Rev. Donald M. Osgood: Documents
Detail ‘Licentious’ Activity at City Hospital
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When Osgood got that letter from Monsignor Thomas S. Hansberry, it was January 1964 and he was living in Albuquerque, N.M., working, according to Osgood, as the “evening manager in a reputable suburban restaurant that caters to the family and tourist trade.”
Osgood had left a monastery without permission because he felt he got no help there. He was trying to convince church officials he had controlled his sexual proclivity and should be given a second chance in the ministry of the Roman Catholic Church.
“I wish to remain a priest,” Osgood, then 36, wrote in a letter, dated Dec. 14, 1963, and addressed to the Most Rev. Ernest J. Primeau, bishop of Manchester.
Primeau was the second bishop to deal directly with the embarrassment of Father Osgood, a Rochester native, Navy veteran, St. Anselm College graduate and mediocre seminarian. Concerns about Osgood had begun to surface within months of his ordination by Bishop Matthew F. Brady on June 4, 1955.
The following February, Brady ordered Osgood to get rid of his convertible after police informed the bishop about complaints they had received from parents of two eighth-graders. The boys had told of how Osgood would drive them around in Manchester and Goffstown — with one hand on the wheel while the other fondled their genitals.
After meeting with the bishop, Osgood followed up with a letter in which he asked to be allowed to keep his car because he needed it to visit his ailing mother.
As he would for years to come, Osgood suggested he was the victim and he sought to tap into the forgiving nature of his superior.
He wrote: “The impression was given me, in our talk, that I planned the episode with premeditated malice and forethought. This is NOT true. I never asked either of them to see me or to ride with me. Here again, I have to ask you as my spiritual Father to believe me that I speak with all honesty and truthfulness.”
The police report about those early complaints, dated Feb. 25, 1956, concludes with this admonition: “Parents and the boys stated that they would keep this in deep secrecy.”
It set a pattern of confidentiality that would be a recurring theme in the file the archdiocese compiled on Osgood over the next 15 years. The file — with several glaring gaps — was among 9,000 pages of documents released yesterday that were collected by the Attorney General’s Office during its investigation of how church leaders have dealt with priests accused of sexual abuse.
In September 1958, Osgood was halfway through a five-year assignment as chaplain of Manchester’s Sacred Heart Hospital when the Rev. John Burke of Worcester, Mass., telephoned the chancellery to convey a tale to his friend, the Rev. A.W. Olkovikas, that had been told by a teenage boy who was a student at St. Anselm College.
“The Sacred Heart Hospital chaplain’s quarters have been and as far as (is) still known are used for licentious purposes,” Olkovikas wrote in a memorandum marked confidential. He described it as “a nest of homosexuals,” with ties to what was apparently commonly referred to in church circles at the time as “the Boston Ring.”
The informant told of participating with other college students and several priests in homosexual encounters — “everything from mutual masturbation to oral relations” — at the chaplain’s office, where liquor flowed and pornographic materials circulated.
“The teenager informant does not wish to be considered blameless since he has been addicted to this vice from an early age,” Olkovikas wrote. “His only request is that this information be made known only (to) the Bishop and the Chancellor for whatever action they may deem necessary.”
With regard to Osgood’s involvement in the homosexual partying at Sacred Heart, Brady responded by again ordering him to get rid of his automobile.
“And you are not to own or drive a car under any circumstances until notified otherwise,” Brady wrote, signing the one-sentence letter, “Devotedly yours in Christ.”
In March 1960, Osgood was the subject of a father’s anger. The man complained to Manchester police that his teenage son had “spent the night” with Osgood at Sacred Heart Hospital. He relayed his concerns to Thomas King, then a sergeant, who would later rise to the rank of police chief.
“Sgt. King told Mr. . . . to forget any threats and that he would see that the matter was taken care of,” the Rev. Joseph M. Donahue wrote in a letter to the chancellor, the Rev. Hansberry.
“No formal charges have been lodged at the police station about this particular case. I asked Sgt. King if anyone else knew about it and he thought that the only other one who knew about it was Inspector Curran. I’m sorry that I had to bring this to your attention but I promised Sgt. King that I would do so,” Donahue wrote.
By June 1961, Bishop Primeau was threatening to pull Osgood out of the ministry.
“It is evident,” the bishop wrote, “that in the matter of your homosexual activities neither my admonitions to you . . . nor changes in your assignments have proved effectual.” He warned of suspension “unless an immediate, drastic and permanent reformation is made in your personal life.”
Primeau communicated with officials at Via Coeli, the New Mexico retreat for deviant priests run by the Servants of the Paraclete. The bishop asked if they would take Osgood in. He emphasized the need for secrecy was paramount, instructing the monastery officials to communicate with him by letter or telegraph.
“I do not trust the telephone for such matters because of the dangers of a leak,” the bishop wrote.
After Osgood had been at Via Coeli for a year, Primeau was writing to a doctor in Albuquerque, Thomas S. Evilsizer Jr., who had met with Osgood and filed what is referred to as “a psychiatric report.”
“I would be interested in your diagnosis of this case if you wish to send it to me. I should also like your personal opinion as to whether he should return to the diocese for assignment at this time,” Primeau wrote.
Whatever information the diocese received from Evilsizer was not included among the papers released yesterday by the Attorney General’s office.
By October, the superior of Via Coeli was expressing concerns about Osgood’s interest “in being with the laity,” and Primeau had decided it would be “unwise to bring Father Osgood back to New Hampshire at the present time.”
As 1963 came to a close, Osgood left the monastery and set out on his own to find psychiatric help. “The treatment offered at Via Coeli did not seem to be aimed at the root of the problem but only in increasing my will power,” he said in a letter to Primeau.
The bishop and the chancellor continued to communicate with Osgood and his doctors until, in January 1967 they brought him back to New Hampshire.
“Things are a bit tight here personnel-wise,” Hansberry wrote in notifying Osgood he would be posted to All Saints Parish in Lancaster.
It did not take long for the complaints to begin.
By October 1967, Hansberry was writing confidential memos, including one about how Osgood had shown a 14-year-old boy a book that contained photographs of nude men.
He was moved again, this time to Bristol, but Primeau noted in a Feb. 27, 1968, letter introducing Osgood to the archbishop of Washington state that his “effectiveness here is at an end, although he apparently made a tremendous effort to re-establish himself in the priesthood.”
Two months later, Osgood, writing from Albuquerque, told Hansberry he was thinking of giving up the priesthood.
“It is appearing, more and more, to me that the mind of the Church is really skeptical when it comes to considering my place in the ranks and I also realize that this is a position into which I put myself, so I have no ax to grind,” Osgood wrote.
Hansberry urged him to give the move very serious thought.
“Laicization is a big step and should be taken only after mature deliberation and prayer,” the chancellor wrote.
He included a check for $300 to cover Osgood’s living expenses and said the diocese would continue to pay him a salary of $150 a month “until you get your feet on the ground and are gainfully employed.”
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