In January 2019, Nick Sandmann returned home from the March for Life in Washington, D.C., where he and his fellow Covington High School students were victims of fake news on the part of CNN and other media outlets. When deceptively edited video clips of Sandmann's encounter with Native American activist Nathan Phillips were broadcast, many people were quick to condemn Nick and his fellow students for being "racists." Among those who were quick to pass judgment were Bp. Roger Foys of Covington and Bp. John Stowe of the nearby diocese of Lexington, Kentucky.
The judgments passed by Bps. Foys and Stowe as well as the false reports circulated by the media are similar to the judgments and one-sided reporting of the Catholic News Agency (CNA) and the Catholic News Service (CNS) about the lawsuit that former seminarian Anthony Gorgia has brought against Cdl. Dolan and officials of the North American College (NAC) in Rome.
For instance, while CNA and CNS focus on the amount of the suit, they ignore many crucial allegations found in the complaint. Had CNA and CNS chosen to write objectively on the case, they would have had to address other shocking allegations about an extensive corroborating history of homosexual advances made by Fr. Adam Park (paragraphs 26, 63–67); about alleged graphic homosexual activity by the NAC rector, Fr. Peter Harman, at an orgy in the presence of seminarians (paragraph 68) and about the reprisals Gorgia suffered as coinciding with similar events in other American seminaries such as Christ the King near Buffalo and St. John's near Boston (paragraphs 41, 63), among other disturbing allegations against the defendants.
Readers of CNS will also find that reporters gave ample voice to the NAC and New York archdiocese defendants — whose statements fill the article — but never contacted Gorgia, his attorney (Raymond Belair) or any of the witnesses who could corroborate the facts of the matter described in the lawsuit. The CNA and CNS articles differed considerably from an article published in the Staten Island Advance wherein both parties in the lawsuit were contacted and given an opportunity to offer comments.
While CNA assistant editor-in-chief Michelle La Rosa, contacted Gorgia's attorney to inquire about the sum of money being demanded in the lawsuit, CNA never reported his timely response. His statement revealed that Gorgia's pursuit of justice was widely supported and that La Rosa appeared to be the first to raise objections to the lawsuit. Had the response of Gorgia's attorney been included, CNA would have been forced to write an article with a different tenor.
Without understanding how lawsuits work, without reading Mr. Belair's reply and only reading the CNA and CNS articles, one would never know how the amount was calculated, using legal standards. The amount is not simply based on damages the plaintiff suffered, but it is also calculated in relation to the assets of the entity or entities being sued. For example, Nick Sandmann's attorney was aware of this when he set the amount of $250 million in the suit against CNN. The amount is also designed to discourage the defendant(s) from harming others in a similar way should defendants' actions be found to be so egregious that they require deterrence so as to vindicate society's interest. The astounding number of victimized priests and seminarians evidences the need for such a lawsuit to affirm that there is no room for predation and cover-up in the Catholic Church.
The CNS article ended by quoting the NAC vice-rector for administration, Fr. David Schunk, who claimed, "Mr. Gorgia never made any allegation of misconduct to NAC leadership during his time as a seminarian." What CNA and CNS neglected to report was that Gorgia made five requests "during his time as a seminarian" to meet with Cdl. Dolan — all of which were spurned by Dolan. Had Dolan granted Gorgia an audience, he would have had the opportunity to refute the bogus claims made against him and to share what he witnessed and learned from other seminarians about Fr. Park's behavior.
The articles also ignored the fact that Cdl. Timothy Dolan, Cdl. Wilton Gregory, Abp. Christophe Pierre, Bp. Thomas Paprocki and every member of the NAC board of governors failed to respond to multiple requests to investigate what independent and experienced investigators deemed were credible allegations against Frs. Harman and Park. In light of outlets such as CNS being collaborators of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), it is not surprising that these articles also omitted the fact that all U.S. ordinaries and responsible NAC officials received five follow-up letters alerting them to the danger of misconduct at the NAC similar to sexual predation uncovered at other major seminaries over the past few years.
While CNA and CNS hastened to reprint a claim calling Gorgia's lawsuit "baseless," they failed to report that both a retired FBI special agent in charge and at least three U.S. ordinaries did not view the accusations in this way. As early as May 21, 2020, Boston cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley, Fall River bishop Edgar da Cunha and Arlington bishop Michael Burbidge wrote that they were referring the "deeply troubling allegations" to the Apostolic Nuncio, in keeping with "the policies and procedures of the Holy Father's Motu Proprio, Vos Estis Lux Mundi."
CNA and CNS seemed to suggest that Gorgia is bringing suit against culpable Church officials simply for financial gain. What CNA and CNS neglected, however, is that Gorgia and his many supporters reported his case — at great emotional and financial expense — for nearly two years, to allow Church officials to address the allegations. When these reports went unanswered and undenied by complicit members of the clergy, Gorgia had no option but to pursue legal action for the sake of protecting vulnerable seminarians.
CNA and CNS are not the first to insinuate that victims who bring suit against Church officials do so for monetary gain. When Kamil Jarzembowski and other former seminarians exposed accusations of cover-up and sexual predation at Pope St. Pius X Seminary in Vatican City, the former rector, Rev. Enrico Radice, accused the whistleblowers of making their claims simply for "financial interests." Dominican priest Thomas Doyle, a co-author of the 1985 clerical sex abuse report that the U.S. bishops and the Vatican buried, observed, "Some bishops and Church cheerleaders ... have regularly tried to blame the victims and their lawyers, claiming they are only in it for the money. This is nonsense."
The fact is that the lawsuit by Gorgia and his attorneys is a "David vs. Goliath" undertaking in that the NAC defendants have retained Fox Rothschild, a large pro-LGBTQ law firm that employs more than 950 lawyers, to defend them. CNA and CNS readers may have wished to know that Church defendants pay their attorneys at hourly rates (around $1,000 an hour) and that the money of the hard-working Catholic faithful is all too often used to finance lawyers who fight for blatantly anti-Catholic agendas.
CNA and CNS were offered the chance to comment on this article and the concerns regarding their reporting, but no response was received by press time.
While one-sided journalism is often an attempt to dissuade victims from exposing the deeds of media outlets' benefactors, Catholic readers should know that a landmark case-in-the-making is on its way to exposing grievous injustice that has plagued seminaries for decades.
Please support the legal fight for the protection of vulnerable seminarians by visiting the "Save Our Seminarians" GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/f/save-our-seminarians-fund.
Gene Thomas Gomulka is an abuse advocate/consultant and a retired Navy captain/chaplain who served on active duty at Marine Corps and Navy commands for over 24 years. Ordained for the Pennsylvania Altoona-Johnstown diocese, Fr. (Monsignor) Gomulka and Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle were reprised against by prelates whom they confronted for underreporting and covering up abuse.