Friday, September 23, 2005


Investigators Track Priests Accused Of Molestation

PHILADELPHIA -- A day after a grand jury report detailed sexual abuse in Philadelphia's Catholic Church, there are new details about the alleged cover-up.

Video: 2 Priests' Paths | Cardinal Responds | DA Explains Grand Jury Focus | Extent Of Sexual Abuse | DA Recommends Changes To Law | NBC 10 Looks At Both Sides

According to the report, the grand jury documented child sexual abuse by at least 63 priests. It also found that at least one priest told his victims that their parents knew of and approved of the sexual abuse.

According to the grand jury, sexually abusive priests were either left quietly in place or recycled to new parishes.

The NBC 10 Investigators looked into two cases of what the Philadelphia Archdiocese did after learning some of its priests were involved in the alleged abuse.

Reading through the documents lifts the veil of secrecy on how the archdiocese handled the complaints about sexual abuse.

"This a story that demonstrates a sickening pattern of sexual predation, sexual seduction and indecency," said Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham during a press conference Wednesday.

According to the grand jury report, church leaders didn't look the other way. They excused and enabled the abuse.

Take the case of the Rev. Albert Kostelnick. The church's own file shows he sexually fondled young girls -- including three sisters ages 6 to 13 years old -- as he showed slides to their parents in the family's darkened living room. The report also alleges that Kostelnick fondled a fourth sister as she lay in traction in a hospital.

When Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua learned of additional complaints, he allowed Kostelnick to continue as pastor of St. Mark Parish in Bristol, Pa., and honored him at a luncheon at the cardinal's house.

Later, even after Kostelnick admitted to church authorities his "long-standing habit" of "fondling the breasts of young girls," he was honored at a luncheon at the cardinal's house and later sent to a new parish, Assumption BVM in Feasterville, as a senior priest.

The Investigators tried to track Kostelnick down through Villa St. Joseph, but a representative would not comment.

In another case, when Bevilacqua was told about sexual abuse by the Rev. Thomas Wisniewski, he apparently never reported it to police.

The report said that Wisniewski had a three-year relationship with a Cardinal O'Hara High School student, engaging in everything sexually that two men can do. Wisniewski gave the 15-year-old boy expensive gifts, including a VCR and a car.

The report insisted that archdiocese procedure enabled Wisniewski to continue acting as a priest for six years after he admitted to sexually abusing a minor.

Cardinal Justin Rigali, who was not in Philadelphia during Bevilaqua's tenure, described the grand jury document as biased and old news.

"Anyone who has sexually abused a minor will be forgiven by God, but the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will not reinsert this person in active, in ministry," Rigali said Wednesday in response to the release of the grand jury documents.

The archdiocese would not comment on either of these individual cases that the Investigators examined.

On Wednesday, Rigali did apologize to anyone who was victimized in the past by a priest.

See also, the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.

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