News and Opinion
Were Is DA Conte in 2004

Worcester Voice [Worcester MA]
Downloaded April 26, 2004

Where was District Attorney John Conte in 1987 and why has he failed to seek criminal indictments for the crimes committed by Rev. Thomas Kane and the Diocese of Worcester concerning the House of Affirmation?

More investigation is needed into the running of the House of Affirmation in Whitinsville, which closed in the early 1990s after allegations were made of gross fiscal mismanagement by one of its founders, the Rev. Thomas A. Kane.

Monsignor Edmond Tinsley, a priest of the Diocese of Worcester and member of the House Board of Directors, has testified that the records from the House of Affirmation were destroyed. George E. Rueger, auxiliary bishop of Worcester, also a board member has remained silent and failed to assist clergy abuse victims when they came forward with his knowledge.

The House of Affirmation was founded by Father Thomas A. Kane, Sister Anna Polcino and lay Catholic psychiatrist Conrad Baars. It was formally opened with a Mass of dedication at 11:30 a.m. in St. Patrick's Church, Whitinsville, followed by a benefit buffet at 2 p.m. at Pleasant Valley Country Club, Sutton on June 1, 1974 according to published report in The Catholic Free Press. The newspaper never said who benefited from the buffet.

Cardinal John Wright, according to the Free Press article, helped get Vatican permission for opening of the house. Among hierarchy at the dedication were Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan of Worcester, Cardinal Humberto Medeiros of Boston and Cardinal Alfrink of the Netherlands.

The "House" opened with a great flourish of publicity. Yet, not one news article mentioned that one of its reasons for existing was treatment for sexually dysfunctional priests. You would think it was just tired and overworked priests and religious who went there. The term "stress" shows up a lot in newspaper clippings of the era. Although not part of the church, it had close ties to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester.

The House of Affirmation, a non-profit corporation, was said to be independent of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester. Yet in review of the board members shows that Bishop Timothy J. Harrington of the Worcester Diocese was president and treasurer of the five-member board of directors. Two other Worcester directors were Father Kane and Sister Polcino and two New York priests, the Rev. Alcuin Coyle and the Rev. Brendan P. Riordan completed board membership.

In dealing with the financial scandal at the House of Affirmation, those who attempted to expose the truth to Attorney General James P. Shannon and later to Cardinal Bernard Law paid a heavy price for their truthfulness. Most were fired, and co-founder Dr. Conrad Baars, who was legitimate and tried to expose existence of "double books," was not only fired but became the subject of rumors spread by both Kane and Polcino of being incompetent to cover their now exposed embezzlement activities, according to an 1987 statement given by his widow, Virginia Baars. Why did the attorney general and Cardinal Law, who was later driven to resignation when it became known that he actively covered up for abusive priests in the Boston archdiocese, not take action on this information of alleged criminal misconduct?

When it was determined that financial mismanagement occurred on the part of Father Kane, he avoided litigation by agreeing to write the House of Affirmation a big check on Oct. 16, 1987 and was barred from participating on the board. Bishop Timothy J. Harrington of the Worcester Diocese then sent Fr Kane on sabbatical "to get rest." Sister Polcino retained an emeritus title with the House and retired to Seaside, N.J.

At a closed-door meeting held at the bishopís house, in 1987 the directors elected George E. Rueger, auxiliary bishop of Worcester, and the Rev. Edmond Tinsley to the board to replace Father Kane and Sister Polcino.

Public documentation now shows that the House of Affirmation closed in the 1990ís among financial hardships and was never able to recover from the public scandal of financial mismanagement to the original pricey $300.00 a day fees once charged for services provided to those who became subject of treatment for sexual addition to young children and adolescents.

Testimony has been given by Rev. Tinsley that he destroyed all the records from the house of affirmation. One must question why these important records were destroyed. Could it have been to protect discovery of documentation that would have supported the accusations made by victims of sexual abuse by priests who were sent to the House for treatment of deviant behavior against children? The diocese recently documented that it knew priests of the Worcester diocese had been molesting children going back to the 1950s.

Catholic priests being treated at the House for this deviant behavior against children were given weekend permission to attend local parishes within the communities surrounding Whitinsville. This practice resulted in numerous accusations of clergy sexual abuse. Father Robert Burns, recently the subject of revisited clergy sexual abuse suits by Boston archdiocese legal representative Wilson Rogers Jr., was named in a suit with the House of Affirmation. That suit was filed and immediately impounded so no one could find out what the accusations were. Still, Mr. Rogers was able to go back in 2002 and get parts of the suit unimpounded for his own reasons.

Activity within the House of Affirmation has long been a contention of clergy sexual abuse with in the Worcester diocese. Many board members have faced sexual abuse accusations. Father Kane has been the subject of at least two civil lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct, to which the Worcester Dioceses has paid a monetary settlement in return for confidentiality agreements. Rev. Alcuin Coyle of New York was removed from his pastoral duties for allegations of sexual abuse. The Rev. Brendan P. Riordan, was the subject of a confidential settlement in a civil lawsuit by Mark Barry, which absolved him and other priests of legal liability involving misconduct at the House. Bishop Rueger was the defendant in a sexual abuse lawsuit which was later dismissed by the complainant. The accusations made in the suit, however, are still under current investigation by state police detectives assigned to the district attorney office, according to DA John Conte.

Father Kane remained a priest in good standing of the Worcester diocese even after he passed over a check to make good on the fiscal irregularities discovered during an investigation. He later was hired to be executive director of the Guild of Catholic Psychiatrists on a recommendation by Bishop Harrington who continued to say the fiscal scandal was behind them and he was still a priest in good standing. Father Kane was later removed from priestly duties in 1993 when allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced and could no longer be publicly denied.


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