The claims of sex abuse made by Philadelphia accuser Dan Gallagher that led to the convictions of two Catholic priests and a school teacher are so wildly outlandish and inconsistent that even one of the most staunch critics of the Church, the National Catholic Reporter newspaper, is now acknowledging that the accuser's claims are "utterly different versions of reality."
Surprisingly, the Reporter has become the first national publication to reveal that the recent high-profile convictions in Philadelphia appear unjust and rooted in legal and ethical chicanery.
"Cunning deception by civil society"
The Reporter's shocking admission comes in a recent editorial that it published shortly after it ran a lengthy summary article about the Philadelphia trial narrative by veteran journalist Ralph Cipriano, who for the last year has doggedly investigated this disturbing story.
To recap: Philadelphia's Msgr. William J. Lynn, Fr. Charles Engelhardt, and former teacher Bernard Shero have all been criminally convicted in the past year for crimes related to claims of abuse by Gallagher. But as Cipriano has uncovered (and we suspected all along), there were serious legal, procedural, and ethical troubles with the charges against all of these men. (See our complete coverage.)
Indeed, this site's early analysis of the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office 2011 grand jury report, which led to the criminal charges against the clergymen, found the report to be rife with falsehoods, misinformation, and hyperbole. And since the end of the trial, Cipriano himself has documented at least 20 clear factual errors in the report that have yet to be corrected by the D.A.'s Office.
Naturally, the mainstream media been indifferent to this glaring injustice and has merely parroted the talking points of the Philadelphia D.A.
However, even the Reporter cannot help but admit that there are "serious questions raised about the legal proceedings" that led to the false guilty plea by former priest Edward Avery and the high-profile convictions of Lynn, Engelhardt, and Shero. The paper suggests that "cunning deception by civil society" lurked behind the unjust prosecutions of Catholic clergy in Philadelphia.
As the Reporter has long been an ardent critic of the Church hierarchy, the Reporter's editorial was groundbreaking in that it resisited its usual witch hunt mentality.
Philadelphia: Just the tip of the icebergUnfortunately, while the paper is to be commended for publicizing the glaring injustice in Philadelphia, the Reporter does not appear to realize how deep this "cunning deception by civil society" really is.
This site was the first to uncover a long and troubling collaboration between members of the Philadelphia D.A.'s Office and leaders of the anti-Catholic advocacy group SNAP (Part I and Part II of our Special Report have photos and video evidence), indicating that the two conspired to maliciously target Catholic clergy in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Assistant D.A. Mariana Sorensen – whom many have identified as the "architect" of the attack against the Church for the past decade – is a woman whose profound animus against the Catholic Church has been thoroughly chronicled. While aligning herself with SNAP, Sorensen has publicly championed legislative efforts specifically designed to financially cripple the Catholic Church. She has also deliberately cast Catholic clergy in the most mean-spirited and sinister light in order to advance her bigoted efforts.
And according to Cipriano, Sorensen most recently engaged in a sordid "whisper campaign" to try to prevent the Reporter from publishing his article, an ill-fated and pathetic episode which only underscores her lack of respect for the truth and her venom against the Church. Once again, however, Sorensen's malicious efforts have gone completely unchallenged by a complicit press.
Then there is Sorensen's close collaborator, SNAP lawyer Marci Hamilton, who co-wrote the 2005 grand jury report with Sorensen. Hamilton's prejudiced attacks against the Catholic Church, which she parades as "scholarship," have been roundly discredited as "disorganized," "riddled with errors," and "dreadful." So it was no surprise that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia issued a 73-page shredding of the pair's 2005 report and categorized it as "reckless rhetoric" and "irresponsible speculation," while rebutting its most inflammatory claims as "categorically false."
In addition, in recent years SNAP has feted members of the Philly D.A.'s Office at SNAP's annual conferences.
In its editorial, the Reporter copmpletely ignores these seedy alliances and the obvious agenda of the participants in Philadelphia. It claims the folks shedding light on these truths are "fantasists." But while the Reporter engages in playground name-calling, this site has dealt with the facts. So you be the judge.
Two cases built on sand
Since the dust has settled on the cases in Philadelphia, it is now clear that the Philly D.A.'s Office tossed aside all justice in its zeal to prosecute Catholic clergy. It is hard to imagine any clear-thinking Philly D.A. building cases on the two principle accusers here: Gallagher and Mark Bukowski.
Bukowski is the accuser of Fr. James J. Brennan, whom a jury voted to acquit 11-1 in a criminal trial last year. This site was the first to publicly broadcast Bukowski's lengthy criminal record, which included shocking crimes of fraud and filing false police reports that seriously undermined the guy's credibility.
We also relayed the extensive criminal background of triple-accuser Gallagher, a guy whom Cipriano has investigated extensively. Cipriano has most recently described Gallagher as a "a 24-year-old former daily marijuana smoker, magic mushroom eater, LSD tripper and heroin addict who was kicked out of two high schools, has been arrested a half-dozen times as an adult for drugs and retail theft, and has been in and out of 23 different drug rehabs."
If Gallagher were not making his claims against Catholic priests, no sensible prosecutor would build a prosecution based on his veracity.
"A shallow victory"?
In acknowledging the troubling aspects of the events in Philadelphia over the past two years, the Reporter says that the recent convictions now appear to be "a shallow victory."
In truth, the word "victory" should not be applied to this episode at all. The only "victory" would be an investigation by the Pennsylvania Attorney General into the foul actions of the Philly D.A.'s Office.
The Reporter also needs to look into the mirror. The paper should ask itself if it has helped to foster the hysterical climate that has led to this travesty of justice. Indeed, over the years the Reporter has always given glowing and uncritical exposure to the very same posse of individuals who made this disastrous chapter in Philadelphia an appalling reality.
And if the Reporter thinks that this Philadelphia episode is a lone anomaly when it comes to false accusations against Catholic priests, it is the one who is truly "fantasist."
Fr. Engelhardt and Bernard Shero are scheduled to be sentenced on June 12.