Letters Illustrate Path of 'Illness'

By Gregg M. Miliote
Herald News [Taunton MA]
April 8, 2004

TAUNTON -- Two letters recently submitted into evidence during the James Porter sexually dangerous hearings offer a rare glimpse into the mind of the all-star predator of children during very different times of his life.

One such letter, penned by Porter in 1973, was written to the pope while the other, sent in 1996, was delivered to his former wife, Verlyne Gray.

In the letter addressed to "Most Holy Father," Porter is requesting his release from the priesthood after 13 years of being transferred from parish to parish due to his proclivity for sex with children.

Porter, without going into detail, gives the pope a brief run-down of each parish he served at and explains how he "fell back into his sickness" each and every time.

The letter reveals Porter sexually molested children in five different states at eight different parishes.

Porter begins with his 1960 ordination into the Diocese of Fall River by former Bishop James Connolly.

"I was first assigned to St. Mary's Parish in North Attleboro, where I remained for 3 1/2 years, until it became necessary for the bishop to transfer me because of my failures to live up to my priestly responsibilities," Porter wrote on May 17, 1973. "It became known and reported to Bishop Connolly that I had become homosexually involved with some of the youth of the parish."

Porter goes on to attempt to explain away his behavior, saying, "This possibly came about due to the fact that I was always associated with the youth of the parish. I realized I was somewhat of an idol of the children and this was very comforting to me."

The pedophile priest continued to document his journey around the country from church to church where he consistently continued to abuse children.

In his letter, Porter says he molested children in three Massachusetts parishes including Sacred Heart in Fall River and St. James in New Bedford, two churches in New Mexico and one parish each in Minnesota, Nevada and Texas.

He also says that his recollection of all sexual molestation incidents is not fully clear since he was given electro-shock therapy for his "sickness" in the mid-1960s.

The letter then goes on to indicate Porter was asked by a Monsignor Sexton from St. Patrick's Parish in Stoneham to confer with one of his assistant priests, Paul Shanley.

Shanley has since been charged with raping four boys at a parish in Newton during the 1980s. He is currently awaiting trial on those charges.

Porter was eventually granted his request for release from the priesthood and began working jobs as a manager at a Burger King and as a bank teller, both in Minnesota.

His belief that leaving the priesthood would cure his sexually deviant behavior was belied when he was later accused of molesting two of his children's baby-sitters, among others in Minnesota while he was a lay person.

In a second letter released by the court this week from June1996, Porter begs his former wife for forgiveness and her continued support.

"I did horrendous and despicable things to children in the past and there is no excuse," Porter wrote in his letter to Gray, who also testified during Monday's opening day of probable cause hearings aimed at keeping Porter detained indefinitely.

Gray has also since accused her former husband of molesting at least three of their four children.

But in his letter to her he insists this allegation, unlike all the others, is untrue.

"Please don't ever accuse me of molesting or sexually abusing our children. I could never live with myself if I did or even attempted. It's bad enough that I have to live with what I did in the past and the harm I caused others," Porter wrote. "Honey, I did much bad in my life, but never my children. I truly love them and couldn't ever consider doing anything like that to them."

Porter concludes his letter to Gray by asking her to continue to write to him and have his children do the same.

His wishes, though, were likely never granted since Gray said neither she nor her children have had any contact with Porter since the coupledivorced in 1996.


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