John Corrigan: Priest-ful deceptions

A former parishioner of  Monsignor John Gillespie questions the safety Catholic schools are supposed to provide. As a graduate of Our Lady of Calvary grade school in Northeast Philadelphia, the priest molestation controversy has made

A former parishioner of  Monsignor John Gillespie questions the safety Catholic schools are supposed to provide.

As a graduate of Our Lady of Calvary grade school in Northeast Philadelphia, the priest molestation controversy has made me ashamed of not only to say where I graduated from but also to admit I’m Catholic.

Monsignor John Gillespie, our beloved parish pastor, has been the target of the lawsuits and complaints.

Serving as the priest at my Communion, I knew Gillespie to be an engaging, cheerful man.
John Corrigan

Always smiling and shaking hands, Gillespie was kind to people of all ages, races and creeds.

The community was shocked and disgusted to learn that the affable Monsignor had confessed to fondling the genitals of several boys during his 16-year tenure at Calvary.

According to the March 22 issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer, a 32-year-old Arizona man, identified in court papers only as John Doe 168, became the fourth man in a month to sue the Archdiocese of Philadelphia with claims that it failed to stop Gillespie from sexually abusing him.

Dennis Brahma, a fellow Calvary classmate of mine, echoed our startled parish’s sentiments.

“Monsignor was a really nice guy, so I never got that vibe from him,” Brahma said.

“When my older sister would have choir practice in the afternoon, I would wait around church for her to finish. I would walk around and have conversations with Monsignor,” Brahma said. “He never approached me in any sexual or misleading way. Now, I consider myself lucky.”

Families send their kids to Catholic schools in order to avoid the violent, hostile environment attributed to public schools. However, time is starting to show that Catholic schools aren’t always a safe haven.

Because public schools lack the enforced morality and discipline that is ingrained by Catholic education, parents like mine believed Catholic schools instilled values and built character.

In 2011, parents must decide whether they’re willing to risk their children’s physical health in public schools or their psychological health from dishonest church leaders.

Trusting their children to the holy clergy, parents are now realizing their children have become abused statistics.

Gillespie joins a plethora of reported priest molesters as evidenced by the flood of lawsuits filed against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia since former Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham released the results in 2005 of a grand jury investigation that revealed a cover-up by the Catholic church administration.

According to the Daily Times, 63 priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia reportedly abused children as far back as the 1940s.

This past February, current Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams issued a second grand jury investigation that resulted in the suspension of 24 priests by archdiocesan officials.

Because the victims are often intimidated or embarrassed by the disturbing situation, they conceal the sexual abuse until they’re adults, and by that point, the statute of limitations has expired on any judicial repercussions.

But these priests aren’t punished – they’re rescued by the Archdiocese.

Despite the allegations and even confessions of the sexual offenders, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua not only allows them to continue service, but also transfers them to different parishes, allowing more children to potentially be harmed.

To Anthony Palumbo, a graduate of Our Lady of Calvary, Monsignor was more than a pastor.

“Gillespie married my parents,” Palumbo said.

“When the grand jury investigation came out, my mother was flabbergasted,” Palumbo added. “You wouldn’t think someone so closely associated with the community would do something like that.”

That is the core problem with these unsettling revelations: The Catholic church promotes security, stewardship and love, yet these hypocrites are ruining the lives of believers who trust these men devoted to spreading God’s message.

Churches collect billions of dollars without paying taxes and are untouchable from the police.

The Holy Trinity has become the mafia.

Why do priests commit such heinous crimes?

Is it because of the vow of chastity that the priests are compelled to release their sexual frustration on defenseless children?

Does the Catholic Church need to allow priests the option of marriage or at least dating?

With church attendance declining and Philadelphia Catholic schools closing at an alarming rate, a solution needs to develop before Catholicism crumbles.

Maybe the Church should replace the vow of chastity with a vow of justice.

John Corrigan can be reached at


  1. Men who abuse children as you report Monsignor John Gillespie admitted to doing do not have healthy sexual profiles. Allowing priests to marry will not curb these predators.

    Bishops now know that priests who abuse children are not like alcoholics. They can’t be treated and released. They are sick and disordered and cannot be cured. If they don’t remove them from active ministry, these men will abuse again and again and children will be hurt. Now dioceses will most likely be held liable for putting children at risk once a priest has been credibly accused if he has not been removed from ministry.

    As Catholics we have to also do our part. If we have suspicians about anyone in authority, we have to go up the chain of authority in our Church, starting with our pastor. If he doesn’t listen, we go to the bishop. And so on. It is our responsibility to rid our Church of this menace.

    Parents must be as vigilant about children’s safety in Catholic churches and schools as they are in public environments. No matter who the adult, children should not be alone in cars, back rooms, or classrooms for any length of time. There should be no overnight visits with adults who are not family. And so on. It’s a shame but it’s the reality in 2011.

  2. Thank you, Mr. Corrigan, for your finely written article. And yes, a vow of justice would attract real priests, men and women, instead of the absurd vow of celibacy to which the male clergy have ALWAYS only paid lip service, and has kept even the decent priests silent for fear of retribution.

    Somehow the message of Jesus was lost on these men. Someone forgot to educate bishops and cardinals and the men they supervise that the prerequisite for priesthood is a CONSCIENCE, not a penis.


  3. Being a convert to the RCC at age twelve, along with my mother, we attended classes for a year(at our local parish ) to teach us about the RCC, to surprise and bring my father back to the church that he had left when he was younger. We did so a year later on Father’s Day, with all his Catholic family from Ohio present for our Baptisims in Mich.

    I became, along with my mother and father, a good Catholic. When in college, I found this church’s ideas to be very stifeling to my education, most especially in the spiritual relm of my life. I became engaged to a “Cradle Catholic” I had known since 12.

    I was having a falling out with the RCC and didn’t want to get married in ” The “one and only” Church. But…. My father said he would not walk me down the isle if I wasn’t committed to the RCC. So after much contemplation , prayer and strain, I said , “well if I do, then I will be the best RCC that there ever could be.

    I did and I was, for over 60 years, raising four children in the faith. But… along the way..(after the childern were grown )I knew “there had to be more”.

    So, guided by the Holy Spirit(in a book by Kevin Ranahan)The Holy Spirit, Baptised me, all by reading the book. This led me to the Charismatic Renewal, where I found what I never imagined existed in Christianity. It was there that I found I could be “Baptised in the Holy Spirit” and have a “new life in Christ Jesus”. We stayed in the church and found other Catholics who had found “our real Lord Jesus”.

    Later I realized that I had been generationally brainwashed. I was in a life dedicated to an Institution that controlled your every thought, instead of My Savior and Lord Jesus.

    Over the years, our family members, that were in religious orders(Dominican Sisters and Holy Cross Brothers of Notre Dame) told us many things that were happening in the church and in their lives,that were very evil and that nothing was being done about it, even though they told the hierarchy. We of course didn’t believe a word they said and thought it was sour grapes.

    Not until our 50th Wedding Anniversary, after mass was said by our long time Jesuit friend (on the back deck of our boat) did we realize that we could no longer be Catholic’s It was 2001 and the “you know what was hitting the fan” in San Diego.

    We knew all we had heard over the years was TRUE. We told the priest and he said he understood and then proceeded to give us a dispensation(which We said we didn’t need). He said, “just in case.” See the fear had been instilled in him also but by then, we knew differently.

    The Lord backed us up in every way when HE showed us “the real church” was the people who believed in Christ Jesus and not these evil so called Holy people. We found out there had been 5 pedophiles in our little church of St. Maria Goretti , in Scottsdale Az. It was all in the AZ. Republic News paper, given to the reorters from our “hit and run “killer Bishop, Thomas O’Brien . We knew all the priests and would have vouched for them all but one.

    I taught our youngest son too well,(the big FEAR) as he is still in the /Church but with many reservations. His childern were into the first communion stages and it’s hard to leave at that point. They, as a family pray every morning and are very Spiritual people, as are all our other childern but no longer with the RCC.

    So there is my story!…..I am a Recovering Catholic.. I know our God knew our hearts(when we were there) and heard all our prayers, as he has continued to hear them every day. May God enlighten all those hearts that “KNOW there is Something More” >>>There is!

    HIS miracles continue on a daily basis with all our family. We have a relationship with HIM that is beyond belief….ptl!

  4. Great editorial. Finally, another parishioner speaks up. It’s been a long time coming. Not sure I understand the phrase “or at least dating,” but in any event I thank Mr. Corrigan for standing up for children. The only hope of getting this mess under control is for the parishioners themselves to stand up, speak their minds, and demand accountability. Actually, I’m not sure that will work either, since the Catholic Church proudly states over and over that it is not a democracy, but I do think it’s the only hope if there is any hope of saving Catholic children from predators in their midst.

  5. Tony Bivelaqua(as we called him then) was one of the big wigs in the Charismatic movement when we were still in it.(the not then Cardinal, loved the hugging and kissing that went along with the CR )) We long ago left the Charismatic Renewal, as they were getting so Catholic you couldn’t do a thing unless they told you “what to do and how to do it”.They were non-denominational when we joined, not many protestants then, but a few. We belonged to a Charismatic Prayer Group called the People of Joy, that met in a room in at our local Private Boys School in Phoenix , Az. called Brophy Prep.

    The prayer meeting got bigger and prospered and(co-ordinators or someone, we the people were never told)) bought their own builings to carry on ourmeetings, etc,. of the group. It then became “The City of the Lord”. You HAD to tithe, as there were slaries to be paid and up- keep on the many buildings. It was, before the buildings etc., in the beginning, precious to the Lord… But…became another Institution! Oh how careful we must be.Bloom where we’re’ planted.

    The Prayer meeting co-ordinators had a thing called “Headship and Submission” for the people, that got to be out of hand. Too much authority for some people goes to their head(pun not intended) Every woman had her husband as “Head” but every single woman or man had to have a Head. Man or woman. At that time I was in a healing ministery with a Dr, friend that I headed. Very unusual for them to allow a woman to head any thing and could never be a single man’s head.Very authoritative!

    The “Good” they think they’re doing always seems to get people over zealous in what ever their doing “for” the Lord.. Humility is pushed to the point of being obsessed with what they knew and what you didn’t know. Very structured and getting more like Catholic Hierarchy than you could even imagine. ” Do what I say, not, as I do.”

    But how could such “generationally brain washed”people (like any kind of authoratative religion) know anything different? Kind of sounds like what the Muslims or the radical Mormans do with their people.

    God gave us a brain to use and choices to make and a Bible to read as our instructional guide. We must do it wisely.

    As Jesus said ” Fogive them for they know not what they do”!” We all can learn to do better and know that we are given this free will by God….but with choices.

  6. Mr Corrigan:
    As i read your article, the only first hand evidence you present, that is what you saw, heard directly from the priest, etc., indicates the priest is innocent. It is only remote hearsay that indicates guilt. I would suggest that you go with what you saw first hand, not what you read fifth hand.

  7. Uh someone said- report to the higher ups in the church. Hello? That’s what we’ve been doing for centuries as catholics and look what the policy of the church is… “We find that Archdiocesan Managers as a whole acted not to prevent the sexual abuse of children by priests but to prevent the discovery that such abuse had occurred.” Released today the 2003 Grand Jury Report pg 3. Report to LAW ENFORCEMENT not the church who has a policy of hiding all abuse! (BTW the other “policy” was to tell every victim that they are the very first one to report abuse by that priest- no matter how many others have already reported his abuse.)

    So I ask, Will the “good” priests please stand up? Do us all a favor and let us know who you are. According to the report released today “many non-offender priests have remained silent in the face of clear evidence that a brother priest is sexually molesting a minor, and in some cases have actually covered up the abuse.”(pg8) So, if you really are a “good” priest why are you defending yourself instead of the victims? Why are you not begging from every pulpit, blog, website and street corner for victims to come forward and report to law enforcement? Why aren’t you reporting your brother priests whom you suspect of abusing children to law enforcement as well? Why are you not advocating for the elimination of the statutes of limitations that only serves to protect all child molesters? Why aren’t you enforcing a “no child alone with religious or teachers or coaches” policy? Meetings of children alone in sacristies, confessionals and priest’s offices and residences with priests and religious must be mandated as strictly prohibited in every circumstance!

  8. Why? In todays Denver Post…The police are doing the samre thing, as the priests, nuns and brothers. Hiding what their fellow officers are doing. So how can we expect the police, who are ofen brought up Catholic, to be able to do anything against the clergy that they are afraid of? You confessed your sins to them, my god how could I put one away?

    It’s a vicious circle and we can just NOT go to an institution that sacrifices Christ on the alter day after day, along with our childern.

  9. Dear Abuse survivor.. I’m praying for you to be able to have the Holy Spirit come and cleanse your memories of all evil and replace them with the Garden of HIS LOVE.. Picture HIS Flowers Blooming in Heaven and see HIS Laser Beam of Healing Light Come over you and envelope your whole being. It will HEAL YOU from all the evil you’ve experienced over your lifetime. You lie down in the Garden of HIS LOVE….The aroma so sweet, it lingers forever in your mind. May God Bless you in every way that is needed for the healing of your memories.It is done!

  10. Hi John,

    I feel bad for you mental state. it might make it easier for you if you concentated on the 1,000’s of good priests, who did for the Public, throught the ages. What makes this a difficult task is that you never read about them in a Philadelphia newspaper. if you could focus on these good guys, you wou realize immediately that there is no need for a “vow of justice” but rather a need for some good jopurnalism.

  11. Is there any reason to believe the abuse is over? Why would anyone believe this abuse has truly been 100% exposed and ended?

  12. I say let the Church crumble as the lives of those who are scarred by these hypocrites and pigs. Didn’t Jesus say God can not be found in a building when he allowed his temper to show at the Temple? It’s a shame because 2000 years later the Catholic Church represents what the Temple did to Jesus. Why should one have to pay for a prayer to be said at mass for a loved one, why does one have to light a candle for a prayer, why should one have to pay to go to Church to share in brotherhood with others who love God. I left the Catholic Church in 2005 when I too was fooled by Father Brennan from Resurrection of our Lord parish. Now Englehardt from same church is up on charges and a third, Dunn, under investigation. It seems to be their safe haven. Even if the Church allowed women to become priests (which it should have done a long time ago) or allowed priests to marry, I cannot condone the harm they have brought to so many. So I say to hell with the Catholic Church. My faith is forever and strong, and I pray every single day, but step into a Catholic Church, not unless I have to.

  13. To Gloria Sullivan – I know (or hope) you mean well but to say, “it is done?” For any victim of abuse, especially as a child, especially sexual in nature, especially committed by those who represented God himself – it is never over. You are just one of the lucky ones who will never know rhat.

  14. To Jim Smith, Doctor Fuss, Bob DeMaria and all those who think the good outweighs what has been done, over and over and over again, for God knows how long and how many victims are truly out there, yours is the mental state that is at question. I feel sorry for the priests who are genuine but what I feel for the Catholic Church itself and all its hierarchy could not be said here without a whole lot of cursing. Those who do nothing are worse that the person committing the crime itself. What are you doing for the victims? What are you doing for the Church – are you trying to get it to change its ways? Hmm, let’s see, the actual 2nd report came out in 2005 and five years later, nothing changed. I am so glad Lynn is amongst those being charged but I think it needs to go much higher than that. I pray for the victims. Those in the know chose “silence” to protect the reputation of the church versus the safety of the children and young adults. In my eyes, with all their damn money and I deliberately use the word damn, THE BAD FAR OUTWEIGHS THE GOOD. I will never turn my back on the Lord, but on a building, that I have.

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