a new dawn: defrocked priest heads to jail on child molestation charges

Father Touchy Feely goes to jail today.  I hate to say I was glad to hear this but I was.  I am glad that Edward V. Avery is off the streets. Finally.  Even if it will only be for a couple of years or so.

Why do I care?  This man lived in my old neighborhood for years and years.  On a street named Berkley Road in Lower Merion Township which has always had lots of kids and small children growing up there.  He until recently owned an apartment building he inherited from his late mother Rachel Avery called the Berkley Arms.  A fabulous early 20th century building with large apartments, that throughout the years has also on occasion been home to families with small children.

For years we all watched and waited.  Avery was named in September 2005 in a Grand Jury Report just a couple of days after his mother died.   In 2006 Avery was defrocked by the Vatican.  Yet in this neighborhood full of young children he remained.  He lived across from a narrow street from a Lower Merion School District bus stop.

No one watched him, no one that we knew of monitored him.  He was as a former priest not yet convicted outside the realm of Megan’s Law websites, so if you did not know, you did not know.

I will say that although I thought his little old mother was adorable, he and his brother Kenneth (who died in 2008 and I loved how they referred to Edward Avery in his obituary as Reverend Doctor although he was a Reverend of nothing at this point) always creeped me out.  There was nothing I could ever put my finger on, it was female intuition I guess.

I first became aware of Edward Avery’s presence many many years ago (about 15 years I think)  because he drove at the time a high-end sedan like a  caddy and  I think it was then  followed by a high-end SUV with vanity plates that said “FREVA” (eventually the vanity plates went away and were replaced with first regular PA plates then FL plates) – that stood I always assumed for Father Edward V. Avery.  Being raised a Catholic I found that flashy display somewhat distasteful since all you hear about from jump as a child are how nuns and priests have these vows of poverty and whatnot.   I also wondered about God’s plan when this man was outed in Grand Jury reports and then inherited a very tasty real estate portfolio.   How does God let a man charged with hurting children become in essence a millionaire?  How did the Archdiocese of Philadelphia just put this guy back into a residential neighborhood filled with kids?

In late October 2009 while at a political event for a local candidate from my old neighborhood, Avery approached me.  Why me I will never know, because we weren’t buddies.  He was always filed as be polite and keep on moving whenever I saw him.   He sat there with a beer in his hand and told me how he was being targeted blah, blah, blah.  There I sat with camera in hand not knowing what to do.  It was horribly uncomfortable to listen to someone you did not believe for one hot moment with empathy.  I remember saying to him his choice of venue to discuss his current events with neighbors and locals was inappropriate at best, and if he was innocent, the truth would will out.  Ick.

So when he was charged anew in Philadelphia in February 2011, if I saw him on the street, I turned and moved the other way.  And wondered what would happen this time.

Here is an article from March 13, 2011 from the Inquirer that also appears on BishopAccountability.org:

‘Smiling Padre’: His path to court

Case may be a guide in Phila. prosecution.

March 13, 2011|By John P. Martin, Inquirer Staff Writer

In 1995, a few hundred people packed a Northeast Philadelphia banquet hall to mark a milestone for the Rev. Edward Avery: a quarter-century in the priesthood.

By then, Avery had cultivated a near-celebrity profile as an outspoken advocate for Asian immigrants and as an exuberant part-time disc jockey.

The Smiling Padre, he was called.

At his celebration, Avery took to the piano and belted out an Irish tune. “He was beaming,” a former parishioner recalled.

Few knew the underside of Avery’s record. Two years earlier, he had been plucked from his parish and secretly sent to an inpatient program for sexually abusive priests….

Now 68 and defrocked, Avery is one of four current or former priests due in court Monday for the first time since their arrests last month on abuse or related charges. The hearing comes less than a week after the archdiocese suspended 21 priests pending a review of old allegations against them, and follows a grand jury report that blasted the archdiocese’s efforts to expel abusers and aid victims.

If true, the allegations against Avery starkly illustrate how church officials may have ignored warning signs and concealed a possible child predator from parishioners, then scrambled to remove him amid the national furor over abusive priests…..Avery did not answer requests for an interview left at his Haverford apartment. His attorney, Michael Wallace, also did not respond to calls. An archdiocesan spokeswoman said it would have no comment about Avery or the grand jury’s depiction of him.

Avery made his only public remarks about his removal in 2003 when he told The Inquirer that his life and career had been unfairly ruined because of a misunderstanding one night decades earlier.

“I am totally devastated,” he said…..The grand jury report suggests the allegation that led to Avery’s removal was more serious than he has said.

It happened in 1992, when Avery was pastor at St. Therese of the Child Jesus in the Northeast and enjoyed a reputation as a popular and energetic priest.

For a decade, he had been a vocal advocate for the burgeoning Hmong immigrant community in Philadelphia. He helped a family of Hmong orphans settle in a house close to his rectory. He became legal guardian of the two youngest siblings, records show, and called all of them his adopted children.

Avery also flourished as a record-spinning cleric who entertained at bars, parties, and school dances.

“It’s been very beneficial to my priesthood,” he told the Philadelphia Daily News about his DJ business in 1984. “I’ve been able to give a lot of counseling and that type of thing because of it. Parents see me and send their kids to me. They see I’m approachable.”

In a letter in September 1992, a 29-year-old medical student accused Avery of having molested him when he was an altar boy at St. Philip Neri in Pennsburg in the late 1970s…..Archdiocesan officials sent Avery to the Anodos Center at St. John Vianney in Downingtown, a treatment center for clergy sex offenders.

After four days of evaluation, doctors found Avery’s account of his interaction with the young man “vague and inconsistent” and recommended inpatient treatment, the grand jury report says.

Ten months later, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua acted on the request…..Avery remained in Downingtown for six months in 1993. At one point, his accuser was invited to confront him at the hospital. Lynn’s handwritten notes indicated Avery had been “angry” and “in denial” but “got into shame” when he faced his accuser, the grand jury report says.

At the same time, the cardinal’s ranking assistant, Msgr. Edward P. Cullen, allegedly directed Lynn to inform St. Therese parishioners that Avery had left for health reasons…..Avery was discharged from the treatment center that fall with recommendations for “a ministry excluding adolescents and with a population other than vulnerable minorities.” Doctors also said he should attend Alcoholics Anonymous and limit his contact with the Hmong to an administrative or pastoral capacity, according to the grand jury report.

Bevilacqua assigned Avery to work at Nazareth Hospital and live at St. Jerome’s. In a letter to the pastor there, Lynn said Avery should help out “as much as he was able” but made no mention of his treatment or the allegation, the grand jury report says…..Doctors also prescribed an aftercare team to monitor Avery and regularly chart his progress. That team, composed of Lynn and two other priests, allegedly did not meet for more than a year after Avery’s discharge. One of the priests “denied even knowing he was on such a team,” the grand jury found….In December 2003, Bevilacqua’s successor, Cardinal Justin Rigali, declared the accusation credible and removed Avery from ministry. In a letter petitioning the Vatican to defrock Avery, Rigali said he was “morally certain” the allegations were true.

According to the grand jury report, the church offered Avery $87,000 if he agreed to leave the priesthood. It’s not clear whether he took the money or whether he collects a pension or other benefits.

Avery still lives in the 85-year-old, sand-colored apartment building, the Berkley Arms, that his family has owned for a half-century. State records indicate he registered a business called Avery Solar at that address, but it’s unclear what the business is or whether it still exists…..Avery’s mother, Rachel, died in 2005, and named him sole heir to her estate, valued at $1.1 million, public records show. Most of that reflects the value of the Berkley Road apartment building, just steps from the Haverford train station and the tony boutiques of Haverford Square.

He sold his North Wildwood home in 1999. Two years ago, Avery bought a two-bedroom beachside condo in Ormond Beach, Fla., public records show.

I couldn’t believe when the news broke on March 22, 2012 that he was pleading guilty to sexually molesting an altar boy.  Huh, so there we have it, then?  Do innocent men please guilty of sexually abusing kids?  Wow.

When the news broke of Avery’s confession I was once again deeply troubled and angered by the shepherds of my religious Faith: the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  With every day it becomes apparent they have just shifted these sick and morally depraved individuals around various communities with really no one watching them and even fewer people knowing what it is that ails them.

How is that living and acting God’s word?  I still don’t understand.  It also brings to mind a conversation I had with a very sour Monsignor at St. Catherine of Siena in Wayne a few years back during of all things a viewing before a funeral.  At the time, I was planning a move to Wayne and that would have been my new parish.  This guy was all up in my face about getting married in “The Church.”  I don’t know what the guy’s name was, but in March 2011, that parish had a priest removed on suspected abuse charges – The Rev. Monsignor John Close (1969), pastor, St. Katharine of Siena Church, Wayne section of Radnor .  Once again it made me think about the irony of the Catholic Church being worried about my immortal soul, yet for how long in the greater Philadelphia area did they move pedophile priests around like some sort of twisted shell game?

(A good website tracking all this and more if you are interested is BishopAccountability.org )

I was happy when NBC10’s Tim Furlong reported on Avery going to jail this morning:

By NBC10 Philadelphia – Tim Furlong

Former priest Edward Avery will head to prison Monday after pleading guilty on a child molestation charge. NBC10’s Tim Furlong reports that Avery could be behind bars for five years

So what about this Anodos Center at St. John Vianney in Downingtown?  On their website they say:

Opening in 1946, Saint John Vianney Center is the oldest running behavioral health facility in North America for clergy and religious. We are an internationally-renowned behavioral health organization. Saint John Vianney Center is a faith-centered community that specializes in the treatment of behavioral health issues that are unique to Catholic clergy and consecrated religious, as well as the clergy of other major Christian denominations. Our research-based, multi-disciplinary approach, focuses on recovery, reconciliation and a return to ministry.

It doesn’t seem to me like they are meeting their mission, does it?  And who watches over them and their residents?  Does it have a quasi-open campus?  If so, who watches over these people in Chester County? After all (again on their website): 

Our in-patient services pride themselves on the comprehensive care and rich quality of  daily life experienced at Saint John Vianney Center; to that end our facility includes:

  • ….Walking trail on the periphery of the hospital campus
  • Proximity to a variety of restaurants and shopping nearby

So obviously, we can’t trust the Archdiocese of Philadelphia when it comes to pedophile priests, so how do you trust this center where a lot of these suspected and proven problem priests have been sent?

I am still a Catholic, but I am deeply troubled by my Church and  how they test our Faith.  How can we in this week before Easter believe in our Faith and keep our Faith in the midst of an Archdiocese which is supposed to lead all of us as the Vatican’s emissaries?  This is a Church that has let all Catholics down, and I just don’t see them doing enough of anything to either make it up to all of us or to even say they are sorry.

Will I personally join the ranks of lapsed Catholics all across this area?  That remains to be seen.  I think it all depends on the accountability of the Catholic Church today and going forward.  Right now I am not impressed.  Right now I am disgusted.

1 thought on “a new dawn: defrocked priest heads to jail on child molestation charges

  1. Pingback: a touchy subject, who is holier than thou? | chestercountyramblings

Comments are closed.