Innocence Lost

After decades of repression, a local man speaks out about the priest he says molested him. His actions may force the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to do right by its many alleged victims.

By Mike Newall
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jul. 14, 2004

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A few months ago he met with a priest who told him that whenever he gets angry over what happened to him, he must pray for Chambers' soul.

Brian prays for Chambers every day, though he's sure the priest--who died 30 years ago--is not in heaven yet.

"That's impossible," he says.


The grand jury has been digging into the cases against the archdiocese for more than two years.

Scores of victims, Church officials, lawyers and clergy abuse experts have been questioned about how the archdiocese handled abuse complaints.

So far the grand jury has handed down one indictment to a priest who allegedly abused a teenage Philadelphia boy in the '70s. (The statute of limitations did not apply because the priest was transferred out of Pennsylvania in 1980.)

Former Archbishop Bevilacqua has been called to testify at least a half-dozen times. Current Archbishop Justin Rigali has also been called to testify.

There have been other damning developments in recent weeks.

Last month Arthur Baselice, a 25-year-old South Jersey man, sued the archdiocese and the Franciscan order for abuse alleged to have occurred in the mid-'90s at the hands of the then-principal of Archbishop Ryan High School. The suit also alleges that a Franciscan official offered Baselice $50,000 to drop all charges against the order and the archdiocese. (The archdiocese denies involvement in any such arrangement, claiming the Franciscans operated without its approval or knowledge.)

Baselice's suit falls within the statute of limitations.

Local media reported last month that the district attorney's office and the archdiocese had entered into plea negotiations, a worrisome development for those who want to see the Church held accountable for its crimes.

Approached for comment, the archdiocese says it won't discuss pending litigation.

"We've seen this same pattern in civil and criminal cases involving the Church," says David Clohessy, the national executive director of SNAP. "The minute a high church official is deposed or put on the witness stand, the Church desperately seeks a settlement.

"Victims have largely been disappointed by grand jury investigations into clergy abuse," he continues. "Prosecutors come right up to the edge of doing what needs to be done and then suddenly pull back."

No American bishop or high-ranking member of the hierarchy has ever been indicted for covering up the sexual crimes of their charges.

What's needed to sustain real change, says Clohessy, is for members of the Church hierarchy who are guilty to be held accountable.

"Pedophiles are compulsively driven by virtually uncontrollable sexual impulses. But the ones in the hierarchy, the ones who don't molest but cover up for molesters, are by and large rational men. The threat of punishment can change their behavior.


Jimmy McGlone and his wife and daughter have been cooking all morning. It's a brilliant Saturday afternoon, and the sun is shining.

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