Deal W. Hudson
November 26, 2007
Since 2002, Msgr. Alan Placa has worked for Rudy Giuliani as a consultant at Giuliani Partners. In 2003 a grand jury report of Suffolk County, NY, accused Placa of sexually abusing multiple victims.
A spokeswoman for Giuliani Partners told Salon Magazine that the former New York City mayor believes Placa was “unjustly accused.” The grand jury report contains accusations from three alleged victims, including two children (Placa is named as “Priest F” in the report.) According to testimony before the grand jury, “Everyone in the school knew to stay away from Priest F.”
Placa has been suspended from his priestly duties for the past five years. He is “priest in residence” at St. Aloysius Church in Great Neck, NY. The pastor, Msgr. Brendan Riordan is a close friend. In fact, Placa and Riordan co-own a penthouse apartment in Manhattan. The $555,000 apartment is one of six properties the two priests have owned together since the late 1980s. They also co-authored a book in 1977 called Desert Silence: A Way of Prayer for an Unquiet Age.
Monsignor Riordan himself was named in a sex abuse lawsuit against the Diocese of Worcester, MA; it was settled in the 1990s.
The Giuliani Connection
Placa and Giuliani have known each other since they attended Loughlin High School in Brooklyn. They became close friends and occasionally double-dated. After high school, they attended Manhattan College and joined the same fraternity, Phi Rho Pi.
Placa was ordained a Catholic priest in 1970. He served in various parishes and a preparatory seminary on Long Island before working for Catholic Charities and the Diocese of Rockville Centre. At Giuliani’s first wedding, Placa was the best man. Placa helped him get his annulment in 1982 before he officiated at Giuliani’s wedding to Donna Hanover in 1984. Placa also officiated at funeral services for Giuliani’s mother and father and baptized both of his children.
Because Placa has a law degree from Hofstra University, he became a legal consultant to the diocese and was part of a three-person team reviewing charges of sexual abuse by priests. According to Newsday, Placa was the “chief architect” of the Rockville Diocese sexual abuse policy.
In addition to containing accusations against Placa, the Suffolk County grand jury claimed that the evidence “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.”
The grand jury report includes excerpts from a letter in which Placa brags about his ability to settle multi-million dollar clergy abuse claims for “$20,000 to $100,000.”
During the 1980s, Placa was the legal advisor to the House of Affirmation in Worchester, MA, which offered counseling services to priests accused of sexual abuse. One person who worked at this facility called it a “pedophile boot camp.” An abuse victim referred to it as a “breeding ground for sexual predators.”
In June 2002, Giuliani called Placa “one of the finest people I know.”
A Campaign Scandal in Waiting?
Although the relationship between Placa and Giuliani has been widely reported, it has yet to become an issue in Giuliani’s presidential run. Could it be that Giuliani’s capacity for loyalty to an old friend is more important to voters, particularly Catholic voters, than anything else?
The suspension of Placa’s priestly duties has now reached the five-year point, far beyond the norm in such cases. Will Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre remove Placa’s priestly faculties during the presidential campaign? That would be both an embarrassment for Giuliani and an implicit admission by the diocese that the case against the monsignor was serious. Of course, given Giuliani’s legendary influence in the New York metropolitan area, Placa’s faculties are not likely to be removed before the election.
If Giuliani becomes the Republican nominee, his pro-abortion view is not likely to be the only issue troubling to Catholic voters. Catholics in the United States have just passed through the most tumultuous period in their history since the public school riots of the mid-19th century. Catholics want to put the sex abuse crisis behind them – and a Giuliani nomination will keep the name of Msgr. Alan J. Placa in the headlines. It will become widely known that Placa stands accused of abuse, but perhaps more importantly, he stands accused of preventing and delaying “the discovery of criminal abuse by priests.”
This hardly comports with Giuliani’s law-and-order image, and it will not help him to convince Catholics to trust his judgment as the future leader of our nation.