Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bishop shielded priest

http://www.mcall.com/news/local/allentown/mc-allentown-priest-sex-abuse-cullen-20110219,0,2523550.story
Report: Allentown's Bishop Cullen shielded priest
Allentown bishop, formerly No. 2 man in Philadelphia archdiocese, protected cleric now charged with raping boy, grand jury says.

Allentown Catholic Diocese Bishop Edward P. Cullen answers a question during an iterview at his Chew St Allentown home. (Chuck Zovko, TMC / February 19, 2011)

7:48 p.m. EST, February 19, 2011
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Before he was bishop of Allentown, Monsignor Edward Cullen helped protect a Philadelphia area priest who went on to rape a 10-year-old altar boy, according to a two-year Philadelphia grand jury investigation.

The Rev. Edward Avery, who earlier this month was charged with raping an altar boy in 1998, was accused of molesting a boy in 1993. At that time, Cullen helped deceive parishioners by instructing a monsignor to tell the congregation that Avery was being removed for health reasons rather than for the accusation, the report says.

Avery later was assigned to St. Jerome in Philadelphia, where he allegedly was one of two priests and a schoolteacher who "passed around" the altar boy, according to the 124-page grand jury report.

The investigation into abuse against the 10-year-old and a second boy aged 14 at the time of the alleged crime led to rape charges being brought on Feb. 10 against three priests and a teacher.

In addition, Monsignor William Lynn, the former secretary to retired Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, is charged with felony child endangerment, accused of hiding Avery's alleged crimes by shuffling him to various parishes. Authorities believe Lynn's arrest marks the first time a church supervisor has been charged with enabling an abusive priest.

However, no charges will be leveled against Cullen, the No. 2 man under Bevilacqua at that time, because the statute of limitations has run out on the 1993 case cited in the report, Tasha Jamerson, spokeswoman for the Philadelphia district attorney's office, said Thursday.

"If they were going to charge Bishop Cullen, they would have done it already," Jamerson said. "That doesn't mean he can't be charged if new victims come forward, but based on the evidence in the current report, he will not be charged."

Reached at his Lower Macungie Township home Thursday, Cullen, 77 and retired, declined to discuss the report.

"That's in Philadelphia," Cullen said. "I have no comment."

A Philadelphia archdiocese spokeswoman would make no comment regarding Cullen.

Bevilacqua, now 87 and suffering from dementia and cancer, according to church lawyers, also has not been charged. The grand jury report noted he was "kept closely advised of Monsignor Lynn's activities, and personally authorized many of them," but added, "we cannot conclude that a successful prosecution can be brought against the cardinal — at least for the moment."

Bevilacqua's successor, Cardinal Justin Rigali, has vowed to take the report seriously.

"The task before us now is to recognize where we have fallen short and to let our actions speak to our resolve," Rigali said in a written statement.

The Catholic Church has been dogged for decades by allegations it harbored priests who sexually abused children. The scandal exploded in 2002 with revelations of widespread abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston, and the Catholic Church has since spent more than $2 billion settling lawsuits filed by thousands of victims in dioceses where priests and other clergy were shuffled from parish to parish instead of being criminally charged. Eleven from the Allentown Diocese have been targeted in civil lawsuits claiming abuse.

Since 2002, eight priests in the five-county Allentown Diocese serving 272,000 Catholics have been removed or have resigned over allegations of abuse. That year, Cullen joined bishops nationwide in installing sweeping measures to protect children, including instituting background checks, setting up a panel to review abuse allegations and pledging to file criminal charges against any suspected abuser. The diocese also offered counseling to victims.

Many credited Cullen with taking swift action to tackle the problem, and he predicted then that "this horrific crisis will present an unprecedented renewal."

"When [Bishop Cullen] was here he cooperated completely with all five district attorneys," said Allentown Diocese spokesman Matt Kerr. "He was the man who strengthened diocesan policies against the abuse of minors."

Cullen's involvement with Avery was mentioned on two pages of the grand jury's report.

That he played a role in shielding priests is not a revelation. During a 2005 grand jury investigation, Cullen testified that as the vicar for administration for Bevilacqua, he carried out the archbishop's orders in explaining to parishioners that accused priests were being moved for health reasons.

"Cullen testified before the previous grand jury that Cardinal Bevilacqua was insistent, in all cases involving the sexual abuse of minors by priests, that parishioners not be informed of the truth," the new grand jury report says.

What is new is that Cullen, at Bevilacqua's insistence, followed that policy with Avery, who is now charged with rape. Back then, a medical school student had come forward to say that Avery had molested him in the late 1970s and 1980s, at a parish in East Greenville, Montgomery County.

In a memo that is part of a secret Catholic archive but was included in the grand jury report, Cullen wrote:

"Cardinal Bevilacqua responded by saying that the regional vicar [Charles Devlin] should handle this matter. Monsignor Devlin should note that Father Avery resigned (if, in fact, you have his letter of resignation) and that the fundamental reason for his resignation is related to his health. Cardinal Bevilacqua further thought it would be helpful if Monsignor Devlin had a letter from Father Avery . . . which would be addressed to the parishioners thanking them for their support and indicating that his decision to resign was essential for his health."

Jamerson explained that Cullen is not legally culpable for protecting Avery because the statute of limitations has run out on the case reported in 1993. The reason Avery and the other three men are charged now is because allegations of the 1998 rape were made within the statute of limitations, which has been extended twice since 2004.

Jamerson explained that Cullen's memo was included in the latest grand jury report because it "established a pattern of deception" by church leaders.

Juliann Bortz, local coordinator for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, had hoped more charges would come out of the grand jury's investigation.

"Just because [Cullen's] role in protecting this priest falls outside the legal statute of limitations doesn't make him any less guilty to me," said Bortz, who said she was abused by a priest when she attended Allentown Central Catholic High School in the 1960s. "As far as I'm concerned, Cullen and Bevilacqua should both be charged. When are these guys going to own up to what they've done?"

That the grand jury report says Cullen played a role in protecting Avery is particularly painful for victims because the allegations against Avery are among the most shocking.

According to the latest grand jury report, the 10-year-old altar boy it refers to as Billy was twice raped by Avery, despite the knowledge by some church leaders that he had been the target of multiple abuse accusations in the past.

Five years earlier, in 1993, Avery was secretly sent to a sex offenders program run by the archdiocese, while Lynn told a parishioner to disregard "rumors" about Avery, the report says. Lynn assured the parishioner he had heard nothing but compliments about Avery.

The report called the team set up to monitor Avery after the offenders program a "farce" that did nothing to keep him away from children. It said that under Lynn's direction, Avery was transferred to St. Jerome, a church with an elementary school where Avery met "Billy." In addition, during that period, the church allowed Avery to adopt six Hmong children.

By 1998, Cullen was serving as bishop to the Allentown Diocese, and the grand jury report does not suggest that he played any role in placing Avery at St. Jerome.

matthew.assad@mcall.com

610-820-6691



KEY FINDINGS

as quoted in the report:



• The archdiocese has made small but positive steps:

"Now, at least in some cases, the church reports abusers to law enforcement authorities, something

that in the past never occurred. And the archdiocese pays for counseling, and sometimes

other expenses."

• Not much has changed:

"The procedures implemented by the archdiocese to help victims are in fact designed to help the abusers, and the archdiocese itself. "

• The archdiocese has not implemented the recommendations of a victim advocate: "The archdiocese's 'victim assistance coordinators,' for example, mislead victims into believing that their discussions with the coordinators are protected by confidentiality. That is not the case … They turn the statements over to the archdiocese's attorneys."

• 37 accused priests remain in assignments that expose them to children: "We understand that accusations are not proof; but we just cannot understand the archdiocese's apparent absence of any sense of urgency."



RECOMMENDATIONS



• Fund a victim assistance program that is independent of the archdiocese and its lawyers.

• Revise the review board process so that credibly accused priests are removed from ministry.

• Conduct the review process in a more open and transparent manner.

• Use independent treatment facilities to evaluate and treat priests accused of sexually abusing minors.

• Enact by legislation a two-year window to allow child sexual abuse victims to have their civil cases heard.

• Abolish the statute of limitation for sexual offenses against minors.

• Amend reporting law so that mandated reporters are required to report sexual abuse of a child even though the victim is over 18 at the time of the report.

• The Legislature should consider reduced funding to schools, public or private, that fail to create a safe environment for their children.

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