staff members in private since along with military personal and others.
    Now lets note when this happened I was only a small child being thrown around a room like a rag doll by people that started all this clear back in the late fifty’s and the steering by very bad people that think abusing kids to make laws to stop abuse, Ha! these laws are bogus and the fact that they can not kill gays anymore does not justify the use of laws too kill someone set up by them to create some worthless set of laws by a fusion of church and state is wrong and realty designed by them to harm us all.
    My case was pragmatic but more than that I know what was done and who was involved making vendetta laws that really have no bases in truth, and are based in lies.
    Keith Richard Radford Jr
    PSS don’t be cowards, let me know you received this e-mail through a response.
    It’s time to communicate

  • Judy Jones

    Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams is doing what every catholic, good priest, or bishop should be doing
    Williams is living his life with integrity. He knows it is WRONG to sexually abuse a child, and it is WRONG to enable and cover up these crimes against kids.
    He must also know that it will not stop unless they are all held accountable. This is only common sense.
    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511
    “Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests”

  • Judy Jones

    Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams is doing what every catholic, good priest, or bishop should be doing
    Williams is living his life with integrity. He knows it is WRONG to sexually abuse a child, and it is WRONG to enable and cover up these crimes against kids.
    He must also know that it will not stop unless they are all held accountable. This is only common sense.
    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511
    “Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests”

  • David

    Scandalous Betrayal
    For Six years now, the Pope Cried, the Vatican Denied and we now see, they ALL lied to us, as two Secret Vatican Letters command Bishops to Cover=up the Sexual Abuse of Children by Priests.
    History has an “Ash Heap”.
    President Reagan spoke of such when referring to Hitler and his Third Reich, and the (old) Soviet Union.
    Well, after reading many of the Grand Jury Reports, News accounts(world wide), Vatican Letters, and so many of the Lies the RCC has vomited on both its victims and the world, I know of no better place for this corrupted institution than “Histories Ash Heap”.
    Living in a Christ like way.

  • Goodguyex

    Still there has not been one indictment in all of this in Philadelphia.
    I have heard and read about bits and pieces of this for years now and still not one indictment. Supposedly any district attorney can “indict a ham sandwich”. The grand jury seems to have made all these statements about priest abuse but did not indict a single soul. This is either very strange or maybe confirms the fact that sexual abuse is indeed very hard to prosecute, can be devisive and can be lead to trouble for everyone involved, including real victims. If the cases from the late 1990’s are valid maybe this can be dealt with because these are relatively recent compared to all the fog about cases 40 or so years old.
    As far as 37 priests in Philadelphia remaining in active service in spite of solid claims of abuse, I suspect over the past several years this number has gone down with death and retirements.
    The longer this goes on without any real court action the less likely anything will come of it.

  • Susana Wright

    I read all the stories on the Catholic priest abuse of children and am appalled. Why can’t this be dealt with like any other sexual abuse? Why does the church cover up sin? They are losing their credibility as true christians, Godly men, and Honest human beings. How long is this going to be allowed in our society? I am just sickened as this will push so many people away from God. What a perverse nation we have become, that we would allow this to go on so long, until some of the victims, some of the abusers are sick or gone. Now new allegations from as recent as the 90’s. Shall we wait until 2050 to see what we should do to hold these people accountable and give them consequences. I am perturbed, beyond a comfortable place. Thank You Mr Williams for your diligence, perseverance and integrity.

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