Shepherds of Souls or Keepers of Secrets?

An independent investigation into the German Diocese of Trier’s handling of sex abuse allegations recently made headlines after concluding that “successive bishops” covered up acts of abuse by predatory priests.  The investigation cites examples of priests like Father Edmund Dillinger, who, shielded by multiple bishops’ cover-ups, escaped punishment and went on to abuse 19 victims from 1961 until 2018.  While the findings have rocked the Church in Germany, victims’ advocates point out that the Diocese of Trier is only one among countless dioceses around the world where clerical abusers have been enabled by multi-generational chains of bishops and the corrupt successors who inherit their posts.  As a growing number of cathedras are being vacated by greying or scandal-racked Bishops, the media has yet to report that many Church leaders today are being picked to helm dioceses and prominent posts not because of their talents, but because of their skill at burying the sins of their outgoing predecessors.

The Vatican saw the costly and self-destructive impact of promoting transparent clerics when it appointed Archbishop Diarmuid Martin to replace Dublin Cardinal Desmond Carroll.  Following Carroll’s resignation amid cover-up accusations, Martin handed over more than 80,000 files from the archdiocesan archives to civil authorities implicating his disgraced predecessor and revealing how the archdiocese hid abuse complaints.  When Martin broke the Church’s code of silence by exposing the depths of Dublin’s sexual depravity, the Vatican learned that the only way to protect its sexual secrets is to promote compromised prelates who are skilled at cover-up or who are themselves blackmailable into silence owing to their own personal scandals.  Such continues to prove true today in (arch)dioceses like Newark; Washington D.C.; and Springfield in Illinois.

When then-Newark archbishop Theodore McCarrick was tapped to head the Washington Archdiocese, he was followed by Archbishop John Myers, who himself together with former New York Cardinal Edward Egan became the subject of a lawsuit accusing him of homosexual misconduct.  After Myers proved his ability to bury what he knew about his predecessor’s serial predation upon seminarians and minors, he was named Chairman of the Board of Governors of the North American College (NAC) seminary in Rome, where he oversaw the recruitment of homosexually-active seminary leaders like former vice-rector, Father Adam Park, and former rector, Father Peter Harman.  Both Harman and Park would step down in disgrace after they were named by multiple seminarians in complaints of sexual harassment and cover-up.  Myers was later replaced as Newark Archbishop by Cardinal Joseph Tobin, a notoriously pro-LGBTQ+ prelate who was caught living for months with a 36-year-old gay Italian actor.  Given that Pope Francis appointed Monsignor Battista Ricca head of his residence at Casa Santa Marta after Ricca cohabitated with a Swiss boyfriend, it came as no surprise when Francis rewarded Tobin with a post on the Congregation for Bishops, an influential office that advises the pope on who to nominate to become a bishop.

Myers and Tobin were not the only successors tasked with hiding abuse by a predecessor.  Reports of McCarrick’s predation (including the $180,000 in abuse settlements that were arranged for him) were also known and covered up by his successor in the Washington Archdiocese, Cardinal Donald Wuerl. Wuerl himself later resigned after the 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report exposed his record of covering up for abusive priests during his tenure as Bishop of Pittsburgh.  Wuerl was replaced by pro-LGBTQ+ Cardinal Wilton Gregory, who as head of the Washington Archdiocese is shown to be covering up sex abuse complaints against priests like Father Adam Park and Father Carter Griffin and retaliating against priests like Father Michael Briese who had the courage to report sexual abuse.  Gregory himself has come under fire for undisputed accusations that he engaged in homosexual relations with other African American men while he was Archbishop of Atlanta.  When Gregory paid Wuerl ​over $​4 million for so-called “ministry activities” ​since 2020, one investigative reporter was led to​ inquire if this was nothing more than “hush money.”

The script for what has been unfolding in Newark and Washington was written years earlier when the Vatican sent Archbishop George Lucas to the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois to replaced accused sexual predator, Bishop Daniel Ryan.  Lucas himself has been named in sexual misconduct allegations and, like his predecessor, is reported to have engaged in homosexual acts with his priests, including disgraced former NAC rector, Father Peter Harman.  After Lucas’ and Harman’s sexual antics were reported to Church leaders, the Vatican replaced Lucas with current Springfield in Illinois Bishop Thomas Paprocki, who has proven equally capable of hiding the Diocese’s sordid sexual history.  Sworn statements have exposed Paprocki’s role in deceiving Catholics about a discredited internal diocesan “special panel” that was overseen by Lucas’ defense attorney and designed to whitewash credible sex allegations brought against Lucas, Harman, and other Springfield priests.  In damning testimony, a former FBI Special Agent in Charge unveiled the tactics Springfield’s sham internal panel used to bury vital evidence against Lucas and Harman and threaten key witnesses and informants who attempted to bring forward complaints.  While Paprocki has attempted to keep incriminating facts from coming to light such as Lucas’ and Harman’s reported graphic sexual activities at the orgy and the alleged “dimensions and specific descriptions of Harman’s and other participants’ intimate body parts,” these details and the Springfield in Illinois Dioceses’ cover-ups are now being revealed in an ongoing lawsuit against Harman, the NAC, and other Church officials.  Documentary evidence also shows that over the course of two years, Paprocki received and concealed more than seven credible reports informing him that Harman was abetting sexual predation at the NAC and victimizing seminarians who exposed it.  Identifying numerous other, separate cases where Paprocki has covered up sexual misconduct, experts maintain that Springfield in Illinois may be home to one of the highest percentages of homosexually active clerics in the United States.  A recent independent investigation concludes that “Paprocki has allowed a stunning number of accused priests to remain uninvestigated and remain in active ministry in Springfield parishes, schools, and curial offices.”  When offered a chance to address the investigatory report prior to its release, Paprocki neither offered nay comment nor disputed the findings.

Given how accused bishops promote like-minded clerics who will cover up their misconduct, it should come as no surprise that both Cardinal Gregory and Bishop Paprocki secured promotions under alleged serial predator, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, when Gregory and Paprocki were priests together in the Chicago Archdiocese.  Paprocki and Gregory, who have been called out for abuse cover-ups spanning their tenure in Chicago, appear to have taken what they learned from “mentor” Bernardin to carry his legacy forward by re-victimizing sex abuse victims in their own dioceses.

Faithful Catholics are concerned that an increasing number of prelates are being promoted after they have morally or even financially bankrupted their dioceses. These include New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who has an epic record of sex abuse cover-ups and of keeping accused clerical abusers in parishes to the present; San Diego Cardinal Robert McElroy, who was awarded the red hat after he covered up graphic satanic rape by San Diego Father Jacob Bertrand; Richmond Bishop Barry Knestout, who evicted Father Mark White from his rectory because he spoke out against the McCarrick cover-ups; and Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, whom the Knights of Columbus named their Supreme Chaplain despite his disturbing record of seminary sex abuse cover-ups.

The Vatican has been taking extraordinary steps to keep Catholics in the dark about corruption in their dioceses.  As long as Church leaders continue to betray their claims of “zero tolerance” for abuse by promoting complicit prelates, Catholics cannot help but suspect that the Bishop of their diocese may have been sent in not to shepherd their souls, but to hide festering scandals within.

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.  Follow Gene Gomulka on YouTube or email him at