Top row, from left: Sister Marian Behrle, SSJ; Sister Judy Ridley, SSJ; Sister Peg Fleming, SSJ; Sister Kathy McShane, SSJ. Bottom row: Sister Pat Madden, SSJ; Sister Mary Scullion, Sisters of Mercy; Sister Connie Trainor, SSJ; Sister Carol Ann Knight, SHCJ. Portraits by Gene Smirnov
A metal grille separates me from Sister Mary Caritas as we speak. Her words float through the gold-painted lattice, her voice small and strained, her lungs still infected from a tough bout of pneumonia. The oxygen machine she’s attached to whirs as the clock ticks to our right, and I stare at the small Nativity scene on the table beside her.
There are a few things I know about Sister Mary Caritas. I know she’s spent the majority of her life indoors, draped in a bubble-gum-colored habit. I know she wasn’t always named Sister Mary Caritas. She gave up the name she was born with at 19, roughly the same age at which I left for college, when she made the decision to become a nun and devote her life to God.
Sister Mary, 77, belongs to the order of the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters, or the Pink Sisters, as they’re known for their rose-colored habits. The order’s convent and Chapel of Divine Love sit quietly at 22nd and Green streets in Fairmount, where the nuns have prayed — nonstop — for more than a century. To ensure that prayer is constantly flowing at the convent’s chapel, the sisters work in shifts. At any time, visitors looking for a little company, compassion or quiet can stroll through the chapel’s arched wooden doorway and down the aisle between its cerulean stained-glass windows to find at least one Pink Sister perched on a wooden pew, facing the church’s altar in absolute silence, separated from the public by an ornate gate that stretches from one side of the room to the next. Read more »
Archbishop Charles Chaput. Photo | Jeff Fusco
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has criticized Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her campaign for what he called “anti-Catholic” emails released in a yet another WikiLeaks hack. Read more »
In this Jan. 6, 2014 file photo, Monsignor William Lynn walks from the criminal justice center in Philadelphia. The landmark conviction of the Roman Catholic church official imprisoned over his handling of abuse complaints in Philadelphia has been overturned for the second time. A Superior Court ruling, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015, awarded Lynn a new trial.
A Philadelphia judge has assigned former church official Monsignor William Lynn a new trial date, just two days after he was released from prison.
Lynn is the highest-ranking Catholic Church official to be convicted with endangering the safety of children by allowing sexual abuse by priests to go largely unchecked. But that conviction was overturned.
Read more »
Catholic League head Bill Donohue and Mayor Jim Kenney
The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights is a group dedicated to “defending the right of the Church to promote its teachings with as much verve as any other institution in society.” It was founded by a Jesuit priest, but is led by a layman. Since 1993, Bill Donohue has been the Catholic League’s president. He frequently issues bombastic press releases about Catholicism and the public.
You know what’s coming. Yesterday, Mayor Jim Kenney called Philly Archbishop Charles Chaput’s directive to deny communion to gay, divorced and unwed couples “un-Christian.”
Today, Donohue and the Catholic league struck back. “James Kenney was elected mayor of Philadelphia,” Donohue wrote in a release. “He seems to think that gives him the authority, or qualifications, to run the Catholic Church in his city. It does not.” Read more »
St. Peter Claver Church. Photo courtesy Arlene Edmonds. William Barney Richardson holds a Mass card for the Shrine of Our Lady of Victories inside the church. Photo | Sabrina Vourvoulias
In 1986, Cardinal John Krol suppressed it. In 2014, it was formally closed. And now, in 2016, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is petitioning to remove the final bar to its sale — a deed restriction specifying that the real estate at 1212-1222 Lombard Street is held “in trust” for Black Catholics in Philadelphia — unless enough written objections to the petition are received by the Clerk of the Orphans’ Court Division of Philadelphia before a hearing to be held Monday, June 6, 2016, at 1:30 p.m. at Court Room 416 in City Hall.
The property in question is St. Peter Claver, the mother church for Black Catholics in the city since 1892, and a site of real symbolic and historical significance for more than just African Americans.
Although the register of Old St. Joseph’s shows that both free and enslaved Black people attended Mass in the Old City worship site opened in 1733, Masses there were segregated, with just a few Black Catholics believed to have been able to rent pews in the balcony gallery. The Black Catholic community which grew greatly during the 19th century thanks in part to an influx of Haitian emigres, commonly experienced having to sit in the balcony or back pews of churches during Mass, and having to wait for all white congregants to receive Communion before they could go to receive.
St. Peter Claver, dedicated in 1892 in the former Fourth Presbyterian Church on 12th and Lombard Streets, was the first and only Catholic church where Black Catholics could feel comfortable and at home. It had been purchased by members of Old St. Joseph’s, Old St. Mary’s and Holy Trinity churches who formed the St. Peter Claver Union and with the assistance of Philadelphia heiress (and later, saint) Katharine Drexel, they were able to purchase the property that first included a school for African Americans, and later the church and attendant property. Read more »
Right: Former Miss Georgia USA Brenda Sharman, who led the girls-only assembly at Cardinal O’Hara High School, in a Pure Fashion publicity photo.
Colette Scorzetti is a senior at Delaware County Catholic school Cardinal O’Hara, and she’s not afraid of speaking her mind. Back in June 2015, upon learning of the Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage, Scorzetti posted on Facebook a “Celebrate Pride” rainbow-colored photo of her and one of her female friends wearing rings on their fourth fingers. And now, with graduation just around the corner, she’s taking aim at an assembly that Cardinal O’Hara recently held for girls. Read more »
Ralph Cipriano, left. Slade McLaughlin, right.
Billy Doe’s lawyer is pushing back against a Newsweek cover story that questions his client’s veracity in several Philadelphia Catholic Church sex abuse cases.
“I would think Newsweek would do some modicum of investigation of its journalism to make sure it was fair and unbiased,” said Slade McLaughlin. He took particular aim at the story’s author, Ralph Cipriano, a longtime Philly journalist who has covered the case closely for years.
“Ralph has an agenda,” McLaughlin said. “Ralph has his points to make.”
Cipriano this week stood by his reporting. “There’s no reason to believe this kid,” he told Philly Mag. He said criticism of the story amounted to “shooting the messenger” — and avoiding tackling hard questions raised by his reporting.
“My agenda was to expose a suspect prosecution and a fraudulent ‘victim’ who gamed the system,” Cipriano said in response to McLaughlin’s quote. “And he couldn’t have done it without his legal enablers, beginning in the district attorney’s office and ending with Slade McLaughlin.
Newsweek deputy editor Bob Roe also defended the story in an email to Philly Mag, saying Cipriano ” has consistently demonstrated that his loyalty is to the truth, not the players. We stand by the story.” Read more »
A new Newsweek cover story claims that the “star witness” in the Philadelphia sex abuse scandal that sent Monsignor William Lynn, two priests and a school teacher to prison has credibility problems that undermine his testimony.
According to Newsweek, that witness — known publicly by a pseudonym, “Billy Doe” — offered conflicting stories about the incidents at the heart of his testimony, “bombed out” of a psychiatric test on the eve of a civil trial in the matter, and is a “former heroin user and dealer who had been kicked out of two high schools and been in and out of 23 drug rehabs over a 10-year period.”
Newsweek’s story — “Catholic Guilt? The Lying, Scheming Altar Boy Behind A Lurid Rape Case” — also suggests that District Attorney Seth Williams ignored the conflicts in testimony and errors in a grand jury report on the matter in his zeal to prosecute the case.
“Yes, we do continue to stand by the prosecutions and witness,” Cameron Kline, a spokesman for Williams, said via email Friday afternoon. Doe’s attorney did not immediately respond to a Philly Mag inquiry for comment. Read more »
In this Jan. 6, 2014 file photo, Monsignor William Lynn walks from the criminal justice center in Philadelphia. The landmark conviction of the Roman Catholic church official imprisoned over his handling of abuse complaints in Philadelphia has been overturned for the second time. A Superior Court ruling, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 awarded Lynn a new trial.
District Attorney Seth Williams said Monday he will ask the Pennsylvania Superior Court to re-hear arguments in the case of Monsignor William Lynn, the highest-ranking Catholic Church official to be convicted in the church’s sex abuse scandal.
Last week, a 2-1 panel of the court ordered Lynn to receive a new trial in the case, saying that evidence from the church’s “Secret Archive” — material that included evidence of acts that took place decades before Lynn became secretary of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia — unfairly tainted his original trial. He was convicted of endangering the welfare of children.
Williams will ask the entire superior court — not just a three-person panel — to hear the appeal. Read more »
In this Jan. 6, 2014 file photo, Monsignor William Lynn walks from the criminal justice center in Philadelphia.
Msgr. William Lynn, the highest-ranking Catholic Church official to be convicted of endangering the welfare of children by allowing sexual abuse by priests to continue unchecked, will get a new trial under a ruling issued by the state Superior Court today.
In a 43-page opinion for the court majority, President Judge Emeritus John T. Bender wrote that by allowing the admission of the “Secret Archive,” a trove of previously unreleased records documenting child sexual abuse by Catholic priests over the years, the prosecution in the original Lynn trial prejudiced the jury against the defendant and that the judge’s instructions to the jury did not remove the prejudice. Read more »