PHILADELPHIA — A nun testified Monday in a landmark church sex-abuse trial that she was fired from a southeastern Pennsylvania parish for reporting concerns to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia about explicit mail that a priest had received.
Sister Joan Scary said she lost her job as director of education at St. Gabriel's in the rural Montgomery County town of Stowe, near Pottstown, after she complained to then-Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua about the Rev. Edward DePaoli shortly after his arrival in 1995. She said she was concerned about mail DePaoli began to receive, including computer disks from Denmark and magazines containing "deplorable" content, none of which included DePaoli's clerical title or indicated that his address was a rectory.
DePaoli, who was defrocked in 2005, is not a defendant in the trial but prosecutors are using the testimony about him and others to build a case against Monsignor William Lynn, who was the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary of clergy from 1992 to 2004 and entrusted within investigating complaints against priests.
Lynn is the first Roman Catholic official in the U.S. charged with endangering children for allegedly moving priests suspected of molestation from parish to parish without warning anyone of previous sex-abuse complaints. He is on trial with the Rev. James Brennan, who is charged with the attempted rape of a 14-year-old boy in 1996. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Scary said Monday she was unaware when he came to St. Gabriel's that DePaoli was convicted in federal court in 1986 of possessing child pornography and sentenced to probation. The conviction was not announced in the parish but Scary said she did think it odd that "he didn't really have duties."
"During Mass he would sit in the sanctuary and wouldn't do anything, other than just be there," she said. "Most priests would either read the gospel, give a homily, help out with communion ... it just seemed strange."
She testified she was warned by the church's pastor to keep any concerns about DePaoli to herself "or I could pack my bags and leave."
That's exactly what happened after she anonymously mailed one of DePaoli's magazines to Bevilacqua, she testified, with a handwritten note asking whether the cardinal thought that it was appropriate material for a priest. She was fired by the Rev. James Gormley, the pastor, in May 1996 after seven years at St. Gabriel's.
A detective went on the stand Monday to read a series of memos regarding the case of the Rev. Thomas Shea, who was removed from active ministry in 1994, a week after the archdiocese was contacted by an attorney who said his client was sexually abused as an altar boy by Shea in the 1970s at Saint Helena parish in Philadelphia. In one memo, Lynn suggests the priest might have been "seduced into it" by the then-altar boy.
Shea, who was sent to a Catholic treatment facility and diagnosed as a pedophile with the emotional maturity level of a 12- or 13-year-old boy, was permitted to retire in 1995 and said he had only two victims — the boy whose lawyer contacted the archdiocese and a boy who had since died.
In 2002, however, the archdiocese received an anonymous letter from someone who said his or her family member was one of several boys molested by Shea in the 1970s at Saint Joseph parish in Collingdale and "cannot to this day stop running away from his life."
A detective on the witness stand told Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington that investigators found no evidence that the archdiocese tried to locate the letter writer or any other potential victims.