A Newsweek cover story by Ralph Cipriano exposed how a Catholic sex abuse fraud turned Fr Charles Engelhardt into a martyr, and Daniel Gallagher into a millionaire.
This post has a most urgent preface, one that arrived in the mail just as I sat down to type. It was a single page sent to me by TSW reader Helen, a frequent commenter from Pennsylvania who wrote across the top of the page, “Father Gordon, your face could be on this print.” No, Helen, it could not! The face on that printed page is someone I once met at a pivotal time in my life as a priest, but the sender could not have known that. Helen simply stumbled upon a quote she thought I ought to see, and she was right. The face and the quote on that page belong to the late Father John Hardon (1914 – 2000), an American Jesuit priest whose cause for beatification has begun with a recognition in Rome that he is held to be a Servant of God.
Father Hardon and I met in 1989 by “coincidence,” if you still believe in such things. I don’t, but how and why we met is another post for another day. Suffice it for now to say that it was an encounter I could not forget, and when I saw his face on that printed page, and read the words attributed to him, it seemed as though he once again stood next to me with a firm grip upon my shoulder. The quote expresses perfectly why I must write this post, why you must read it, and why together we must share it boldly, and as far and wide as we can make it travel. I took Father Hardon’s words to be a directive, and so should you. Here is the quote:
“Our duty as Catholics is to know the truth; to live the truth; to defend the truth; to share the truth with others; and to suffer for the truth.” (Father John Hardon).
A few weeks ago when I wrote my post, “American Crime Story,” it included a small piece of irony toward the end when I revealed why I felt so compelled to write it:
“How could I NOT? Maybe someone else in the media will catch the example of the likes of Marcia Clark and Dorothy Rabinowitz and grow a spinal column.”
It seems I had omitted someone from the “media spinal column” category, and that someone is journalist Ralph Cipriano. For some time now, he has been covering events in Philadelphia for BigTrial.net, his outstanding Philadelphia Trial Blog. A few weeks ago, Mr. Cipriano published a major media event in a Newsweek cover story entitled “Catholic Guilt? The Lying, Scheming Altar Boy Behind a Lurid Rape Case” (Jan. 20, 2016).
This is a dark story, and a painful one, and for any number of reasons you might be tempted to click it away at this point, but that would be a big mistake, for it became a matter not only of justice, but of life and death. Ralph Cipriano’s Newsweek article arrived in the prison mail on the same day as the above quote from Servant of God, Father John Hardon, and I knew instantly that I had to write about this.
Reading through the Newsweek piece was a vivid experience of deja vu because I have written of this story before – just over a year ago – in a post entitled, “A Rolling Stone Gathers No Facts, Just Dirt.” It was an account of how a good, kind and much loved priest, Father Charles Engelhardt, was martyred in prison as a result of greed and false witness. It is this same story that Ralph Cipriano just covered in Newsweek, and both are to be commended for some courageous against-the-tide reporting. The Church and priesthood are indebted to Newsweek for presenting this story so boldly in a leading secular media venue while so much of the Catholic press crossed to the other side on the road to Jericho.
Father Charles Engelhardt died while chained to a bed in a prison medical unit late in 2014, and the full telling of this story is all that will bring meaning and purpose to his death.
So be brave, please, and read this post to the end, then share it every way you can. Do this, please, to honor the Servant of God who just told us that our duty as Catholics is to know, defend, and share the truth. Do this, please, to honor Father Charles Engelhardt who suffered for the truth and for his priesthood, a suffering that cost him his life.
THE DIRT DEPOSITED BY A ROLLING STONE
In fact, I have written of the various facets of this story several times. The first was “Trophy Justice: The Philadelphia Msgr William Lynn Case,” and more recently in “Mercy Frees Roman Polanski. Justice Frees Monsignor Lynn.” I’d like to think that I approached both articles as Ralph Cipriano did, with cool journalistic detachment, but I now admit that’s very hard to do when the story has a Kafkaesque ring that is all too familiar. I was admittedly angry and not at all detached when I wrote “A Rolling Stone Gathers No Facts, Just Dirt,” a fact conveyed in my Search Engine summary for that post:
“Before Rolling Stone’s Sabrina Rubin Erdely fell for an untrue UVA gang rape story, she was conned by ‘Billy Doe’ whose tale took the life of an innocent priest.”
One year later I find myself no less angry revisiting it. It told the tale of how Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s infamous November 19, 2014 Rolling Stone article, “A Rape on Campus” came unraveled as her account of serial rape at the University of Virginia was debunked and widely exposed as grossly inaccurate and misinformed. Ms. Erdely fell for the story of “Jackie,” took it at face value, and ran with it – doing much damage not only to UVA and its students, but to Rolling Stone and the field of journalism itself.
Since I first wrote of this story, the University of Virginia and its Phi Kappa Psi fraternity have filed multi-million dollar libel and slander lawsuits naming Sabrina Rubin Erdely and Rolling Stone magazine as defendants. Both have since suffered serious losses in journalistic credibility. Rolling Stone magazine has since retracted Ms. Erdely’s account of a lurid frat house serial rape case at UVA. Her Rolling Stone article, “A Rape on Campus,” is today widely seen as grossly irresponsible and agenda-driven slander masked as journalism.
However, Mr. Cipriano’s bold Newsweek cover story is the first hint of media clamor to revisit Ms. Erdely’s other Rolling Stone debacle, “The Catholic Church’s Secret Sex Crime Files” in which she introduced “Billy Doe,” a purported victim of violent and horrific sexual abuse by Catholic priests. Billy Doe, granted anonymity by Rolling Stone and everyone else in the news media, was described by Ms. Erdely as “a sweet, gentle kid with boyish good looks” who had been callously “passed around” from predator to predator in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. The story eventually resulted in $5 million in settlements for Billy Doe while landing three innocent Catholic priests in prison.
One of those priests was Father Charles Engelhardt whose decision to stand by the truth against Billy Doe’s $5 million slander cost this good priest his life. As journalist Ralph Cipriano reveals in Newsweek, Father Engelhardt refused pre-trial plea deals including one deal on the eve of trial that would have resulted in no time in prison and a sentence of simple “community service.” Father Engelhardt chose the truth, and he chose to suffer for the truth. He instead was sentenced to a term of six to twelve years in prison “because he would not perjure himself by pleading guilty ‘to make a deal,’ to admit to a crime he did not commit.” In “Handcuffs and a Hospital Bed,” a November 17, 2014 posting at his “Big Trial” blog, Cipriano wrote:
“For Father Charles Engelhardt, the ordeal is finally over. The 67-year-old priest died at 8:30 PM Saturday night [November 15, 2014] an inmate at the State Correctional Institution in Coal Township [PA] where he served nearly two years of a 6-to-12 year sentence.”
DANIEL IN THE LIARS’ DEN
The man dubbed “Billy Doe” – while the media shielded his true nature from view in all this – is Daniel Gallagher. Today he is a free man living in Florida where he settled into a lifestyle bankrolled by $5 million in settlements from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and, in part, its insurers. Gallagher lives free from scrutiny and the long arm of the law because the DA, judge, and news media in Philadelphia all got behind this case, but remain unable to surrender enough of their hubris to stop covering for him, to admit to their pursuit of “trophy justice,” and to allow the facts to invade their field of vision. Sometimes the obstacle to justice comes down to mere ego.
In his riveting Newsweek article, and in “Newsweek’s Cover Boy Makes a Media Splash” on his BigTrial.net blog last month (Jan. 28, 2016) Ralph Cipriano pursued the truth about who and what Daniel Gallagher is. From his claims of serial victimhood to his ever changing accounts of abuse, to his vague and amorphous facts and stories, to his most recent (and most troubling) psychiatric profile, Daniel Gallagher is exposed as
“chronically maladjusted, immature, self-indulgent, manipulating others to his own ends, refuses to accept responsibility for his own problems, exaggerated, grandiose, hedonistic, impulsive, manipulative and self-serving, paranoid, delusional…”
And the list doesn’t stop there. Gallagher pulled off a con man’s dream when he got a DA and judge to agree that his 23 failed stints in drug treatment were all someone else’s fault. Do you recall “Sex Abuse and Signs of Fraud,” my 2005 article in Catalyst? It quoted a prison inmate who reacted to the flood of decades-old claims against priests with a dose of brutal self-honesty about his proclivities and his enablers:
“So let me get this straight. If I say that some priest touched me funny all those years ago, I’ll be seen as a victim, I’ll be paid for it, and my life will be seen as his fault instead of mine. Do you have any idea how tempting this is?”
Daniel Gallagher’s claim of having passed polygraph tests also now appears to be no more truthful than his claim of being passed from priest to priest. No one but his contingency lawyer claims to have seen polygraph results, and efforts to obtain them have been met with silence. Meanwhile, Father Charles Engelhardt DID take polygraph tests, and passed them conclusively, as did other priests in Daniel Gallagher/Billy Doe’s sights. (And for what it is worth, so did I).
Readers of These Stone Walls should find a loud and clear ring of the familiar in all this. Everything now said of Daniel Gallagher in these reports could be said of Thomas Grover. Take that back. Everything said in these reports HAS been said of Thomas Grover. And it has all been said of Shamont Lyle Sapp, a con man who landed settlements from accusing four priests in four different states until he was exposed by a U.S. attorney and a journalist with integrity. I take no credit, but he was also exposed in my TSW post, “Catholic Priests and the Perversions of Predators.”
The big difference here is that – like “The Trials of Father MacRae” by Dorothy Rabinowitz in The Wall Street Journal, some real news media has taken notice of the Daniel Gallagher scam, but not in time to save the life of Father Charles Engelhardt. Still, these revelations of truth bring immense comfort to those still charged with clearing this good priest’s good name. But there’s more than that at stake here. You have been duped. Our Church has been duped, and cast aside in the public square in the process. The truth is a value in its own right, and we owe it to ourselves to learn it and share it.
I can only thank Ralph Cipriano and Newsweek for taking this on, and for telling a truth most in the news media couldn’t care less about. Take a little time, please, and read the Newsweek article and Mr. Cipriano’s BigTrial.net blog, and share a link to this post with others. I know one Servant of God who will smile upon you for it.