|Alleged Sexual Abuse
by Fr. José Ávila
and the Response of Seán P. O’Malley
A while ago, a survivor advocate named Susan Landry introduced me to a survivor out on the Cape. The story that I heard from him is an important one, especially today, and he asked me to share it with you.*
It concerns a priest named José Maria Bettencourt e Ávila, who by my friend’s estimate abused over a hundred children in the Fall River diocese, during a 44-year career in Taunton, Fall River, East Falmouth, and New Bedford. Ávila’s abuse record is common knowledge among the people of East Falmouth, and in New Bedford parishioners bravely stormed their church — it’s an old Portuguese parish with a large school — and forced the priest’s retirement at last. Fr. José Ávila left a trail of devastation comparable to that caused by Fr. Joseph Birmingham, yet Ávila is completely unknown to the public at large. He is, however, well-known to Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley and to his former colleagues in the Fall River diocese. Their decade-long silence, while victims have gone untreated and uncomforted, is a very serious issue as Seán O’Malley takes over the leadership of the Boston Archdiocese.
The survivor who has come forward about this case is the son of hardworking Portuguese farmers on the Cape. His parents were busy and not wealthy, and they trusted the Catholic church to help them raise their boy. They thought he was safe with Fr. José Ávila at St. Anthony’s church in East Falmouth, and their son looked up to the priest — a Portuguese man, succeeding in a tough world. But Ávila enticed my friend and many other kids, with rides in a speedboat and games of ping-pong and TV and plenty of alcohol. And one day Ávila attacked him in the rectory and raped him. Life has been very difficult for my friend since then, and he feels he’s carrying the “guilt” of the abuse, though he knows it wasn’t his fault. The discipline that he gained during his years in the service was what saved him, he says. He’s in therapy now, for which the church is not paying. Money is not the reason he has begun to speak out.
This remarkable man has patiently described his case to me, and when I visited him in East Falmouth, he introduced me to his friends and neighbors. I met men who had been propositioned by Ávila when they were children. I heard stories of suicides and depression and broken homes, all because of this priest. The history of Ávila and his partner Gilbert Simões, against whom there are six known allegations of abuse, appears to be an open secret among the people of East Falmouth.
These two priests worked at a total of seven [now known to be eight] parishes, from the early 1930s through the late 1980s, leaving destruction in their wake. Yet Ávila is buried in an honorary “Clergy Burial Grounds” behind St. Anthony’s in East Falmouth, and an identical gravestone waits for Simões. Between their graves and the church, my friends’ parents and other victims are buried.
When my friend retired a few years ago, he took the very difficult step of going to the Barnstable DA about Ávila. In a month, the DA’s office phoned my friend and told him that someone else had previously filed a rape charge against the same priest. My friend was told that the statute of limitations prevented the DA from pursuing the case, but it was some comfort that another victim had come forward.
In July 2002, my friend wrote to Seán O’Malley and met once with Ms. Arlene McNamee. She invited him to start therapy, and asked him whether the diocese should set up an office and have other East Falmouth victims come in. My friend told her that he didn’t think the victims in the Portuguese community of East Falmouth would respond well to her approach. To his knowledge, the Fall River diocese let the matter drop after that one conversation.
On September 26, 2002, Bristol DA Paul Walsh published the names of 21 accused priests, including Ávila (with his name misspelled) and Simões. Walsh spoke about ending the silence, and how justice delayed was justice denied. Seán O’Malley’s office responded that the bishop had followed his own procedures well. O’Malley is supposed to be a good administrator. It is simply not credible that he commissioned no briefing on Ávila and the other abusers in 1992 or 1993, as he struggled to contain the Porter crisis.
Indeed, the service records of other Fall River priests with allegations suggest that such an internal review did occur. It would have been especially urgent in the case of Simões, who began his career under the future Cardinal Medeiros, when Medeiros was chancellor of the Fall River diocese and pastor of a parish with a large school.
It is time now to release the diocesan files on every Fall River priest who abused children and vulnerable adults. It’s time to bring justice and dignity to the Portuguese community and to everyone who has suffered because of these priests. We’re told that O’Malley is a healer. Let him finish that job openly in Fall River, and then begin it in Boston.
José Ávila’s Assignments
Born November 16, 1906
St. Anthony (assistant, 1931–33)
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (1934-37, 1938-?,
Our Lady of Health (?-1943)
St. Anthony (administrator, September 1944–1964)
Our Lady of Mount Carmel (pastor, 1964–74) [with Simões]
Died November 3, 1988
Born October 2, 1933
St. Michael (1962–65) [Serving under Medeiros, then chancellor
of Fall River diocese]
Our Lady of Mount Carmel (1966–72) [with Ávila]
Santo Christo (1973–82 or 1983)
St. John the Baptist (1983 or 1984–86)
Not listed in the Catholic Directory for 1987.
Jubilee Mass set for tomorrow
By Robert J. Barcellos
NEW BEDFORD -- Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Rivet and Bonney streets, will host a Jubilee Year 2000 Mass at 10 a.m. tomorrow with the Most Rev. Sean Patrick O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap., as principal celebrant.
The Mass will be the fifth in a series of 10 scheduled at places of worship designated pilgrim churches, or sites for the holy year, by the bishop. Four have already been held, including the June 25 Mass at Kennedy Park in Fall River concluding the diocese’s first Eucharistic Congress.
In inviting Catholics to make a pilgrimage, which he described as “a journey of faith to a holy place,” Bishop O’Malley said the opportunity to make a pilgrimage during a holy year offers “a time of personal renewal, of reconciliation, of deepening our faith in Jesus Christ and commitment to his message, his gospel and his church.
Guidelines for persons making a pilgrimage during Jubilee Year 2000 require an individual to attend Mass or Vespers, make the Stations of the Cross, say the Rosary, devote time and to Eucharistic adoration or pious meditation. Such visits should close with the “Our Father,” the Profession of Faith, and a prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Indulgences may be obtained provided the worshipper receive Communion, preferably the same as the pilgrimage church, visitation plus devotional prayers, and prayers for the Holy Father.
The Rev. Henry S. Arruda, pastor of the host church, will be a concelebrant of the Mass with the ordinary.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church is second of three parishes formed in New Bedford to serve Portuguese-speaking residents. The first Portuguese parish -- and the oldest in America -- is St. John the Baptist, begun in 1874. The third parish, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, dates from 1909.
The large number of Portuguese immigrants settling in New Bedford during late 1800s and early 1900s were preceded in 19th century by the arrival of men from the Western Islands -- or Azores -- who had arrived in New Bedford aboard whaling vessels and decided to stay.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel began with the announcement of the division of St. John the Baptist Church’s parish boundaries to create a new parish in September 1902. The Rev. Jose Duarte Nunes, a curate at St. John the Baptist Church, would become the new pastor of the parish formed to serve Portuguese-speaking Catholics living south of Rockland and Potomska streets.
Ground was broken for the new church in April 1903 and the cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1903, by the Rt. Rev. Matthew Harkins, then bishop of the Providence Diocese. Mass was celebrated in the basement of the new church on July 16, 1904, by the Most Rev. William Stang, first bishop of the newly formed Fall River Diocese.
The church was completed in 1913 under Father Nunes’ successor. The Rt. Rev. Msgr. Antonio Pacheco Vieira, who became pastor in December 1907, was to lead the parish for 57 years -- one of the longest pastorates in American church history -- until his death at 98 in 1964. He had been an active priest for more than 75 years.
Monsignor Vieira was followed as pastor by the Rev. Jose Maria Bettencourt e Avila, the Rt. Rev. Luiz Gonzaga Mendonca, both now deceased, and the fifth and current pastor, Father Arruda, who took over pastoral duties in June 1994.
Under Monsignor Mendonca, who also served as diocesan vicar general, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church underwent a $3 million renovation that included rebuilding of the Hook and Hastings Organ.
Two of the six Masses celebrated each weekend are still said in Portuguese -- those at 7 and 10 a.m. on Sunday. The Masses at 5 p.m. on Saturday and at 8:30 and 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Sunday are in English.
The parish has four parochial vicars -- the Rev. Jose M. Souza, the Rev. Michael M. Camara, the Rev. Marek M. Tuptynski and, newly ordained, the Rev. Scot A. Ciosek -- and two permanent deacons, Abilio Pires and Paul J. Macedo.
Jubilee Mass to be held tomorrow
By Robert J. Barcellos
FREETOWN--St. John Neumann Church, located at Cathedral Camp on Middleboro Road in East Freetown, will host the next Jubilee Year Mass in the Fall River Diocese, which will be held at 11 a.m. Sunday.
The Most Rev. Sean Patrick O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap., the diocesan ordinary, will be the principal celebrant for the principal celebration of the Mass with other diocesan priests, including the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Stephen J. Avila.
Monsignor Avila, who served as the bishop’s secretary prior to becoming pastor on June 28, will be formally installed in his new capacity on June 28.
St. John Neumann Church is one of 10 stational or pilgrimage churches designated by the bishop within the Fall River Diocese. Catholics who visit these sites during Jubilee Year 2000 and fulfill simple conditions may secure the same indulgence as if they were to make a pilgrimage to Rome or the Holy Land.
Named for a 19th century bishop of the Philadelphia Diocese who was canonized by late Pope Paul VI in 1977, St. John Neumann Church was informally established as a parish in October 1983 to served residents of the East Freetown area and formally constituted on Ash Wednesday 1984.
Parishioners initially worshipped in the Assumption Chapel at Cathedral Camp until the completion of the present wood-frame house of worship which was dedicated on Oct. 6, 1984.
Bishop O’Malley already has been the principal celebrant at Jubilee Year 200 Masses held in March at St. Mary Church, Mansfield; in April at St. Anne Church, Fall River; in May at St. Anthony Church, Taunton; in June at Kennedy Park in Fall River for the concluding Mass of the Eucharistic Congress; in July at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, New Bedford.
The remaining Jubilee Year masses will be held at St. Pius X Church, South Yarmouth, 10:30 a.m., Sept. 3; Holy Trinity Church, West Yarmouth, 5 p.m., Oct. 1; Christ the King Church, 11:30 a.m., Nov. 5; and LaSalette Shrine, Attleboro, 4 p.m., Dec. 3.
The jubilee year guidelines call for Catholics making a pilgrimage to a Holy Year site to attend Mass or Vespers, or participate in another devotion, including making the Stations of the Cross, recitation of the Rosary, or spending time in eucharistic adoration and pious meditation, ending with the “Our Father,” the Profession of Faith and a prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Catholics who seek indulgences should receive Holy Communion ideally on the same day that the Jubilee Year shrine or church is visited. Prayers for the Holy Father must be offered as well as other prayers closing with the “Our Father,” the Profession of Faith and a prayer to Mary. Other conditions for obtaining indulgences include sacramental confession within a few days before or after the pilgrimage site visit, charitable acts and a day of fasting and abstinence.
The History Page of St. Anthony’s Parish - East Falmouth, Massachusetts
St. Anthony’s Church was opened to the public on January 1, 1923. It’s first pastor was the Rev. Antonio Machado Fortuna, who came to East Falmouth in 1921. Earlier that year a group of Portuguese residents appealed to Bishop Daniel Feehan, of the Fall River Diocese, for a Portuguese priest because of the large number of local persons who were unable to speak or understand English. Until 1922 St. Anthony’s parish existed as a part of St. Joseph’s parish, Woods Hole, under an English speaking pastor, Rev. Thomas F. Kennedy, then the pastor of the entire Falmouth area.
With the creation of the new parish, all Portuguese Catholic residents of Cape Cod, regardless of where their homes may be, were to be communicants of St. Anthony’s parish. To this day, parishioners of St. Anthony’s are spread out throughout the entire Falmouth area, from Woods Holes to as far away as Cotuit.
Father Fortuna effeected the purchase of the 36 acre Joh Crocker estate and erected the present church on it. The old Crocker homestead, the only building then on the estate served as the priest’s residence until _____ when a new rectory was built. Until erection of the new church, services were held at the St. Anthony’s Hall on Brick Kiln road. Having accomplished much in a short time, Father Fortuna was succeeded on December 24, 1924, by the Rev. Mauel J. Teixeira. Within the next two years a mortgage of $42,000 was paid, and the parish became free of debt.
During the winter of 1933, the parish hall was moved to its present location. It had formerly been a dance hall, located in the center of East Falmouth village some 200 yards away. On January 4, 1934, after undergoing complete remodeling, the hall was formally dedicated.
During Father Teixeira’s pastorate, two priests served as assistants to him, - Rev. Maurice Souza, from November 1939 to November 1943 and Rev. Jaime V. Mendes, from November 1943 to September 1944. The Rev. Jose Maria Bettencourt e Avila began his ministry as pastor of St. Anthony’s in September 1944. Like Father Teizeira, he was to remain for 20 years. During this period, St. Anthony’s parish experienced its greatest development and the church was almost completely renovated. In 1946 the magnificent painting of Our Lady of Falmouth was unveiled, in 1943 new pews were installed, and in 1951 the Sanctuary was remodeled. A new altar was installed at this time into which the painting of Our Lady of Fatima was incorporated. The landscaping of the area surrounding the church and rectory was also completely done over and parking facilities for approximately 200 cars were constructed.
Mount Carmel Church to observe centennial
By Robert J. Barcellos
NEW BEDFORD -- Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, the second of three Catholic parishes in New Bedford to serve a growing Portuguese-speaking population, will observing the centennial of its founding next month.
A Solemn Mass will be celebrated at 4 p.m. Sept. 15 in the church at Rivet and Bonney streets in the South End. A banquet will be served at 6 at White’s restaurant in Westport. Tickets for the banquet may be acquired at the rectory.
In September 1902, the Rt. Rev. Matthew Harkins, then bishop of the Providence Diocese, announced a division of St. John the Baptist Church, created in 1871 as the first parish formed to serve Portuguese residents, and assigned the Rev. Joseph D. Nunes, to be in charge of the new parish. A third Portuguese parish, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church, was created in 1909 for residents of the North End.
The parish lines of Our Lady of Mount Carmel were to include the area south of a line drawn through the center of Rockland Street east to Acushnet Avenue, then to Potomska Street, and through Potomska Street to the west.
Although land for a church had been acquired on the south side of Acushnet Avenue at Bonney Street, there was still no building. The Rev. Nunes at first conducted services at St. Hyacinth Church on Rivet Street, a discontinued parish that was formed to serve French-speaking residents.
The cornerstone of the present house of worship was laid on July 4, 1903, and the basement was completed a year later, enabling the first Mass to be celebrated there on July 16, 1904, The church itself would be completed in September 1913.
In its 100-year history, the parish has had only six pastors, this in part due to to the 56-year pastorate of the Rt. Rev. Antonio Pacheco Vieira, who became pastor on Dec. 13, 1907, and served until his death on March 27, 1964, just two days after turning 98. On his 75th anniversary, the late Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston described him as the “patriarch of priests of the United States.”
A native of Feteira d’Achade, St. Michael, Azores, the future pastor and dean of Portuguese clergy -- he would become the oldest active Catholic priest in this country -- was ordained in September 1888 and arrived in this country in 1903. Four years later, he succeeded his former classmate, Father Nunes, as pastor, inheriting a parish of 3,000 and a church under construction. The new church -- red brick with distinctive twin towers -- was blessed on Oct. 12, 1913, and the $75,000 debt was cleared by 1923.
Under Monsignor Vieira, the first parish school in this city for Portuguese-speaking students was established in 1941. Initially approved in 1929 by the bishop, the $200,000 project was delayed by the Depression. The Sisters of St. Dorothy were invited to staff the school with a new convent for them built in 1953.
When the venerable pastor died, he was succeeded by the Rev. Jose Maria Bettencourt e Avila, a native of St. George, Azores, who served from 1964-74. He died in 1988.
The fourth pastor, the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Luiz Gonzaga Mendonca, served from 1974-94 and was simultaneous vicar general of the Fall River Diocese from 1971-89. The New Bedford native received his priestly training at the Seminario Episcopal in Angra, Terceira, Azores, and returned to New Bedford. As a tribute to his sponsor, Msgr. Vieira, he was ordained at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on June 10, 1944, the first occasion in diocesan history in which an ordination had been carried out in in a church other than the cathedral in Fall River.
Monsignor Mendonca died on Feb. 21, 1997, at 77 and his funeral Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church was attended by one cardinal, an archbishop, two bishops and numerous clergy.
He was followed as pastor by the Rev. Henry S. Arruda and the current pastor, the Rev. John J. Oliveira. The Rev. Oliveira, previously pastor of St. John the Baptist Church, was assigned to Our Lady of the Carmel Church in June 2001 when the Rev. Arruda went to St. Anthony’s Church in Taunton.
The Rev. Oliveira leads a parish of just over 8,000, assisted by two parochial vicars, the Rev. Michael Camara and the Rev. Kevin Cook; a permanent deacon, Deacon Abilio dosAnjos Pires; and a seminarian, David Nichols, doing his pastoral intern year at the parish.
Six Masses are celebrated every weekend in the parish; the 7 and 10 a.m. Masses are celebrated in Portuguese.
More than a dozen years ago, the parish undertook a major renovation of the church, with Masses during the first year of the three-year project being celebrated in the parish school. The-pastor Monsignor Mendonce, described the project as “a complete and total renovation and modernization of the church, bringing it into conformity with the recommendations of Vatican Council II.”
The completion of the project was marked on April 26, 1992, by the formal dedication of the rebuilt 1928 Hook and Hastings organ and with a concert of sacred music. As rebuilt by the Delisle Organ Co. of Fall River, the organ was increased from 15 ranks of pipes to 80 ranks and 2,337 pipes.
The parish school has 128 pupils with an all-lay staff; the Sister of St. Dorothy left about five years ago.
Cardinal Bernard F. Law was the celebrant on Sept. 19, 1992, when the Association for the Advancement of the Catholic University of Portugal held its annual Eucharistic celebration and banquet at the Rivet Street parish.
On Feb. 14, 1996, the parish held a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ecumenical service at which the guest speaker was the Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris, suffragan bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.
Medeiros, Vatican involved in coverup
By Jack Sullivan
Previously sealed records in the case of defrocked pedophile priest James A. Porter show Catholic church officials - including Pope Paul VI, Humberto Cardinal Medeiros and top aides to Richard Cardinal Cushing - knew of and took part in the coverup of cleric sexual abuse as far back as 1963.
It is believed to be the first time records show Vatican officials were aware as long as 30 years ago that priests were molesting children and bishops were shuffling the pedophile clerics around the country and covering up their actions. It also is the first time involvement by the Boston archdiocese under Cushing has been documented.
“It’s not shocking to me in the slightest,” said the Rev. Thomas Doyle, who worked at the Vatican on issues of priest sexual misconduct 20 years ago. “There was even more coverup in days past than there has been in the past 15 to 17 years . . . What we’re seeing now with Bernard (Cardinal) Law, (New York’s Edward Cardinal) Egan and others is not isolated and not uncommon. It is something that has been going on for decades.”
The file, obtained by the Herald through a court order, also reveals that diocesan officials are required by canon law to maintain “secret archives” that have over the years become a hidden repository for sexual abuse allegations.
The documents contain hundreds of pages of Porter’s personnel file, including details of his assignments and attempted treatments for his sexual assaults on young boys. The entire, previously secret file, along with a 17-page letter from Porter to Pope Paul VI, was forwarded to the Vatican when Porter petitioned for laicization in 1973 after being caught in Minnesota with a young boy.
In the letter addressed to “Most Holy Father,” Porter wrote, “It became known and reported to (Fall River) Bishop (James) Connolly that I had become homosexually involved with some of the youth of the parish. Bishop Connolly decided to send me home to my family for a short while until the scandal of this affair died down . . . A short time later Bishop Connolly gave me another chance and assigned me to Sacred Heart Parish in Fall River. I can’t recollect much about my stay there except that after a short time I again fell into the same situation that plagued me in North Attleboro.”
Porter also indicates he knows after he is laicized, he would no longer be protected by church officials “should I fall again.”
The records also include scores of letters and internal memos written by Connolly, many based on conversations with Medeiros, then a monsignor and the Fall River Diocese’s chancellor.
In a memo dated March 21, 1964, Connolly wrote about a meeting he had with Medeiros where Medeiros said there were “30 or 40 (boys) involved” in the molestation allegations against Porter and there was “much concern among parents.” Medeiros even told Connolly the nickname students at Bishop Feehan High School had given Porter.
“At Feehan they call him the horn,” Connolly wrote. Medeiros told Connolly the students would ask one another, “ ‘Has the horn tackled you yet?’ “
In 1966, when Porter was “on retreat” at his parents’ home in Revere following his latest sexual assault, two Revere police officers approached James D. Bono, then associate pastor of Immaculate Conception Church, charging that Porter had molested the son of another officer.
Bono, in a 1993 affidavit, said he began reporting the information to higher-ups and was “shocked” at the response he received.
“I immediately called the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Boston to notify them Porter had admitted molesting a young boy,” Bono stated. “Officials at the Archdiocese directed me to speak with officials at the Diocese of Fall River.
“I then called Humberto S. Medeiros, who at the time was Chancellor,” Bono testified. “When I informed Chancellor Medeiros that Porter had admitted to me that Porter had molested a young boy, Chancellor Medeiros responded, ‘Yes, we know.’ “
In 1973, the same year Vatican officials received Porter’s file that graphically detailed Medeiros’ complicity in covering up Porter’s case, Pope Paul VI elevated Medeiros to cardinal.
In another deposition, Monsignor Reginald M. Barrette, who succeeded Medeiros as Fall River chancellor, confirmed the Porter records were part of a “secret archive” Connolly kept in his bedroom.
“The bishop kept all correspondence that had to do personally with priests he did not want to be known,” Barrette testified in the deposition.
The records show Porter was sent to the Servants of Paraclete in New Mexico for treatment of his pedophilia at least twice, including the first time in 1967 on the advice and recommendation of the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, now being held on three counts of child rape.
Law, in his public apologies, has said part of the problem in handling priests such as Shanley and convicted pedophile John J. Geoghan was the lack of knowledge about child sexual abuse and its effects on victims. But Doyle, who coauthored a report for American bishops on predatory priests in 1985 that was never formally presented, said the Paracletes were well-known even in the 1960s for their approach to dealing with sex offenders.
In the Porter personnel file that was forwarded to the Vatican, the Rev. Fred Bennett, a clinical psychologist with the Paracletes, clearly stated the harm sexual abuse by a priest could cause.
“People often suffer psychological difficulties later in life whose origins seem to be found in sexual approaches made to them during their childhood by adults of the same sex,” he wrote in 1970. “I have reason to believe that the trauma of such experiences may be further intensified when the adult involved is a priest.”
In 1985, after a notorious case of a pedophile priest in Louisiana became public, American bishops made their first acknowledgement of the problem, promising a unified policy that has still not been articulated. In 1993, Pope John Paul II made his first public statement on cleric sexual misconduct and last month, during the extraordinary summit of American cardinals, the pontiff declared child sexual abuse a crime and a sin.
“(The documents) are illustrating the fact it didn’t start in 1985,” said Doyle. “The bishops first said in 1985, ‘This is the first we’re hearing about this.’ That’s hogwash. They knew.”
In notes taken by Bishop Joseph Connolly of Fall River Diocese on March 21, 1964, then-Monsignor Humberto Medieros details the Rev. James Porter’s sexual abuse of children and the fact he had a derogatory nickname at Bishop Feehan High School.
Former priest James D. Bono testified that when he was associate pastor at Immaculate Conception Church in Revere he was told by two police officers in 1966 that Porter had sexually abused a child.
In a May 17, 1973 letter to Pope Paul VI, the Rev. James Porter admits to molesting children and asks for his release from the priesthood and obligation of celibacy.
In another section of the letter to the Pope, Porter acknowledged the protection that he had as a priest.
Rev. Donald J. Bowen Indicted for Sexual Assaults:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Refusing “to perpetuate the darkness” enshrouding priests accused of sex crimes whose identities have been protected for decades, Bristol District Attorney Paul F. Walsh, Jr. today announced both the indictment of one priest and the names of others for whom no prosecution can be brought at present.
The grand jury yesterday returned indictments against Rev. Donald J. Bowen, 64, who formerly served in the Fall River Diocese but who’s lived in Bolivia for about thirty years as part of The Missionary Society of St. James, an association of diocesan priest volunteers headquartered in Boston. The indictments allege a course of sexual abuse against a girl from the time she was nine until she was 16. Bowen is charged with one count alleging unnatural and lascivious acts on a person under the age of 16 years and one count alleging indecent assault and battery of a child under the age of 14. Each indictment alleges acts repeatedly inflicted on a solitary victim for years. The alleged conduct ended in about 1971, shortly before Bowen’s transfer to Bolivia.
Walsh’s decision to release the names of other accused priests “did not come easily.”
“My staff and I discussed at length the ramifications of releasing the list. I understand that I will be criticized for committing to such a rare course of action.
In the end,” Walsh said, “the deciding factor was this: we will not be a party to perpetuating the darkness, to protecting the silence and the secrecy.
“Enough is enough.”
Walsh said that prosecutions against those named besides Bowen are not possible currently for several reasons. Either the statute of limitations has expired or victims do not wish to relive their experiences in court --or both -- or, in one case, the priest is deceased. He hopes, however, that releasing the list may prompt further information.
“If any person has evidence involving any of those named, I call upon that person to come forward. Let us evaluate these horrendous possibilities in the bright light of day,” Walsh said.
The district attorney said that legal counsel for Bowen has contacted his office and indicated that the priest will return from Bolivia to face the charges. If not, the district attorney will initiate an application for extradition proceedings.
Excerpt of September 26, 2002 Press Conference
By District Attorney Paul F. Walsh, Jr.
“The decision to release this list was a difficult decision, and an important one. Normally in a circumstance where this office investigates an individual but does not bring a charge, we would not identify the suspect on that case until he became an actual defendant charged with a crime. That is standard operating procedure in the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office. However, I felt that there were two reasons to override that policy in this circumstance. The first is this: The shroud of secrecy has gone on long enough. I cannot, and I will not, pretend that these victims don’t exist. I cannot and will not pretend that we don’t know these names. I cannot and will not pretend that these criminal acts did not occur. I think it is time for the pretension to end.”
The statement of Bristol District Attorney Paul F. Walsh, Jr. regarding his decision to release to the public the names of priests accused of sexual misconduct can be viewed under “Press Releases”
Statement of Bristol District Attorney Paul F. Walsh, Jr.
Statement of Bristol District Attorney Paul F. Walsh, Jr. regarding his decision to release to the public the names of priests accused of sexual misconduct:
“I want you to know that the decision to release the names of priests accused of sexual misconduct but thus far not charged, did not come easily. My staff and I discussed at length the ramifications of releasing the list. I understand that I will be criticized for committing to such a rare course of action.
In the end, the deciding factor was this: we will not be a party to perpetuating the darkness, to protecting the silence and the secrecy. Someone, perhaps it was Hubert Humphrey, once said that we become a part of what we condone.
I do not condone assaults on children by anyone at any time. I will not be party to perpetuating the darkness. Let the light of day shine on these accusations that have lain hidden so long.
Enough is enough.
Additionally, if any person has evidence involving any of those named, I call upon that person to come forward. Let us evaluate these horrendous possibilities in the bright light of day.”
1. Raymond McCarthy- 4 av; no response
2. Gilbert Simoes - 6 av; beyond statute
3. Paul Connelly - 8 av; no response & beyond statute
4. Arthur DeMello - 1 av; no response & beyond statute
5. John Cronin - 3 av; beyond statute
6. Norman Boulet - 2 av; beyond statute
7. James Murphy - 3 av; no response & beyond statute
8. Donald Bowen - Indictment
9. Stephen Furtado - 1 av; no jurisdiction
10. Donald Messier - 1 av; no response & beyond statute
11. Stanley Barney - 1 av; no response & beyond statute
12. Phillip Higgins - 1 av; no response & beyond statute
13. Kevin Tripp - 2 av; no response & beyond statute
14. Raymond Robillard - 2 av; no response & beyond statute
15. David Landry - 1 av; no response & beyond statute
16. Joseph Mcquire - 1 av; V not interested
17. Edward Rausch - 1 av; no response beyond statute
18. Robert Kaszynski - 4 av; beyond statute
19. Albert Berube - 1 av; Deceased
20. Edward Paquette - 4 av; beyond statute
21. George Avellar - 1 av; Deceased
Bristol DA rips bishop for late list of alleged abusers
By Tom Mashberg
The Bristol County DA sternly rebuked the departing bishop of Fall River yesterday for letting a decade go by after the prosecution of the Rev. James R. Porter to hand over the names of 21 other priests ousted amid sex abuse allegations.
“Why didn’t (Bishop Sean. P. O’Malley) release these names to us 10 years ago?” DA Paul F. Walsh asked at a New Bedford news conference, during which he also announced the two-count indictment of one former Fall River Diocese priest, the Rev. Donald J. Bowen.
The indictment charges Bowen, 64, currently in Bolivia as a missionary with the Boston-based Society of St. James The Apostle, with abusing a girl for seven years starting when she was 9, while he ministered in Fall River in the 1960s and 1970s.
His indictment was reported in yesterday’s Herald. Neither the society nor Bowen’s lawyer, Peter Muse, would comment yesterday.
Walsh said he was able to obtain the indictment because any statute of limitations on the allegations froze after Bowen left the country, and the victim is willing to testify.
In publicizing the names of the 21 other former Fall River Diocese priests, who all left the church amid abuse allegations, Walsh said he was dismayed those names had not been released until March.
Walsh said he might have been able to prosecute more of the suspect priests before the statute of limitations on them also expired.
“That is the worst result of this state of affairs,” he said, “and that is why I am so disturbed by this.”
O’Malley, who won praise in the 1990s for rescuing his 200-priest Southern Massachusetts diocese from the devastation wrought by the Porter case, defended his actions yesterday in a news release.
O’Malley “has cooperated fully with the district attorney and his office to ensure the safety and protection of children in parishes and diocese settings,” his release said.
While acknowledging that the 21 names were not handed over until six months ago, he added: “No priest named . . . is currently engaged in priestly ministry.” O’Malley also said some of the names were previously known to law enforcement and that in some cases the abuse dates back 50 years.
O’Malley was recently appointed bishop of West Palm Beach, Fla.
Walsh said he released the names to encourage possible victims to step forward so he can weigh more indictments.
Attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr., who negotiated settlements on behalf of scores of Porter victims, commended Walsh for releasing the names. “This validates the victims who have suffered in silence,” he said, “and opens up the possibility of more prosecutions.”
Here is a list of the priests named yesterday and their legal status:
1. Raymond McCarthy; four alleged victims.
2. Gilbert Simoes; six alleged victims; beyond the statute of limitations.
3. Paul Connelly; eight alleged victims; beyond statute.
4. Arthur DeMello; one alleged victim; beyond statute.
5. John Cronin; three alleged victims; beyond the statute.
6. Norman Boulet; two alleged victims; beyond statute.
7. James Murphy; three alleged victims; beyond statute.
8. Donald J. Bowen; indicted.
9. Stephen Furtado; one alleged victim; no jurisdiction because incident was outside Bristol County.
10. Donald Messier; one alleged victim; beyond statute.
11. Stanley Barney, one alleged victim; beyond statute.
12. Phillip Higgins, one alleged victim; beyond statute.
13. Kevin Tripp; two alleged victims; beyond statute.
14. Raymond Robillard; two alleged victims; beyond statute.
15. David Landry; one alleged victim; beyond statute.
16. Joseph McQuire; one alleged victim; victim not interested in pursuing case.
17. Edward Rausch; one alleged victim; beyond statute.
18. Robert Kaszynski: four alleged victims; beyond statute.
19. Albert Berube: one alleged victim; deceased.
20. Edward Paquette; four alleged victims; beyond statute.
21. George Avellar; one alleged victim; deceased.
Robin Washington contributed to this report.
Bristol’s DA Lists Names of Accused Priests
By Michael Rezendes and Matt Carroll
New Bedford - Bristol District Attorney Paul F. Walsh Jr. yesterday released the names of 20 priests accused of sexual misconduct in complaints to the Fall River Diocese, drawing praise from advocates for victims of clergy sexual abuse and denunciation from others who said Walsh had run roughshod over the rights of the accused.
During a news conference in which he also announced the indictment of a one-time Fall River priest on abuse charges, Walsh said he knew his extraordinary decision to name priests facing accusations too old to prosecute would create controversy. But he said his frustration at the recalcitrance of church officials, including Bishop Sean O’Malley, had forced him to act.
“We will not be a party to protecting the darkness, to protecting the silence and secrecy,” Walsh said, adding that he hopes the release of the names will embolden other victims to come forward with accusations that might fall within the statute of limitations, the window of time in which child sex abuse charges may be prosecuted.
The Fall River Diocese, in a statement, said it had “cooperated fully with the district attorney and his office to ensure the safety and protection of children in our parishes.”
There has been no similar large-scale release of priests’ names in the Boston Archdiocese, where two of Walsh’s peers - Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley and Norfolk District Attorney William Keating - said yesterday they would not release the names of priests similarly accused unless they are able to secure criminal indictments. And some attorneys representing accused priests, as well as some known for defending civil liberties, said Walsh had tarred the reputations of clergymen who may never get a chance to defend themselves at trial.
“This is so unfair because you’re saying to people who supposedly did something decades ago that because they can’t be prosecuted, because the statute of limitations has run out, they’re going to be convicted in the press,” said Michael Altman, attorney for a priest suspended earlier this year by the Boston Archdiocese. “That’s not how the justice system is supposed to work.”
Harvey Silverglate, a Boston criminal defense attorney and civil libertarian, also criticized Walsh, saying that the priests who were named but remain unindicted won’t have the legal tools of a criminally charged defendant - including the right to subpoena evidence and witnesses.
“I think what the district attorney did is unprofessional, unethical, and in many ways immoral,” Silverglate said.
But attorneys for victims of clergy sexual abuse hailed Walsh’s decision to release the names of priests facing accusations too old to prosecute, saying that Walsh had encouraged other victims to come forward while underscoring the need to widen or abolish the statute of limitations in cases of this kind.
“Today’s action is a signal to the Legislature that the statute of limitations for child rape and molestation must be changed,” said Roderick MacLeish Jr., a Boston lawyer with the firm Greenberg Traurig, which represents more than 200 alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse.
David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an advocacy group, also praised Walsh, saying that Walsh had given solace to those who might have been abused by the priests he named and had provided valuable information to parents seeking to protect their children from sexual molesters. Walsh said that none of the unindicted priests he named were in active ministry; two are dead.
As he named those priests, Walsh also announced the indictment of the Rev. Donald J. Bowen, 64, who left the Fall River Diocese in 1971 to work in Bolivia, where he currently resides, under the missionary Society of St. James. Bowen was charged with sexually abusing a girl from the time she was 9 years old until she was 16. The accusation was still open to prosecution because the statute of limitations is suspended when the accused leaves the state.
Walsh, in explaining his decision to release the names, cited O’Malley’s failure to hand over the names of accused priests years ago, and said the bishop’s inaction probably had resulted in an injustice for both the alleged victims and accused priests.
“We’re prohibited from an effective prosecution and the priests are prohibited from an effective exoneration. That’s the injustice for the victims and the guys on the list,” Walsh said.
O’Malley, who has had a reputation for forthrightly addressing the issue of clergy sexual abuse, is scheduled to leave the Fall River Diocese next month to be installed as the leader of the Palm Beach, Fla., Diocese, which has been rocked by the resignations of its last two bishops over sexual abuse allegations.
O’Malley did not respond to Walsh directly. But, in a statement, the Fall River Diocese strenuously rejected Walsh’s criticisms, saying that abuse cases had been consistently reported to authorities for the last 10 years.
“At no time did the district attorney have to threaten or cajole. It has never been our intention to conceal anything from law enforcement agencies. Had public officials asked for past records at any time, the diocese would have made them available,” the statement said.
Coakley said she would not follow Walsh in releasing the names of accused but unindicted priests, citing the unfairness of treating priests accused of sexual abuse differently than anyone else accused of committing a crime.
David Traub, a spokesman for Keating, said: “From the very beginning this investigation has been treated like any other investigation, and this office does not release the names of people who are investigated but not charged,” Traub said.
Still, Walsh does not appear to have violated any law or any of the rules of professional conduct for attorneys or prosecutors, according to Arnold R. Rosenfeld, the former head of the state board that oversees lawyers’ conduct.
The action Walsh took yesterday mirrors a decision earlier this week by Cardinal William H. Keeler to publicize the names of 83 priests accused of sexually molesting minors in the Baltimore Archdiocese over 70 years.
In a letter to 180,000 Catholic households, Keeler said he would review the names of the accused priests, none of whom are active, with clergymen now serving the archdiocese and then post the names of the accused priests on the archdiocesan Web site. “At times, we have let our fears of scandal override the need for the kind of openness that helps prevent abuse,” Keeler said in his letter.
More Names Released
No others were listed by the district attorney as having denied or admitted wrongdoing.
DA takes bishop to task
By Steve Urbon
Declaring “the shroud of secrecy has gone on long enough,” Bristol County District Attorney Paul F. Walsh Jr. yesterday accused Bishop Sean Patrick O’Malley of sitting on the cases of priests accused of sexual misconduct.
Diocese of Fall River officials strongly rejected Mr. Walsh’s accusation.
Mr. Walsh produced a list with the names of 20 former priests who, at some time in their career, had complaints filed against them. The statute of limitations for criminal prosecution in all these cases has expired.
One additional priest, the Rev. Donald Bowen, who 30 years ago served at St. Mary Church in Norton, was indicted by a county grand jury Wednesday and was charged with one count of indecent assault and one count of unnatural and lascivious acts. The alleged conduct ended in 1971.
[Photo Caption - Bristol County District Attorney Paul F. Walsh Jr. speaks at a news conference announcing a list of priests he says have been accused of sexual abuse. In the photo in the background, the Rev. Donald Bowen, 64, an accused priest, stands with a group of children. Jack Iddon/The Standard-Times]
Mr. Walsh said a lawyer for the Rev. Bowen had called to say that the priest would return from his mission in Bolivia to face the charges.
Under the statutes as they were written at the time of the alleged crimes decades ago, he faces five years imprisonment on each count. The clock stopped on the statute of limitations when he left the country.
Mr. Walsh hailed the courage of the victim in coming forward after several decades, and said he hopes the woman’s example -- she is 47 now -- would be an inspiration to others.
Mr. Walsh expressed frustration, stating that if he had known about the cases earlier he might have been able to prosecute them.
“We don’t know if we would have been able to prosecute. That’s an answer we will never know and that is why I am so disturbed about this delay in giving these names to the Bristol County district attorney’s office,” said Mr. Walsh at an afternoon press conference.
“I will not pretend these victims don’t exist. I won’t pretend we don’t know names. I won’t pretend this type of conduct did not occur,” he said.
He said the information was provided by the diocese after “a delicate but ultimately forceful request” earlier this year. Asked why he didn’t seek the information a decade ago after the James Porter case, Mr. Walsh said, “perhaps it was naivete on my part.”
“I’ve been here for 10 years and so has (Bishop O’Malley). I hadn’t heard these names until just recently,” said Mr. Walsh, who is running unopposed for re-election in November. Bishop O’Malley leaves next month for the Palm Beach, Fla., diocese.
The Diocese of Fall River sharply disputed Mr. Walsh’s charge that it hadn’t been cooperative and timely.
“In March of this year, Bishop O’Malley took the initiative in offering to the district attorney the names of priests against whom allegations of sexual misconduct had been made,” the diocese responded in a written statement. “Although some of these allegations were made in recent years, they all referred to sexual misconduct which occurred 20 to 50 years ago. No priest named by the district attorney today is currently engaged in priestly ministry. Many of the names submitted were already known to the district attorney’s offices. The bishop decided to offer information concerning past allegations to the district attorney’s office because of the heightened concerns over clergy abuse in recent times. From the beginning, the diocese pledged its full cooperation with the district attorney; at no time did the district attorney have to threaten or cajole.”
Diocese spokesman John Kearns produced a newspaper report from April quoting Mr. Walsh as saying, “At the request of the Fall River Diocese ... an exchange of information has begun. More is contemplated.”
In fact, said the diocese, the flow of information was often from law enforcement officials to the diocese.
“It has been law enforcement officials who referred victims to the diocese because their hands were tied due to the statue of limitations which offered a limited window to prosecute,” the diocese stated.
Since the Porter case, the Fall River diocese has been held up as a model for the proper handling of accusations against priests, counseling of victims and the safeguarding of children. Bishop O’Malley put in place a strict policy of screening personnel at all levels and reporting accusations to law enforcement authorities.
But Mr. Walsh saw it differently yesterday.
“When the Porter case came out it would have been a perfect time for them to tell us about other cases. To sit there for 10 years and pretend that there are no other cases in Bristol County perpetuates a falsehood, and I’m not going to be a part of that.”
Before Porter, it was a long-standing practice to settle such cases secretly and out of court, and most of the cases cited by the district attorney predated Bishop O’Malley’s arrival.
One of the priests on Mr. Walsh’s list, however, was publicly accused 10 years ago, amid the Porter turmoil. The Rev. Paul G. Connolly, a former New Bedford priest then serving in Taunton, was put on administrative leave by Bishop O’Malley after six people came forward with accusations of misconduct.
After initial press reports based on unnamed sources, the diocese confirmed that information in a press release.
But Mr. Walsh decided not to become involved. After interviewing an alleged victim referred to his office by Porter victims’ attorney Roderick MacLeish, Mr. Walsh declined to prosecute. “We spoke with one individual and after speaking with him decided there was nothing to investigate or to prosecute,” Mr. Walsh said at the time.
“We have heard through the media that there were three individuals (later six),” but until they come forward, they’re not cases,” said Mr. Walsh in September 1992. Mr. Walsh would not say at the time why his office would not press an investigation of the Rev. Connolly, saying that going into detail would be a breach of confidentiality in such cases.
Asked yesterday to reconcile that scenario with Mr. Walsh’s statement that he “hadn’t heard these names until just recently,” Assistant District Attorney Gerald T. FitzGerald angrily said there was no contradiction, that Mr. Walsh was being misinterpreted. He then became personally abusive to a reporter before hanging up the phone.
Some of the other names on the list are much more recent, and victims’ attorneys heaped praise on Mr. Walsh for his decision to reveal all of them.
Gina Dines Holness, an attorney in Mr. MacLeish’s firm, said she “strongly supports” Mr. Walsh’s actions. The firm represents the alleged victims of several of the priests on Mr. Walsh’s list, among whom is the Rev. Robert Kaszynski, former pastor of St. Stanislaus parish in Fall River, who resigned earlier this year after one allegation. Now there are four allegations. Frank Nebush of Utica, N.Y., the husband of one of the accusers, Joyce Nebush, said yesterday, “I never thought (Walsh) would do anything.”
Ms. Holness said: “He should be applauded that he took the step to name the names of people who are immune because of the statute of limitations. The fact is that people are coming out now because they are reminded in some way” by the revelations.
Her firm also represents clients who have filed civil claims because of the alleged actions of other priests on the list: the Rev. Raymond McCarthy, with four alleged victims; Monsignor Albert Berube, one alleged victim; and the Rev. George Avellar, one alleged victim. (The Standard-Times is not listing those who are not the subject of official complaints).
Monsignor Berube, longtime pastor of St. Anthony de Padua Church in New Bedford, died in 1993. Also deceased is the Rev. Avellar, who served at Mount Carmel Church in New Bedford. The Rev. McCarthy is an Attleboro native, ordained in 1954, who served at Sacred Heart Parish in Fall River, and later at St. Patrick Church in Fall River. He then was transferred to St. Mark’s Parish in Attleboro Falls, and to Our Lady of Victory Parish in Centerville on Cape Cod in 1969.
Mr. Walsh’s decision to name names wasn’t universally applauded. One source close to the Porter case said, “It’s outrageous to throw out the names of 20 people who aren’t accused of anything. If he released the names of 15 people who other people said stole things, no one would run that list in a million years. Is that the way our democratic system works? We throw it out and say we’re now stirring up the pot?”
Mr. Walsh said, “My staff and I discussed at length the ramifications
of releasing the list. I understand that I will be criticized for committing
to such a rare course of action.
Mr. Walsh’s decision goes a step beyond what other prosecutors have done. Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz declined to comment on Mr. Walsh’s move, but said he would probably not have done the same because “the vast majority of the cases are beyond the statute of limitations.”
Essex County District Attorney Kevin Burke, president of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, said he would be reluctant to release the names of priests who had not been charged unless he believed they were a “clear and present danger” to the public.
“It’s a real balancing test -- the rights of individuals who have the potential of being accused of a crime but they can’t be prosecuted versus the public safety and the right of citizens to know,” Mr. Burke said. “It is a very tough call.”
By Kathleen Durand
BOSTON -- While Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley was being installed as head of the Boston archdiocese Wednesday, a group of about 50 demonstrators and protesters held signs and gave speeches outside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
They stood behind metal barriers in a designated area near the historic cathedral’s front entrance.
Some of them held crosses labeled "Walls of Deceit and Shame." One cross was for the Fall River Diocese. It bore the names of about 21 priests who were investigated for alleged sexual abuse of children.
Terry McKiernan of Natick, an advocate for Survivors First and a founder of Voice of the Faithful, told the gathering that the late Rev. Jose Avila, also known as D’Avila, abused an estimated 100 children during a 44-year career as a priest in Taunton, Fall River, East Falmouth and New Bedford.
Despite the trail of devastation he left, McKiernan said Avila is unknown to the public at large. He said, however, that Avila is known to O’Malley and his former colleagues in the Fall River Diocese.
McKiernan said a survivor who came forward about the case is the son of hardworking farmers on Cape Cod. As a boy, he said the survivor looked up to Avila, until the day that Avila allegedly attacked him in the rectory.
"Life has been very difficult for my friend since then, and he feels he’s carrying the ‘guilt’ of the abuse, though he knows it wasn’t his fault," McKiernan said. He said the man is now in therapy, but the church is not paying for it.
McKiernan said when he visited the victim, he met other men who were propositioned by Avila as children.
"I heard stories of suicides, depression and broken homes, all because of this priest," he said.
He said Avila and the Rev. Gilbert Simoes, his assistant, worked at seven parishes from the early 1930s to the late 1980s, and both abused children.
Although his friend went to the district attorney in Barnstable to file a complaint against Avila, McKiernan said he learned that the statute of limitations prevented prosecution.
McKiernan said his friend was offered counseling by the Fall River Diocese, not by an independent counselor, and after he declined, the diocese dropped the matter.
"It is time now to release the diocesan files on every Fall River priest who abused children and vulnerable adults. It’s time to bring justice and dignity to the Portuguese community and to everyone who has suffered because of these priests," McKiernan said. "We’re told that O’Malley is a healer. Let him finish that job openly in Fall River, and then begin it in Boston."
Some of the protesters held signs that read "Criminals in robes," "Bishops are intrinsically evil," "O’Malley, oh really," and "Thanks for standing with the victims."
Rene Buchanan of Allston said she has been demonstrating outside the cathedral since 1979 to press for the ordination of female priests. She is a member of Massachusetts Womenchurch and the National Women’s Ordination Conference.
Kathleen Durand may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.