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The sexual abuse scandal in Philadelphila archdiocese is a significant episode in the series of Catholic sex abuse cases in the United States and Ireland.

Grand jury inquiry by William Spade

William Spade was a lead prosecutor in the Philadelphia District Attorney's grand jury investigation into the sexual abuse of minors by priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. His role included cross-examining Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and other high Diocesan officials regarding their decisions to re-assign priests who had sexually abused children to new parishes without warning parents of the priests' crimes. During the two years he worked on the investigation, Spade interviewed hundreds of victims of sexual abuse. "It was like working in a factory. And in this factory was a conveyor belt of damaged people. Every day was another damaged person."[1] Exhausted, emotionally drained, and frustrated by the refusal of his superiors to indict members of the Church hierarchy, Spade resigned his position in the Fall of 2004, a year before the investigation concluded, and opened a criminal defense practice.[2]

Cover-up by Cardinals Krol and Belavicqua

On September 21, 2005, nearly 10 years after his death, a grand jury in Philadelphia announced that Cardinal Krol, as well as Cardinal Bevilacqua, were involved with the cover-up of a sex scandal against accused priests throughout the archdiocese. Like the sex scandals in the Archdiocese of Boston, Krol and Bevilacqua transferred accused priests to other parishes throughout the archdiocese.

Role of Cardinal Rigali

Cardinal Justin Francis Rigali adopted the policy of defrocking those who are accused and confirmed by investigations. Cardinal Rigali, in cooperation with Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham and other DAs throughout the jurisdiction of the archdiocese, has now started practicing of both internal archdiocesan investigations, as well as external criminal investigations

In September 2005, Cardinal Rigali staunchly defended the actions of his two predecessors, Krol and Bevilacqua, who were named as sponsors of a coverup in a local grand jury.

Actions of bishop Cistone

According to the 2005 investigation, while serving as assistant vicar for administration in 1996, Cistone was involved with silencing a nun who tried to alert parishioners at St. Gabriel parish about abuse by a priest.[3] According to the report, there were several other instances of priest sexual abuse which Cistone was complicit in covering up. The report also indicated that Cistone was most concerned with the public relations ramifications of the sexual abuse. The report also showed that when a sex abuse victim demanded to meet with Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, Cistone refused the request, saying that allowing a sex abuse victim to meet with the Cardinal would "set a precedent."[4] When these revelations became public, Cistone expressed sorrow for "any mistakes in judgment.".[5] However, Cistone refused to discuss the matter further, saying, "[I]t would not serve any purpose to revisit the grand jury report and endeavor to recall the rationale for past decisions made in specific cases." [6][7]

Aftershocks in Saginaw

A week after being named to lead the Diocese of Saginaw, Cistone was asked by a mid-Michigan newspaper reporter about the grand jury investigation and his reported role in covering up instances of sexual abuse. Cistone expressed unhappiness with how little opportunity he had been given to respond to the report, saying, "Unfortunately, the grand jury procedure, as followed in Philadelphia, did not allow for any opportunity to address such questions to offer explanation or clarification."[8] Cistone also expressed surprise that he had not been questioned about the grand jury report during his introductory press conference and told the reporter, "Had it come up, I certainly would have addressed it."[9] However, when given the opportunity to answer questions about his actions by the newspaper reporter, Cistone refused to answer specific questions on the matter.

On June 9, 2009, a group of survivors of clergy abuse protested Cistone's appointment outside the Saginaw Diocese office.[10] Members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) demanded that Cistone hold a public forum to explain his actions as described in the 2005 grand jury report. SNAP President Barbara Blaine said the actions had to be taken because, "the innocence of children was shattered needlessly because of the action and inaction of this bishop."[11] In response to the group's calls for transparency, Cistone said, "If someone wants to go back and rehash what the church may have done based on knowledge and experience or lack of experience the church had, well, that's OK, but that's not productive. What's productive is what we can do to move forward."[12]

John McDevitt affair

A 2009 suit claims that Rev. John McDevitt, a religion teacher at Father Judge High School for Boys, abused Richard Green for six months in 1990 and 1991, according to a report by the New York Post. At the time, the victim's uncle, Cardinal John Joseph O'Connor, served as archbishop of New York. [13]

Use of the penile plethysmograph

During the abuse scandal, the reliability of the penile plethysmograph was questioned by some officials in the archdiocese of Philadelphia. Later, these officials chose to seek therapy at an institution where the plethysmograph was not used. This, even though the officials were made aware of the fact that the test was used by most experts and was believed to be of value in diagnosing sexual disorders. Later, a Grand Jury found that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's decision to do so "had the effect of diminishing the validity of the evaluations and the likelihood that a priest would be diagnosed as a pedophile or ephebophile."[14]

See also


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