Cardinal reportedly ordered list of abusive priests destroyed

The latest bombshell from Philadelphia:

A Philadelphia archdiocese official on trial for allegedly covering up the sexual abuse of children has asked a court to throw out charges against him based on a 1994 memo showing Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua ordered a list of suspected abusive Catholic priests to be destroyed.

Attorneys for Monsignor William Lynn asked a Philadelphia court to dismiss charges of conspiracy and child endangerment based on documents that Lynn had informed his superiors — including the cardinal — that priests in the archdiocese were assaulting children.

“The recent unexpected and shocking discovery of a March, 1994 memorandum composed by Monsignor James Molloy, Monsignor Lynn’s then-supervisor, on the topic of this review, clearly reveals that justice demands that all charges against Monsignor Lynn be dropped,” Lynn’s attorneys said in a filing.

As revealed in court papers filed on Friday, Molloy’s handwritten memo dated March 22, 1994, informed Bevilacqua that the secret list of 35 priests had been shredded per his instructions.

“On 3-22-94 at 10:45 AM I shredded, in the presence of Reverend Joseph R. Cistone, four copies of these lists from the secret archives,” Molloy’s memo stated. “The action was taken on the basis of a directive I received from Cardinal Bevilacqua at the Issues meeting of 3-15-94 ….”

According to the filing, the document was discovered in a locked cabinet in an archdiocese administrative office. It did not elaborate on how the document came to light.

Bevilacqua, who died on January 31, testified 10 times before grand juries in 2003 and 2004. A final grand jury report said it had no doubt that the cardinal knew about the danger posed by the accused priests and that his actions endangered thousands of children in the archdiocese.

The grand jury also concluded that Lynn had carried out the cardinal’s policies exactly as the cardinal directed.

Read the rest.


  1. What is that saying? “I know nothing” made famous by the TV show’s Sargent Shultz? The never ending story of how the situation staring the Bishops and the higher “bosses” in the Church only cared about protecting the reputation of the Church—not the children of the Church. How did they represent anything close to Christianity? The “never question my (as a Bishop etc.) decisions, only do as I say seemed to rule”—not justice on any level, IMO.

  2. Wow. I’m glad that Chaput was sent to Philly, because they need someone good to deal with all this mess.

  3. What those outside the AD of Philadelphia need to know is Reverend Joseph Cistone, who helped carry out Cardinal Bevilacqua’s order to shred Msgr Lynn’s memo, is now Bishop Cistone, currently bishop of the diocese of Saginaw, Michigan.
    He along with Bishop Cullen, now deceased, were involved in the meeting where Cardinal Bevilacqua gave the order to shred the memo. Thanks to Msgr Molloy, also now deceased, who had second thoughts regarding shredding the document and kept one copy hidden in a safe. I’m not sure if I am permitted to post this link here but this article from the Philadelphia Inquirer today details what is now known about the memo:

    I am not a fan of the Philadelphia Inquirer and have long stopped purchasing it but this piece seems to be well written with regard to the facts re. this memo. The new question is if this is true, why was the knowledge re. the memo in the safe, which was opened in 2006, not shared with the DA during the 2nd grand jury. Furthermore, doesn’t this implicate Bishop Cullen and Bishop Cistone for being party to the shredding of the memo? Also, could Cardinal Rigali be implicated for not sharing this secret memo with the DA?

    Please pray for all of us in the AD of Phila. In the weeks and months to come this will only get more painful. Between the abuse scandal, the upcoming trial and the many schools slated for closure it is a very difficult time here.

  4. zmama:
    Bishop Edward P. Cullen is still the bishop of Allentown. For the record: his episcopal motto is “Christ, Church, Compassion.”

  5. This recent story from the Philadelphia Archdiocese is particularly upsetting to me. I spent half of my life in Philadelphia, worked in Catholic education most of that time, and have now returned to my roots.

    The Church in Philadelphia has a rich history. It was here that John Neumann, fourth bishop of Philadelphia, began the first diocesan school system in the United States. To the best of my knowledge, he is the only U.S. bishop to be canonized.

    The hurt goes deep among my friends and family, including myself – all of us have been educated in Catholic schools in the archdiocese. I have a sister and aunt in religious life and my uncle was a priest in the archdiocese.

    I do not think that Archbishop Chaput is right one to deal with this hurt. Why? I read the text of his weekly column on January 12, “Thoughts on the Commission Report, One Week Later.” (Ironically, the announcement of the school closings was made on January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany, Little Christmas?, and one day after the feast of St, John Neumann on January 5th.)

    Here are some excerpts from that column:

    Referring to the uproar by many Philadelphia Catholics he uses phrases like: “vent their feelings,” “as tempers, begin to cool,” and “as emotions subside, ” and “No family can run on nostalgia and red ink.”

    Finally, and what bothered me the most, he wrote:
    “It’s useful to wonder how many of our schools might have been saved if, over the last decade, Catholics had fought for vouchers as loudly and vigorously as they now grieve about school closings.” He said basically the same words at the end of the press conference the week before when the school closings were officially announced. (I thought naively that he was getting up to say a few words of hope or even a prayer.)

    Archbishop Chaput may be very talented in some areas but I don’t think he has the “right stuff’ to deal with the current issues in the Catholic population of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

  6. naturgesetz says:

    “He [Bishop Cistone] along with Bishop Cullen, now deceased, were involved in the meeting where Cardinal Bevilacqua gave the order to shred the memo.”

    I don’t see anything in the memo quoted in the original post or in the article you linked which places Bishop Cistone at that meeting. Furthermore, there is nothing to indicate what position Bishop Cullen or Monsignor Molloy (or Bishop Cistone if he even was there) took with respect to the idea of shredding the list. Just saying that they were “involved in the meeting” says nothing about their responsibility for Card. Bevilacqua’s decision.

    “Furthermore, doesn’t this implicate Bishop Cullen and Bishop Cistone for being party to the shredding of the memo?”

    There is no indication in any of this that either of them was in a position to change the decision or that either of them approved of it. I don’t think we should blame bystanders.

  7. Veronica119 says:

    Bishop John Barres is the bishop of Allentown.

  8. As a long time friend of ArchBishop Chaput, I do not recognize him in any of your concerns. He built an amazing and vibrant diocese in Denver. You do not do this without considerable skill and compassion and love. Also, the Church has seen fit to move him from Denver and to put him into this mess which he had no part in creating. Why? I would assume because they have confidence he is the right person. I think his reception in Philly by many there has been cruel and mean spirited having more to do with differences over authentic Church teaching than having anything to do with the Archbishop talents or compassion. Because he is known for his support of Magesterial teaching, some automatcially assume he must therefore lack compassion.

    I always hate to see words pulled out from the rest of anything somone says or without knowing the full context of what was being discussed or timing.

    You say “(Ironically, the announcement of the school closings was made on January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany, Little Christmas?, and one day after the feast of St, John Neumann on January 5th.)” Are you aware of the reason that this was done on this day? I suspect that any day this comes out will be attacked for one reason or the other.

    HMS says “Referring to the uproar by many Philadelphia Catholics he uses phrases like: “vent their feelings,” “as tempers, begin to cool,” and “as emotions subside, ” and “No family can run on nostalgia and red ink.”

    I think words like this are indeed part of any ongoing uproar. It is often said we have to allow those offended to “vent their feelings” in hopes that this allows “tempers to cool” and for “emotions to subside.” Don’t understand what is wrong with any of these words pulled out from the entire address.
    As to the red ink comment, what is in error in what is said here..
    “No family can run on nostalgia and red ink. Every parent knows this from experience. And so it is with the Church. We have a moral duty to use our resources wisely, not just in education, but in every aspect of our life as a believing community. If we haven’t always done that in the past, then we need to start now.”
    In every diocese where parishes have had to be closed or consolodated due to red ink, the major problem is one of nostalgia for those in the parishes impacted. Many refuse to understand facts. Kind of like liberals in politics that seem to think that they can continue spending with no final bill to be paid by someone, that money printed and money borrowed hurts everyone. If a decision was made to keep a parish burning cash open, but to shut down a service to the poor, it would be questioned thus a clear statement that the Church has wide responsibility.

    HMS, I think you need to read what you wrote and see if it makes sense if the Name Chaput is removed and a favorite bishop is placed there who agrees with your vision of Catholic teaching.

    Give the Archbishop a chance and allow what he teachs to enter your heart, soul and mind.

  9. Hey HMS:

    You still owe me an apology regarding Christ Matthews!

  10. “Bevilacqua discussed the memo in a March 15, 1994, meeting with Molloy and Bishop Edward P. Cullen, then the cardinal’s top aide, the filing says. After the meeting, Bevilacqua allegedly ordered Molloy to shred the memo.

    One week later, Molloy allegedly destroyed four copies, with the Rev. Joseph Cistone as a witness. “This action was taken on the basis of a directive I received from Cardinal Bevilacqua,” say Molloy’s handwritten notes.

    But Molloy apparently had second thoughts. Without telling anyone, he took a copy of the memo, and his notes, and placed them in a portable, locked safe.

    According to the motion, that safe remained untouched and unnoticed until 2006, when archdiocesan officials found it and hired a locksmith to open it. It’s unclear why the records inside were only recently turned over to Lynn’s lawyers and prosecutors, although church lawyers have said they have been reviewing thousands of files to comply with trial subpoenas.”

    @ naturgesetz-Seriously? You read the entire 2 page article I linked to and consider these men to be innocent bystanders? Molloy, Cullen and Cistone all knew about Msgr Lynn’s memo which was a list he compiled of the names of 35 priests with history of child abuse. None of them came forward and contacted authorities despite 2 grand jury reports over 6 years. OK-so I made a mistake when I said Cistone was at the initial meeting. Rather he witnessed the shredding of 4 copies of the memo! Were it not for Msgr Molloy’s efforts to hide one remaining copy of the memo nobody would know about this today. The memo was found in 2006 after the first grand jury report but this was still kept hidden from the DA during the 2nd grand jury? Please take the blinders off. I LOVE my church-I have taught in several schools in the AD and am passionate about catholic education because I am passionate about my faith. Which is precisely why I am so outraged and sickened by this evidence of a coverup at the highest levels of our AD. None of these men were innocent bystanders. The innocent ones were the children who were raped.
    Do you really think Reverend Cistone would be Bishop Cistone today if he had spoken out against the order to shred the memo? I don’t care if it was Cardinal Bevilacqua who gave the orders. One of them should have told him it was wrong to shred the list of names and instead taken it to the police. At least Msgr Molloy had reservations and saved a copy. They have hung Msgr Lynn out to dry and made him the fall guy-but he could have spoken out against the cardinal’s order as well. Msgr Lynn’s memo may have been an attempt to address the abuse problem but it was a half hearted effort at that. In his position he would have known those priests on his list had not been removed from ministry and he could have spoken out and protected children.

    Somehow they all seemed to miss Jesus’ admonition:

    “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

    God help them all. And God help all of us.

  11. @HMS-After researching a bit I found out Bishop Cullen is still alive but retired. Bishop Barres succeeded him in Allentown.

    I’m starting to think with these new revelations we need a 3rd grand jury investigation with Bishops Cullen and Cistone being the first 2 questioned.

  12. Hey naturgesetz:

    Ann apology that is demanded is not a real apology? Now, I could say, “naturesetz, I am so sorry that you were offended by my words and opinions.” But that wouldn’t be nice or authentic.

    Also, be alert to Freudian slips, e.g., Christ Matthews.
    You gave me a good laugh amidst a discussion of this sad, latest news about the horrible situation in Philadelphia.

  13. Correction:
    An apology that is demanded is not a real apology.

  14. zmama:
    Thanks for the update about Bishop Cullen. I’ve been away from Philadelphia too long. I remember him as head of Catholic Social Services in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

  15. This situation is so sad and surely makes Christ weep. It just reinforces the public notion that you can no longer trust priests to make the right moral decision when it comes to molestation. Many innocent priests will get tarnished unfairly by this.

  16. National Catholic Reporter reports: (Msgr. James Molloy, the assistant vicar for administration) described reaching a point when “I couldn’t be sure that I could trust my superiors to do the right thing.”

  17. ron chandonia says:

    A perfect example of why we need NCR – and why the clergy read it religiously.

  18. No priest I know would be caught dead reading NCR.

  19. George, I suspect there is an even greater public notion, one with which many Catholics agree, to no longer trust priests (and bishops) to make the right moral decision when it comes to ANYTHING, not just molestation.

    I agree that innocent priests are tarnished by this. It will take decades, if ever at all, to recover the trust of the public and many Catholics. And the longer this festers, the more decades it will take.

    Unfortunately the culprit in this is the institution itself. The problem is systemic, shameful, and not anywhere near being ended or resolved.

  20. naturgesetz says:

    zmama —

    “None of these men were innocent bystanders.”

    I never said “innocent.” I only wrote “bystanders.” And that was deliberate.

    I may have missed a few paragraphs because of the way the website chops up the text. It can look as if you’ve reached the end when you haven’t. But I’ve gone back and read it two more times today.

    It is true that there is no indication that anybody — Cistone, Cullen, Lynn, or Molloy, went to the police with the information. But there is absolutely nothing to tell us what went on in the meeting with Cardinal Bevilacqua. You have no way of knowing what any who were actually there said in that meeting or later. Therefore you have no way of knowing that they did not speak against his decision. Yet you conclude, without sufficient basis, that they said nothing against it. This is the sin of rash judgment (materially, but maybe not formally if you were never taught about it).

    As for it’s being “kept hidden from the DA during the 2nd grand jury,” it’s nice if you remember every event that happened in your life twelve and more years afterwards. Some of us don’t have such perfect memories. I can readily believe, based only on the knowledge of the way my own memory works, that the memory of that memo did not surface until it was actually discovered in the safe.

    I don’t deny that those four priests lacked the heroic courage to defy their archbishop. They didn’t have that level of courage. Few people do. It is easy for you and others to throw stones seventeen years after the fact, in a changed culture, without even knowing all the facts. Enjoy feeling self-righteously superior.

  21. A “changed culture”? The abuse, the conspiracy cover up, and the decision to not report it to the police were wrong then, are wrong now, and will be wrong tomorrow. The only thing that changed is that it all came to light.

  22. I am pretty sure even a simpleton would remember that he was told to destroy a list containing 35 priests who raped children twelve years later. That kind of event tends to imprint on ones soul.

    Your defense of these monsters does not work.

  23. A close cousin to “No true Scotsman”.

  24. I’m not sure it was heroic courage they lacked as much as trust and faith in Jesus. They failed in faith.

  25. friscoeddie says:

    When the extent of the Philly cover-up surfaces this week will the hierarchy faces be more reddened by their “Catholic religious liberty is under severe attack’ letter read in 18000 parishes last week ? Were all the US diocesan PR people not aware that the Philly bomb was all primed to explode when they wrote those screeds? Will the whining about BC coverage, not being paid for by bishops, still get sympathy ? and from whom?

  26. Eugene Pagano says:

    Your bishops may not have been aware that this memorandum was about to be publicized.

    As a lawyer, my impression is that Msgr. Lynn has vigorous advocates fully aware that professional ethics require them to defend their client rather than the Archdiocese that (last I heard) was paying for his defense.

  27. friscoeddie says:

    No talk about Lynn keeping a copy of his memo to the cardinal.. .. I have a memo about paying for three pizzas for a 1990 meeting.

  28. Thank you Jake, George and Barbara. You get what I was trying to express. All 3 of your were able to do it much more succinctly than me.

    As for throwing stones and feeling self righteously superior, I had one situation when I taught in a school within the archdiocese where I strongly suspected one of my young students, then just 7 years old, might have been abused by her mother’s boyfriend and I reported those suspicions because it was the right thing to do for the child’s sake. This occurred during the same time period that Cardinal Bevilacqua was ordering a list of priests suspected of abuse to be shredded.

    While I certainly have my faults and am a sinner in need of God’s grace and mercy, in my vocation as a wife and a mother I have followed church teaching faithfully, even in dealing with difficult situations such as infertility and repeat miscarriages, happily choosing adoption over artificial methods of reproduction. So while you may call me self righteously superior naturgesetz-I have just tried to be faithful to my vocation. Shouldn’t the laity expect our priests to be faithful to their vocation and not rape children? Now I realize this is a sickness and that is why I place more of the blame for the continued abuse on those clergy in leadership roles, including those named in this article. Jesus gave his admonition not to harm one of His “little ones” nearly 2000 years ago. What was different about the culture 17 years ago that our leaders forgot His words? If these men are supposed to be our shepherds, how do you think Jesus views the way they failed to protect the most vulnerable of their flock?

  29. zmama —

    I should not have attributed an attitude of smug self-righteousness to you. I’m sorry for that excess. And I am happy to learn of your fidelity to the teachings of the Church. But I think that your situation with respect to the suspected abuse in not quite the same as that of the priests, unless your principal had ordered you to say nothing about your suspicions.

    If a district attorney wants to investigate the priests who have been mentioned, okay. But as fa as the faithful are concerned, I’d hope we can all take into account that 1.) that was then and this is now, 2.)there are varying degrees of culpability, and 3.) nobody’s perfect.

  30. Correction:
    I meant to direct my February 26, 2012 at 5:45 am comment about an apology to awashingtondccatholic, not naturgesetz.

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