Jury hears dozens of memos from Philly archdiocese

April 3, 2012 - 4:45 PM

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A series of confidential memos outlining multiple allegations of sexual abuse against a now-defrocked priest were read to jurors Tuesday in the landmark clergy abuse trial under way in Philadelphia.

The memos describe how the archdiocese handled the allegations lodged in the 1990s against the Rev. Stanley Gana. Prosecutors are trying to show that the archdiocese didn't do enough to protect children from Gana after the accusations arose.

Monsignor William Lynn, 61, supervised more than 800 priests as the secretary for clergy in Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004. He's the first U.S. church official charged over his handling of abuse complaints against priests.

Prosecutors charge that he kept dangerous priests in parish work around children to protect the church's reputation and avoid scandal. He faces up to 28 years in prison if convicted of conspiracy and child endangerment.

A detective read confidential memos and other documents to jurors about Gana that dated back to 1992. The documents include reports made to the church, and conversations with Lynn and others, by several young men who said they were molested by Gana for years as adolescents.

Jurors were told that Gana remained as pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows parish in Bridgeport, Pa., until 1995 — three years after the first accusations surfaced but shortly after concerns arose among archdiocesan officials that one accuser might go public with his story.

After repeatedly denying his accusers' allegations, Gana entered a Canadian treatment facility in 1996 where "he broke down ... he admitted everything," according to a note from the treatment center that was sent to Lynn and presented in court. Still, the facility concluded that Gana was not a pedophile and said his improper sexual conduct stemmed from alcohol and drug addiction.

Because he was not deemed a pedophile, Gana remained a priest. He was not removed from ministry until 2002, when the archdiocese announced a change in policy in the wake of the priest molestation scandals that were surfacing in Boston.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington suggested to the jury that Gana's removal from priestly duties was largely the result of a policy change spurred by the Boston scandal.

Lynn's lawyers contend he tried to address the abuse allegations as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, but was blocked at the time by Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.

Defense attorney Thomas Bergstrom pointed out memos where Lynn recommended in the 1990s that Gana's priestly duties be limited and that he be closely supervised pending the completion of a drug and alcohol treatment program, but that higher-ups in the church, including Bevilacqua, disagreed and told Lynn to revise his recommendations to say the archdiocese would "not stand in his way" if Gana sought an assignment elsewhere.

"That would certainly be one way of getting rid of Father Gana (in Philadelphia), wouldn't it," Bergstrom said. "That's not the recommendation that Monsignor Lynn made."

Bevilacqua died in January, although the jury might see the videotaped deposition he gave weeks earlier. Lynn's child endangerment and conspiracy trial could last several months.

Gana was defrocked in 2006 but never criminally charged. A phone listing for him could not immediately be located, and the archdiocese declined to comment on the allegations against him, citing a judge's gag order.

Also on trial is the Rev. James Brennan, who is charged with raping a 14-year-old boy in 1996. He and Lynn have both entered not guilty pleas.

A third co-defendant, defrocked priest Edward Avery, entered a guilty plea on the eve of the trial to some of the charges.