Monday, April 2, 2012
There Was A Silver Lining: "He Has Never Sinned With Any Woman"
The following is a small excerpt from an article on a new blog covering the Philadelphia abuse trial of Msgr Lynn. Both the blog and the article are written by Ralph Cipriano. Mr Cipriano was one of the first religion reporters in Philadelphia to take a critical look at the Archdiocese when he wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He is now a free lance reporter for the NCR. He brings both a news writer's perspective and insider knowledge about the Archdiocese to his written material. I have put a link to the blog on my sidebar.
The first week of the trial brought testimony from other priests and the introduction of hundreds of documents into the record. Two days were spent chronicling the clerical life of one Fr Leneweaver, whose predatory behavior spanned some forty plus years through the reigns of three different Cardinals--Krol, Bevilaqua, and Rigali.
......Father Leneweaver was identified in the 2005 grand jury report on archdiocese sex abuse as a "chronic abuser" of altar boys. The priest had special T-shirts printed up for his victims that identified them as "Philadelphia Rovers."
The details in the grand jury report are sickening.
Father Leneweaver would repeatedly pull one Rover out of Catholic school and take the boy to the auditorium, the report said. There, Father Leneweaver would bend the boy over a table and rub up against him until the priest ejaculated. The priest also took the boy to his bedroom in the rectory, where he pulled down the boy's pants, applied a lubricant to his buttocks, and rubbed his penis against the boy until he ejaculated. He anally raped another boy. Father Leneweaver assaulted other victims at the church's summer camp, the seminary swimming pool, and even the sacristy behind the church altar.
“Each time the priest’s crimes were reported to the archdiocese, he admitted his offenses,” the grand jury report said. "I know, I admit it, I am deeply ashamed," the archdiocese's chancellor, Monsignor Terrence F. Monihan, quoted the priest as saying in one 1968 secret memo read into the record by Dougherty. But the chancellor saw a silver lining.
"He has never sinned with any woman,"Monihan wrote.
By 1975, Father Leneweaver had confessed to sexual activity with at least seven children that he admitted he was “seriously involved” with.
In 1976, a new chancellor, Monsignor Francis J. Statkus wrote in one of the files read by Dougherty, "Father Leneweaver should think about resigning ... especially if scandal is a result." "We should maintain an alert status concerning him," the monsignor concluded.......
Of course, the Archdiocese didn't maintain much of an alert status concerning Fr Leneweaver, transferring him four more times after 1976, and having never reported any of his crimes to the Police, Leneweaver was free to find jobs in ministry or teaching elsewhere. This following is another excerpt that personally left me speechless:
In 1980, while he was residing at St. John Vianney, the archdiocese-owned treatment center for sex offenders, Father Leneweaver visited the home of a woman with three sons, and "made sexual advances" to one of the boys, the secret records said. In spite of the priest's continued predatory conduct, and in spite of the priest's continued confessions of guilt, doctors at St. John Vianney found "no compelling evidence of homosexuality."
"Might the testing be faulty?" Msgr. Statkus wrote to Cardinal Krol. But Father Leneweaver got a new assignment anyway, and in his last year of ministry, he was transferred for the fourth time to St. Joseph The Worker in Bucks County, "one of the few remaining areas where his scandalous action may not be known," Statkus wrote in the secret archives. The four transfers of the priest, the monsignor noted in the secret achives, were done "in the hope of avoiding scandal."
In too many respects, the case of Fr Leneweaver demonstrates every single failure in thinking and action by the US hierarchy with regards to clerical abusers. One issue is the whole idea of sending priests to treatment centers run by the Church or, in this particular case, the Archdiocese itself. I don't understand how any person in authority can think a treatment center you own is going to give you reliable data about your most important employees. Especially if it's the kind of truth people who share your own culture are not going to handle very easily? Msgr Statkus asks if the testing might faulty? I don't think it was the testing. I think it was an inability on the part of St John Vianney staff to give a truthful assessment. They weren't hired to find clerical dysfunction. They were hired to find, support, and restore clerical health and prevent scandal. Which is probably why Fr Leneweaver can state much later in his life that St John Vianney did nothing to help him.
Of course the line that really gets me, is the one about never having sinned with any woman. Wow, that's a statement and a half. Not that this kind of thinking is just a relic of 1968. The same sort of thinking is certainly implied in the Vatican's 2010 updating of grave sins against the sacraments, where the attempted ordination of women is listed on the same level as clerical abuse of minors. When it comes to the sanctity of the priesthood, nothing is worse than the physical or sacramental pollution of said priesthood with anything female. That is one concept that holds true, whether it's 415, 1968, or 2010. Until Roman Catholicism is willing to deal with that fact, abuses of all kinds will continue to unfold.