Report Issued on Penthouse
Charges of Sexual Misconduct
By James Solheim
Episcopal News Service
After months of interviews into allegations of sexual misconduct by clergy in the Diocese of Long Island, an investigation team has issued a 22-page report that attempts to separate truth from fiction, confirming some allegations but disputing others.
The lurid allegations appeared in Penthouse magazine's December issue, in an article called, "The Boys from Brazil." The magazine alleged that it had uncovered a "secret cadre of gay and bisexual cross-dressing Episcopal priests whose private lives include the most bizarre rituals imaginable." It specifically alleged that the Rev. William Lloyd Andries, at the time rector of St. Gabriel's Church in Brooklyn, imported young men from Brazil and other countries for sexual purposes and that he "married" one of them, Jairo Pereira. The article also alleges that he and other clergy participated in sexual orgies in churches, occasionally while wearing religious vestments, with Pereira and another Brazilian, Wasticlinio Barros.
The investigation was requested by a diocesan convention last November. Bishop Orris Walker of Long Island asked Bishop O'Kelley Whitaker, the retired bishop of Central New York, to supervise the investigation, joined by Richard Brewer, chair of the Standing Committee, a lay reader, J. Vincent Welch, and counsel James O'Rorke, Jr. The report was mailed to lay and clergy leaders on June 10.
After 32 interviews, a visit to St. Gabriel's and reports from private investigators in the New York City area and in Brazil, the investigation team established a detailed chronology of events that disputes many of the allegations by the magazine but also confirms some of them.
The chronology lays out how Andries and the Rev. Howard Williams, formerly a member of the national Episcopal Church staff, met Pereira during a meeting in Brazil in 1992, how Williams met Barros on a later trip, and how first Barros and later Pereira traveled to the United States. Andries provided housing to both the men and financial assistance to Pereira, while Williams helped arrange assistance for Barros' travel.
The Penthouse article makes no allegations that Williams participated in any of the sexual activities. Williams was asked to resign his position after being mentioned in the article. Andries visited Brazil five times, the team discovered, often staying with the family of Pereira, with whom he developed an intimate relationship. On two occasions he sent funds to help the family build or buy a house.
Pereira was baptized at St. Gabriel's in January of 1996 and he and Barros, the report contends, began to insist on a "marriage" with Andries. A "commitment ceremony" took place at the rectory on April 16 but "the brief service had no Eucharist and no blessing was given." While Andries was having surgery in May, Pereira and Barros moved out of the rectory and contacted the media with their story and some sexually explicit photographs they had taken from the rectory. On a Brazilian television program the two men talked openly about their allegations and Barros "describes plainly his plan to entrap Andries," the report notes.
In the wake of the television program, Andries denied rumors of a "marriage" and of a homosexual relationship with Pereira but it soon was clear that an investigative reporter, Rudy Maxa, was working on an article, although Maxa would not identify the publication.
After the magazine hit the stands on October 23, Andries met with the vice chancellor of the diocese and agreed to renounce his orders and resign his parish. The investigation also looked into the possibility that "funds belonging to parishes or to the agencies... were used in connection with any of the activity related in the Penthouse article. An audit revealed that some diocesan discretionary funds were used but the audits raised some questions "which will require continued research."
In its conclusions, the investigating team pointed out that Andries had "offered strong leadership and had a productive ministry at St. Gabriel's" and that the people in the parish, "many with strong Caribbean roots, responded well to the strong and charismatic leadership of Andries." Testimony revealed, however, that he was not honest with them about his sexuality, that "throughout his adult life Andries has privately been an active homosexual with numerous partners over the years, some of whom were parishioners" and one of them might have been a minor. It also became clear from interviews that he "gathered around himself a number of men who were either homosexual or bisexual themselves or, at least, tolerant of his lifestyle."
The investigation confronted the allegation that "sexual rituals and orgies took place in sacred spaces." Through its examination of the site of St. Gabriel's Church, and from testimony received, the team concludes that it would have been "very difficult for such activities to have taken place without being observed by others." Most of the church windows have plain glass and the interior is visible from neighboring buildings, the report said. And they found no evidence that Andries or others "engaged in sexual activity while wearing church vestments."
An attorney for Barros and Pereira met with members of the investigation team, showed them additional photos and sought a settlement from the diocese and compensation as a condition for permitting interviews with the men. The diocese has not agreed to a settlement or compensation.
In a more recent article that appeared in a Brazil newspaper, Barros claimed that he was being harassed by four priests, including Andries and Williams, and was under police protection. He also said that he was writing a book which would exposes 22 priests, and was seeking $5 million in a suit from the Episcopal Church.
"At the date of this report, none of the allegations could be substantiated except that there is no such legal action pending against the church," the report stated. "Evidence does exist, however, that Barros has made attempts in the recent past to interest publishers in a book being written by him entitled Bless Me Father. Investigation of these allegations is continuing."
The report concluded "there has been behavior on the part of Andries and some of his friends that has provided foundation for the development of these allegations." While it is clear that "the Episcopal Church is currently embroiled in a sharp debate over the appropriateness of blessing same-sex unions and the ordination of persons who are in life-long commitments with persons of the same sex," the report said that there are areas of general agreement.
"The Episcopal Church has no disagreement on the inappropriateness of married persons being involved in sexual relationships with persons other than their spouse, nor of predatory sex, nor of sex with minors, nor of sex apart from committed relationships--whether heterosexual or homosexual--nor of members of the clergy engaging in sexual relations with persons with whom they have a pastoral relationship."
The report also added that the team were not able to find any evidence that "those who knew of Andries' sexual behavior, including those who had authority over him, reprimanded him or even brought the inappropriateness of it to his attention."
Posted June 25, 1997
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