Records Describe a Parish in Turmoil
Quincy Church Agonized over Priest's Actions
By Casey Ross
Patriot Ledger [Quincy MA]
February 7, 2003
Newly-released documents of the Boston Archdiocese show that some parishioners at a Quincy church were so upset with a priest over his demeanor and allegations of inappropriate behavior with children that they were all but ready to march on Cardinal Bernard Law's Brighton headquarters.
A 1996 memo in the files of the late Rev. Gerard Dever said angry parishioners at St. Ann Church in Wollaston were "talking about going public, organizing a busload to come to the residence."
Quincy parents accused the Rev. Dever of inappropriately touching their daughters at the church's elementary school, and another memo said the priest "should be told to stay out of the school for his own good."
The Rev. Dever denied the allegations and said his accusers had emotional problems. It was not clear whether he was asked to stay away from the school.
Church officials sent the Rev. Dever to a psychologist for evaluation and expressed worry about turmoil in the parish. An archdiocese review board concluded that while he was sometimes intemperate and insensitive to the impression he made, the Rev. Dever had not sexually abused children and he could continue as a priest without restrictions.
The board urged that he be encouraged to continue in therapy.
The complaints against the Rev. Dever started in 1993 and continued for three years, the records say.
One parent alleged that Quincy police were investigating the Rev. Dever in 1996. Detective Lt. Thomas Malvesti said Quincy police had not received any complaints about the priest, who died in 1997.
The allegations against the Rev. Dever and two other priests who served in South Shore churches were contained in more than 600 pages of records released yesterday by lawyers for alleged victims of the Rev. Paul Shanley, a retired priest at the center of the sex abuse scandal in the Boston Archdiocese.
The records detail numerous accusations of sexual abuse against the priests and attempts by the archdiocese to keep them in ministry even after learning of the charges.
In some cases, top church officials strongly defended the priests even after parents complained of inappropriate conduct and called for their removal.
In addition to the Rev. Dever, the records detail allegations against five other priests, including the Rev. Paul McPartland, who served at a church in Halifax, and the late Rev. Paul P. Rynne, who served in Plymouth.
Many of the most serious allegations were made against the Rev. Rynne, a former executive director of the Boston Archdiocese's human rights commission. He was accused of child rape and numerous other sex crimes over a 40-year career in the priesthood. He died in 2001.
Church records show that the Rev. Rynne was accused of raping a boy in the 1960s and abusing another boy as many as 100 times.
While assigned to St. Bonaventure Church in Plymouth from 1981 to 1986, he allegedly kept a photo album of half-naked boys and once tried to convince a teenager to pose for a photo with his genitals exposed, the records show.
The Rev. McPartland was accused in 1998 of sexually assaulting a woman 29 years earlier, when she was 16 and he was assigned to Gate of Heaven Church in South Boston.
The Rev. McPartland, then pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Church in Halifax, denied the allegation and said the teenager had been "aggressive" and clinging, and he had objected to her behavior.
The priest assigned to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct at the time, the Rev. William F. Murphy, wrote to Cardinal Law that the complaint "seems to be coming from a troubled woman who misunderstood an incident in which Fr. McPartland asserted himself against her aggressive behavior."
The Rev. McPartland remained at Our Lady of the Lake until he retired last May. He could not be reached for comment.
The Rev. Dever was ordained in 1971 and served in St. Margaret Mary Church in Westwood, St. Gregory Church in Dorchester and St. Jerome Church in Weymouth before being assigned to St. Ann in 1993.
Among other allegations, parents said the priest adjusted the buttons on girls' blouses and patted their backsides, told one 11-year-old she was "filling out nicely" and touched the side of a child's breast.
One mother wrote to Cardinal Law in 1996 that the pastor of St. Ann at the time, the Rev. Thomas Keane, "insists that we are only accusing Fr. Dever because we 'don't like him,' " and that we're not bright enough to understand the difference between 'fatherly' concern and inappropriate touching."
Parishioners also complained about instances in which the Rev. Dever allegedly berated them. One church member wrote to the archdiocese in 1994 that the priest "began to chastise and reprimand" several hundred families at the church Christmas pageant for talking during the ceremony the year before.
"There are many parents appalled by the way he treats people," the letter said.
Donna Morrissey, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said she could not comment on matters involving ongoing litigation.
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