from thixotropic - Sunday, June 24, 2007
accessed 981 times
One candidate for which I now cannot vote. He did so much good in other contexts. But, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren (and even more, remember the millstone promise)...
Anyone who has followed the career of Republican presidential contender Rudy Giuliani knows the value he places on personal loyalty. Loyalty is what inspired the former mayor of New York to make Bernard Kerik, once his personal driver, the commissioner of the New York Police Department, and then a partner in his consulting firm, and then to suggest him to President Bush as a potential head of the Department of Homeland Security.
After revelations about Kerik's personal history derailed his bid for
the federal post, Giuliani demonstrated that there were limits to
loyalty. He has distanced himself from Kerik, who resigned from
Giuliani's firm and later pleaded guilty to corruption charges. Giuliani
has not, however, sought to distance himself from another, much closer
friend whose personal baggage is also inconvenient, and would send most
would-be presidents running.
Giuliani employs his childhood friend Monsignor Alan Placa as a
consultant at Giuliani Partners despite a 2003 Suffolk County, N.Y.,
grand jury report that accuses Placa of sexually abusing children, as
well as helping cover up the sexual abuse of children by other priests.
Placa, who was part of a three-person team that handled allegations of
abuse by clergy for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, is referred to as
Priest F in the grand jury report. The report summarizes the testimony
of multiple alleged victims of Priest F, and then notes, "Ironically,
Priest F would later become instrumental in the development of Diocesan
policy in response to allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests."
Five years after he was suspended from his duties because of the abuse
allegations, Placa is currently listed as "priest in residence" at St.
Aloysius Church in Great Neck, N.Y., where close friend Brendan Riordan
serves as pastor, and officially lives at the rectory there with
Riordan. In addition, Placa co-owns a penthouse apartment in Manhattan
with Riordan, the latest in a half-dozen properties the two men have
owned in common at various times since the late 1980s.
Placa has worked for Giuliani Partners since 2002. As of June 2007, he
remains on the payroll. "He is currently employed here," Giuliani
spokeswoman Sunny Mindel confirmed to Salon, adding that Giuliani
"believes Alan has been unjustly accused." Mindel declined to discuss
what role Placa plays with the consulting firm, or how much he is paid.
Says Richard Tollner, who testified before the grand jury that Placa had
molested him, "[Giuliani] has to speak up for himself and explain
himself. If he doesn't, people shouldn't vote for him." Adds Anne
Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, which tracks
suspected priest abuse, "I think Rudy Giuliani has to account for his
friendship with a credibly accused child molester."
Placa himself did not return several calls from Salon.
Placa, now 62, has been friends with Giuliani since childhood. The boys
attended Bishop Loughlin High School in Brooklyn together, where
Giuliani, Placa and Peter Powers, later to become chief aide to Giuliani
during his first term as mayor of New York City, were in an opera club
together. Placa and Giuliani would sometimes double-date. "After we'd
drop off the girls," Placa told the New York Times in 1997, "Rudy and I
would spend hours in the car or walking down the sidewalks, debating
ideas: religion, the problems of the world, what we wanted to be."
Giuliani, Powers and Placa later attended Manhattan College together and
were fraternity brothers at Phi Rho Pi.
After college, Placa attended seminary and became a Catholic priest.
Ordained in May 1970, he was first assigned to St. Patrick's parish in
Glen Cove, N.Y., from 1970 to 1974. He then transferred to St. Pius X
Preparatory Seminary high school in Uniondale, N.Y., where he taught
till 1978. He served as director of research and development for
Catholic Charities from 1978 to 1986. He then went to work for the
Diocese of Rockville Centre, which covers 134 parishes in the two
suburban Long Island counties of Nassau and Suffolk and is the sixth
largest diocese in the country. Placa ran healthcare services for the
diocese, rising to the position of vice chancellor in 1988.
Though their career paths had diverged, Placa remained close to
Giuliani, and was actively involved in many of the most important events
of his friend's life. He was the best man at Giuliani's first marriage
in 1968 to his second cousin, Regina Peruggi, then helped Giuliani get
an annulment in 1982 -- over Regina's protests -- so he could marry his
second wife, Donna Hanover. Placa officiated at the wedding of Hanover
and Giuliani in 1984. In September 2002, while suspended by the diocese
over the sexual abuse allegations and no longer permitted to perform
priestly duties, Placa received special permission to officiate at the
funeral of the former mayor's mother, Helen. He also officiated at the
funeral of Giuliani's father and baptized both of Giuliani's children.
During Giuliani's political rise from U.S. attorney to mayor, when
reporters wanted quotes from old friends they would often turn to Placa.
A 1985 New York Times story noted that Placa stayed over at Giuliani's
apartment as often as once a week, where the two men would "talk poetry,
theology and politics deep into the night." The monsignor also knew
Giuliani well enough to describe his relationship with his father,
telling the Times, "A major theme with [Giuliani's] father was his
hatred for organized crime."
In 2000, when Mayor Giuliani dropped out of the race for the open U.S.
Senate seat now held by Hillary Clinton after finding out he had
prostate cancer, a Times reporter went to Placa for insight. He told the
paper that "it's been a dramatically challenging time."
When Time magazine named Giuliani its Person of the Year for 2001, Placa
appeared again in that story, saying he had known Giuliani since he was
13 and that his cancer and Sept. 11 had "made him face his mortality ...
and his immortality."
But while Giuliani was being celebrated for his performance on Sept. 11,
Alan Placa was about to lose his position of power. In addition to being
a priest, Placa had received a law degree, and he first came to work for
the diocese as its legal consultant. He was legal counsel to Bishop John
McGann, and, starting in 1992, also a member of a three-person diocesan
team charged with fielding allegations of sexual abuse by priests.
When a molestation scandal erupted in the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston
in early 2002, it spilled over into Long Island. The newly installed
bishop, William Murphy, had been the No. 2 official in Boston from 1993
to 2001. He had helped arrange early retirement for the most notorious
of the abusive priests, Father John Geoghan. After Geoghan was sentenced
to prison for molestation in February 2002, the archdiocese revealed
that it had settled 100 civil suits on Geoghan's behalf, and also gave
law enforcement the names of 90 priests accused of abuse. Responding to
public outcry, officials on Long Island subpoenaed the records of the
Rockville Centre Diocese, and Bishop Murphy turned over internal files
on accused priests to law enforcement in both Nassau and Suffolk
counties in March 2002.
In Nassau County, the district attorney concluded that the statute of
limitations had expired on all reported incidents and stopped
investigating. Suffolk County convened a special grand jury to
investigate specific allegations of abuse and how the diocese had dealt
with them. The jury heard from 97 witnesses over nine months, and
uncovered "deception and intimidation" by those diocesan officials who
were supposed to be fielding sexual abuse complaints from parishioners.
"The evidence before the grand jury," stated the report, "clearly
demonstrates that diocesan officials agreed to engage in conduct that
resulted in the prevention, hindrance and delay in the discovery of
criminal conduct by priests."
None of the diocesan officials or accused priests are cited in the grand
jury's final report by name; the report instead identifies 23 priests by
letter, and identifies diocesan officials by the duties they performed.
Ultimately, the grand jury determined that "priests working in the
Diocese of Rockville Centre committed criminal acts ... These criminal
acts included, but were not limited to, Rape, Sodomy, Sexual Abuse,
Endangering the Welfare of a Child and Use of a Child in a Sexual
Performance." Because the alleged criminal acts had occurred more than
five years ago, however, the statute of limitations meant no charges
could be filed against any of the accused.
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota would not confirm to the
Long Island newspaper Newsday at the time of the report's release in
February 2003 that Priest F was Alan Placa. Spota would say, however,
that "this is a person who was directly involved in the so-called policy
of the church to protect children, when in fact he was one of the
abusers." Multiple media outlets have named Placa as Priest F. Placa
implicitly acknowledged as much to the New York Times in a Feb. 20,
2003, story, titled "L.I. Monsignor Scorns Jury, Insisting He Is No
'Monster'," in which he denied the specific allegations in the report.
One of the victims whose testimony is cited in the report has also
confirmed to Salon that Placa is Priest F.
By the time of the report's release, Placa was no longer an active
priest. In April 2002, shortly before the grand jury's impaneling, Placa
stepped down as vice chancellor and went on sabbatical. The diocese
announced that he would be assigned to a parish as a priest after the
sabbatical. By then, several families had spoken to media outlets and
described their interaction with Monsignor Placa and complained about
how he had handled their allegations of abuse. (Placa would later tell a
reporter that while he was a member of the three-person diocesan team he
did not report allegations of abuse to law enforcement.) But the
sabbatical also came a week after Newsday contacted Placa and informed
him that accusers had come forward to say he had molested them.
Several months later, Placa's sabbatical turned into a suspension. On
June 3, 2002, Newsday published a story on the alleged victims who had
accused Placa of abusing them in the 1970s. One of the accusers was
Richard Tollner. On June 13, 2002, the day the Nassau County District
Attorney's Office contacted the diocese regarding the accusations
against Placa, Bishop Murphy stripped Placa of his right to perform
priestly duties like giving communion and officiating at weddings and
funerals, and placed him on administrative leave.
The Suffolk County grand jury report, released eight months after
Placa's suspension, includes evidence from three alleged victims. It
states that in Priest F's first assignment, "he appears to have made
feeble attempts at abusing a boy who was an alter [sic] server. ... He
pulled up a chair next to the boy and put his right hand on his thigh.
Slowly his hand began to creep up towards the boy's genital area.
Alarmed, the boy covered his crotch. ... The conduct repeated itself
within a week.
"After his first assignment," the report continues, "Priest F was
transferred within the Diocese to ... a school. Priest F was cautious,
but relentless in his pursuit of victims. He fondled boys over their
clothes, usually in his office. Always, his actions were hidden by a
poster, newspaper or a book. ... Everyone in the school knew to stay
away from Priest F."
The report describes two alleged victims complaining to the school's
rector about Priest F, and their "suspicions, later confirmed to be
correct," that the priest was abusing a fourth boy. Eventually, one of
the alleged victims told Priest F, in an encounter witnessed by another
boy, "Don't ever fucking touch me again or I'll kill you."
When one of the victims attempted to report the alleged abuse, "the
response I had gotten from my family, from my parents specifically was,
that's impossible ... Priests just don't do these things. You must be
The report also included memos apparently written by Placa in his
capacity as sex abuse investigator for the diocese. In a document from
June 1993, he asked colleagues, "Please do not identify me as an
attorney [to complainants.]" Another spoke of how Rockville Centre's
handling of abuse claims had resulted in the "lowest ratio of losses to
assets of any diocese. ... Our system is in place and working well." In
a letter, Placa spoke of "[giving] some of my time to helping other
bishops and religious congregations with delicate legal problems
involving the misconduct of priests. ... In the past 10 years, I have
been involved in more than two hundred such cases in various parts of
the country." While investigating sexual abuse claims against priests
for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, he also served as counsel to the
House of Affirmation, a mental-health facility for priests in Worcester,
Mass. Patients included priests accused of sexual abuse.
In an interview with Salon, former St. Pius X student Richard Tollner,
now 48, confirms that he is one of the alleged victims who testified
before the grand jury -- the one who allegedly told Priest F "Don't ever
fucking touch me again." He also confirms that Placa is Priest F.
Tollner claims Placa molested him and at least two others, but when he
told school authorities at the time, he says nothing happened. "No one
contacted my family or me," Tollner, now 48, recalls. "I told another
priest while I was on a retreat and he said he would explore it and he
never did." So far none of the alleged victims besides Tollner has come
forward publicly. Placa has denied Tollner's allegations and has
referred to the former St. Pius X student as "troubled."
More than four years after the release of the report, Placa remains on
administrative leave, as confirmed by Sean Dolan, a spokesman for the
diocese. Dolan said he believed there was still an investigative process
under way but that he didn't know its status. "You probably have to try
to contact [Placa]. I'm not in a position to know that." He added that
he didn't think there was a limit to administrative leave. "It can go on
indefinitely. I believe that's at the discretion of the bishop."
The church has instituted guidelines for handling allegations of sexual
abuse since the Boston scandal, directing that a review board made up
mostly of laypeople investigate claims. According to Jim Dwyer, former
director of media relations for the Archdiocese of Chicago and current
director of public information for the Diocese of Phoenix, if a diocese
investigates a priest for sexual abuse and determines that there is
"reasonable cause to suspect" that the charges are true, the priest
would be "permanently removed from ministry." "It's a lower threshold
than in criminal cases," stated Dwyer.
The status of priests who are still under investigation, however, is up
to the individual diocese. Dwyer said it was possible for administrative
leave to go on for a long period -- "weeks, months, more than a year" --
but that he was "unaware" of any administrative leave that had lasted
five years. "But I can imagine a situation where it might." Susan Gibbs,
spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington, also thought the duration
of Placa's leave was out of the ordinary. "If someone's on leave for
five years, it's a little unusual. Normally, if someone goes on leave
it's for a short period, about six months, which is renewable."
While Placa is on leave, he is employed elsewhere. In August 2002, after
his suspension but prior to the release of the grand jury report, he
took a job with Giuliani Partners. There is no public record, however,
of what that job entails.
Since the first accusations against Placa surfaced, Giuliani has
defended his childhood friend. In June 2002, he insisted that "Alan
Placa is one of the finest people I know." In addition to the statement
from Mindel to Salon reiterating the ex-mayor's support for Placa,
Mindel offered two former St. Pius X students to speak in Placa's
defense. Kevin McCormack, who attended St. Pius X while Placa was
teaching there and graduated in 1978, dismisses talk of abuse. He claims
he never heard of any molestation complaints and adds that the student
body was so small that word would have gotten around. "I find the
allegations very difficult to believe," says McCormack, now a principal
at Xaverian High School in Brooklyn, N.Y. "There was never anything like
that that was rumored."
Kevin Way, also a 1978 grad, agreed. "I can't imagine it," says Way, now
an attorney. "I find it utterly incredible."
Placa still officially lives at the rectory at St. Aloysius Church in
Great Neck, where he continues to be listed as priest in residence. The
victims' advocacy group Voice of the Faithful of Long Island held
protests outside of St. Aloysius in 2005 and distributed leaflets to
show its objection to Placa's involvement there. Says Phil Megna, co-
chair of Voice of the Faithful, "His claim to fame is that he bragged of
his ability to get things pushed under the rug."
Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the issue of whether a priest on
administrative leave could live on church property was a diocesan
decision. Dwyer of the Diocese of Phoenix said that in his experience it
was possible for a priest on administrative leave for sexual abuse
allegations to be a "priest in residence" at a church as well, as long
as there was no contact with children. In the Archdiocese of Los
Angeles, however, spokesman Todd Tamberg said that archdiocesan policy
would prevent a priest on administrative leave for allegations of sexual
abuse from being a "priest in residence. "If you've been put on
administrative leave you not only are restricted from functioning as a
priest or dressing as a priest but also from living on church property."
It is unclear, however, how much Placa is "in residence." In late 2005,
a few months after the Voice of the Faithful's protests, he purchased a
penthouse apartment in the Regatta, a condominium building on South End
Avenue in Manhattan. According to documents filed with the City of New
York, Placa co-owns the 650-square-foot, $550,000 apartment with Brendan
Riordan, the pastor of St. Aloysius. They are cited as "joint tenants
with right of survivorship" in a condominium unit assignment agreement
signed on Dec. 5, 2005. Giuliani spokeswoman Mindel confirmed that
Riordan and Placa co-own the apartment and said that Placa stays there
"on occasion," but that it is an investment property and he lives
primarily at the rectory. She said that Riordan "never stays there."
Placa and Riordan -- who also attended Helen Giuliani's funeral -- have
known each other for more than 30 years. Both taught at St. Pius X in
the late 1970s, and both worked within the Diocese of Rockville Centre
for most of their careers. Together they wrote a book called "Desert
Silence: A Way of Prayer for an Unquiet Age" in 1977.
Since the late 1980s, the two men have owned six different properties in
New York and Florida in common. From 1991 to 1998, while Riordan was
pastor of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Deer Park, N.Y., and Placa was
vice chancellor of the diocese, Placa was also priest in residence at
Saints Cyril and Methodius. Both men are listed as living at the church
rectory in public documents. According to the Official Catholic
Directory, Riordan had moved to St. Aloysius in Great Neck as pastor by
Jan. 1, 1999; Placa has been listed as priest in residence at St.
Aloysius since 1999.