GC to U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Joins Stradley Ronon

Mark E. Chopko spent more than 20 years representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as its general counsel.

He left the conference earlier this month to serve as a partner in the Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia offices of Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, where he will lead the firm’s nonprofit and religious organizations practice.

“As a nationally recognized authority in constitutional law and church-and-state affairs, Mark will strengthen our existing litigation capabilities and expand the services we can offer to nonprofit and religious organizations,” firm Chairman William R. Sasso said. “His experience will also allow us to build on current relationships and strengthen our national religious-services practice.”

At USCCB, Chopko led a seven-lawyer staff that handled litigation, corporate, tax, intellectual property, employment and government contract matters.

~Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

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One Comment on “GC to U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Joins Stradley Ronon”

  1. September 10, 2007

    Mark E. Chopko
    Non-Profit and Religious Organizations
    Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, LLP
    1220 19th Street NW, Suite 600
    Washington, DC 20036
    Phone: 202.822.9611
    Fax: 202.822.0140

    Dear Mr. Chopko:

    As the new chair of Stradley Ronon’s Nonprofit & Religious Organizations Practice Group, I am forwarding to you correspondence that I have sent to the Chairman, William Sasso, on many occasions and have yet to receive a written response from either the Archdiocese of Philadelphia or from your law firm.

    Since you are intimately familiar with the issues and concerns expressed in this letter, I know that you also understand how important this matter is to all Philadelphia area Catholics. As a matter of fact, just last week my wife of 32 years, an alumnus of Archbishop Ryan High School, received a letter from the school detailing abuse allegations at the school from the 1970’s into the mid-1990’s.

    As evidenced in the Chicago area and other jurisdictions throughout the country, sexual abuse by clergy is a present problem that needs to be addressed with openness, candor and with the participation of all of the members of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

    I am hopeful, though not at all confident, that I will finally receive a written response either from your law firm or from the offices of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Absent such a response, please be assured that this correspondence will continue to be shared with a growing number of organizations, both private and public, professionals in a variety of fields, our elected officials, both locally and nationally, and finally with aspiring law students who have chosen to make your profession their life’s work and career.

    Finally, I notice that we share education in the Jesuit tradition. You attended the University of Scranton while I was attending St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Both of my sons attended St. Joseph’s Prep School here in Philadelphia and our oldest son graduated from Georgetown University several years ago. Based on your past experiences with the U.S. Council of Bishops and my many years of advocating both personally and professionally on behalf of individuals with disabilities, we can both personally understand and appreciate the Jesuit ideal of “man for others.” That is why this work must continue, i.e., to provide a safe and secure environment for the most innocent and precious of Philadelphia-area Catholics—those young boys and girls who attend the local parochial elementary schools administered by the archdiocese and those young men and women who attend local area Catholic high schools.

    I thank you for allowing me to share this correspondence with you and your firm and look forward to your written response.


    Michael Skiendzielewski
    516 Parkhollow Lane
    Philadelphia, PA 19111


    January 1, 2006

    Mr. William Sasso
    Board of Trustees
    LaSalle University
    1900 W. Olney Ave.
    Philadelphia, PA

    Mr. William Sasso
    Stradley and Ronon
    Philadelphia Office
    2600 One Commerce Square
    Philadelphia, PA 19103

    Re: Legal Representation-Archdiocese of Philadelphia
    Pedophilia/Sexual Abuse – Grand Jury Report

    Dear Mr. Sasso:

    As counsel to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia during the grand jury proceedings, I am deeply saddened by all of the evidence, documents, statements, etc. that have been made public in the grand jury report regarding sexual abuse by various diocesan priests. In addition, I also call your attention to this paragraph on your website:

    “Attesting to Stradley Ronon’s strength in this area, we have long served as general counsel to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.”

    I find this particularly disturbing that you and other members of your law firm have provided legal representation and advice to the executives in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia over the many years of these documented claims of sexual abuse and pedophilia.

    I have always said that those in positions of the greatest authority (Krol, Bevilacqua) hold the greatest responsibility (and guilt) since each of our local church leaders have a responsibility to the Catholics in all of the many parishes throughout the region.

    The priest offenders have committed such atrocious and unspeakable acts and it was the Cardinal’s responsibility to do what was right to protect and safeguard the youngest of our Catholic parishioners. This is truly sad and evil that they would seek to safeguard their reputation and that of the archdiocese at the expense of the innocence of our young elementary and high school Catholic students.

    But, of course, I am a Philadelphian since birth and we know the hypocrisy, deceit and obfuscation goes far beyond the offices of 222 N. 17th St. and the castle on Cardinal Ave. The cover-up over the years involved a great number of individuals in positions of power and influence and certainly involved those in the legal profession.

    Mr. Sasso, I retired as a Philadelphia Police Captain a number of years ago and anyone who has lived and/or worked in this city for any length of time knows that corruption of this magnitude (as evidence in the sex abuse scandal) needs the assistance of the legal profession in order to cover (and seal) the tracks of such pedophilia.

    Were you counsel to the former Cardinals Krol and Bevilacqua during their tenure as Archbishops of Philadelphia? If you were not, which law firms worked for the Archdiocese in advising them in their course of action as the stream of sexual allegations poured into the Archdiocesan offices? What is the moral, ethical and professional responsibility of the Archdiocesan attorneys when they have direct, first-hand knowledge of evidence of criminal conduct being committed by individuals in the parishes and high schools? Do Archdiocesan attorneys have a responsibility under the Disciplinary Code of Conduct to report such criminal activity to the local law enforcement authorities? Did, in fact, any of the attorneys working for the Cardinals Krol and Bevilacqua do so? As a civil attorney, did Cardinal Bevilacqua have a professional responsibility to report such criminal conduct and behavior?

    Wouldn’t it be nice for the victims of such life and spirit destroying sexual abuse to ask the Archdiocesan lawyers the following: “What did you know? and When did you know it?”. Mr. Sasso, would you please answer that question yourself for the Catholic parishioners throughout the Delaware Valley?

    As evidenced by my e-mail address, I am an exceedingly persistent and outspoken advocate when it comes to issues of injustice, deceit, corruption and abuse of power. I will continue to take this message to any person or organization that will receive my correspondence. I thank God everyday for the advances in communication technology that have made dissemination of such information very efficient and effective.

    I am hopeful, though not at all confident, that you will, in the minimum, have the courtesy to provide a reasonable response to this correspondence. In the absence of such a reply, I will initiate my advocacy in order to address the conduct and decision-making of the legal representatives of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia over such a long period when multiple reports/allegations of sexual abuse were brought to the attention of the religious leaders (and their legal counsel) of the Catholic Archdiocese.

    I noticed on your law firm’s website that you attended LaSalle University and come from the tradition of the Christian Brothers. On the other hand, I attended St. Joseph’s University and have the benefit of the Jesuit education. I know that you can appreciate that the Jesuit principles encourage one to be more outspoken and strident when the issues involve those of social injustice. As a matter of fact, the Jesuit motto of “…man for others…” is really quite appropriate here when it comes to the conduct and decision-making of the Church leaders and their counsel over the many years of this scandal.

    I thank you for taking the time to review this correspondence and look forward to a response at your earliest convenience. Hopefully, a response from your firm will make it unnecessary to take my concerns to the Board of Directors of the Holy Redeemer Health System. This family has for a long time been intimately involved with the services of this religious service provider and I want to ensure that the leaders of the Holy Redeemer Health System are aware of the concerns presented in this letter.


    Michael Skiendzielewski
    Philadelphia, PA 19111

    (Note: Currently, Mr. Sasso serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Holy Redeemer Health System in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania. The mission and philosophy of this health delivery system is based on the tradition of the Sisters of the Holy Redeemer whose vision statement in part states: “…In faithful dedication to our call, we share the values of prayerfulness, healing presence and redemptive suffering which enable us to reach out to one another and to God’s people…”)

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