Sex Abuse Lawsuits against Priest Are Dismissed
The former leader of a North Richland Hills church asks the Fort Worth Diocese to restore him to active ministry

By Tara Dooley
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
December 8, 2000

North Richland Hills - Sexual abuse lawsuits against the Rev. Philip Magaldi have been dismissed by a federal judge, and the former priest at St. John the Apostle Catholic Church has asked to be returned to active ministry.

A U.S. district judge in Boston dismissed a lawsuit in October, about two weeks after plaintiff Thomas A. Marks died. An earlier lawsuit filed by Marks was dismissed in January. Both were dismissed because he did not follow court procedures.

Magaldi said he believes that the dismissals support his innocence.

"It is just reinforcing my original claim that the allegations were not true," he said. " I feel I have been exonerated."

The lawsuits alleged that Magaldi sexually abused Marks during the 1970s when he was a priest in the Catholic Diocese of Providence in Rhode Island.

Magaldi has vehemently disputed the allegations since they emerged in April 1999 and has said that he never met Marks. The accusations were an attempt to extort money from the Catholic Church, he said.

"I think this young man saw or was aware of the big problems in Dallas and somehow thought Texas was great for giving money for those kinds of things," Magaldi said, referring to a 1998 civil case in which the Catholic Diocese of Dallas settled lawsuits
against former priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos for more than $30 million.

Magaldi said he presented Bishop Joseph P. Delaney of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth with a letter requesting that he be allowed to return as a parish priest.

"I have to accept whatever the bishop and the personnel board decides," he said. "I'm just interested in going back to full-time ministry."
Delaney and the Rev. Robert Wilson, chancellor of the diocese, are in Honduras on a mission trip this week and were unavailable to comment, diocese spokesman Jeff Hensley said.

Magaldi retired in April 1999 after Marks, a then-40-year-old Fall River, Mass., resident, alleged that the priest abused him between 1970 and 1976 in Worcester, Mass.

Marks met Magaldi when the priest offered him a ride after his bicycle broke down on a Worcester street, according to the lawsuit. Marks recalled the suppressed memories in 1997 during a discussion with his sponsor in an alcoholics support group, the lawsuit stated.

In July 1999, Marks filed a federal civil lawsuit against the Fort Worth Diocese, the priest and the Catholic Diocese of Providence.

U.S. District Judge Richard Steams dismissed that lawsuit in January. Marks refiled it in April, and Steams dismissed it Oct. 20.

Fall River police said Marks died in his parents' home Oct. 9. The cause of death is unknown, police Lt. Eduardo Raposo said.

Two telephone calls to Marks' former attorney and to a family member were not returned.

Based on the language in the court order, the lawsuits were dismissed on technical grounds, not on facts, said Sylvia Demarest, a Dallas lawyer who represented three of 11 plaintiffs in the case against Kos and the Catholic Diocese of Dallas.

"It does not say anything about the merits of the case," said Demarest, who emphasized that she is unfamiliar with the specifics of the lawsuit.

The Kos case generally has not spurred frivolous lawsuits against priests and the Catholic Church because such cases are complicated and expensive, she said.

"I haven't seen any indication of it," Demarest said. "They are simply too difficult ... to handle. Generally speaking, when these cases are filed, they represent simply the tip of the iceberg."

But Magaldi's supporters say the dismissals underscore their belief in the priest's innocence.

"It is time to let it go and get him back in there where we desperately need him," said Colleyville resident Peter Sakovich, who had Magaldi as a priest at St. John the Apostle Catholic Church in North Richland Hills.

Magaldi was ordained Dec. 18, 1960. After serving parishes in Rhode Island for several years, he resigned in 1988 amid allegations of financial mismanagement in the parish where he
worked, officials from the Providence Diocese have said.
In 1992, Magaldi pleaded guilty to embezzlement charges in Rhode Island and served time in a work-release program.

In July 1993, he arrived at St. John the Apostle. As parish priest, he was known for his warmth, his compassion for parishioners in need and his uplifting homilies, said Hulda Littlefield of Richland Hills.

"He has been a friend that cares, and I mean sincerely cares," she said.

Tara Dooley, (817) 685-3814


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.