Diocese Releases Files on Spagnolia and Other Priests with Local Ties
By Julie Mehegan
Lowell Sun (Lowell, MA)
December 12, 2002
BOSTON The personnel files of 11 priests alleged to have committed acts of sexual abuse including several priests with Lowell ties were released by lawyers yesterday amid the continuing sex abuse scandal engulfing the Archdiocese of Boston and its leader, Cardinal Bernard Law.
Included among the files released yesterday are the personnel records of the Rev. D. George Spagnolia, the ousted Lowell pastor who went on national television to deny a claim that he sexually abused a minor 30 years ago; the Rev. Redmond Raux, whose first assignment was at St. Mary's parish in Chelmsford; and the Rev. George Callahan, who was accused in the early 1990s of sexually assaulting an adult male from Lowell.
The release of records was the fourth in about a week. A Superior Court judge has ordered the archdiocese to turn over the personnel files for all priests accused of sexual abuse to lawyers for alleged victims suing the church.
Attorneys Roderick MacLeish Jr. and Jeffrey Newman, who represent more than 200 alleged victims, said that the files bolster their claim that the church engaged in a pattern of covering up allegations of abuse to avoid scandal, and reassigned priests despite past allegations of sexual assault.
The documents show that the archdiocese failed to notify the Air Force of the past claim against Raux when he applied for his position as a military chaplain in 1996. Raux, now 47, who served as associate pastor of St. Mary's from 1982 to 1987, is still assigned as an Air Force chaplain in Wyoming.
The single complaint contained in his personnel file first surfaced in 1992, when a student at Boston College High School complained of separate incidents of abuse at the hands of Raux and another priest, the Rev. James Wilson, when the two priests were assigned to Gate of Heaven parish in South Boston.
The student claimed that Raux touched the boy's crotch through his altar boy vestments and showed him pornographic videos in the church rectory. Raux denied the claim, but after a review by church officials, Law ordered him removed from his assignment and placed restrictions on his future ministry. He then entered a hospital ministry program.
In late 1995, the archdiocese paid $200,000 to settle the boy's claim. But in early 1996, a clergy review board revisited the case, found there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the abuse accusation, and recommended lifting restrictions on Raux's ministry. Documents show Law then submitted a letter attesting to Raux's "good character and reputation" and his fitness to serve as a military chaplain. Also in the letter, Law said he was "unaware of anything in [Raux's] background that would render him unsuitable to work with minor children."
Records in his personnel file indicate Raux said there was "no truth" to the young man's claim.
Thomas Connelly, a vice chancellor at the Archdiocese for Military Service, wouldn't comment specifically on Raux's case. He added he'd be "very surprised" if an archbishop revealed unsubstantiated accusations about a priest's past.
MacLeish, however, said the church had an obligation to inform Raux's new superiors of the allegation.
"Whatever the truth of the allegations about Father Raux, what is clear is that there was a substantial amount of information that Cardinal Law did not disclose," MacLeish said.
Spagnolia, formerly pastor of St. Patrick's parish in the city's Acre section, was removed from his position last February when a single allegation of sexual abuse surfaced, dating to the early 1970s when the priest was assigned to a Roxbury parish.
Spagnolia at first pledged to fight his removal as pastor while remaining in the rectory, going on national television to make a defiant stand against the archdiocesan order. He later agreed to move out after acknowledging that he engaged in a homosexual relationship while on a 20-year leave of absence from the church. He continues to deny the abuse claim.
Unlike the files of other accused priests, many of which contain hand-written notes and memos detailing claims by one or more alleged victims, Spagnolia's personnel file is thick with mostly mundane correspondence about compensation, health insurance and his parish assignments, along with a series of letters and memos evaluating his fitness to return to ministry after the 20-year leave. The file contains only one reference to the abuse allegation a Feb. 26 letter from Law removing Spagnolia as pastor of St. Patrick's.
Also released yesterday was the personnel file of Callahan, an Augustinian priest who was assigned to St. Mary's parish in Lawrence when a Lowell man, who was an employee of the church, claimed the priest groped him and made lewd remarks. Records show the archdiocese paid the man $17,000 to settle the complaint.
Callahan was previously accused of abusing a teenage boy while assigned to the Church of the Assumption in Lawrence. Records indicate Callahan denied both claims.
MacLeish said his firm has now been given the files of more than 80 priests accused of sexual abuse, and records show the treatment of those priests over the years by the archdiocese has been inconsistent. Some were permanently removed from ministry after a single accusation. Others who faced multiple allegations were reassigned.
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