Victims Suffer While Predators Thrive

A recent public event held in the New York Archdiocese was attended by accused sexual predator Father Thomas Devery, a former Director of Priest Personnel who resigned as pastor of a prestigious Staten Island parish and school after facing grave sex abuse allegations in multiple lawsuits.  Amid reports that Cardinal Timothy Dolan failed to inform parishioners and school parents about abuse allegations against Devery and rewarded him with very comfortable accommodations after the allegations came to light, one surprised attendee asked Devery, “How are you?”  Devery replied, “I’m doing very well.”

While victims of sexual abuse are left with life-long scars and sometimes commit suicide as a result of the trauma, many clerics who abuse them and complicit prelates who cover up their abuse truly live “very well” courtesy of uninformed parishioners who finance their lavish lifestyles through their collection basket donations.

In many instances, Church leaders protect sexual predators from being held accountable by punishing or intimidating victims who bring forward abuse accusations. In the Baltimore Archdiocese, Wieslaw Walawender, a transitional deacon who reported being drugged and sodomized by his pastor, Msgr. Edward Staub, found himself thrown out of the rectory and forced to live in his car before finding a job as a truck driver. The victimized deacon, who like many seminarians today immigrated to the United States for the purpose of being ordained, had to search for food discarded by grocery stores in order to survive.  In contrast, Staub remained in ministry, continued living a very comfortable life, and received a glowing eulogy at his funeral Mass celebrated by Cardinal William Keeler who covered up his alleged abusive behavior. Severna Park parishioners were never informed of the alleged sexual assault and were led to believe that the deacon left because he wanted to return to his native country, marry, and have a family. Archbishop William Lori has yet to report Staub to authorities; has never compensated the sodomized victim; and has sought to laicize and be rid of the sexually assaulted and discarded Walawender. Unfortunately, Maryland has not lifted the statute of limitations for the sex abuse of adult victims as it has done for minors.

Oftentimes, Church leaders will create bogus internal “investigation” panels intended to “clear” credibly accused clerics without any regard for how these panels re-victimize victims.  These sham panels allow accused clergy to escape accountability and line up promotions while victims never have their abuse addressed. In the Springfield in Illinois Diocese, then-Bishop George Lucas handpicked members of his own internal panel to whitewash allegations that he and Father Peter Harman engaged in anal sex at an orgy in the presence of seminarians. Lucas’ sham panel paved the way for him to be promoted to the post of Archbishop of Omaha and for Harman to become rector of the NAC seminary in Rome where he would face more scandalous allegations from seminarians. The sworn testimony of a highly credentialed former Special Agent in the Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation would later debunk Lucas’ panel and expose the Springfield in Illinois Diocese’s ongoing scheme to silence whistleblowers and bury crucial facts about Lucas and Harman’s reported sexual misconduct.

There appears to be a double standard when it comes to investigations of clerics accused of homosexual misconduct like Lucas and Harman and clerics who speak out against it in the Church. When Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory  (aka the “African Queen “) and  Scranton Bishop Joseph Barbera “investigated” Monsignor Walter Rossi, for homosexual misconduct with other adults, Tyler Bishop Joseph Strickland called for Rossi’s suspension. Strickland questioned why Rossi was allowed to remain in office during the investigation when he tweeted, “This is contrary to canon law…Msgr. Rossi should be on administrative leave.” With Rossi being investigated by two prelates who are thought by many to be homosexuals themselves, the late investigative journalist George Neumayr wrote, “Will the Gregory-Barbera Investigation into Monsignor Rossi Be a Whitewash?” Not surprising to many, the “investigation” ruled that there was “no credible evidence” against Rossi.

The so-called “investigation” of Rossi was quite different from the Vatican investigation and subsequent dismissal of Bishops Joseph Strickland and Daniel Fernández Torres which involved prelates who addressed the homosexual infestation of clergy like Rossi and Jesuit Father James Martin. Strickland prophetically brought up the problem of homosexual behavior at the November 2018 USCCB meeting, and Torres who spoke out against same-sex “blessings” and transgender ideology also refused to send his seminarians to an inter-diocesan seminary he perceived to be infested with homosexuals.  When Francis convened the February 2019 Vatican Summit in response to the abuse crisis, the one topic that organizers of the Summit tried to avoid was “homosexuality” despite the fact that over 80 percent of abuse victims are young men and boys.

Bishops who preach “zero tolerance” for abuse but award accused clerics with promotions and plush lifestyles snub victims and their families who report being shunned by a Church they once trusted. One mother whose son was sexually harassed by his seminary rector and a transitional deacon described how the abuse and cover-up tore her family apart, writing, “The betrayal and intense personal suffering our family experienced has been devastating. … We have been abandoned and shunned by people who we thought were our friends. … The pain has been intense.” She added, “With very few exceptions, Catholics, both clergy and laity, have not wanted to know about — let alone actively address — the abuse happening right under their noses.” Another mother whose son was a victim of seminary abuse cover-ups commented, “I gave the Church my most prized possession, and I’m shattered by what happened to him. No one should have to go through this pain.”

Prelates who abuse or cover up abuse are emboldened by the fates of other clerics who boast of doing “very well” after their misconduct was reported.  After the Pennsylvania Grand Jury found that then-Pittsburgh Bishop Donald Wuerl “approved transfers for [predator]priests instead of removing them from ministry; oversaw inadequate church investigations; and concealed information when priests were reported to law enforcement;” Wuerl reportedly spent donations on a $43 million penthouse on Embassy Row in Washington, D.C., and raked in over $2 million in one year from his successor, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, for “continuing ministry activities.”

Despite New York Cardinal Dolan’s epic record of burying sex abuse accusations, gaslighting victims, and viciously retaliating against whistleblowers, Dolan resides in a 15,000-square-foot mansion on Madison Avenue valued in 2014 at around $30 million.

In the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) recently sent a complaint to the Vatican accusing Bishop Thomas Paprocki of “hiding abuser priests.” Calling out what he described as “callousness” on Paprocki’s part, one victim remarked, “Many people do not survive this. I know a man last month who took his own life.” Paprocki is also alleged to have deceived Catholics about credible allegations against Father Peter Harman and rewarded him with a plush assignment despite Harman being the subject of an ongoing lawsuit where he is accused of sexual misconduct and cover-up by multiple witnesses.

Accused clerics know that they can count on the Vatican for cover given the statistic that only 7 of some 150 bishops who were credibly accused of abuse have been laicized to date.  Based on voluminous reports of abuse cover-ups, victims’ advocates estimate that the number of bishops in the world guilty of covering up abuse stands in the thousands.

In a Church where prelates like San Diego Cardinal Robert McElroy are awarded the red hat after covering up the satanic ritual abuse of Rachel Mastrogiacomo by one of his priests, or where bishops like Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez could be tasked with heading the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith despite admitting he mishandled abuse allegations, one cannot help but realize that the path to clerical promotion lies over the trampled lives of sex abuse victims.  While scandal-plagued prelates are celebrated by complicit media outlets that often refuse to report clerical abuse, victims are made to watch in silence as their abusers or those who covered up their abuse climb the ladder. On the day Mastrogiacomo watched McElroy’s elevation to the College of Cardinals, she remarked, “Catholic priests, Catholic bishops, and Catholic establishment media outlets have consistently told me through their actions that it would be better that I just disappear.”

Catholics who are thinking about donating to bishop’s appeals or diocesan-taxed weekly collection baskets should ask: Can I accept the fact that my donation may make it possible for clerics accused of abuse or cover-up to live “very well” while their victims are sentenced to a lifetime of trauma? Most Catholics fail to consider how their donations often finance high-priced defense attorneys who have been shown to revictimize abuse victims in Court.

Catholics who wish to support victims rather than predators and prelates who cover up for them can consider donating to fundraisers such as the Save Our Seminarians Fund where contributions will be used to help apply legal protections to those who have been silenced by corrupt Church officials.

Gene Thomas Gomulka is a sexual abuse victims’ advocate, investigative reporter, and screenwriter. A former Navy (O6) Captain/Chaplain, seminary instructor, and diocesan respect life director, Gomulka was ordained a priest for the Altoona-Johnstown diocese and later made a Prelate of Honor (Monsignor) by St. John Paul II.