By Randy Engel
As I indicated earlier in this series, the Pittsburgh Diocese’s mishandling and cover-up of the Father Anthony Cipolla Case in the late 1970s was the rule not the exception in the second-half of the 20th century. For almost every Catholic diocese in the world, the first concern of the Corporate Sole of each diocese regarding the management of clerical sex abuse, especially those involving pederasty – adult homosexual acts performed upon minor boys – was the avoidance of scandal at all costs, most especially the cost of justice. This misguided mindset, which was evident not only in the diocesan priesthood but in religious orders as well, was reinforced by the Vatican itself through generations of “progressive” popes in the Post-Conciliar era following the Second Vatican Council.
In this final segment in this series, we will examine a total of 20 select clerical sex abuse cases in the Diocese of Pittsburgh that span from 1940 to the present.
As the title of this segment states, the story of clerical sex abuse cases against minors, especially against young boys, in the Diocese of Pittsburgh is one of lies, deceit and treachery.
The reader will want to keep in mind when Pittsburgh media spokesman, Fr. Ronald Lengwin, states that “this is the first time that perp XYZ has been accused of the sex abuse of a minor,” what he really means is that this is the first publicly reported and non-expunged case for perp XYZ. In most cases, the perp claims many victims before he is apprehended, and even then, he rarely faces trial, conviction or jail.
Prior to 1960, almost all clerical sex abuse cases in the Pittsburgh Diocese involved heterosexual priests who preyed on young girls and women, although there were exceptions such as the Ginder Case which opens this review.
The Richard Ginder Case
The Ginder Case was played out under Bishops Hugh C. Boyle (1921-1950), John F. Dearden (1950-1958), John J. Wright (1959-1969), Vincent M. Leonard (1969-1983) and Anthony Bevilacqua (1983-1987). It clearly demonstrates how little the handling of criminal pederast priests has changed over the last seventy years in the Pittsburgh Diocese.
Father Richard Ginder was a native Pittsburgher born in 1914. He was a Basselin Fellow and held a master’s degree in philosophy and a licentiate in theology from the Catholic University of America. He was ordained a priest of the Pittsburgh Diocese in 1940 at the age of 26 by Bishop Hugh Boyle.
Fr. Ginder taught for three years at St. Charles College in Catonsville, MD, and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD. Later he became Censor of Books for the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
From the late 1940s to the early 1960s, Fr. Ginder was a popular syndicated priest-columnist. His byline appeared in such prominent Catholic publications as Our Sunday Visitor where he wrote the controversial syndicated column “Right or Wrong.” He also founded The Priest, a journal for Catholic clergy which he edited for 24 years and The Catholic Choirmaster which he edited for 13 years. He was also an accomplished organist and composer of sacred music.
Ginder claimed he discovered his “sexual identity” in 1949, nine years after his ordination. He said he regretted that over the next 25 years, he was never permitted to express himself on the subject of homosexuality in either OSV or The Priest. He did, however, give himself permission to act out his homosexual impulses with adolescent boys and young men.
Then in 1969, Ginder’s double life as a priest-homosexual pederast came to a grinding halt, not by any action of the diocese but by the Pittsburgh police.
As part of an intensive investigation, police officers raided Ginder’s private apartment in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh and found photographs of teenage boys performing homosexual acts with Ginder and possibly other priests from the diocese. The police also found diaries written by Ginder that described his (and, again, possibly other clerics’ and laymen’) homosexual activities with young boys and young men. Diocesan attorneys interceded for Ginder and he was released from jail and put on ten-years’ probation.
To recap – The Pittsburgh Diocese knew that Fr. Ginder was a homosexual hunter of underage boys, a criminal offense. The police had sufficient evidence to convict him. The diocese had enough evidence to petition the Vatican to laicize him. But Bishop Wright got him off the hook. He remained “a priest in good-standing.” And the entire sordid affair was covered-up.
Significantly, that very same year, 1969, Rome kicked Bishop Wright “upstairs” and brought him, and his young secretary, Father Donald Wuerl, to Rome. On April 23, 1969, Pope Paul VI appointed Bishop Wright, Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy. Five days later, Wright was made a Cardinal.
In 1975, a little more than halfway through his probationary period, Ginder published his semi-autobiographical book Binding With Briars – Sex and Sin in the Catholic Church, a defense of homosexuality and autoeroticism. As Ginder explains:
The Church does not hate gays. The Church hates sodomy. We are trying to change that opposition, to show that it is a mistaken hostility, that sodomy is licit, at least for gays …if homosexuals are sincerely persuaded that gay sodomy is permissible, then they have no need to build their own private little chapel within the Mother Church, to form an esoteric sect within the Christian commonwealth. Separatism, segregation, is not the answer. The answer is assimilation…Gays can be just as good Catholics as the rest and still have their sex. Don’t let them quit the Church …we need their help in forming a consensus. We need them on the team. (Fr. Richard Ginder, Binding With Briars – Sex and Sin in the Catholic Church)
In the foreword to Binding With Briars, Ginder stated he celebrated Mass every day and that he believed in the tenets of the Nicene Creed as defined dogma, and that he loved his priesthood and his Church, but on the subject of moral theology, he took a sharp detour in terms of allegiance.
The priest attacked moral theology, “at least as it existed from Trent to Vatican II,” as a “stingy, pettifogging science,” that is “act-centered” rather than person-centered. Salvation lies in the “fundamental option” not in “individual acts,” he insisted. Not surprisingly, as an active homosexual/pederast, Ginder thought chastity and celibacy were highly overrated.
Fr. Ginder hailed “Gay Liberation” as being “the cutting edge of sexual liberation.” He favored both. He labeled pedophilia, that is, sex with children as “sick,” and distinguished “the child molester” from the “normal homosexual,” presumably a man like himself, who only engaged in sex with adolescent boys or peers.
In 1976, one year after the publication of Binding With Briars, Bishop Leonard, Wright’s successor, stripped Ginder of his priestly faculties. But he made no move to laicize the priest, so the hapless parishioners of the diocese continued to support the perp while the perp continued to seek out fresh meat.
Two years later, in 1978, the same year that Fr. Anthony Cipolla abused Tucker Thompson, Ginder was again arrested, and this time convicted of sodomizing two 16-year-old boys and sentenced up to four years in prison. Still no petition from Bishop Leonard to have the priest laicized. And still the Catholic parishioners of the Pittsburgh Diocese were footing the bill to keep the priest financially solvent.
What happened to Fr. Ginder after he served out his sentence remained a mystery for many years until the indefatigable Canadian investigative reporter, Silvia McCutchen, who blogs on the sex abuse scandal and betrayals in the Roman Catholic Church in Canada, wrote a story about a Msgr. Martin A. Wain, 46, an American-born clerical pederast operating out of the Canadian Diocese of Peterborough and a New Hampshire monastery.
At his 1990 trial, Fr. Wain, the former pastor of St. Paul’s Church in Lakefield, Ontario, was charged with providing the teenage victim with drugs and pornography as well as sexually assaulting the lad starting at 14 years of age for a four-year period. Some of these assaults were carried out at the Peterborough bishop’s residence known as the Palace, which the defendant knew quite well since he was carrying on an “open secret” affair with the diocesan ordinary, Bishop James Leonard Doyle.
Wain received an 18-month sentence plus three years’ probation. Bishop Doyle, is known to have visited his paramour regularly in jail and when Wain was released, the monsignor moved back in with the bishop.
As reported on “Silvia’s Site,” in the early 1980s, before his conviction, Wain, a canon lawyer, was “serving” in the Hundred Acre Monastery, a retreat house in the town of New Boston, NH, founded as a new form of “contemporary” monastic life without the “encumbrances” of the old form.
“Serving” with Wain was an already convicted clerical jailbird. His name? You guessed it – Father Richard Ginder.
Fr. Richard Ginder was never laicized. Instead, the ordinary of the Pittsburgh Diocese, Bishop Vincent Leonard, arranged with the ordinary of the Diocese of Manchester, NH, Bishop Odore Joseph Gendron, to hide the ex-convict Ginder at a far-flung monastery where there was no supervision or restriction on his comings and goings.
Pittsburgh Diocesan records showed that while Ginder was living at the Hundred Acre Monastery, the Pittsburgh Diocese had him listed as “Absent on Sick Leave.”
On June 7, 1984, Fr. Ginder, like Fr. Cipolla, was killed in an auto accident. The priest’s body was flown from Hillsborough County, NH, and returned to Pittsburgh for burial at Calvary Cemetery.
When Leonard’s successor, Bishop Anthony Bevilacqua, learned of Ginder’s death in New Hampshire, he was probably somewhat relieved to learn that the diocese no longer had to consider the 70-year-old Ginder as an on-going liability. Any files on Ginder kept in the diocesan secret archives would be destroyed, and his criminal record kept under tight wraps by the Diocese of Pittsburgh until diocesan officials were forced to open church records in the wake of clerical pederast scandals that would soon rock the nation and the Church.
In September 2007, the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh headed by Bishop David Zubik, agreed to pay a total of $1.25 million to 32 people who say they were abused by 17 priests between the 1950s and 1994. Father Richard Ginder’s name was listed in the civil suit.
It is not without a touch of irony that Zubik’s predecessor, Bishop Donald Wuerl, was the same Secretary Donald Wuerl whose mentor, Bishop John Wright, had given Ginder his first “get-out-of-jail-free” card in 1969.
The Wolk, Zula, Pucci and Zirwas Affairs
Rev. Robert Wolk and Rev. Richard “Sade” Zula were ordained for the Pittsburgh Diocese in the 1960s by Bishop Wright; Rev. Francis Pucci was ordained for the Pittsburgh Diocese in 1957 by Bishop Dearden; and Rev. George Zirwas was ordained for the Pittsburgh Diocese in 1979 by Bishop Leonard. A merrier band of homosexual pederast priests with a sadomasochist bent you’d never chance to meet!
On October 12, 1988, Catholics in the Pittsburgh Diocese opened their local morning paper to learn that that the police had formally charged a former diocesan assistant chancellor with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse (sodomy) and the corruption of minors against two teenage boys, brothers, altar boys, over a six-year period, with much of the abuse taking place at the church rectory. Arraignment on the charges occurred on Friday, October 14, 1988.
The diocesan official in question was the Rev. Robert G. Wolk, 48, former pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Bethel Park. Unnamed in the same article were two other priests who the victims told police provided them with drugs, alcohol and cigarettes and performed sadomasochist acts on them using whips and chains. Shortly thereafter, two additional names were released – the Rev. Richard Zula, nicknamed “Sade,” the pastor of Saints Mary and Ann Church in Marianna, Washington County, PA, and the Rev. Francis Pucci, former pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Burgettstown and Immaculate Conception Church in Washington, PA.
All three priests “shared” the same two brothers at different locations, usually the parish house. But the F.B.I. was also called into the case because Wolk was suspected of the sexual abuse of minors in other counties in Pennsylvania as well as Ohio, Florida, and Canada.
Records showed that the diocese knew about the pederast ring ONE YEAR BEFORE THE ARREST.
All three homosexual priests were removed from their parishes by Bishop Bevilacqua on September 24, 1987, within two days of their accusation. But neither Bevilacqua nor his successor, Bishop Wuerl, took the initiative to bring the crime to the attention of law enforcement authorities.
That task of reporting the crimes was carried out by a friend of the victims’ family, attorney F. Peter Dixon, who contacted the Bethel Park Police, who in turn filed criminal charges with both Allegheny and Washington County and later Somerset County police officials.
When the Pittsburgh police went to arrest Wolk, he wasn’t at his parish. Both he and Pecci were out-of-state. Bishop Wuerl had sent both priests off to the St. Luke Institute in Suitland, MD for “evaluation and treatment,” as Wuerl had done with Fr. Anthony Cipolla.
On the advice of his lawyer, Charles Scarlata of Pittsburgh, Wolk returned to the city of his own volition making the filing of extradition papers unnecessary. Pecci also returned without incident to face his accusers.
It took a while for the police to locate and arrest Zula because as the diocesan spokesman, Fr. Ronald Lengwin explained, the diocese does not reveal the whereabouts of priests who are on “sick leave.” The priest was later found at his home in North Huntington and gave himself up voluntarily.
The timing for the priest scandal could not have been worse for Bishop Wuerl and for the Pittsburgh Diocese which was simultaneously facing the sex abuse charges of Tim Bendig against Fr. Anthony Cipolla.
Defending Wuerl’s decision not to report the Wolk, Zula, Pecci Case to the proper authorities, the perpetual diocesan toady, Fr. Ronald Lengwin, publicly announced that the Diocese was not obliged to report child sex abuse to the Child Protective Services, especially when the family of the victims are not initially disposed to take pubic action.
Somewhere between October 30 and November 12, 1988 the victims’ family notified the Pittsburgh Diocese that it intended to sue for $75 million, but the actual amount of the final settlement was never made public.
Much to the relief of the Pittsburgh Diocese the case never went to trial. Washington County District Attorney John Pettit explained that the two victims who were 19 and 21 in June 1990, accepted the plea bargain because it spared the victims and their family the “trauma and difficulty” of testifying at trial.
Left unsaid, was that the Pittsburgh Diocese was spared the “trauma and difficulty” of explaining to Catholic laymen and women how such moral and spiritual miscreants made it through the seminary, the chancery and parish life for decades, and how a pederasty ring could operate with virtual immunity for so long.
As the Dust Settled
By the time the seemingly endless months of plea bargaining were over and the dust had settled in the spring of 1990, Wolk was serving a prison sentence of 5 to 10 years that would run concurrently with the 5 to 10 years he was already serving in Western Penitentiary. He would be voluntarily laicized in 2003.
Zula was serving a two-and-a-half to five year sentence for assaulting the two youths in addition to a one to two year sentence imposed in Somerset County for molesting one of the brothers during a weekend religious retreat in November 1984 at the Seven Springs Resort in Somerset County. All the original separate 140 counts against him, except two, were dismissed by Washington County officials after the priest pleaded guilty to lesser counts of corruption based on sexual misconduct. Zula’s lawyer was Gary Selway of Greensburg.
After serving his prison sentence, which included five years’ probation, Zula returned home to live with his mother in North Huntington, Westmoreland County. She died in January 2010. There is no public record indicating he was ever laicized.
Only Pucci escaped relatively unscathed. A Washington County judge ruled in September 1991 that the statute of limitations had expired and the case was nolle prossed.
Pucci had been accused of molesting one of the brothers at Fr. Zula’s parish house in Marianna in 1986. And he had allowed Zula, to sexually assault one of the brothers at his parish house in Burgettstown.
Pucci was not permanently removed from ministry and he was never laicized. From 1999 until 2002 he served as chaplain for the Sisters of the Divine Redeemer in Elizabeth Township.
He was permitted by the diocese to take an early retirement for health reasons and continued to be financially supported by the diocese until his death in April 2002. Bishop Wuerl celebrated the funeral Mass at the Motherhouse of the Divine Redeemer.
Enter Rev. George Zirwas
Had it not been for an inadvertent comment made during a statement to police in 1988 by the 19-year-old brother who was victimized as a minor by Wolk, Zula, and Pucci, Rev. George Zirwas might have escaped the attention of law enforcement officers completely. Zirwas would have continued as a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh in good standing, acting out his secret life as a sodomite/pederast, while his friends, Wolk and Zula went to jail and Pucci lost his parish.
The incident that precipitated the discovery of Fr. Zirwas’s involvement in the pederasty ring occurred at a “retreat” held at the fashionable Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Somerset County, PA in 1984. Lodging at the resort includes everything from hotel rooms in the main lodge and condos to more secluded cottages and chalets.
As reported in a lengthy article on the life and times of George Zirwas by writer Kathy Glasgow in the Miami New Times on April 17, 2003, Zula had rented a suite for a weekend at the resort. The 43-year old priest arrived with the then-15-year-old victim in tow. The boy helped Zula unload snacks and whiskey from the car.
Shortly thereafter, Zirwas arrived at the suite. He had two, not one, young boys in tow. While his charges went off to swim and play racquetball, Zula and his boy drank whiskey and beer and then retired to a bedroom for a session of mutual fellatio. Zirwas was left alone in another room. Here ends the extent of the information about Zirwas that surfaced publicly, says Gasgow. So, let’s backtrack, and start at the beginning.
The Life and Death of Father George Zirwas
Born on December 16, 1953, in the coal mining town of McDonald, PA, in Washington County, George Zirwas had two older brothers, Matthew and Frank, but he was the special son – the proverbial mama’s boy from childhood onwards.
Young George entered St. Paul Seminary for his theological studies and then completed his training at St. Mary of the Mount Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD. Classmates remember him for his traditional dress and love of the accruements of the Latin Mass; the lace, the incense, the pageantry. But his theology was Modernist. He was among the many homosexuals that Bishop Leonard ordained in the late 1970s for the Pittsburgh Diocese.
Following a pattern with which the reader of this series has already become familiar, the young priest, like the newly ordained Fr. Anthony Cipolla, managed to chalk up eight different assignments within a 15-year period.
He stayed only eight months at Resurrection Church in Brookline, his first parish, then moved on to the Polish parish of St. Adalbert on South Side where he stayed less than a year. He arrived at his third parish, St. Joseph the Worker in New Castle in April 1981 and departed for St. Michael in Elizabeth, PA in February 1982 where he remained until 1989, serving as an assistant pastor and parochial vicar.
We know that by 1984, Zirwas had established a friendly relationship with Wolk, Zula and Pecci and was present at Seven Springs when Zula abused the 15-year old brother that the trio sexually “shared.”
When the police first reported on the Wolk, Zula, and Pucci cases, they indicated that there were four other youths and another male adult involved in the pederast “ring.” The public was never told who the 4th partner was. Even if it was Zirwas, there apparently were no charges made against him at that time even though he brought two boys to Zula’s suite.
In 1988-1989, when the chancery found out that Zirwas was involved with Zula, the priest was pulled in for questioning by the diocese now headed by Bishop Wuerl. Lengwin said Zirwas denied that there was any wrong behavior on his part, and since no public accusations had been made against him, he returned to St. Joseph’s.
In June 1989, Zirwas was moved to St. Bartholomew in Penn Hills where he remained until December 1991. Then he was transferred again to St. Scholastica in Aspinwald, and in May 1994, transferred again, this time to St. Joseph in Verona where he remained until 1994.
About this time, we know that Zirwas was seriously considering leaving the priesthood to pursue a more open “gay” life. He requested and received a six-month leave of absence during which time he remained a priest in good standing and thus received his full diocesan salary along with insurance coverage, etc. In January 1995, he bought a house in Fort Lauderdale which he resold and then a condo which he rented out then sold.
He returned to active duty in July 1995, but was reassigned to a new parish, St. Maurice in Forest Hills in August. In November 1995, he requested and got a second personal leave
By this time, however, Bishop Wuerl’s patience with the priest had worn thin. While Wuerl appeared to have little trouble with accommodating active homosexual/pederast priests who acted discreetly, they did have to show up for work on a regular basis.
In February 1996, Wuerl, without any canonical fanfare imposed the punishment of “administrative leave” upon the priest, but he did not move to have Zirwas laicized. Zirwas could not represent himself as a priest, could not wear a Roman collar, and could not say Mass publicly. In return for his “disappearance” the diocese continued to send him a basic financial package presumably until Zirwas died.
Unfortunately, an unforeseen glitch in the plan occurred shortly after the diocesan sanction was imposed. Zirwas reported that he was seriously ill and he needed medical assistance, apparently expensive medical assistance. Lengwin, who didn’t have any trouble revealing that Pucci had “kidney” problems, said he couldn’t state the nature of Zirwas’s illness. Which leads one to ask out loud if Zirwas had contracted a sexually-transmitted disease such as syphilis or AIDS. If the latter was the case, then his subsequent promiscuous behaviors would have horrific consequences for his young sex partners at home and abroad.
Whatever his ailment, Zirwas made a sufficient recovery to resettled in South Florida by 1997, until he departed for his final destination – Havana, Cuba. His main connection to the city of Pittsburgh remained his aging mother whom he called every day and visited occasionally. And, of course, his paycheck from the Pittsburgh Diocese.
He also became a sex-tourist making trips to Costa Rica’s and Cuba’s “gay” resorts.
Costa Rica caught this writer’s eye because when I wrote The Rite of Sodomy, I studied “gay” sexual tourism on the Caribbean island, particularly, the life of cacheros, juvenile AIDS-free prostitutes who service American, Canadian and European homosexuals.
Cacherismo is a profession of extreme youth, that is, normal heterosexual boys are recruited as early as age 10 and they exit the scene about age 20. Foreign sex tourists tend to favor boys between the ages of 10 to 15 who have no facial hair – in the Greek tradition.
If Zirwas was attracted to Costa Rica, it wasn’t purely for the scenery.
Death by Murder
Once Zirwas established his domicile in Cuba, he lived the life of a typical “gay” American resident. He had a live-in partner, a young and handsome male nurse, Ulises Sierra Tabares, who, from all accounts, Zirwas genuinely liked, although he continued to seek out the company of pingueos, young male prostitutes. Ulises also serviced another older man.
Zirwas, at age 47, met his earthly end on Sunday, May 27, 2001, when he invited into his home, Abel Medina Valdes for a sexual tryst. Medina and his half-brother, Armando Vicente Alfonso had already murdered two foreign “gays.” A third “gay” victim managed to escape. But Zirwas was not so lucky. He was brutally beaten and injected with a fatal dose of a relaxant at the base of his skull. He was dead at the scene when the police arrived so there was no opportunity for last rites even if he had wanted them.
Funeral Mass and Burial
Retrieval of the body was difficult since the United States did not have diplomatic relations with Cuba, but the U.S. State Department, working through the Swedish Embassy in Havana, was able to ship the body home for a funeral.
The Pittsburgh Diocese was informed of Zirwas’s death on Wednesday, May 30, 2001.
Fr. Lengwin had the difficult task of trying to explain to reporters how a priest from the Pittsburgh Diocese ended up in Havana, and why the priest was murdered.
An Associated Press release quoted Lengwin as saying that Zirwas had been on a “personal leave of absence” since 1996 because of medical problems. Catholic World News (6/1/01) reported that Zirwas was on “medical leave,” and he lived in Havana helping the poor, which was partially true because he did bring medical supplies and other relief supplies for the neighborhood poor when he returned to Havana from his trips to Pittsburgh to see his mother.
Only Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Ann Rodgers-Melnick (6/2/2001) reported correctly that Zirwas was banned from ministry and was on administration leave for reasons the Diocese of Pittsburgh would not disclose. She said that upon hearing of his death, “former parishioners praised his compassion and devotion to tradition.”
Fr. George Zirwas was buried in his vestments at his home parish of St. Alphonsus in Wexford on June 11, 2001. In attendance were two bishops, 20 priests, and more than 100 mourners. The priest’s mother and two brothers and relatives were present and in a state of unbelievable grief. Zirwas’ mother died of a broken heart the very next year.
Three months after his murder, Medina and his accomplice were tried in a Havana courtroom. None of Zirwas’ relatives were present to hear the sordid details of the killing. Medina’s half-brother received a 35 year sentence, and Medina received a death sentence, but the latter was commuted in secret to 45 years.
The Mystery of Iniquity
Sadomasochism is usually the last level of human degradation reached by sexual perverts like Wolk, Zula, Pecci and Zirwas. So, when the news of a clerical pederast sadomasochist “ring” operating in the Pittsburgh Diocese made headlines in the fall of 1988, one can be sure it had been in existence for many years undisturbed by diocesan officials as had the Ginder sex ring.
Yet, diocesan spokesman Lengwin, speaking in defense of Wolk, said this was the “first time” that Wolk had been reported for “misconduct.” First time “reported” to the police, yes, but not the first time he had sexually abused young boys. Misconduct? The original charge before plea bargaining was involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, that is, forced sodomy.
Bishop Wuerl added to the obscenity of the tragic affair when he stated that the priest (Wolk) was “devastated.”
“For the priest, his life is in ruins. That was his whole life,” he told the press.
The priesthood was “Wolk’s whole life?”
Really! I don’t think so.
Wolk, Zula, Pecci, and Zirwas were demons with Roman collars. Devils in disguise.
Did the foursome bother to confess their sins, one to another, and give each other absolution? If so, they incurred ipso facto, automatic excommunication, the lifting of which is reserved for the Holy Father. Unshriven, they committed sacrilege every time they said Mass in the state of mortal sin.
Did any diocesan official ever care to inquire why Zula’s nickname was “Sade,” as in the Marquis Donatien Alphonse Francois de Sade, a habituated sodomite and sexual libertine?
As for devastation, what about the devastation wrought upon the two brothers and their family? The diocese did provide the two young men with “monthly counseling sessions,” but after six years of sodomy and other forms of homosexual abuse, no amount of “counseling” will ever totally wipe away the shame and humiliation they endured at the hands of Wolk and the other priests.
Pederasty in the Marianist Order
Not all the sex abuse cases involving pederasty that occurred in the Pittsburgh Diocese involved diocesan priests. A substantial number involved the Marianist Order, one of many religious orders who have functioned under Pittsburgh bishops over the last 50 years including the Benedictines, the Capuchin and Franciscan Friars, the Holy Ghost Fathers, the Oratorians, the Passionists, the Augustinians, the Society of the Divine Word, and the De La Salle Brothers.
From a historical perspective, in the United States, religious orders were colonized by the Homosexual Collective long before the diocesan priesthood. The strong bond that exists between monks, priests, and brothers in religious orders acts as a deterrent to blowing the whistle on in-house sex abusers, and facilitates under-the-table settlements with victim. The ability to hide or relocate abusers in other states or countries makes cover-ups much easier for religious superiors to execute than for diocesan bishops to carry out.
The Marianst Order (Society of Mary), is a world-wide, religious congregation of brothers and priests. While religious brothers are not priests, they are held to the same moral standards as priests.
In 1939, Pittsburgh Bishop Hugh Boyle invited the order to staff the new North Catholic High School in Troy Hill on the North Side. Originally a private, all boys’ school, the school became co-educational in 1973 and was renamed Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic in 2013-2014, when it moved to its present site in Cranberry Township, PA.
Marianists Brothers in Pittsburgh Scandal
Since pederasts go where the boys are, it is not surprising that one of the first cases against boy hunters at North Catholic occurred between 1940 and 1947. The accused perpetrator was Brother James Kline who also worked at Marianist schools in Ohio, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. Kline died in 1997.
The credible accusation against Kline and eight other Marianist brothers, however, was not revealed until 2014 when American-born Marianist Brother Bernard Joseph Hartman was “voluntarily” extricated from the United States to Melbourne, Australia, to face charges of sex abuse of minors there.
In addition to Kline and Hartman, Marianist brothers named as pederasts were:
Brother Jerome Binder who worked at North Catholic from 1961-1966; 1975-1976; and 1979-1989. Binder, who died in 2000 claimed one known male victim.
Brother Ralph Mravintz, A.S.M., was a native Pittsburgher. He attended North Catholic as a student and after graduation entered the Marianist postulate at Mt. St. John in Dayton, OH. He took his final vows on August 24, 1947. He attended the University of Dayton and the University of Pittsburgh, and served the Marianists as a social worker, a counselor, and a science teacher.
Brother Mravintz taught at North Catholic from October 1984 to February 1985.
On February 14, 1985, the 59-year-old brother was taken into custody by the police and brought to Police Station Number 9, the same place where Fr. Anthony Cipolla had been interrogated in July 1978. He waived his right to a preliminary hearing and was released on nominal bond. Mravintz was charged with indecent assault and the corruption of a minor boy he had been tutoring and with whom he said he was “in love.”
The victim did not wish to testify, however, so Mravintz pleaded to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct, was fined $200.00 and remained in the classroom for the term. There was no report of a settlement. However, the next year, his superiors squirreled Mravintz away to teach at Memphis Catholic in Tennessee. After he retired in 1993, he continued to tutor young boys.
In 2014, the above incident resurfaced in connection with the Hartman trial in Australia. The offense was brought to the attention of the diocese by an alumnus, at which point Fr. Lengwin, the keeper of secrets, restated that Pittsburgh Diocese had no responsibility in the matter, even though the Marianist Order serves at the pleasure of the Ordinary of the diocese. He also denied having any knowledge of the case and said the diocese had no record of the matter because the victim went directly to the police and the Marianists kept the personal records for their brothers.
In fact, the Mravintz scandal was a public affair so Lengwin had to know about it. Also, the incident and verdict would have appeared in the secret archives which includes crimes committed by order priests and brothers, so a record of the crime had existed at one time and was probably destroyed when the brother died in 2006.
In a remembrance of Brother Ralph Mravintz at the time of his death, the following tribute was given by his Marianist brother, Ray Martin:
He was a true educator, a caring person, and he loved people… He was an open and loving person… He made such an impression on students. Once they met him, they fell in love with him. He was a loving educator.
Yeah. Yeah. We get the idea!
Brother William Charles Hildebrand worked at North Catholic for ten-years, from 1951 to 1961, and claimed four victims, all male. He died in 1979.
Brother Julius F. May worked at North Catholic from 1960 to 1969. He died in July 1979. May claimed one victim, a male student.
Brother Francis Meder worked as a cafeteria worker at North Catholic from 1952 to 1967. He died in 1976. He claimed four male victims.
Brother John Keegan worked at North Catholic for an undetermined amount of time. He left the Marianist Order in the early 1960s. He is accused of sexually assaulting two brothers. Nothing else is known about him.
Brother William Klefer worked at North Catholic from 1956 to 1962. He is deceased. He is reported to have claimed one male victim.
The Brother Bernard Joseph Hartman Story
Brother Hartman was the only Marianist brother accused of the sexual abuse of minors who ended up in jail. Among the other eight perps mentioned above, he is also the only equal-opportunity perpetrator, since he molested both male students and sisters of male students who attended St. Paul’s College in Altona, a western suburb of Melbourne.
Hartman, a son of a steel worker, joined the U.S. Province of the Marianist Order in 1958 and was given a teaching job in Australia where he lived from 1972 to 1985.
A youth worker who taught with Brother Hartman at St. Paul’s during this time-period said that several students complained about the brother’s inappropriate behavior including showing students pictures of genitalia and masturbating in front of a young female in his care. Unfortunately, the whistle-blower took his complaint to his Marianist superiors, but not to the police. In 1985, the Marianists shipped Hartman back to the States. Hartman spent a year in Dayton, OH and in 1986 was assigned to North Catholic in Pittsburgh.
Brother Hartman had visited the high school briefly in 1961 and again on a sabbatical break in 1979. This time he stayed from 1986 to 1997, when the Marianist superior in Australia notified his American counter-part that he had evidence that Hartman had committed incidents of sex abuse in Australia from 1976 to 1982, on four minors, ages 6 to 16.
The American Marianists did not turn Hartman over immediately to the police for extradition, however. Neither did they inform the Pittsburgh Diocese why they were pulling Hartman out of North Catholic. Instead, they sent Brother Hartman for “extensive therapy” at an in-patient site – where we don’t know – and then reassigned him to an office job near Chaminade-Julienne High School in Dayton, OH in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
The Marianists then worked out a “safety plan” with the risk management company, Praesidium, Inc., hired by the Marinist Order, and designed to keep Hartman away from young people. Heretofore, the only “safety plan” for sexual predators was called jail.
Between 2011 and 2012, the Marianist house of cards came tumbling down in Australia and the United States when one of Hartman’s female victims publicly accused Brother Hartman of sexual abuse at a Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sex abuse. Later she filed a civil action against the Church in a Victorian Court. She and other child female victims of the brother had, in 1993, 1997, and 1999, informed the Archdiocese of Melbourne that Hartman was a child molester, but were told to be quiet or that Hartman would be “monitored “by the Church.
One victim reported that she was sexually abused by Hartman in the 1970s, between the ages of 8 and 11, and that he offered her 50 cents per photo if she agreed to pose nude for him.
One of the male victims said that Hartment had a sadistic bent and would beat him after sexually abusing him. When the boy reported the brother to the headmaster, he got caned for his troubles. The latter statement would lead one to the conclusion that the abuse was an “open secret” among the Marianists.
Up until this time, Australian and American Catholics were totally clueless as to the existence of the crime of pederasty and pedophilia in the Marianist Order, although the Order, and the Pittsburgh Diocese knew (through the Mravintz Case) the so-called “problem” had existed for decades.
When news of the Hartman’s alleged offenses at St. Paul’s College in Melbourne reached Dayton Catholics on December 5, 2011, officials of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati publicly claimed that it had no connection to Hartman, “forgetting” that the Archdiocese had been advised by the Marianist Order of the “safety plan” under which Hartman was supposedly living.
All this time, Brother Hartman remained a Marianist brother in “good standing.”
Brother Hartman Returns to Australia
On September 4, 2013, Brother Hartman was arrested and taken into custody at the Melbourne Airport, and taken to court. He had voluntarily agreed to return to Australia from the United States to face trial. He was traveling on a tourist visa and needed to secure a criminal justice visa.
Under the terms of his bail, Hartman had to report three times a week to a court official. He was to reside at a secure facility under 24-hour supervision, until the date set for his trial. He could have no contact with children and could not work as a religious brother. The real kicker in this arrangement, however, was that the religious residential “safe house” where Hartman was to spend almost two years, located in the inner-city Parkville area, was operated by the Christian Brothers – one of the most corrupt male religious orders in the world, notorious for their high population of homosexual priests and brothers, and consequently, for their high numbers of active pederasts.
And as if this wasn’t enough to burn one’s feathers, on November 28, 2013, Hartman’s bail conditions were suspended by the court magistrate in Melbourne so the perp could take a ten-day beach holiday at Apollo Bay over Christmas with his colleagues.
On March 18 and 19, 2014, the first preliminary hearing for Hartman convened at the Melbourne Magistrates Court. After two days of evidence, the court found there was sufficient evidence to find Hartman guilty and be was committed for trial in a high court.
April 22, 2014, Hartman pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of indecent assault, 2 counts of gross indecency with a girl under 16, and 2 counts of assault, for a total of 18 counts.
The trial date was set for April 15, 2015.
Pittsburgh Diocese Embroiled in Scandal
Meanwhile, back at the Pittsburgh Diocese, one of its biggest sex abuse scandals was about to erupt into the open.
On March 20, 2014, international reporters started to call the diocese concerning the Hartman Case since the Marianist brother had taught at North Catholic High School for many years.
This prompted North Catholic and Pittsburgh diocesan officers to send out a letter on March 28, 2014, to 4,000 student alumni (enrolled in 1961-1965; 1979-1984 and 1986-2001), informing them of Hartman’s decades of sex abuse and asking anyone who suffered by the brother’s hand while he taught at North Catholic to come forward.
On April 14, 2014, one man came forward and stated he had been abused by Brother Hartman while a student at North Catholic. Instead of sending the young man immediately to the police, a meeting was arranged between the accuser and the diocesan staff who determined that the charges were “credible.” Only then was the Allegheny County’s District Attorney’s office informed of the accusations.
Slowly but surely, more male alumni came forward to state that they had been abused by Marianist brothers, but not Hartman.
On April 24, 2014, in a second letter, 9,000 North Catholic alumni were informed that in addition to Brother Bernard Hartman, Marianist Brothers William Hildebrand, Francis Meder, and Ralph Mravintz had also been accused of sex abuse. Later, Brother John Keegan was added to the list along with Brothers Julius F. May, William Kiefer, Jerome Binder, and James Kline.
When the dust had settled in the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 2014, 22 victims from North Catholic High School had accused 9 Marianist brothers of sex abuse. Twenty-one were men and one was a woman.
Nationwide, as of 2014, 157 victims had accused 31 brothers and priests of the Marianist Order. As noted in the introduction to this section on religious orders, members of the order get preference over molested children. The Marianists have produce no record of how many members of the Order have been accused of the sexual abuse of minors and of the sex abuse of young and vulnerable postulants and brothers and priests to date; the names of the institutions where they taught; and how much the Order has paid out in settlement and legal fees.
Regarding the financial cost of moral corruption in the Order, there was one case involving a victim of St. John Vianney in St. Louis who was fondled at knife point by a Marianist pederast. The victim was compensated to the tune of $650,000.00 by the Marianists. Four million dollars was paid out by the Marianists to settle 23 claims in a Colorado sex abuse lawsuit.
As for the settlement costs for the nine perps highlighted in the North Catholic debacle, we have zilch! Nada! Zero knowledge.
The Trials of Brother Hartman
In April 2015, at the trials of Hartman and his four Australian victims that we know of, the two men and two women got a chance to talk of their personal ordeals which took place during the 1970s and 1980s.
One of the two male victims said that Hartman indecently assaulted him over a two-year period. His trial took place in May 2015 and the jury found Hartman guilty of one count of indecent assault and 2 counts of common law assaults which occurred when the victim was between 10 and 11-years old in 1981 and 1982.
A separate trial with a new jury was held for a second man. The jury found Hartman not guilty of indecent assault against the boy.
One of the female victims was molested from age 5 to 11 in her own bedroom. Hartman posed as a friend of the family and was frequently invited over for dinner. She said she couldn’t tell her adoptive parents of the abuse because they were very devout Catholics. Years later she received a love letter from the brother. In her 20s she went to the Catholic Church’s “Towards Healing” program in Melbourne and was advised to keep silent, “as it may stir up problems in other people’s lives.”
Hartman pleaded guilty to four counts of indecent assault including vaginal penetration of two girls between the ages of 8 and 11 which took place from 1973 till 1979.
On July 24, 2015. Brother Hartman was sentenced to three years in jail, with one year suspended. Only TWO years? Considering the destruction that this man wrought on his many victims in the U.S. and abroad, one wonders why the Australian justice system even bothered to hold any trial at all
A Litany of Pittsburgh Diocese Sex Abuse Cases
The 14 cases cited above are intended to serve as prototypes of how the Diocese of Pittsburgh has handled clerical sex abuse cases over the last six decades. They are invaluable to the reader, in that they provide a context by which to evaluate the Father Anthony Cipolla Case in particular, and the diocese’s general lack of dispensing justice in matters related to clerical sexual abuse.
Space and time do not permit me to give the same detailed attention that accompanied the Ginder, Wolk, Zula, Pecci, Zirwas, and Marianist Order cases to the following Hoehl, Sorensen, Huff, Dorsch, Esposito and Connor cases. Nevertheless, I believe there is still merit in presenting the highlights of these cases if for no other reason than that they represent how little real reform has come about since the days of Bishop Vincent Leonard and the Fr. Anthony Cipolla case.
Fr. John Hoehl – Pederast at Quigley High
While a handful of Marianist brothers were doing their thing at North Catholic High School, Father John “Jack” Hoehl was doing his thing as Principal of Quigley Catholic High School in Baden. In a space of 14 years, he managed to chalk up more than two dozen victims all on his own as headmaster and male sports enthusiast at the Beaver County high school.
The sexual assaults took place between 1971 and 1985 at the rectory where Hoehl lived and his cabin on the Youghiogheny River. One young student remembers that the priest held “sleepover” parties at the rectory where the priest served liquor and pot to wrestling-team members. School and diocesan officials remained “clueless” regarding these illegal activities.
Bishop Bevilacqua, a canon and civil law lawyer, found out about homosexual Hoehl’s predilection for teenage boys in the spring of 1986 just a few months after the priest had been transferred to Bishop Boyle High School in Homestead. No contact was made between the diocese and law enforcement or child services protection officials.
Instead, Bevilacqua put Hoehl “on leave” and shipped the perp out of the country to the Southdown Institute in Ontario, Canada, for “treatment.” Southdown’s motto is “Healthy Ministers for a Healthy Church.” Predictably, the pederast priest was not “healthy” when he left the institute.
When Hoehl returned to the Pittsburgh Diocese in July 1988, Bishop Wuerl was the new Ordinary with access to the secret archives and the priest’s medical records. Like his predecessor, he failed to turn the perpetrator over to the police. Acting on the advice of the Southdown staff, who recommended that Hoehl be returned to a “limited” ministry, Wuerl assigned the priest to a chaplaincy at Shadyside Hospital located in the East End of Pittsburgh with its high secondary school and college student population.
By November 29, 1988, Wuerl recognized his error and withdrew the priest from ministry, but did not seek laicization for Hoehl. This meant, that under canon law, the priest was still on the diocesan payroll. Nor did Wuerl contact the police or social services to inform them of the male minors abused by the priest, or of rumors that one or more of Hoehl’s victims had committed suicide.
In a statement made by diocesan spokesman and vicar general, Fr. Lengwin, on or about September 10, 2004, when Hoehl was finally laicized by the Vatican, the press was told that the diocese lost contact with Hoehl after Wuerl received the priest’s resignation in 1988. How then did the diocese know where to send the priest his monthly stipend over the years?
Lengwin went on to explain that the diocese was never contacted by prospective employers. He added that the Church can’t announce that he’s a sex offender because he was never arrested, tried or convicted. “Our role is not to determine whether someone has committed a crime, but whether they are suitable for ministry.”
Wow! Did you get that? I mean, did you really get that?
The words uttered by Lengwin were the exact same words uttered by Fr. Cipolla during the 1988 Tim Bendig trial, when he insisted that he was “never arrested, tried or convicted.” That, of course, was because Bishop Leonard convinced Diana Thompson to drop the charges of sexual assault leveled against Cipolla and agreed to the expungement of the public record.
In the Hoehl Case, the only reason Lengwin could say what he said was because neither Bishop Bevilacqua or Bishop Wuerl ever informed the police that there was sufficient evidence against Hoyle to warrant an arrest, a trial and a probable conviction and jail time. And if the diocese has no role in determining a priest’s culpability in a crime, why is the matter brought before a diocesan review board at all? Why not make it a rule to immediately inform the authorities when a crime is reported by an alleged victim and let the police handle a task for which they are trained and legally empowered to carry out?
After Hoehl left Pittsburgh, he resettled in Weirton, West Virginia, where he hung out a shingle identifying himself as a “counselor” specializing in adolescent clientele. His charade was exposed, not by Pittsburgh Diocese, but by four of the priest’s victims and a local Pittsburgh television station. Eventually Hoehl’s counseling license was revoked by the West Virginia Board of Counselors. However, the clerical bugger never spent a day in jail.
Fr. Bartley Sorensen – Young Male Porn
In December 2011, Fr. Bartley Sorensen was taken into police custody arrested at St. John Fisher Church. He pleaded guilty to possessing and receiving thousands of pornographic and frequently sadomasochist images of naked young boys, some engaged in sex with each other and sex with adult men.
When the police searched the rectory they also found photo albums of pictures of local boys attending church functions such as swim parties and picnics and commercially produced child porn movies.
Ordained in 1976 by Bishop Leonard, the priest served in numerous parishes throughout the Pittsburgh Diocese including St. Ferdinand in Cranberry Township, St. Colman’s in Turtle Creek, St. James in Sewickley, St. Valentine’s in Bethel Park, Blessed Sacrament at Natrona Heights, Mater Dolorosa in Chicora, St. Victor’s in Bairdford, a chaplaincy at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh, Immaculate Conception-St. Joseph’s in Pittsburgh and St. Anne’s in Castle Shannon.
Sorensen also took a one-year sabbatical in 2003.
Fr. Sorensen was just newly arrived at St. John Fisher in Churchill, when a church employee found the priest at his computer looking at boy-porn. To his credit, the employee informed the diocese and the diocese informed law enforcement, and the police took action.
At the priest’s trial, his attorney Patrick J. Thomassey pleaded that Sorensen had no criminal history, never had any inappropriate contact with children, and should therefore serve a mandatory minimum.
This comment is interesting in that Sorensen made trips to Amsterdam during his priesthood – Amsterdam being one of world’s top sex industry/trafficking/pornography/centers. Male and female prostitution is legal in the Netherlands for youth sixteen and over. But pre-adolescent and adolescent boys bring a high price from homosexual/pederast/pedophile clients, many of whom travel from Britain and the United States to Amsterdam.
Was the priest ever questioned by the diocese as to what these trips involved? Would the priest have told the truth if they had? Probably not.
The final verdict was handed down by U.S. District Judge Alan N. Bloch in January 2013. He gave Sorensen eight years and one month in prison, followed by five more years of probation, and a $25,000 fine for possession of child pornography.
The Pittsburgh Diocese has sent the Sorensen Case to the Vatican for the purpose of laicization.
Fr. Edward G. Huff – Trouble in St. Louis
Fr. Edward Huff was another homosexual pederast ordained under Bishop Leonard in 1973, but protected for a long time by Bishop Wuerl.
Huff’s first public accusations of sexual of adolescent boys came in 1992, just days apart, from two Catholic families in two different parishes where Huff had served. Wuerl did not inform the police of the charges. Following his usual pattern, on March 1, 1992, the bishop sent Huff off to an out-of-state “treatment” center, the St. Michael Center operated by the Servants of the Paraclete in St. Louis, MO, for $50,000 a pop.
Although there are some readers who may have heard of the infamous Servants of the Paraclete “treatment” facility in Jemez Springs, NM, aka Camp Ped, most are probably not acquainted with the St. Louis Center. Permit me to shed some light on one of the Pittsburgh Diocese’s three favorite hideouts for clerical pederasts and pedophiles.
In March 1998, Francis Cardinal George, OMI, of Chicago, at the request of the Holy See, ordered an investigation of the St. Michael Center. The facility was charged with harboring a nest of clerical homosexual proselytizers and activists. Critics of the center said that some homosexual relations were carried out in the open at St. Michael’s. The Paraclete Fathers had a record of accepting known convicted sexual molesters into their order and inviting them to join their treatment staff. As with many religious orders, decent and faithful priests of the Servants of the Huff Paraclete were drummed out of the Order or removed from positions of authority and silenced. Both the St. Louis and Jemez Springs “treatment” centers have closed and the Order has since gotten itself out of the “cash cow” clerical homosexual/pedophile/pederast business.
In November 1992, Huff completed his first round at St. Michael’s and returned to Bishop Wuerl for another assignment. The bishop still had not contacted the police about the allegations against the priest.
The staff at St. Michael’s, reported that Huff had enough “residual functional capacity,” to perform some kind of ministry, so Wuerl made him a chaplain’s chaplain with a residence at St. Mary of Mercy in Pittsburgh. And, ironies of ironies, Huff was to be “monitored” by Fr. Ronald Lengwin.
On December 18, 1992, Wuerl received the bad news that more Catholic parents had come forward and accused Huff of abusing their sons between 1987 and 1991 at a parish in Bessemer in Lawrence County where Huff had also served.
On Jan 6, 1993, Wuerl sent Fr. Huff back to St. Michael’s for more “treatment.”
In February 1993, Huff left the priesthood.
Finally, in March 1993, Bishop Wuerl reported Huff’s crimes to the Washington County District Attorney’s Office, but, D.A. John Pettit claimed that Wuerl fell far short in cooperating with the investigation.
On June 22, 1994, Huff was arraigned on four counts each of attempted indecent assault and corruption of minors and one count of indecent assault. Huff pleaded guilty to lesser charges of improperly touching and providing alcohol to six boys and was sentenced from 15 months to 5 years in prison following plea bargaining. The other charges were dropped.
In a follow- up public relations statement on July 21, 1994, Lengwin told the press that after the first incident in Swissvale, Huff was not reassigned but spent most of his years in a residential treatment center. This was just another of his many lies to cover up Wuerl’s delinquent behavior. Bishop Wuerl had given Huff a chaplaincy after his first return from St. Louis. During this time, he was a priest in good standing, on active duty and collecting his monthly paycheck.
Fr. Richard J Dorsch – The Matter of Suicide
Another clerical pederast ordained by Bishop Leonard in 1975 was Fr. Richard Dorsch who was charged with molesting a son of a family friend – a 13-year-old boy at a sports outing in North Park in 1994. The Pittsburgh Diocese put him on “administrative leave” in August.
In June 1995, the priest sentenced up to 23 months in jail, but was released after only one month.
Dorsch resigned from the priesthood in May 1996, but continued to receive a monthly stipend of about $1,000 from the diocese. It is unclear if he was ever laicized.
In 2004, Dorsch was named in at least two civil suits.
In one civil suit, a Florida man, formerly from Etna, PA, claimed he was 11-years-old when the parish priest from All Saints Church started to molest him for over a four-year period.
Both claims were eventually honored in a comprehensive settlement of $1.25 million by the Pittsburgh Diocese in 2007 which covered 32 plaintiffs alleging abuse by 17 priests including Dorsch.
In July 2010, the diocese was sued by the family of one of Dorsch’s victims, Michael R. Unglo, who committed suicide on May 4, 2010, 25 years after he was abused by the priest. The suicide occurred when the middle-aged man was a psychiatric patient at Austen Riggs Hospital in Massachusetts. The Pittsburgh Diocese had already paid out $300,000 in treatment fees for Unglo and was alleged to have threatened to withdraw money for further treatment when the patient took his own life. The diocese said this was not true. Superior Court dismissed the appeal in September 2011.
The Dorsch Case brings up a yet unaddressed issue by the Vatican of the many suicides of victims of clerical sexual abuse like Michael Unglo, and of the suicides of the clerics who perpetrate such crimes.
The case serves to remind the reader that financial settlements cannot wipe the human slate clean of the loss of faith and trust in authority, the reoccurring nightmares, and the many lives and souls destroyed by clerical sexual abuse. Nor can money bring back from the dead those who have suicided leaving mothers and fathers and siblings in endless sorrow for what might have been.
Fr. Ralph J. Esposito – “Bishops Helping Bishops”
Born on October 22, 1940, and ordained for the Pittsburgh by Bishop John Wright in 1967, Fr. Esposito was accused of sexually molesting a young boy for three years starting in 1973 when the boy was age 10 at Mother of Sorrows Parish in McKees Rocks.
Pittsburgh diocesan spokesman, Fr. Ronald Lengwin, said there is no record of the accusation, which is not to say that the molestation didn’t occur and was covered up by the diocese, and the secret archives/record had been expunges as occurred in the Cipolla Case in 1978.
Nevertheless, in 1978, Esposito was shipped off to the Diocese of Little Rock, AR, by Wright’s successor, Bishop Leonard and accepted into the diocese by Bishop Andrew J. McDonald.
In 2003, when Esposito retired from the Little Rock Diocese, the issue of his alleged sexual abuse of the young McKees Rocks boy came up again. In response, the Vicar General for the Arkansas diocese said that there was nothing in the priest’s record, before or after his arrival to warrant any alarm. Which means that either Bishop McDonald did not know of the accusations or he simply didn’t want to know or knew but he wanted to help Bishop Leonard out in the time-old-tradition of “bishops helping bishops.”
In September 2007, the truth finally came out when the Pittsburgh Diocese reached a financial settlement with the McKees Rocks victim of Fr. Esposito as part of a $1.25 million suit already mentioned above in the Ginder and Dorsch cases.
Fr. John P. Connor – “Taking Out the Trash”
The Fr. John Connor Case is in the same tradition of “bishops helping bishops,” also referred to as “taking out the trash.” This time it was Bishop Anthony Bevilacqua, the future archbishop of Philadelphia, helping out his close friend, Bishop George H. Guilfoyle, aka, “Queen of the Fairies,” of the Camden Diocese.
Before becoming Bishop of Pittsburgh, Bevilacqua, who held a doctorate in both canon law and civil law, had already gained much experience dealing with homosexual/pederast clerics in his home-town Diocese of Brooklyn where he served as an auxiliary and chancellor under Bishop Francis Mugavero.
Bishop Mugavero, another homosexual prelate, was notorious for routinely shifting clerical boy-hunters from parish to parish, a habituated pattern with which the young and ambitious Bevilacqua, became fully acquainted. In addition to his utter contempt for victims of clerical abuse, Mugavero is perhaps best remembered for his support of the St. Mathew Community, a Roman Catholic religious of homosexuals for homosexuals that operated in the Brooklyn Diocese during the late 1970s and early 1980.
It is not surprising, therefore, that Bevilacqua chalked up a generally poor record when it came to handling sex abuse cases in the Pittsburgh Diocese. His handling of the Fr. Connor Case joins his handling of the Hoehl case as being among the most egregious.
A Short Dossier on Fr. Connor
Father John P. Connor was ordained a priest of the Camden Diocese in New Jersey in 1962 by Bishop Celestine J. Damiano. He served at three parishes, St. Mary’s in Gloucester, St. Rose’s in Haddon Heights, and St. John’s in Collingswood before being assigned to teach religion and coach golf at an all-boys school, Bishop Eustace Preparatory School in Pennsauken. By this time, if not before Connor was reported to have a serious problem with alcohol.
In October 1984, Connor was arrested on charges of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old student at an overnight trip in Cape May County where the boy stayed at the priest’s trailer. The youth was given beer and then treated to what the priest called “a religious experience,” that is, mutual masturbation. The youth told his cousin what had happened and the cousin told the boy’s mother who promptly called the police. The police conducted a sting operation by which they got Connor to confess to the abuse, and was arrested at the principal’s office at Bishop Eustace.
Bishop Guilfoyle and diocesan attorneys immediately went into action and cut a deal to keep Connor out of jail and to destroy any public record of the crime. The prosecutor’s office accommodated the diocese by agreeing to expunge any trace of the crime if Connor admitted his guilt and was a good boy for a year.
Guilfoyle then sent the perp to the Southdown Institute, a psychiatric facility for Catholic priests founded by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. He remained hidden away there for eight months for “treatment.” In the summer of 1985, Connor was released with the blessing of the Institute which declared the priest to have “no basic or lasting problem,” although the staff did warn Guilfoyle that the priest had a sexual predilection for adolescent boys, aka, Connor was a pederast and was in danger of offending again especially if he continued to consume alcohol.
To avoid adding more scandal to his already heavily homosexual-colonized diocese, Guilfoyle called upon his bosom buddy “Tony” Bevilacqua who was in the Pittsburgh Diocese on a holding pattern awaiting the retirement of John Cardinal Krol, Archbishop of Philadelphia.
In a diocesan memo dated September 11, 1985, from Father Nicholas C. Dattilo to Bishop Bevilacqua Re: “Bishop Guilfoyle’s Request,” the personal aide expressed genuine concern regarding the transfer of Connor either “temporarily” or “permanently.” He argued that more background information was needed and that if the issue was “homosexuality or pedophilia, we would be accepting a difficulty with which we have no post-therapeutic experience.”
Dattilo’s interoffice memo to Bishop Bevilacqua concluded, “If, after you have talked with Bishop Guilfoyle you believe there is no serious risk in accepting Fr. Connor, we will do everything we can to keep the tradition of bishops helping bishops intact.”
Six days later, Bevilacqua signed-off on the memo with a terse notation, “I cannot guarantee there is no serious risk.” But he had already made up his mind to help Guilfoyle.
Fr. Connor transferred to the Pittsburgh Diocese in October 1985 and was assigned a chaplaincy at Sewickley Valley Hospital for one-year and a residency at St. James Parish with a K-Eight parochial school. The pastor was not informed by Bevilacqua that he had a dangerous pederast in his midst.
Dattilo was rewarded for his loyalty to the Old Boys’ Club when, on January 26, 1990, Cardinal Bevilacqua, Archbishop of Philadelphia consecrated him, Bishop of Harrisburg.
Back to Fr. Connor.
In 1986, Connor was transferred to St. Alphonsus Church in Wexford, PA. with a Preschool through Eighth Grade program. He served as an assistant pastor until July 1988.
But it was not until April 2013, that Pittsburghers learned that Connor had claimed another victim under Bevilacqua’s watch in Pittsburgh while Connor was at St. Alphonsus.
On March 21, 2013, the anonymous victim contacted a detective from the Northern Regional Police Department in Allegheny County to report the assault.
The victim, by then in his 40s, revealed that Connor started to abuse him when he was 12 years old. The abuse took place in the priest’s car, a local movie theater, and on a basketball court. in Bradford Hills, a borough of Allegheny County. The abuse occurred from early 1986 to mid-1987.
Three years later, on March 20, 2016, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review released the news that the Pittsburgh Diocese had settled a Fr. John Connor sex abuse from the 1980s for an undisclosed five-figure sum even though the statute of limitations has run out long ago.
Fr. Lengwin confirmed the settlement but refused to reveal the amount. He simply said the priest was no longer “in good standing.” We also now know for certain that Bevilacqua never warned any of the pastors of churches where Connor was assigned that the priest was a dangerous predator.
Fr. Connor Leaves Pittsburgh for Philly
By the spring of 1988, Archbishop Bevilacqua had settled into the Philadelphia Archdiocese and Connor had left Pittsburgh to rejoin him. The priest was assigned to St. Matthew’s Parish in Conshohocken, PA, where Connor took up an intimate relationship with an 3rd grade boy from the parish.
The new pastor at the church, Fr. James W. Donlon, received no warning about Connor. Instead, the archbishop told him that Connor was brought from Pittsburgh to Philly to be closer to his family. The result was that there were no restrictions or conditions attached to the priest’s ministry, and he roamed at will, and continued to indulge in alcohol and his young protégé.
In September 1993, however, now Cardinal Bevilacqua shipped Connor back to the Diocese of Camden after the Philadelphia Archdiocese received information from Bishop James T. McHugh, who had replaced Bishop Guilfoyle as Bishop of Camden, that the 1984 victim of Connor had hired a lawyer and was about to sue. An intervention was planned and McHugh settled out of court.
But Bevilacqua’s troubles with Fr. Connor were not over yet.
On November 15, 1994, the cardinal was informed that Connor was making weekly trips back to Conshohocken to visit his young friend who was now 13 and an 8th grader at St. Matthew’s school. Connor took the boy on trips, to movies, dinner, bowling and golfing and lavished expensive gifts upon him – the same grooming techniques the priest had used on earlier victims. At no point was there ever any effort made to inform the boy’s mother than Connor was a danger to her son.
Neither the young man nor his mother ever brought a lawsuit against Connor or the Camden Diocese or Philadelphia Archdiocese. But years later, at the Grand Jury Hearings on the Sex Abuse of Minors in the Philadelphia Archdiocese in 2003, a detective who had tracked down the young man, now 24, reported that as a young boy he suffered from proctitis, an inflammation of the anus and inner rectum commonly associated with sodomy.
In February 2000, the Camden Diocese offered Connor an early retirement, after which he went to live in live in a retirement home for priests in NJ. He was never laicized.
There are more than 20 additional cases of clerical sex abuse which have occurred in the Diocese of Pittsburgh which I have not reviewed in this study.
Open the Door to Justice
The purpose of this series is to obtain justice for the Thompson Family, and to give every victim of childhood molestation, who has been denied a hearing because of the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania, his or her day in court. In most cases this means opening up a window of opportunity for the victims of childhood sexual abuse to file criminal and/or civil cases after the legislative measure is passed.
The good news is that the timing couldn’t be better. The Pittsburgh Diocese is one of four Catholic dioceses currently under investigation by a grand jury. All Catholic Church records concerning child sexual abuse accusations in the Pittsburgh Diocese, credible or not, as determined by the diocese, have been subpoenaed by the State Attorney General Bruce Beemer. Bishop David Zubik has said he will comply with the order.
The bad news is that the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, all the Catholic Bishops of the state’s eight Latin Rite dioceses – Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Altoona-Johnstown, Harrisburg, Erie, Scranton, Allentown, and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania have opposed any change in the current statute.
On September 1, 2016, the Diocese of Pittsburgh received its subpoenaed for records dating back to 1947. It is unclear if this includes records from the diocesan secret archives and from religious orders like the Marianists whose priests and brother have served in the diocese. Testimony to the grand jury has been continuing from early summer 2016.
On March 1, 2016, a grand jury released its findings on clerical child abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese – a scathing 147-page report by the 37th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury. The report explains how Bishop James Hogan and Bishop Joseph Adamec hid clerical perpetrators, including more than four dozen diocesan priests and religious, from the police.
One of the Franciscan friars who was accused of molesting scores of male victims in several states committed suicide. Some church documents were seized using search warrants. With one exception, none of the perps spent any time in jail. They were merely shifted from parish to parish, sent for “treatment” or told to take a little R & R. Under-the-table settlements were made in some cases. Almost all the victims were adolescent boys.
Does all this sound vaguely familiar?
Some Parting Thoughts on Protecting Our Children
I would be remiss, if in bringing this series to a close, I fail to mention the large elephant in the Catholic parish and rectory involving clerical sexual abuse of minors and other vulnerable populations – HOMOSEXUALITY.
Pederasty is the handmaiden of homosexuality. The Homosexual Collective – both male and female – is youth driven. It recruits like the Army. Pederasty not pedophilia is the bane of the Catholic Church today. As long as homosexual prelates, priests and religious are permitted to continue to colonize the Catholic Church, there will be no end to the crime of pederasty.
One of the many tragedies of pederasty is the large numbers of young male victims who end up among the rank and file of the Homosexual Collective. I am sure that many of these poor souls along with organizations founded to help them, who have approved of this exposé up until now, will reject these assertions. They will argue that homosexuals are “born that way” or else why would their perpetrator have sought them out?
What they fail to understand is how deeply they were harmed, harmed to their very being, by their assault at the hands of a homosexual predator; another reason that convicted pederasts should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
One of the common missions of the Church and State is to promote virtue and suppress vice. This means upholding the Natural Law, a law which is binding on all men everywhere and at all times. So far, I have get to hear either party declare its willingness to execute this mission with determination and vigor.
Today, the Homosexual Collective has become an umbrella vice under which many other vices including pederasty are hiding. We can’t lick one without licking the other.
A very sobering thought to what I trust is a very sobering series.
Thank you for your kind attention.