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September 1, 2014, 1:36 am

Decades of coverups in clergy abuse case

Prosecuting attorneys in the Catholic priest sex abuse trial continued to lay out their case against Monsignor William Lynn on Thursday, eliciting testimony from witnesses and investigators regarding ongoing sexual abuse of children by certain priests.

The mood in the courtroom was somber as Detective James Dougherty, an investigator with the Special Investigations Unit of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, continued answering a host of questions regarding one of the worst offenders known to the hierarchy of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, the Rev. Raymond Leneweaver.

Leneweaver, who was named in the 2005 grand jury report, allegedly admitted in the 1970s that he raped three eighth-grade boys in one year alone. Yet he was allowed to remain in ministry up to 1980. As the jurors looked at the documents — documents that detailed the Church hierarchy’s knowledge of the abuse by Leneweaver and other priests — their anger over the abuse of the children was evident.

Monsignor William Lynn has not been charged with sexually assaulting any children at any time. Lynn is charged with child endangerment for allegedly keeping Leneweaver and other accused pedophile priests in the ministry.

Over and over, in the letters between Lynn and Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and Cardinal John Krol and examining physicians, prosecutors pointed out a constant concern over the risk to the Church. But at no time was there any mention of the potential risk to children, or that the offending priests should be arrested.

According to the 2005 Grand Jury report, while he was assigned to Saint Monica parish in South Philadelphia, Leneweaver named a group of altar boys the “Philadelphia Rovers.” Investigators learned that Leneweaver took the 11- and 12-year-olds on outings and, when he was alone with them, allegedly sexually assaulted them.

Each time the priest’s crimes were reported to the Archdiocese, he admitted his offenses. By 1975, he had confessed to sexual activity with at least seven named children with whom he was “seriously involved.” He told Archdiocese officials of others he was involved with “in an incidental fashion.” Cardinal Krol transferred this chronic abuser four times after learning of his admitted abuses. Leneweaver continued to abuse boys in his new parishes.

In 1980, Leneweaver requested a leave of absence from ministry, but in 1998 he requested that he be allowed to return to ministry — a request that was refused.

“His problem is not occupational or geographical and will follow him wherever he goes,” said Detective Dougherty as he read a memo in court from Cardinal Krol on Leneweaver’s request. “He should be convinced that his orientation is an acquired preference for a particular method of satisfying a normal human appetite — an appetite which is totally incompatible with vow of chastity and his commitment to celibacy.”

The archdiocese’s response, written by the Stradley Ronon Stevens and Young law firm, and posted on the archdiocesan website, said the archdiocese would have welcomed constructive criticism, but the report is one-sided and “unfairly judges policies and practices in place decades ago through the lenses of today’s advanced knowledge.”

It said the report launched a “gratuitous attack” on Cardinal Krol, reading “between the lines” of archdiocesan documents and speculating on the cardinal’s underlying motives, “undeterred by the fact that Cardinal Krol is no longer alive to defend himself.”

“Perhaps the report’s cruelest treatment of any archdiocesan witness is reserved for Cardinal Bevilacqua,” it said. “The report takes excessive liberties with the facts, places unwarranted interpretations on the written documents, tortures Cardinal Bevilacqua’s live testimony and ignores much of what he said to cast him in the role of a leader insensitive to children and preoccupied with issues of legal liability. ... The view of Cardinal Bevilacqua is so distorted and so unfair that those who know him or were influenced by his ministry cannot help but be offended.”