Former R.I. Priest Seeks Reinstatement

By Mark Melady
[Worcester MA] Telegram & Gazette
December 16, 2000

A Roman Catholic priest and convicted embezzler, stripped of his public duties last year after a former Worcester resident accused him of sexual abuse dating back to the 1970s, wants to be reinstated.

Two suits filed in Boston federal court by Thomas A. Marks, charging the Rev. Philip A. Magaldi with abusing him in Worcester over a six-year period beginning when he was 12, have been dismissed.

Mr. Marks, who had a police record in Worcester for drugs and armed robbery, died in October at his parents' home in Fall River. He was 42.

The suits were dismissed because the defendants, including the Diocese of Providence, where Rev. Magaldi worked in several parishes for nearly 30 years, were never served notices of the suits.

I never saw the man, never knew him, and never did any of the things he said I did,'' Rev. Magaldi said in a telephone interview from his home in North Richland, Texas, where he lives with his 96-year-old mother.

I was never even in that God-forsaken city except to buy collars at R.J. Toomey,'' he added, referring to Worcester and to the clerical apparel retailer on Plantation Street.

The Dallas Morning News has reported that Rev. Magaldi was given two lie-detector tests by the Providence Diocese during an inquiry concerning Mr. Marks' charges. The report stated that in the first polygraph session, Rev. Magaldi had responses indicative of deception'' when asked whether he'd had sex with Mr. Marks, while the second showed indications of truthfulness'' by the priest when asked the same question.

Parishioners of St. John the Apostle Church in Fort Worth have asked Bishop Joseph P. Delaney of the Fort Worth Diocese to reinstate Rev. Magaldi based on the findings of a West Boylston private detective. The priest was assigned to that church when he was stripped of some of his responsibilities.

The detective, John M. Lajoie, is said to have concluded in a 200-page report that Mr. Marks' allegations, based on a repressed memory revelation in 1997, were unfounded and that his suits were an attempt to get money from the Catholic Church.

Mr. Lajoie said last night that it would be imprudent'' of him to comment on the contents of the investigation report which is being considered by the Fort Worth Diocese.

According to Rev. Magaldi, 64, Mr. Marks was a Jew, but was telling people that he served as an altar boy for the priest in Providence.

Since when does the Catholic Church have Jewish altar boys?'' Rev. Magaldi said. And I was at a church in Cranston at the time that was supposed to have happened.''

Rev. Magaldi said he was a vulnerable target for Mr. Marks because of his highly publicized background.

In 1985, the priest was indicted by a Rhode Island grand jury for lying in a sworn statement he gave in support of Claus von Bulow, the Newport socialite charged with attempting to murder his wife with insulin injections.

Mr. von Bulow was convicted in his first trial. Rev. Magladi's affidavit came during Mr. von Bulow's efforts to win a new trial. The priest supported claims by David Marriott, then 26, that he had delivered packages of drugs, needles and syringes to Martha Sunny'' von Bulow.

Claus von Bulow was acquitted in a second trial. Mr. Marriott said he met Rev. Magaldi in a Boston bus station. The priest said he met him at a relative's print shop in Revere. Mr. Marriott recanted some of his statement. Rev. Magaldi did not, but the perjury charge against him was eventually dropped because of problems with evidence.

Rev. Magaldi said there was faulty evidence- a doctored tape recording made by Mr. Marriott of a conversation he'd had with the priest.

Rev. Magaldi pleaded guilty in 1992 to embezzling $123,000 from a Rhode Island parish. The charges grew out of larceny by a church usher in 1989. Rev. Magaldi said a young man was caught stealing money from the church vault. It was discovered that the young man had three bank accounts in an Attleboro bank totaling $100,000. In a plea bargain, he implicated Rev. Magaldi in the misuse of church money.

I trusted that kid like one of my own,'' Rev. Magaldi said. He could ask me for anything.''

The usher accused Rev. Magaldi of using church money to pay for trips to the U.S. Virgin Islands for himself and several young men who helped out around the church.

Rev. Magaldi said the money for those trips came from parishioners' donations to him personally. On one occasion, he said, he took three young men with him.

It wasn't a time when other priests could go,'' he said. Why go by myself? We had two beds and a cot.''

One young man accompanied him on three other trips to St. Thomas.

He was like a nephew to me,'' Rev. Magaldi said. These are kids who worked around the rectory. I had them there at night answering the telephone. I wanted to show them the inner workings of the church.''

Rev. Magaldi said all would testify they were never exposed to anything improper.

He said most of the money was used to pay elderly church workers in cash because they collected Social Security and would have been subject to higher taxes had there been a record.

One woman who sang at the church got $45,000 over three years,'' he said. A cement man got $3,000, but not one came forward.''

Rev. Magaldi contended that he thought he had an agreement to plead guilty to embezzling $500, but an hour before his court date, the prosecutor changed it to $123,000.

He served eight months in a work release program in Warwick. The church did not penalize him. When he was released, Rev. Magaldi went to Texas, where he had studied Spanish and served in a parish in San Antonio between 1989 and 1993 while awaiting disposition of the embezzlement charges.

Bishop Delaney of the Fort Worth Diocese, an old friend of Rev. Magaldi- they were ordained the same day in 1961 in Rome- assigned him to St. John the Apostle Church.

Rev. Magaldi said he hopes Bishop Delaney will allow him to return to his parish and his priestly duties. He said that while on a recent visit to Rome with his mother, he celebrated Mass with Pope John Paul II in his private chapel at the Vatican.

The Rev. D. Tim Thompson, of St. John the Apostle Church in Fort Worth, said last night that some parishioners may have spoken to or written letters to Bishop Delaney seeking Rev. Magaldi's reinstatement as an active priest; however, there is no such formal or organized effort within the parish of 3,500, one of the largest within the diocese.

Jeffrey L. Hensley, a spokesman for the Fort Worth Diocese, said the diocese does not comment on matters involving personnel or personnel policy. He did say there was no formal process under way to consider reinstating Rev. Magaldi.

Linda Bock of the Telegram & Gazette staff contributed to this story.


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