Father Stanley Gana
Diocese of Orlando
Leave of Absence: 1995-1997
Inpatient treatment: 1995, 1996-1997
Laicized (removed from priesthood): 2006
- 1970-1974: Assumption B.V.M. (Feasterville, PA)
- 1972-1974: Chaplain, Boy Scouts of America
- 1972-1974: Archbishop Wood Boys High School
- 1974: Sacred Heart (Phoenixville, PA)
- 1974-1980: Ascension (Philadelphia, PA)
- 1980-1985: Our Lady of Calvary (Philadelphia, PA)
- 1985-1986 Sacred Heart (Havertown, PA)
- 1986-1995 Our Mother of Sorrows (Bridgeport, PA)
- 1995-1997: Leave of Absence
- 1995-2002: Immaculate Conception (Philadelphia, PA) (in res.)
- 1997-2002: Chaplain, Discalced Carmelite Monastery
- 2002-2005: Leave of Absence
Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations Against Father Stanley Gana:
Father Stanley Gana is a defrocked Philadelphia priest accused of molesting seven boys while on a trip to Walt Disney World in the 1980s. He stirred up some concern in an Orange County community where he owned a home from 1993 to 1999. Fr. Gana’s ties to Florida emerged in a deposition connected to a civil suit against Orlando’s Diocese.
Of the Father Stanley Gana case, the 2005 grand jury said Gana “took advantage of altar boys, their trusting families, and vulnerable teenagers with emotional problems.” Again and again and again, Gana’s victims and their families were threatened and intimidated when they attempted to speak up so that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia never faced the consequences of its leaders’ actions and Gana could remain a priest. It is very clear that the Gana matter was particularly offensive to the members of the grand jury – and it is clear why.
GANA HIMSELF BRAGGED ABOUT ALL OF THE SEXUAL ABUSE HE GOT AWAY WITH – TO HIS OTHER VICTIMS
Gana boasted to some of his victims in the 1980s that someone reported his sexual activities with boys to the Archdiocese in the 1970s, but that he “had blocked the inquiry” by telling the Chancery that the pastor at the parish was having an affair with the parish housekeeper. He then produced women’s clothing in the rectory, and suddenly the Chancery was not interested in stirring up anything at the parish.
In late 1980, Gana himself called the Chancery to report that his own nephew had told people that he was, among other things, a homosexual and a “deviate.” Gana told the Chancery that his family had a problem with in-fighting and the nephew was merely trying to cause problems because he had emotional problems of his own. Gana was told to “keep a low profile,” and to look into hiring a lawyer to protect himself from the rumors. No investigation was done into whether Gana may have abused his own nephew.
IGNORING THOSE REPORTS STARTED A NIGHTMARE CHAIN OF EVENTS FOR A 13-YEAR-OLD ALTAR BOY WHO DREAMED OF BECOMING A PRIEST
Around the time he made that call to smooth over any conflict headed his way because of his nephew, Gana was abusing a 13-year-old altar boy at Our Lady of Calvary. Gana ingratiated himself into the boy’s life by exploiting his insecurity about a speech impediment, and soon the boy’s parents readily gave permission for the honored priest to take the boy on long weekends out of state. The child, who came from a large family, was grateful for the adult attention, though he could have done without the obese priest’s attempts to wrestle with him. Soon, the trips and the overnight stays at the rectory so the boy could serve the early mass with Gana, started to involve the priest sexually abusing the boy. Over the next four years, the boy was abused in all manner of ways – including countless incidents of sodomy – by the priest. When a milky fluid sometimes came out of him as he sat on the toilet, his mother said it was just because he was lactose intolerant.
In 1984, the boy started at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. He wanted to become a priest himself. The abuse continued, but it was far less frequent because the boy was not allowed off campus very often. Away from the constant manipulation and abuse, the boy began to plan to end the “relationship,” either by telling someone or by killing himself.
As fate would have it, the dean of the college was Msgr. William Lynn, who eventually became Cardinal Bevilacqua’s Secretary for Clergy – and a convicted criminal for his role in the massive coverup of abuse and endangerment of children in Philadelphia. When the boy asked for a referral to a therapist, Lynn gave it to him but did not ask any questions of the boy. He was, however, well aware of how much time the boy spent with Gana off-campus.
The boy eventually told the therapist about Gana. Then he told two priests at the seminary about it. They said nothing. The boy never reported the events to the police because his spiritual advisor at the graduate seminary told him that it would jeopardize his own chances of being ordained. Somehow, the seminary rector (a fourth priest) also learned of the allegations and told the Chancery. He also told the Chancery that the boy was telling other seminarians what Gana did to him.
Not long after, the Chancery took serious and swift action – but not against Gana. On Cardinal Bevilacqua’s personal command, the Chancery launched a full-scale “investigation” into the boy and rumors that he had “homosexual” contact with another seminarian. The Chancery told the boy that his chances of being ordained hung in the balance; if the rumors were true, his dream of being a priest (and his 7.5 years of preparation in college and graduate school) would be over.
THE ARCHDIOCESE AGREED, THE BOY – SOON TO BE A FELLOW PRIEST- WAS “DAMAGED GOODS” AND GANA NEEDED THEIR PROTECTION
No one spoke with Gana about the boy’s allegations. They were too focused on running the boy out of the priesthood. Ultimately, the Chancery officials involved in the investigation told Bevilacqua that the boy was “damaged goods” who considered suing the Archdiocese for sexual abuse. He was directed to leave the seminary; he would never be ordained anywhere in Pennsylvania.
Lynn would later testify before the 2005 grand jury; he told them that he believed the boy made up the story about Gana, despite all of the corroborating evidence to the contrary.
When he was finally interviewed about the allegations in 1993, Gana admitted that he “had some close calls” with boys (plural) over the years, but never had sexual contact with anyone, including the seminarian. Lynn agreed with Gana’s conclusion that the boy simply “misinterpreted” affectionate touches, and that the boy was “troubled” due to his involvement in a “sex ring” with someone else he claimed was a victim of Gana. According to Lynn, poor Gana was just caught up in a torrent of lies made up by men who wanted to blackmail him.
Gana remained at Our Mother of Sorrows in Bridgeport. One of the Chancery officials who investigated these same allegations would letter tell a grand jury that it would have been “prudent” to be concerned about future victims, and Lynn agreed, but instead, they did nothing.
THE 1995 ALLEGATIONS
In 1995, another man came to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to report that he was sexually abused by Gana at Ascension in 1977, when he was 14 years old. He had just told his mom that a close (adult) family friend was forcing him to engage in oral sex against his will. His mom got him into counseling and also turned to her church for support. Gana, the assistant pastor, recommended regular meetings with the boy to help him through his recovery. Over the course of the next few months and years, Gana took his time grooming the boy and making him comfortable spending time alone (and sometimes overnight) with the priest. Gana initiated seemingly harmless physical contact that escalated and that eventually became oral sex and sodomy. At that point, Gana had become so welcome in the family that he began abusing the boys’ brothers and a close friend.
He often bragged to all of them about all of the teenage boys he had sex with during his priesthood. He also showed them nude photos of other boys that he said he had taken before and after having sex with them. The man gave the Archdiocese the names of some of those other boys. Nothing was done.
As a result of the 1995 allegations, Gana was sent for an evaluation at St. John Vianney, a notorious treatment facility for pedophile priests. During the course of his evaluation, experts opined that returning him to ministry was dangerous to parishioners and to the Archdiocese because of the public relations issues that could arise. Gana was asked to resign from his pastorate and elected to obtain inpatient treatment at Southdown, another notorious treatment facility, in Toronto.
CANADIAN TREATMENT PROFESSIONALS AGREE TO CORROBORATE THE ARCHDIOCESE OF PHILADELPHIA’S LIES SO GANA CAN RETURN TO MINISTRY
The report that came from Southdown was confusing, to say the least. Experts there concluded that Gana was heavily addicted to drugs and alcohol and that the addiction caused him to abuse children. No one had ever said that Gana was under the influence when he abused them – in fact, the boys had specifically denied ever seeing him drink. Even Lynn would later testify that he was very surprised since he had never heard a suggestion of a substance abuse problem. In fact, Gana once sought a papal dispensation not to drink wine during Lenten services. A second report assured Lynn that Gana “would not be diagnosed as a pedophile or an ephebophile, but rather as a person who acted under the influence of drugs and alcohol.”
Less than two weeks later, Gana checked out of Southdown and went to his house in Florida. Not long after, the Chancellor in Orlando called Lynn- neighbors were very concerned about all of the students who seemed to be living there all of the sudden. There was no response.
Three months later, Lynn would look the victim in the 1995 allegations in the eye and swear to him that Gana was in treatment at the exact moment they were meeting when he knew, with certainty, that Gana was in Florida.
Three weeks after telling that bald-faced lie, in mid-1995, Gana wrote to Lynn from Slovakia. He felt like taking an international trip with his teenage friends from Florida. Above all, Gana was concerned about whether he could return to ministry since he left Southdown. Lynn assured him it would be ok as long as he never received an official diagnosis of pedophilia. Gana remained on an unauthorized leave and eventually returned to Southdown six months later. His therapist would eventually say that Gana was neither a pedophile or an ephebophile and that his risk for future sexual misconduct was “minimal.” The therapist was certain of his conclusions, particularly since he was only aware of the three victims Lynn told him about – and not the countless others that Lynn knew about. He did not correct any o of the other lies that Gana told the therapist either.
In 1997, two years after he first reported his abuse (and that of his friend and brothers), almost nothing had been done by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He offered to produce the other men to give statements, but Lynn told him not to discuss the allegations with them. He also said that they could do nothing because Gana denied all of the allegations, even though Lynn knew that Gana had admitted to the abuse while in therapy.
Despite the man’s numerous requests to meet with Cardinal Bevilacqua, the Cardinal refused to meet with the victim “lest it set a precedent i.e. for the Cardinal to meet with such individuals.” Lynn put the man off by referring him to Catholic Charities to help him find a job.
Sister Pat Kelly, to whom the victim was referred for employment and housing assistance, grilled the victim about his abuse experience and asked for privileged therapy information. She expressed that she did not see his experience with Gana as not abuse because it seemed to her that the victim was sexually satisfied by it.
GANA’S POST-SOUTHDOWN TREATMENT LIFE INACTIVE MINISTRY
Around the same time, Gana was due to be discharged from his second stint at Southdown. Lynn would tell Bevilacqua about the therapist’s conclusions, and also that they (as an Archdiocese) should encourage Gana to seek ministry outside of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, presumably so the media would not be as interested in the story. Alternatively, he should be assigned as a chaplain to a religious community to minimize his profile.
Cardinal Bevilacqua assigned Gana as chaplain to the Carmelite nuns. He would reside at Immaculate Conception parish, “along with other priests who were recovering from alcoholism and other problems.” The pastor was never told that Gana had a history of abusing children and should not be around them. He was told by Lynn that Gana was free to do supply ministry at any Philadelphia parish that needed a priest, except, coincidentally, any of the parishes where Gana had already been assigned.
That prohibition was empty – less than a month later, Gana was celebrating mass, complete with altar boys, at Ascension parish in Kensington where the group of brothers and their friend was abused.
THE FORMER SEMINARIAN FINDS OUT ABOUT THE ASCENSION MASS AND AGAIN PLEADS FOR THE ARCHDIOCESE TO PROTECT KIDS INSTEAD OF GANA
The ousted seminarian learned of the Ascension mass from a relative and immediately wrote to the Cardinal – he wanted to impress upon the Chancery how much of a danger Gana was. Cardinal Bevilacqua directed Lynn to reply and invite him to the Chancery. Lynn was not to tell him that the Cardinal had read the letter personally.
At their meeting in early 1998, Lynn apologized to the man (who was also his former student) for how the allegations were handled. Lynn told the victim that he now believed that Gana abused him now that others had accused him of similar conduct. Even a Slovakian student that was residing in Orlando told the Archdiocese he was sexually abused in “exchange” for Gana sponsoring his student visa. He spoke of one of the brothers abused at Ascension and how he “will never be right” because of what Gana did.
Yet, despite his apparent depth of understanding the danger and the depth of its effects, Lynn reaffirmed that Gana would remain in ministry because no one ever diagnosed him as a pedophile.
Gana celebrated Easter Mass at the Carmelite nuns’ monastery in 1998. He was assisted by a cadre of altar boys.
ONLY THE PUBLICITY FROM THE SCANDAL IN THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON BROUGHT ABOUT GANA’S REMOVAL
By February 2002, the depth of the scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston was quickly becoming regular national news. Suddenly, Cardinal Bevilacqua knew that scandal was possibly at his doorstep. He very quickly suspended multiple priests from ministry because the Archdiocese was suddenly “unable to provide and sustain an adequate level of supervision” for all of the accused priests in active ministry. Gana was finally suspended from ministry.
In late 2004, faced with the possibility of involuntary laicization and a lengthy canonical trial, Gana agreed to cease all ministry and live a “supervised life of prayer and penance.”
Apparently, that was too much supervision for Gana or too much responsibility for the Archdiocese. Within months, Gana asked for and was granted, a dispensation from his vows as a priest. He was formally removed from the priesthood (laicized) by the Vatican in 2006.
Gana now resides in Orlando, Florida.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Orlando in Florida. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Florida, contact our office today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse in Florida and nationwide. We can help.