How Problematic Priests Are Warehoused
BY CRAIG MALISOW
On the phone, the former Houston priest didn’t recognize the name of the 13-year-old boy he molested in 1978.
So much time has passed since that third encounter with the boy, in the Town & Country Village movie theater in Memorial City, where the priest slid his hand into the boy’s jeans and masturbated him. It’s hard to keep track of these things, and besides, the priest says, it’s old news.
Father Walter Dayton Salisbury, now 85, has moved on with his life since pleading no contest and serving three years’ probation. He left Houston in the early 1980s for Washington, D.C., where he was charged with molesting another boy, then spent some time at a parish outside Mobile, where he was accused again, but not charged. He eventually returned to his home city, Bar Harbor, a quaint little town in coastal Maine, where he found an apartment across the street from a K-8 public school. He became active in the community, joining the Order of the Founders of the Patriots of America, whose website states that membership is open to men of “good moral character and reputation.”
Salisbury was one of more than a dozen priests named in a November 2016 press release by the local chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, as part of the group’s push for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston to publicly identify, for the first time, all of its priests who’d been accused or convicted of crimes against children.
When the Houston Press reached Salisbury in October for a comment on the group’s efforts, he chuckled. “I’m certainly not going to say anything to vigilantes, no,” he said in a New England accent, referring to the group (known as SNAP).
When the Press mentioned his Houston victim’s name, Salisbury said, “That doesn’t ring a bell at all.”
Told who it was, Salisbury said, “Good Lord, I mean...that’s 30 years ago, or whatever it is.”
Unlike Salisbury, his victim couldn’t so easily forget a name.
“The first time I ever ejaculated was from some dirty old man’s hand,” the victim told the Press in December. (We’re calling the man, who asked not to be named, “Darren.”)
He also never forgot about how, when the movie was over and Salisbury was driving him back home, the priest — who served for decades as the chaplain of Texas Southern University’s Catholic Newman Center — pulled over in an alley, unzipped his pants and put the boy’s hand around his penis. ...
As Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the Massachusetts-based nonprofit Bishop Accountability, puts it, “Texas has one of the most victim-hostile statute[s] of limitations in the country.”
Although the religious order Salisbury worked under — the Josephites — and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine, released statements on Salisbury’s crimes in 2004, Houston’s top Catholic clergy have acknowledged the diocese’s predator priests only if forced to through criminal charges, civil lawsuits or media reports. ...
In 2004, as part of a historic, yet hardly transparent, initiative, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops tasked the John Jay College of Criminal Justice with producing a report on abuse in the church, based largely on self-reported numbers. Covering the years 1950-2002, the report indicated that 4,392 priests and deacons had been accused of child sexual abuse, or 2.7 percent of the overall population of Catholic clergy working during that time.
That rate has risen to 5.6 percent today, according to Anne Barrett Doyle of Bishop Accountability, which calculates and reports the numbers annually. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has never amended its figure of 22 priests and 4 deacons — a 1 percent rate.
“That is just insane,” Barrett Doyle said, noting that in the small diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, “We know of more than 90 accused clergy.”