Sins of the Father
And so, 13 years after the passing of Megan’s Law, six years after Boston’s scandal, and four years after the grand jury report that Cardinal Justin Rigali discouraged Catholics from reading, the church refuses to accept responsibility in unequivocal terms. In the wake of Father Charles’s thefts, the archdiocese sued the Franciscans, their longtime partners in faith, for damages, and accepted a $488,631 settlement. Yet it settled only a handful of claims with abuse victims after the grand jury report. No high-ranking church officials stepped down.
Instead, it’s largely business as usual. Consider Joseph Cistone, the bishop whose farewell mass Art Baselice protested this summer. The grand jury report cast him as an enabler who shielded Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, then head of the archdiocese, from firsthand contact with abuse allegations. Monsignor William Lynn, who is named hundreds of times in the report for his flawed investigations of accused priests, now runs a parish in Downingtown. Arthur’s parents were told the church was praying for their healing, and the archdiocese agreed to pay for Arthur’s medication before he died, as well as therapy for Elaine and Ashleigh. But the church’s lobbyists continue to block legislation that would give victims a chance to face their abusers in court.
It’s no wonder the Baselice family feels they were as much betrayed by the church as they were by Father Charles. “I don’t believe anybody in the hierarchy knows what to do,” says victims advocate Father Tom Doyle. “To them, spirituality is obedience to them and to liturgy. I don’t think they understand the damage, nor do they want to understand. They say, ‘Go back to the church. We’ll heal you on our terms.’ You’re asking people to go back to Auschwitz for dinner.”
FATHER CHARLES NEVER stood trial over his relationship with Arthur. At his sentencing hearing for theft, he denied giving drugs to Arthur, claimed they only had sex once (when Arthur was 18), and said the money he gave Arthur was to help pay gambling debts. But in his disjointed remarks, he never explained what happened to the $900,000 he stole. “You’re not telling the truth,” the judge responded. “I don’t even know if you’re admitting to yourself what you really have done.”
Upstairs in the Baselice house, Arthur’s bedroom has been faithfully preserved, like a museum display. His workout schedule and a pack of Marlboros sit on his nightstand. A football jersey hangs on his closet door. It gives Elaine Baselice some small comfort. She can’t bring herself to join Art when he stands in front of archdiocese headquarters with other survivors, holding his sign. This has become his crusade. He knows there are more victims. Arthur told Elaine he once walked in on Father Charles while he was molesting another boy, but refused to give up his fellow victim’s name.