Blogger Kristen Byrne is in the courtroom at the Philadelphia Archdiocese priest-abuse trial.
Today marked the beginning of the fourth week in a landmark priest-abuse trial with the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Prosecutors brought in multiple victims to testify on their alleged abuse and discuss the steps taken by the archdiocese in a case against Monsignor William Lynn.
The primary witness was a former priest himself, and discussed his sexual abuse at the hand of former Rev. Stanley Gana. The abuse began when the victim was 13-years-old in 1980, and lasted until he was a first year seminarian around 1985. Yet, Gana was not defrocked until 2006.
The man said he and his family met Gana at their parish, Our Lady of Calvary, in northeast Philadelphia. When Gana asked the victim to come up to his farm near Scranton, the victim's family didn't hesitate.
"To be invited by a priest to visit a summer home was a no-brainer for my parents," he said. "It was an honor."
While visiting Gana's farm, the witness said he and the priest played cards on his bed. Though nothing happened that night, the victim said this visit was the beginning of Gana's five year-long abuse.
The man began working for the church in the summer of 1980, and continued through high school. While working there, he said Gana would invite him up to his room, and they would often engage in oral sex and attempt to have anal sex. The victim said Gana was very manipulative of his feelings.
"He would tell me he loved me, and that it was okay. … (Gana) said this was our secret; our special relationship," he said.
The victim said he would sometimes go up to the farm with another boy whom Gana was also having relations with. Gana would choose one boy to stay with him a night, acting as though it was a special privilege, according to the victim.
The witness said these sexual acts took place about three to four times a week. He said they slowed down after he began seminary in 1984. In 1985, he confronted Gana and told him that he did not want to continue their relationship, in which Gana became extremely angry.
The man never told his late parents of the incidences involving Gana, in fear it would hurt them too much.
In 1991, the victim was called to the rector's office on allegations of a sexual relationship with another seminarian. The conclusion of these allegations was pronounced inconclusive yet the victim was given an ultimatum to leave the Philadelphia Archdiocese, or else he would risk being defrocked. Around this time, the victim said he told Lynn about Gana and gave him the names of other victims. The victim never received word from Lynn about Gana's status in the priesthood.
In 1997, the witness wrote a letter to late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua because he had serious concerns about Gana's presence in the archdiocese. The letter led to a meeting with Lynn, in which Lynn said Gana was not classified as a pedofile, and that Bevilacqua thought Gana was no longer a risk.
Two years after the victim's letter to Bevilacqua, the victim found out that Gana was holding mass with altar servers present. The man again expressed his concern, but Lynn said Gana was under supervision and there was nothing to worry about.
The witness said he came forward for the grand jury report, and after testifying against Gana he took a leave of absence.
"I could no longer represent an institution that allowed me to be harmed. … I needed to distance myself from the church," he said. "I could not defend a church that did not protect me."
Lynn's defense argued that the result of Gana remaining in the priesthood was due to Bevilacqua's decisions.
Although Gana is not on trial with Lynn and James Brennan, prosecutors are using past allegations and decisions to bolster their case that Lynn buried allegations of molestation by members in the priesthood, and moved accused priests to unwitting parishes.
Last week, prosecutors brought in an expert witness on Catholicism. Rev. Thomas Doyle explained to the jury the process of becoming a priest, and how the hierarchy works within archdioceses. Doyle said it did not matter if a bishop gave a priest orders, there are still rules for every priest to abide.
"If you're acting in the name of the bishop with his power, you're responsible for what you do," Doyle said. "He is not holding strings over you."
The trial is expected to last several months. Lynn has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy in endangering the welfare of a child. Brennan has pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in 1996.