Secret files detailed in Philly priest abuse trial

April 11, 2012 12:18:49 PM PDT
A priest facing complaints of abuse was transferred around the Archdiocese of Philadelphia at least eight times, each without a warning to the parish, according to prosecutors Wednesday at the trial of the first Roman Catholic official in the U.S. charged with endangering children for allegedly keeping pedophile priests in parish work in order to avoid scandal.

The priest, the Rev. Francis Trauger, had denied allegations of abuse for decades before admitting what he did, according to a document in the church's secret archives from before he was defrocked in 2005. Trauger told an archdiocesan investigator that he never suspected that abuse of children by clergy was widespread until the priest abuse scandal broke in Boston a few years earlier and spread elsewhere.

"He thought he was the only priest involved in this type of behavior," the investigator wrote. "After the abuses in Boston and beyond surfaced, Trauger realized he was part of a worldwide problem."

Trauger is not a defendant but his case and others are being used by prosecutors in the trial of Monsignor William Lynn, a high-ranking archdiocesan official who was entrusted with investigating abuse complaints against priests.

His attorneys insist that Lynn tried to oust predator priests but his efforts were hindered by his superiors, including then-Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. They also contend that many of the cases being presented by the district attorney's office took place years before Lynn had the job, from 1992 to 2004.

Lynn 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.

Also taking the stand Wednesday was Bishop Robert Maginnis, who was asked by prosecutors about a priest under his purview as suburban Montgomery County's vicar in 1996. That priest was the Rev. Edward DePaoli, who was defrocked in 2005 after decades of complaints.

Maginnis testified that couldn't recall whether he knew that DePaoli had been convicted of possession of child pornography at the time DePaoli arrived at St. Gabriel's parish in Stowe. He also testified he didn't remember details of complaints about DePaoli's inappropriate behavior around children and explicit magazines he was receiving.

He also said he didn't remember specifics of a nun's complaints about DePaoli. In letters to other church officials at the time, however, he suggested the sister was trying to "stir up some conflict" and "cast doubt on Father DePaoli's credibility." The nun was fired from her job at the school after she reported her concerns to Bevilacqua.

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