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August 14, 2018

Landmark report on sexual abuse by Pennsylvania priests includes a handful with stops in Philadelphia

The report includes accusations against 300 priests across the state

Investigations Churches
08142018_stained_glass_Unsplash Photo by Ant Rozetsky /on Unsplash

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A staggering grand jury report released Tuesday afternoon revealed accusations of sexual abuse against 300-plus priests from dioceses across Pennsylvania, including an entire section devoted to Allentown’s dioceses, and a handful of priests whose careers included stops in Philadelphia.

Below, we’ve extracted some of the disturbing stories – most of it verbatim – from the more-than-1,000-page report, which deal specifically with priests who worked in the city of Philadelphia either before or after being accused of sexual assault and abuse.


By the numbers: the Pa. grand jury report on predator priestsPhiladelphia archbishop offers message in wake of priest abuse report


You can read the full report here.

Warning: the rest of this article contains depictions of disturbing acts

Name: Father William Presley
Location: Leave of Absence, St. Joseph University, Philadelphia, PA
Date: June 1976 to June 1977

In January 2002, an article detailing the practice of reassigning priests accused of sexual abuse of children was published in the Boston Globe. In April 2002, three separate victims notified Trautman of sexual abuse perpetrated upon them by Presley from 1963 to 1974. One of the victims was as young as 13 years old when it occurred. The abuse of these individuals consisted of “choking, slapping, punching, rape, sodomy, fellatio, anal intercourse,” and other acts according to Diocesan records reviewed by the Grand Jury.

[Presley's information begins on page 80 in the full report.]

Name: Reverend Henry Paul
Location: St. Joachim, Philadelphia, PA
Date: “After leaving Sacred Heart [in 1979], Paul was assigned to St. Joachim in Philadelphia. He died in 1982.”

In April 1979, a known individual wrote a letter to Bishop McShea of the Diocese of Allentown stating that her niece and “a few other little girls” from the parish of the Sacred Heart Church, New Philadelphia, Schuylkill County, had been “bothered” by Paul. The individual reported that Paul took the little girls to the rectory and kissed them. One girl went home and told her mother that she knew how to French kiss. The girl told her mother Father Paul had showed her.

Paul admitted that he had a deep love for children and that he did kiss younger children but that it was done in an appropriate way. Paul denied any inappropriate contact. … A man named Bob Fagan spoke to fifteen to twenty children in the parish about Paul. He reported that three or four children told Fagan they had kissed Paul. None of the children with whom Fagan spoke was over the age of twelve. Fagan spoke with Paul about what he’d learned and Paul became “panic stricken.” Fagan then promised not to report Paul since the situation “seemed under control.”

Two months later, a parishioner stated her daughter was told by Paul to go home and take her underwear off and then return to him at the chapel. It was at this point that Fagan and others recommended Paul be removed from the parish.

After leaving Sacred Heart, Paul was assigned to St. Joachim in Philadelphia. He died in 1982.

[Paul's information begins on page 356 in the full report.]

Name: Reverend Gerald Royer
Location: St. Mary of the Assumption, Philadelphia, PA
Date: March 1954 to November 1955

In April 2018, a victim testified before the Fortieth Statewide Investigating Grand Jury. He disclosed that the abuse that occurred in 1948 still haunts him to this day. The victim attended Saints Simon and Jude in Bethlehem. He was 12 years old. Royer would kiss the victim, and the kissing progressed to molestation. Royer would abuse the child behind the airport in Allentown, in his home, and in the rectory. Royer would have the child sit in a green chair located near a closet and the rectory’s safe. Royer would fondle the victim’s genitals. The child told a friend who didn’t believe him, so the friend hid in a closet and watched Royer molest the victim.

The victim said he was unable to kiss or hug his own children, who were boys. He was unable to be affectionate with his grandchildren. He cannot be seen by male doctors or dentists. His therapist had to be a female. He said every day of his life he’d been tormented by what Royer did to him.

[Royer's information begins on page 367 in the full report.]

Name: Reverend Charles J. Ruffenach
Location: St. Mary of the Assumption, Philadelphia, PA
Date: June 1931 to September 1934

In 2001, a victim contacted the Diocese to report physical and sexual abuse by Ruffenach in 1945, and continuing for seven years. The victim stated that Ruffenach beat, paddled, and sexually abused him when he attended St. John the Baptist school. The abuse took place on the premises of the parish.

[Ruffenach's information begins on page 369 in the full report.]

Name: Reverend Joseph A. Zmijewski, D.D.
Location: Assistant, St. Ladislaus, Philadelphia, PA
Date: August 1938 to July 1942

In October 2004, an adult woman reported to the Diocese of Allentown she'd been sexually abused as a child at the hands of a Diocesan priest. The victim grew up in Reading. In 1950, while in ninth grade, the victim met Father Joseph Zmijewski. She was experiencing unhappiness and began meeting with Zmijewski regularly for counseling. 

Zmijewski proposed an alternative treatment: hypnosis. The victim increasingly became frustrated with the routine; after the first three attempts to hypnotize her, she feigned hypnosis during the fourth session. Zmijewski instructed the "hypnotized" victim to take off one piece of clothing after another. The victim complied until she was nude. Zmijewski left the room, then returned and told the victim to get dressed. 

Upon receiving the victim's report, the Diocese noted that the abuse would have happened before the formation of the Allentown Diocese within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and referred the complaint to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

[Zmijewski's information begins on page 387 in the full report.]

Name: Revered John P. Connor
Location and date: Between 1962 and 1966, he worked in Vineland, Gloucester, Haddon Heights and Haddon Township. From 1970 to 1985, he worked as Chairperson at Bishop Eustace Preparatory, Pennsauken Township.

In October 1984, Connor was arrested in New Jersey for sexually molesting a 14-year-old child. It took place in Connor’s home in the Diocese of Camden when he was a theology teacher and golf coach at Bishop Eustace Prep. Connor never went to trial because lawyers for the Diocese negotiated a pretrial intervention with the Cape May Prosecutor’s Office. The terms were that if Connor admitted to molesting the child, he would have the record of his arrest erased as long as he were not re-arrested within one year.

In a September 1985 memorandum, the Executive Director of Southdown Institute (where Connor spent eight months in treatment after the arrest) cautioned that “because of the incident for which he was apprehended, we would not recommend any ministry that would directly put him in a positions of responsibility for adolescents such as a teaching situation.”

In October 1985, Bevilacqua appointed Connor the Chaplin to the Catholic Patients at Sewickley Valley Hospital.

In September 1988, Bevilacqua appointed him as assistant pastor of St. Matthew in Conshohocken, a parish with a grade school. There was no warning to the parishioners of the church that Connor was an admitted child molester.

Update, 8/21/18: Bishop Eustace's Head of School, Angelo Milicia, said in an email the school has never had a "Chairperson" position, and that Connor was removed from his position in 1984. These claims would run counter to the report's character file on Connor, which listed his job title as "Chairperson" and said his tenure at the school ran from 1970 to 1985.

[Connor's information begins on page 626 in the full report.]

Name: Reverend Robert E. Spangenberg, C.S.
Location: Administrator, St. Peter Claver, Philadelphia, PA
Date: 1993 to [N/A]; also Faculty at Holy Ghost Prep, Bensalem, PA in 1974

Much of the report's information on Spangenberg was put together through newspaper articles and Spangenberg's obituary. The full report includes an adult male, in 2009, reporting that he and Spangenberg engaged in many types of sexual encounters when he was 15 to 16 years old. He said he was involved in street prostitution with young boys. 

He was befriended by Spangenberg at this time and said Spangenberg paid the boy a finder's fee to locate younger boys to have sex with the priest. Spangenberg reportedly used money from the collection box to pay for the boy's sexual services. In a note in the Diocesan files, it was documented the boy thought Spangenberg was a "really sick guy." 

[Spangenberg's information begins on page 766 in the full report.]


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