I spent the better part of the day reading through the Pennsylvania grand jury’s report about the Catholic Church’s child abuse scandal that occurred in just six dioceses: Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton.
That may have been a mistake. My mind is numb. I posted something brief yesterday about the document, but that was before going through the detailed accounts of what more than 300 priests did over the course of several decades. Those accounts are so much worse than the news reports indicated because they couldn’t include all these cases.
Most of the priests are dead now. Some of the stories were heavily redacted because the priests are alive and haven’t been charged with a crime. In some cases, the statute of limitations has long expired. But this was always about documenting the abuses more than anything. When you read this report and realize it’s just one group of priests in one state, you have to wonder what the stories would look like if a similar document was produced across the country, if not the world.
So brace yourself.
Here’s a running list of some of the more egregious things you’ll find in the report. It’s not everything. It’s not even everything for these priests. It’s just the stuff that will make your eyes permanently widen. The hope is that by highlighting these stories, people will realize the horrors covered up by the Catholic Church.
Maybe they’ll think twice before ever attending another Mass or donating any of their money to a Catholic school.
- Father Francis “Frank” Fromholzer asked one girl, when she was 13 or 14, to read a story about Jesus that included the phrase, “the cock crows three times.” He made her repeat that phrase several times. When she left class, he “leaned in and nuzzled her neck and asked the victim if she knew what a cock was.”
- Father Edward R. Graff was about to anally rape a child, but the victim ran away before it could happen, even though it meant running “into the street, mostly nude.”
- Father Chester Gawronski fondled and masturbated at least 12 different children by saying he was just showing them “how to check for cancer.” (When one of these stories went public in 2002, Bishop Donald Trautman chastised the victim by arguing that he was only 14 when it happened, not 11 like the article said.)
- Father William Presley abused three victims, one as young as 13, with “choking, slapping, punching, rape, sodomy, fellatio, anal intercourse,” and more.
- Father Thomas D. Skotek raped an underage girl, got her pregnant, then paid for her abortion. His Bishop later said, “This is a very difficult time in your life, and I realize how upset you are. I too share your grief.” That letter was addressed to Skotek, not his victim.
- Father Edmond Parrakow admitted to molesting “approximately thirty-five male children” because sex with girls was “sinful” and raping boys didn’t violate them. One altar boy said Parrakow told them to go naked under their cassocks during Mass because God didn’t want “man-made clothes” touching their skin during services. Parrakow now works in a shopping mall.
- Father Raymond Lukac “married” a victim the moment she turned 18 by forging the head pastor’s signature on a fake marriage certificate. He eventually married her for real, had a child with her (impregnating her when she was 17), then got a divorce. He stayed in the ministry after being taken in by a “benevolent bishop.”
- Father Robert Moslener taught middle school kids how to give blowjobs by telling them Mary had to “bite off the cord” and “lick” Jesus clean when he was born.
- Father Augustine Giella abused five girls in the same family. Among other things, he collected their urine, pubic hair, and menstrual blood in a device attached to his toilet… then he ingested some of it. All of this happened after he worked at a Catholic high school and had been accused of telling a student he wanted to watch her go to the bathroom.
- Father Arthur Long tried having sex with a 17-year-old at a high school he worked at by saying God wanted them to express love for each other that way. When she said God would punish them, he told her, “there is no Hell.”
- Father George Zirwas was part of a predatory priest “ring” that “shared intelligence” on victims and exchanged them with each other. They “manufactured child pornography” on church property, using “whips, violence and sadism in raping their victims.”
- Father Richard Zula asked three altar boys to “pose like statues” and tried to tie them up with rope. Zula also used whips and leather straps on a victim after tying up the person’s hands.
- Father Robert N. Caparelli raped several boys as young as 10. He was eventually put in prison, where it was discovered he “had been HIV-positive for years.”
- Monsignor Thomas J. Benestad forced a nine-year-old boy to give him a blowjob, then washed his mouth out with holy water “to purify him.”
- Reverend David Connell served a high school boy juice. The boy later woke up with no memory of what happened, but there was “bleeding from his rectum.”
- Reverend Edward George Ganster once dragged a child across a room by his underwear and beat him with a metal cross. He eventually quit the priesthood… but not before receiving a letter of recommendation for his new job… at Walt Disney World.
- Father Richard J. Guiliani began abusing one girl when she was 14, forcing her to masturbate him and blow him. When she turned 18, he visited her and asked for sex and her hand in marriage. (She declined both.)
- Reverend Henry Paul is the reason one little girl told her mother she knew how to “French kiss.”
- Reverend Gerald Royer once molested a 12-year-old boy. The boy’s friend didn’t believe it… until, hidden in a closet, he witnessed the abuse himself. The victim, now 83, fought in wars, yet because of what Royer did, he could never hug or kiss his own children, who were boys. He can’t shake hands with men to this day. He can’t even see male doctors or dentists.
- Reverend Michael G. Barletta was known to take pictures in a boys’ locker room and maintained a book of “crotch shots.”
- Father Robert E. Hannon had several male victims, but his diocese dismissed allegations from one girl after Hannon denied it. His argument? He wouldn’t have done it because girls “do not have a penis.”
- Father Gerard Krebs, a teacher at a Catholic high school, was asked for advice by a student whose girlfriend was pregnant. Krebs conducted a prostate exam to see if the boy was “capable of impregnating a woman.” Another victim said Krebs guided him through “sexual rituals” to “prove my faith and the fact that I was not a homosexual.”
- Monsignor Daniel Martin and other priests in the seminary had a “fierce competition,” one victim said, to molest boys who didn’t have fathers or had bad relationships with them.
- Brother Edmundus Murphy encouraged a victim to join their Catholic school’s wrestling team and taught him different moves, naked, because that’s what “the ancient Greeks and Romans did.” During those practices, Murphy sodomized the victim.
- Father Gregory Flohr took a victim into the confessional and tied him up with rope. When the victim screamed, Flohr shut him up by shoving his penis in the victim’s mouth. When the victim wouldn’t accept it, Flohr sodomized him with a crucifix and called him a “bad boy.”
- Father Charles B. Guth fondled a boy and stuck his finger up the child’s ass. Then he said to the boy that if their secret ever got out, the child and his mother would both burn in hell. Then he gave the boy a nickel.
- Father Francis Lesniak told a victim that if he confessed his sins and wasn’t too bad, he’d “get to suck on a strawberry lollipop or popsicle.” After these confessions, which happened multiple times, Lesniak would whip his dick out and say it was a strawberry lollipop.
- Father Henry J. Marcinek is the reason one victim said as an adult, “I don’t remember the last time I laughed.” That same victim later confessed that “I peed in [Marcinek’s] mouth, because he used to cum in mine” and that he felt like he was “fricking prostituting himself” at the age of 12 or 13.
- Father Roger J. Trott anally raped a 21-year-old man with Down Syndrome, after which the victim was reportedly hospitalized for “surgery for a blockage of the lower bowel.”
- Reverend Francis A. Bach had so many victims, then when his diocese confronted him about a particular allegation, he said he didn’t remember it, but responded, “With my history, anything is possible.”
- Reverend James Beeman raped a seven-year-old in the hospital just after she had “had her tonsils removed.” He raped her again when she was 19 and pregnant.
- Reverend George Koychick inappropriately touched several little girls. When confronted about it by his diocese, he admitted it, adding, “it was when I was going through a touchy/feely time in my life.”
- Reverend Guy Marsico admitted to molesting several boys and confessing his sins to another priest. The advice was never to call police or turn himself in. Instead, he was told to “Pray about it and try to get away from it.” Then, when it happened again, he’d receive the same advice.
- Reverend Patrick Shannon molested a 16-year-old boy during a camping trip. When the boy resisted, Shannon replied, “Sometime [sic] we say no when we really mean yes.”
- Reverend Timothy Sperber sexually abused a girl no older than 10. When she told the principal of their Catholic school that Sperber “touched her in weird ways,” the principal called her a “demon-child” for making those “terrible accusations.”
- Reverend Frederick Vaughn abused an 11-year-old girl, wrestling with her on the floor at her family’s home when her father wasn’t around. One time, when she resisted, he said, “I like a fighter.”
- Reverend Leo Burchianti once entered a bathroom with an underage boy and put his hands down the boy’s shorts. When the boy told Burchianti to stop tickling him, the response was, “I’m not trying to tickle you, I’m trying to grab for something.”
- Reverend Anthony J. Cipolla took a 9-year-old boy to his rectory bedroom, told the child to take off his clothes, then squeezed his penis a total of 70 times before sticking a finger into his rectum. Later, even though his mother wanted to file criminal charges, she dropped them because “she was threatened and harassed by church officials” and told that she should “let the church handle it.”
- Reverend David F. Dzermejko fondled a young boy on a Ferris wheel during a church festival. The boy couldn’t get off the ride because Dzermejko told the operator “to keep the ride going three times longer than it should have.”
- Reverend Bernard J. Kaczmarczyk went into the shower with a 12-year-old boy under the pretext that he needed to make sure the child was “showering properly.”
- Reverend Anujit Kumar kissed an underage girl with his tongue and sucked her lips. When Church officials asked him about it, he was he was just trying to “recruit her for the convent.”
- [Redacted] molested a child for years. When the victim turned 15 or 16, he asked the priest to stop and threatened to go public with what had happened. The priest “grabbed him by the throat and threatened to kill him if he told anyone.” He also threatened to tell the victim’s parents he was gay.
- Monsignor Raymond T. Schultz masturbated in front of a student at their Catholic school. Afterwards, Schultz would give the kid a handkerchief to wipe the semen off his face. To this day, the victim said, he goes from “sad to angry” whenever he sees a white handkerchief.
- Father Robert E. Spangenberg molested an underage boy several times. He also paid the victim a “finder’s fee” if he could find other young “chickens” for Spangenberg to have sex with.
- Reverend Paul G. Spisak supposedly took pictures with underage boys in which their swim trunks were down to their ankles. His staff says they saw the pictures… until they disappeared. Spisak may have destroyed the images. A couple of years ago, however, he was arrested for a camera he placed in a mall bathroom. At first he denied it. Then he said he was sick, ran inside a stall, and flushed the memory card down the toilet.
- Reverend Anthony P. Conmy molested a 10-year-old girl after dropping her friend off at home. He grabbed her wrists, put his hand over her mouth, put his knee in her stomach to hold her down, then said he wouldn’t kill her if she “would lie quietly.”
- Reverend P. Lawrence Homer told a 14-year-old girl she had the body of an 18-year-old woman. He also commented on her “sex hair.”
That’s just a sampling.
The grand jury also noted how the Church managed to cover all these crimes up as long as they did. Leaders, they said, followed a “playbook for concealing the truth” that consisted of seven steps:
- Use euphemisms. (“Never say “rape”; say “inappropriate contact” or “boundary issues.”)
- Don’t investigate with trained personnel. (Instead, let clergy members ask the victims “inadequate” questions before judging their own colleagues.)
- Evaluate priests at church-run “treatment centers.”
- Never say why a priest was removed. (Just say he’s on “sick leave” or something.)
- Keep providing priests with living expenses regardless of the allegations.
- Transfer the priests if his crime becomes public knowledge. (Send him to a place where “no one will know he is a child abuser.”)
- Don’t tell the police. (Keep it “in house.”)
Finally, is there any way to fix this?
Yes, said the grand jury, and they offered a few recommendations:
- Eliminate the criminal statute of limitations. Pennsylvania law now permits victims to come forward until age 50, but the grand jury said they heard from victims who were, in some cases, in their 70s, but had no legal recourse anymore. They’ve spent their entire lives traumatized by what they went through and an arbitrary cutoff to seek justice is cruel.
- Let victims sue the diocese in a timely manner. In many cases, victims “ran out of time to sue before they even knew they had a case.” They need a “window” of time in which to sue once they’re aware of the situation. It shouldn’t be closed off before they even know their options.
- Laws must mandate the reporting of abuse, even in Church. There are too many loopholes in the state law that allowed churches to get away with not letting law enforcement know about what predatory priests were doing.
- Confidentiality arguments must be tossed aside in criminal cases. The Church had them for decades. In some cases, they gave victims some money to silence them for life.
That second one is receiving criticism from some Catholics. They argue that suing the diocese — and getting money in a victory — would only hurt the parishioners who donated, not the priests who committed the acts or the others who covered it up. Though the flip side of that says… who cares? If the congregation is giving money to an organization complicit in these crimes, a lawsuit would teach them to stop donating to the church.
By the way, as of this writing, the Vatican hasn’t said anything.
Vatican press office said this morning that they have no comment on the grand jury report, and would not even say if Vatican officials have read it.
— Daniel Burke (@BurkeCNN) August 15, 2018
That says a lot, doesn’t it? Do they think people will just forget about it in a few days? An apology isn’t enough. The Church ought to be tougher on these priests than the law. They need to explain why the abuse was so pervasive and why they cover-up was so rampant. This wasn’t a bad apple. This is a rotten orchard surrounding the entire Vatican.
(Image via Shutterstock)