Rockville Centre Resources – February 1–10,
A formerly high-ranking Long Island priest who remains under investigation by his diocese for alleged sexual abuse is working at Giuliani Partners, the Manhattan consulting firm headed by his boyhood friend Rudolph Giuliani.
Less than a year after he was stripped of his right to function as a priest, Msgr. Alan Placa is working as a consultant at the midtown firm, which has landed a number of major corporate and public clients largely on the strength of the former mayor's reputation.
When initially contacted at the offices of Giuliani Partners on Friday, Placa claimed he was merely visiting. But Giuliani spokeswoman Sunny Mindel later confirmed that Placa works there.
"He's a consultant here. He has training as a lawyer, he's bilingual, and he also ran the Catholic health services," Mindel said. The exact arrangement Placa has with Giuliani Partners is unclear, and Mindel would not disclose Placa's salary.
Giuliani and Placa were best friends growing up. Both attended Manhattan College in Riverdale, and Placa presided at the funeral of Giuliani's mother in September. Because he had been suspended by the Rockville Centre diocese, Placa needed special permission to officiate at Helen Giuliani's Mass.
Placa, 58, formerly served as vice chancellor of the Rockville Centre Diocese but was stripped of his right to function as a priest last year following allegations that he molested two high school students a quarter-century ago. One of Placa's former students at St. Pius X Preparatory Seminary in Uniondale, now a mortgage broker in Albany, has alleged that Placa repeatedly groped him. Another former student has made similar allegations.
The investigation into those allegations continues. A spokeswoman for the diocese, Joanne Novarro, said Friday that an "intervention team" investigating the allegations has not completed its work.
Placa also has been accused of covering up sex abuse allegations by transferring accused priests to other parishes. He has denied any sexual misconduct and has disputed criticism of his stewardship of alleged sex abuse cases.
David Cerulli, a representative of Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests, a support group, expressed surprise that Giuliani would hire Placa.
"I just think it's strange that Giuliani would put himself in the position of hiring someone with this reputation," he said.
By Daniel J. Wakin
A prominent Long Island priest who was barred from the ministry last year after an allegation of sexual abuse has been quietly working for the consulting business of Rudolph W. Giuliani, a Giuliani spokeswoman confirmed yesterday.
The priest, Msgr. Alan J. Placa, is one of the former mayor's oldest friends. He has been coming into the Manhattan office of the firm, Giuliani Partners, about three days a week, said Sunny Mindel, the spokeswoman. "He's a very prominent guy and an incredibly learned man and able man," she said, noting that he is a lawyer, speaks French and has business experience running the hospital division of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, which covers Nassau and Suffolk Counties.
In April 2002, Bishop William F. Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre removed Monsignor Placa from a diocesan panel investigating clerical sexual abuse, replacing him and the two other members in an effort to respond to the abuse crisis. Several families had accused Monsignor Placa of conflict of interest because, they said, he had used his role as a spiritual adviser to gain information from victims to strengthen the diocese's legal position. He also stepped down as vice chancellor of the diocese.
In an interview at the time, the monsignor denied such charges as "gossip, innuendo and lies."
Then, in June, Bishop Murphy placed him on administrative leave while the Nassau County district attorney and the diocesan panel investigated an allegation that he molested a teenage seminarian about 25 years ago. The investigation has not been completed.
Monsignor Placa, 58, did not respond to a phone message yesterday, but in the past he has denied any sexual misconduct. The former mayor has also spoken out strongly in defense of his friend, who joined Giuliani Partners in August.
In September, Monsignor Placa received special permission from Bishop Murphy to preside over the funeral of Mr. Giuliani's mother, Helen, because of his closeness to the Giuliani family.
Accused N.Y. priest is working for Giuliani:
Associated Press (From the Baltimore Sun)
NEW YORK - A priest who was barred from the ministry after he was accused of sexual abuse has been working for former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's consulting business, according to reports published yesterday.
Monsignor Alan Placa, an old friend of Giuliani's, has been working for Giuliani Partners about three days a week since August.
When first contacted at Giuliani Partners on Friday, Placa claimed that he was merely visiting, Newsday reported. But Giuliani spokeswoman Sunny Mindel later confirmed to Newsday and The New York Times that he worked there.
"He's a very prominent guy and an incredibly learned man and able man," Mindel said.
In April, Bishop William Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre removed Placa, 58, from a panel investigating clerical sexual abuse after several families claimed that Placa had used his role as a spiritual adviser to get information from victims that would bolster the diocese's legal position. Placa has denied the accusation.
In June, Murphy placed Placa on leave after allegations surfaced that he molested a teen-age seminarian about 25 years ago. An investigation by the Nassau County district attorney has not been completed.
Giuliani has steadfastly supported Placa, who received permission to preside over the funeral of the former mayor's mother in September.
Giuliani has said his consulting firm primarily would help companies and governments improve security procedures. He left office at the end of 2001 after he was barred by term limits from running for a third term.
A call to the diocese early yesterday went unanswered. The Times said Placa could not immediately be reached for comment. He has previously denied the allegations of sexual abuse.
By Michael Rezendes, and Stephen Kurkjian, with Sacha Peiffer
Armed with opinions from the Rev. Richard G. Lennon, the Boston Archdiocese decided in the 1990s that it was powerless to punish a priest who had admitted raping another man, and that the priest was entitled to a hearing on whether he should be restored to full ministry.
Because of those decisions, and despite allegations of inappropriate contact with minors, the Rev. John M. Picardi was allowed to return to parish work as a priest on loan to the Diocese of Phoenix, where he had moved.
Yesterday, the Phoenix diocese suspended Picardi from the Flagstaff, Ariz., parish where he was an associate pastor. A spokeswoman for the Phoenix diocese and the Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, a spokesman for Lennon, said the earlier decisions allowing Picardi's transfer will be reviewed. If they are reversed, it would be done by Lennon, the bishop and canon law expert who became temporary leader of the Boston Archdiocese after Cardinal Bernard F. Law resigned in December.
Lennon told the Globe on Dec. 18 of last year that he never had any documents detailing the offenses of any accused priests. But in a Sept. 26, 1995 memo, Lennon wrote that he had reviewed Picardi's file. A memo the following month noted: "Our files indicate that Father Picardi raped the 27-year-old man and admitted that fact." The word "raped" was underlined in the memo.
Lennon also told the Globe in December that he knew "zero . . . nothing" about the extent of sexual abuse among archdiocesan priests. The Picardi transfer represents the second known case in which Lennon played a knowledgeable, if only supporting, role.
Coyne said that Lennon, as assistant for canonical affairs, was called upon only to give canon law advice. On the rape issue, for example, Coyne said Lennon was simply warning his superiors that since they initially decided to take no action against Picardi, double jeopardy protections in canon law prevented them from punishing him for the offense.
Roderick MacLeish Jr., a lawyer who is representing many of the victims suing the archdiocese, said it was "too early to tell" whether Lennon had misrepresented himself in his December statements. However, MacLeish said, "Now that he is apostolic administrator, Bishop Lennon has an obligation to make certain that there are no Boston priests currently assigned to other dioceses who had been accused of rape or other sexual misconduct. He has an obligation to the people in these other dioceses to review these past cases."
The Picardi documents were among the files on five priests that were made public yesterday by MacLeish, who is representing alleged victims of the Rev. Paul R. Shanley. In more than one case, they involved the movement of priests who had been accused of sexual misconduct from Boston to other dioceses, and from other dioceses to here.
In 1998, for example, Law certified to officials in the Palm Beach, Fla., diocese that the Rev. Richard G. Johnson, who was moving to that diocese, was a priest in good standing, a man "of good character and reputation." Law did not mention that Johnson had been accused of repeatedly fondling a 15-year-old girl, or that he had a known history of sexual involvement with adult women.
When the Palm Beach diocese learned of the accusations yesterday, officials suspended Johnson's right to work as a priest there.
Picardi's troubles began in 1992, when a friend complained that Picardi raped him orally in a Florida hotel room. Church records show that Picardi admitted it. Bishop Alfred C. Hughes, then Law's top deputy, wrote that "J.P. [Picardi] admitted raping" the friend.
The Rev. John B. McCormack, then a top aide to Law and now bishop of the Manchester, N.H., diocese, dismissed it as a "single incident," offering that view even though the alleged rape victim had accused Picardi of also having inappropriate contact with minors.
McCormack recommended that Picardi be allowed to serve temporarily in the Paterson, N.J., diocese after treatment at a counseling center. McCormack told the Paterson diocese only that Picardi "admits to a sexual incident with an adult male in Florida."
In New Jersey, Picardi faced another accusation in 1995, in which he was alleged to have inappropriately touched a fifth-grade girl. It was then that Lennon became involved, urging that Boston, and not Paterson, take up the charge against him.
In the September 1995 memo, Lennon appeared to express concern that allowing the Paterson diocese to investigate might cause a scandal. ". . . Opening such an investigation runs the real risk of negative fall-out both for Father Picardi and for the Church," Lennon wrote.
On Oct. 6, 1995, Law received a memo from another aide, the Rev. Brian M. Flatley, noting that Picardi had admitted to the 1992 rape. "However, we allowed him to return to ministry in Paterson after that incident. . . . Because of this, according to Father Lennon, canon law does not allow us to use this incident to keep Father Picardi out of ministry now."
In January 1996, Law's review board considered Picardi's case, and recommended he "not be returned to parish ministry or to other ministry that involves minors." It also said Picardi should consider seeking laicization, or removal from the priesthood.
But Picardi appealed the decision to the Vatican, according to the documents. And Law - with more input from Lennon - began seeking a compromise, writing Picardi that he hoped for a "resolution to these issues that will be beneficial to us all." According to the records, Lennon gave his approval to that letter.
Two weeks later, on April 3, 1997, the Rev. William F. Murphy wrote that Law has "continued to express discomfort with the recommendation that this priest be restricted to the extent that he is" and asks that the case be reexamined. "His opinion is reinforced by that of Bishop William Murphy and Fr. Richard Lennon."
Coyne said Lennon was merely pointing out that Picardi had a canon law right to have his case reassessed by the Review Board.
Contradicting the 1996 recommendation, Murphy wrote to the board: "It seems impossible to conclude that the priest engaged in activity which would warrant his being removed from parish ministry. I recommend that . . . priest be free to return to parish ministry, and that his direct superior in ministry be informed of the nature of this allegation."
The board agreed, voting that there was "not enough evidence to support a finding of sexual misconduct with a minor."
The decision cleared the way for Picardi to become a parish priest again, this time on loan to the Phoenix diocese.
In a 1997 letter to Phoenix Bishop Thomas D. O'Brien, Law referred to the 1992 Florida rape only as "homosexual behavior," and said it was "impossible to say" if the incident with the New Jersey girl "constituted abuse."
Law testified during a deposition on Monday that the alleged rape was nothing more than "homosexual behavior," according to Paula Ford, the mother of an alleged sexual abuse victim, who witnessed the deposition.
Picardi, in a brief telephone conversation, declined comment.
In addition, the records, along with previously released church files, show that Law and McCormack also welcomed an accused cleric from the Anchorage, Alaska, archdiocese, assigning him to priestly duties in the Boston area without informing parishioners or even lower-level church officials of the allegations against him.
In 1986, Monsignor Francis A. Murphy faced potential criminal charges for sexual abuse of a 16-year-old and for financial improprieties - unless he left the Anchorage archdiocese. It was McCormack who took the lead in securing work for Murphy.
"Frank cannot return to his diocese of Anchorage because of police interest in him," McCormack explained in a 1986 memo to Auxiliary Bishop Robert J. Banks, adding that a treatment facility had found that "a major issue with Frank was sexual in addition to the alcohol."
McCormack spoke up for Murphy in spite of concerns raised by Banks. For instance, in another 1986 memo, McCormack told Banks he had arranged for Murphy to receive training as a hospital chaplain at the former Bon Secours Hospital in Methuen, along with the Rev. Paul J. Tivnan, another priest facing sexual misconduct allegations.
"I really don't want Frank to become a part of the archdiocese," Banks replied in a handwritten note. "God help us when Bon Secours finds that two priests there have the same problem!"
Nevertheless, Murphy remained at Bon Secours, now known as the Holy Family Hospital and Medical Center, until 1995, when Anchorage officials raised the possibility of negative publicity from a new sexual abuse allegation, prompting the Boston Archdiocese to relieve Murphy of his chaplaincy.
Bishop Francis T. Hurley, the retired Anchorage archbishop, asked if it was the practice of Catholic bishops to accept priests who had molested minors from other dioceses, said, "I don't want to generalize, but I did it."
In the Boston Archdiocese, there have been at least five other accused priests who have been allowed to work as priests in other dioceses, and at least one other known child molester who was allowed to transfer in.
A.W. Richard Sipe, a psycho therapist and former priest who has written extensively on clergy sex abuse, said he is aware of dozens of instances of accused priests being transferred from one diocese to another, sometimes multiple times, and frequently with no restrictions on their ministry.
In all of those cases, he said, "The common denominator is scandal and how to get rid of the scandal as quickly as possible."
[Photo Captions: 1. Richard G. Lennon A canon law specialist 2. John M. Picardi Suspended yesterday]
By Rita Ciolli and Joseph Mallia
In 1995, Bishop William F. Murphy, then the second-highest ranking official in the Archdiocese of Boston, faced a grave problem: One of his priests was accused of sexually molesting a boy at a church-run juvenile detention center.
Murphy decided to allow the Rev. C. Melvin Surette to remain active and then gave the cleric $14,000 to start a job bank to find work for other priests accused of abusing children. Murphy also gave Surette an allowance to live in private housing and extra money for a car and parking expenses.
The accuser, who was 16 at the time of the alleged abuse, received a $50,000 settlement.
The Rev. Richard Lennon, who was then Murphy's assistant, wrote him a memo soon after criticizing the bishop's treatment of Surette, "lest precedents set lead to similar requests or to a lowering of morale, as some are treated differently than others.”
Lennon is now in charge of the Archdiocese of Boston and Murphy, leader of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, is preparing to testify Tuesday before a Massachusetts grand jury investigating whether anyone in the hierarchy of the Boston church can be prosecuted for decades of allegedly shielding abusive priests.
The Surette case is one of about 100 confidential priest personnel files and other documents -- totaling more than 40,000 pages -- examined by Newsday recently at a Massachusetts court. Judge Constance M. Sweeney, who is overseeing the civil lawsuits against the archdiocese, ordered the church to turn over the internal documents to accusers' lawyers.
Overall, the public records show that Murphy, as Cardinal Bernard Law's top deputy in Boston for almost eight years, was involved in almost one-third of the priest sexual abuse cases at the heart of the scandal there. Not only did Murphy supervise the assignment of priests, he was privy to all confidential records on accusers' complaints, treatment and settlements. He also took care of accused priests' legal bills and helped arrange housing and jobs for them.
Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly is examining theories that the Boston hierarchy may have acted as accessories to the sexual abuse of minors because under their supervision suspected priests continued to molest.
"There was a cover-up. There was an elaborate scheme,” Reilly said in December when his office subpoenaed Murphy, Bishop John B. McCormack of Manchester, N.H., and other Law deputies. Law resigned a few days later. Bishop Thomas Daily of Brooklyn testified before the grand jury last month, and Law is scheduled to appear by the end of this month.
While Reilly has said the record is "profoundly disturbing,” he is unsure whether Massachusetts state law would permit criminal charges. At the time these crimes occurred, clerics and church officials were not required to report suspected abuse to authorities. Reilly's office declined to comment on Murphy's testimony.
Murphy, who was given a list by Newsday of the priests whose files are detailed in this story, declined to comment. An e-mail sent Friday by Joanne Novarro, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, said, "Due ... to the confidential nature of a grand jury investigation, and on the advice of counsel, ... believes it would be inappropriate to discuss his testimony before he has, in fact, given it. If he can be of any help after the testimony, he will do so to the extent he is able.”
The internal memos show that Murphy's participation went from reassigning suspected priests to other Boston parishes and arranging for priests to be transferred to dioceses in New Mexico, California, North Carolina and other states without fully revealing the clerics' history of abuse.
Murphy had a hand in dealing with some of the most notorious cases -- those of serial pedophile priests John Geoghan and Paul Shanley -- and other less-known cases, such as that of Rev. Thomas Forry, an alcoholic priest and accused child molester who allegedly threw a rectory housekeeper down the stairs.
In Boston, Murphy's official title was vicar general and moderator of the curia; in essence, he was the chief of staff to Law from 1993 until Murphy arrived on Long Island in 2001. Murphy had more scheduled meetings with Law than anyone else in the church hierarchy, Law's calendars from 1993 to 2001 show.
Copies of all documents about priests accused of child molestation went to Murphy, who filed the records in his office -- these were known as "the Murphy files” -- according to the deposition of a Murphy aide, the Rev. Brian Flatley.
While Murphy was in the top job, there also was a Rev. William F. Murphy working in the diocese, who was titled "delegate” to Law for sexual abuse cases and was responsible for dealing with those complaints. The two have been confused in news reports, a point the Rockville Centre diocese also made in its e-mail.
"It is important to note that while many news outlets have continued to allege that Bishop Murphy had a major part in the handling of Boston priests who had sexually abused young people, the Cardinal's delegate for sexual abuse issues was a Father William F. Murphy, not the current Bishop of Rockville Centre. They are two different priests.”
The delegate Murphy is 17 years younger than Bishop Murphy, 62, and is not a monsignor. Bishop Murphy was a monsignor by 1993 and an auxiliary bishop by 1995. The documents also show that during the almost eight years Bishop Murphy was the deputy in Boston, much of the information Law received on abusive priests was channeled through him.
In the cases handled by Bishop Murphy, the files highlight an often-conflicting picture of how he viewed offending priests. In one instance, Murphy praised the Rev. Gary Balcom for readily admitting that he sexually molested eight or nine children.
"I several times commended him for his honesty, his sense of responsibility, and his commitment to building a life,” Murphy said in a May 27, 1997, letter to Law. "He is for example the first one of these men who has openly admitted that he has ‘done terrible things' and is sorry for them and wants to make amends. I assured him that by cooperating as he has, he has done a great deal in that direction.”
Balcom agreed to leave the priesthood the next year.
However, Murphy also displays unusual warmth and empathy for Shanley and Geoghan, who strongly protested any effort to be removed.
Shanley cultivated notoriety at the Boston archdiocese by giving several public speeches in the 1970s and 1980s advocating sex between men and boys, according to his 2,606-page confidential file.
By the mid-1990s Shanley and Murphy exchanged numerous letters arranging to have Shanley's legal fees paid because some accusers had hired lawyers and the Boston archdiocese was negotiating for their silence in exchange for financial settlements.
Shanley expressed gratitude for Murphy's warmth and prompt attention to his requests for money and other favors, greeting him in one 1996 letter as "Most Reverend and dear Bishop Bill.”
In March 1994, Shanley asked for an extra $300 a month to help pay the high cost of his rent in New York City, and Murphy pleaded his case before the relevant Boston committee -- which Murphy headed and which approved the payments, records show.
When fear of negative publicity led the Archdiocese of New York to remove Shanley, an accused pedophile, from his job at Leo House, a church-affiliated hotel for students and families, he moved to San Diego in 1997.
Shanley, 71, was arrested in San Diego in May 2002 and now faces charges in Boston that in the 1980s he took boys out of religion classes and raped and indecently assaulted them in his nearby rectory, in bathrooms and in the confessional. Shanley, who pleaded not guilty in May and is free on bail, faces civil suits from some of his 26 known accusers.
More evidence of Murphy's deference and slow pace is seen in Geoghan's case.
"Jack, please know that I always have great affection and concern for you personally,” the bishop wrote in a 1995 letter, asking him to resign. Geoghan and Murphy grew up in the same West Roxbury, Mass., neighborhood, each a few blocks from Holy Name Church, where Murphy was an altar boy. "Our families have been close through the years and I have for you and for all your family great respect and admiration.” Three different church-funded psychotherapists had declared Geoghan a pedophile before three more boys, all brothers, said the priest, then 58, had sexually molested them in 1994, records show. Geoghan also made obscene telephone calls to the boys in December 1994, the boys' mother told the archdiocese.
Murphy spent two years trying to persuade Geoghan to step down from his archdiocesan office job and go for more psychological testing. During that time, Geoghan remained a priest on restricted ministry -- he could say Mass with special permission -- despite dozens of complaints.
Geoghan was defrocked in 1998 and, in January 2002, was convicted of child molestation and sentenced to a prison term of 9 to 10 years. The Boston archdiocese in September 2002 agreed to pay $10 million to settle the claims of 86 men and women who said Geoghan molested them as children.
The case of the Rev. Paul Mahan appears to be one in which Murphy and other church officials failed to properly monitor a problem priest.
An April 1994, memo shows Murphy was aware of several recent allegations against Mahan just before he was released from St. Luke Institute, a Maryland treatment center that specializes in treating pedophile priests, and went to live in his family's summer home about 15 miles up the coast from Boston.
Although Mahan was released into the archdiocese's custody in "guarded” condition, and was still on its payroll, records show officials never checked on him. However, his therapists at St. Luke's were troubled by his failure to keep in touch, church documents show, so St. Luke's sent several priests to visit him in the Marblehead, Mass., house. They found Mahan drinking, in violation of his treatment rules, with boys living in the house with him and one boy apparently sharing his bedroom. The visitors found Mahan wearing only a bathrobe and one boy dressed only in a bedsheet.
St. Luke's reported to Boston church officials that Mahan exuded "overt encouragement of sexuality” and said the visitors feared the boys had been molested. Top church officials discussed whether to report the priest to the state child-welfare authority.
"The possibility of a necessary filing with the [Department of Social Services] was discussed ... Fr. McCormack to discuss with Msgr. Murphy,” reads an Oct. 21, 1994 internal memo. There is no record showing whether Murphy or any other official ever made a report.
The archdiocese later was sued by the families of two boys who accused Mahan of molesting them in 1994. Murphy was still supervising Mahan in the summer of 1995, a July 3 memo from Flatley to him shows. "A danger to men, women and children. Bottom line -- therapists words, with Paul listening: ‘is Paul a risk? YES!'”
In other cases, Murphy seemed determined to get rid of a molester by urging him to voluntarily ask the Vatican to release him from his vows, a much shorter process than trying to remove him under church law. A December 1999 memo shows that Murphy grew impatient with the archdiocese's slow pace in persuading the Rev. Robert Morrissette to file the necessary papers with the Vatican.
"He has to move off the dime. Tell him that he has three months in which to have everything completed and into the Holy See. If not, I want to see him and I will be very, very clear with him,” Murphy said.
Archdiocese files showed three sexual misconduct allegations involving the priest, who admitted to kissing and fondling a 16-year-old boy.
These cases highlight the conflicts of church bureaucrats who tried to work in a governing system constrained by centuries-old rules and procedures and steeped in a culture of secrecy.
"The overarching question is, are these bad men who had some kind of moral flaw and misused the system, or is this a system that took good men and kind of twisted them into making these decisions,” said Jim Post, national president of Voice of the Faithful, the grassroots movement by lay Catholics who seek a more active role in the church.
Post, who has followed Murphy's career, describes the bishop as one of the best and the brightest clerics to ever rise through the Boston ranks -- a priest who was clearly being groomed for a leadership role in the American church.
"Bill Murphy would never challenge the system. He would work in a very creative way to use his skill to get the right thing done within the constraints that were there. But he always knew he was working for Cardinal Law, and that in the end, there would be benefit to him. That he would become a bishop and have a diocese of his own,” Post said.
Murphy's creative approach in letting Surette start a job bank worked. In 1998, Surette found work for another accused child molester, the Rev. Ronald Paquin, as a chaplain at a Cambridge hospital. By this time, the archdiocese knew of 18 credible abuse complaints against him and already had paid more than a half-million dollars to settle six abuse cases against him, records show.
Paquin remained in his new job until he was removed from ministry in 2000. Last month he was sentenced to a maximum of 15 years in prison for repeatedly raping a 12-year-old altar boy beginning in 1990.
Despite the clear evidence that the church failed to protect children from abusive priests, the outcome of the criminal inquiry in Boston is unclear.
Attorney General Reilly could develop legal theories that would allow prosecutions of Law and others. "When you think of what people get prosecuted for and put in jail for, it is unbelievable that some prosecutor won't take the risk,” said Wendy Murphy, a former Boston prosecutor who is now a visiting fellow at Harvard Law School. With Law gone, she questioned whether there is the political will in Boston to support the indictment of church leaders.
"Still, there is huge exposure here by testifying before the grand jury,” said Wendy Murphy, who is of no relation to either Murphy. "The attorney general could always have some serious smoking-gun documents we don't know about.”
By Rita Ciolli
Catholic church officials on Long Island failed in the past to protect children from sexual abuse by priests and cannot be trusted to protect them now without changes in state law, according to a withering Suffolk County grand jury report to be released this morning.
The 180-page report depicts, sometimes in lurid detail, how the hierarchy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre concealed the alleged criminal behavior of its priests and used "deception and intimidation" in dealing with abuse victims. The report repeatedly points out how avoiding bad publicity was paramount.
Calling the diocesan policy of dealing with abusive priests "a sham," the report exposes a "system that left thousands of children in the diocese exposed to predatory, serial child molesters working as priests."
The report estimates that abuse cases cost the diocese $2 million, with about $1.7 million of that being paid to victims in settlements.
And with abuse allegations on record by 2002 against at least 58 priests, according to an internal memo cited in the report, the only priest who was defrocked at that point, was one who admitted to having an affair with an adult woman.
The grand jury's findings were to be announced this morning by Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota. The report was filed Friday with the office of the Suffolk court clerk by Supreme Court Justice Patrick Henry, who had oversight of the grand jury. The grand jury began investigating the diocese in May after details of the scandal in Boston reverberated on Long Island.
The grand jury was unable to file indictments because too much time has lapsed to bring criminal charges, which is one of the reasons it is calling on the legislature to eliminate any statute of limitations in cases involving sex crimes against children.
Because the grand jury used its findings to publish a report recommending changes in state law, names are not allowed to be used. Offending priests are assigned letters from A to W. Diocesan officials are referred generically by their duties.
Diocesan Chancellor Msgr. Robert Brennan sent an e-mail message last night to all pastors informing them that Bishop William Murphy had gotten word of the report's release.
"The Diocese has not yet seen the report nor has the Diocese been informed of its content," Brennan wrote.
Kevin McDonough, an attorney for the diocese, said last night in a telephone interview, "The diocese hasn't seen the report, and until we do review the grand jury report, we are not in a position to respond to it."
The grand jury report details how cheerleaders were raped, altar boys were sodomized and Catholic youths were shown pornographic movies and plied with alcohol in rectory bedrooms.
In one instance, according to the report, a pastor found a homemade pornographic movie in a priest's bedroom. After watching the tape, he realized that a 15-year-old boy from the parish was involved in one of the sex acts. The pastor reported the incident to the "highest level of the diocese."
Despite the fact that the offending priest admitted to the abuse during subsequent treatment and the crime was prosecutable, "no consideration was given to reporting the abuse to law enforcement," according to the report. Neither was an effort made to locate and assist the victim, it said.
"Not one priest in the diocese who knew about these criminal acts reported them to any law enforcement agency," the grand jury report stated in recommending changes to state law that would mandate that priests and other church supervisors report such crimes.
Using testimony from victims and internal documents obtained by subpoena, the report finds that abusive priests were transferred from parish to parish despite pastors, other priests and school principals repeatedly asking that the accused clerics be stopped from ministering.
In one case, according to the findings, a priest who reported his concerns and helped the victim's mother pursue her complaint had a memo placed in his file from a high-ranking official saying "no serious consideration" would be given to offering the concerned priest another assignment.
"In the diocese of Rockville Centre, a priest who molests children should suffer no disgrace, but one who advocates on their behalf risks banishment," the report says.
Diocesan officials charged with placing priests in jobs often kept colleagues in the dark about the troublesome background of some abusers. In one case, a priest was allowed to become a chaplain at a diocesan high school even though other priests complained about him taking boys on private trips and letting them in his room at the rectory. One of the complaining priests said he feared the interest in the boys was more personal than pastoral.
The grand jury report also found poor screening for candidates who wanted to enter the priesthood and a failure to keep adequate files on the warnings received about them. A priest in charge of vocations once advised against accepting a candidate into the seminary, but the report does not specify why. He was ignored, and the priest went on to molest children, according to the report.
Despite some glaring examples, the grand jury report says many of the priests involved with personnel issues recalled few details of abuse cases when they testified. "Even when presented with documents that should have refreshed their memories of these important issues," the report says, "they could not recall many of the cases they handled."
According to the report, the Office of Legal Affairs played a powerful role in the abuse cases and bears much of the responsibility for the diocese's failures. Significant emphasis is placed on the aggressive legal strategies that were employed. Calling it a "carefully orchestrated plan," the report says members of the "intervention team" appear to be providing pastoral care but were, in reality, acting as a legal counsel for the diocese.
One document details how an unidentified diocesan official boasted of how the method he devised for Long Island has been used in about 200 other priest abuse cases around the country.
The memo appears to be written by Msgr. Alan Placa, a key player in handling abuse complaints against priests in the late 1980s. It says this speedy effort to get to the victim and find out all the details and facts makes the Long Island diocese "unique" in its handling of abuse cases. He noted costs were down here compared with some other dioceses where settlements range from $20,000 to $100,000.
"We have suffered no major loss or scandal due to allegations of sexual misconduct by religious personnel ... the Diocese of Rockville Centre has paid out a total of $4,000 because of claims of sexual misconduct."
In a 1996 memo, an unidentified official who appears to be Placa writes that Rockville Centre has the "lowest ratio of losses to assets of any diocese and the lowest ratio of losses to number of priests in any diocese in the country. Our system is in place and working well."
The report comments that the ratio analogy reveals the true concerns of the diocesan team assigned to take care of abuse cases. "What it all came down to was a simple accounting issue, nothing more or less," the report says.
The report finds that as of October 2002, there was a balance of $11 million in a special account to pay abuse claims. The fund, created in 1985 by Bishop John McGann (now deceased) to pay for "uninsured perils," was to cover the costs of abuse cases, asbestos exposure and trampoline accidents. The seed money was provided by special assessments on parishes, and the fund grew from investment returns. There were never any payments for asbestos or trampoline costs, the report says.
While money was used for abuse cases, there are few documents or accounting ledgers to explain the details of where the money went. In fact, until three years ago, there was no paperwork needed to get a payment from the fund.
The grand jury approximates that since 1989, $2 million was spent from the fund, with $1.7 million to pay legal settlements. Other money was used to pay the bills of the psychiatrists, psychologists, hospital and treatment centers that worked with troubled priests. Not included in the $2 million paid out was another $66,000 used to pay for debt that an abusive priest ran up on his credit card, which the report says probably was for gambling losses.
Another $70,000 was used to pay off the mortgage of an accuser so he could live without any housing expenses. The report notes that an employee who works for the diocese handling insurance matters said the actual amount paid for abuse cases "could be much higher" than $2 million.
The report provides no overall look at how many abusive priests there were and what happened to them. However, some specifics can be gleaned from diocesan memos the grand jury examined. A July 1994 memo labeled "CONFIDENTIAL" said there were 55 suspect priests, 14 cases were labeled active, two other active cases were priests working outside of the diocese, two were in litigation, 32 were inactive and five deceased. Of all the cases involving abuse of minors, not one priest had been removed from ministry, and of the 20 priests still alive, only five had been sent for evaluation.
A 2002 internal diocesan memo updating the status of abuse cases found 58 priests, with 14 still serving in Nassau and Suffolk and three working in other dioceses. Some had died and others resigned.
The grand jury subpoenaed the secret personnel files of 43 priests, heard testimony from 97 witness and reviewed 257 exhibits, according to sources familiar with the report.
In conclusion, the grand jury said the history of the diocese "demonstrates that as an institution they are incapable of properly handling issues relating to the sexual abuse of children by priests." Even though a new policy was instituted in 1992 after the abuse scandal began to unfold in other parts of the country, nothing had really changed on Long Island, the report says. That is until prosecutors and the media began asking questions.
"The spotlight shining on the Diocese from the outside world is the only thing that caused them to change their behavior," the report states. That's when priests accused of abuse were either forced to resign or were suspended.
As one diocesan official told the grand jury, "Everybody was cut loose."
By Joseph Mallia
Church documents filed in a Massachusetts court provide a glimpse into Bishop William F. Murphy's role in handling allegations of sexual abuse by priests. Here are some of the cases.
The Rev. James Power, the accused priest, would have to assume a full-time pastor's duties at the Wellesley, Mass., parish, which had an active youth ministry and other programs for children.
"Fr. Power had been investigated by this office for sexual misconduct,” the aide wrote to Murphy. "The question arises: Is the lack of immediate supervision a cause for concern? Personally, I don't think so. What do you think?”
In a handwritten notation, Murphy wrote: "Let him serve.”
The previous pastor had just left the Wellesley church and a replacement had not yet arrived, so Power's unsupervised status would be temporary, the aide noted.
In 1992, Power had been accused of sexually molesting a 13-year-old boy at night, inside the priest's van, on a camping trip in Maine in the 1980s, church records show. Power denied the accusation. The archdiocese paid the accuser a $35,000 settlement in June 1996 in exchange for his agreement to keep silent.
An undated, unsigned document in Power's file said: "100% positive other kids.” Power was removed Feb. 7, 2002, by Cardinal Bernard Law soon after a Massachusetts judge ordered church documents released to the public.
The priest maintained his innocence and refused for three years to follow routine church policy by going for a psychological assessment.
In a 1998 memo, Murphy then advised Boston's archbishop to tell the accused priest "that we are trying to resolve this issue by looking more deeply into the allegation itself to determine if perhaps there were elements that could lead us to rethink our current position vis-a-vis its credibility.”
Murphy also said the archdiocese might be able to re-evaluate the quality of the evidence against the priest. He suggested "reinterviewing the young man who is now three years older or making a clear -- determination of the extent to which this is a credible allegation,” his memo said. The boy stood by his story.
Church records also show that, after Keefe was removed for the alleged sexual assault, Murphy misled a parishioner about what happened, saying in a letter to the concerned churchgoer, "Father Keefe is taking some time off for personal and health reasons.”
Murphy also said in a 1997 memo that he "never really studied the file,” but "my understanding, however, is that the priest's alleged actions are not so grave as are those of others.” The archdiocese's staff psychotherapist disagreed: "The allegations in the case are serious. They involve genital touching, other ‘wrestling' and body contact and a request by the boy that the behavior stop,” Neil Hegarty said.
Murphy continued trying to bring Keefe back as an active priest, describing his efforts in a 1997 memo to Law: "I told him that you and I were most eager to try to resolve this and that I believed we could resolve the issue so that he could return to active service.” Keefe's powers to serve as priest were suspended in 1999 for refusing to go for counseling.
The Rev. Jay Mullin had two choices, Murphy told him: Leave the priesthood or spend the rest of his life in the Boston archdiocese's supervised home for pedophile priests, far away from children, church records show.
In a memo to Law the day after his meeting with the priest, Murphy recapped his stern warnings. Mullin "could not get away from the reality that he is not someone that we could safely put back in parish ministry,” Murphy quoted himself as saying, adding that he said, "We could not take the risk to him or to people to consider parish ministry for him.”
Mullin had denied the accusation of sexual abuse, admitting only that he had wrestled with the teenager and pinched him. However, by December of the same year, the archdiocese had paid Mullin's accuser $60,000 -- including $10,000 of the priest's own money -- in a legal settlement.
A month after the settlement, Murphy was sent a memo saying Mullin was being sent back to work as an active priest in Wayland, Mass. On March 1, 1998, Mullin was back at work as a parish priest. And a May 12, 2000, memo advised Murphy that Mullin was being transferred to another parish, again as an active priest.
Church files contain no records to show whether Murphy or other administrators gave notice to parishioners that Mullin had been accused of molesting a child. Standard practice was not to inform parishioners, according to church records.
John K. Connell
The archdiocese found the allegations credible, church records show. But two years later, Murphy was playing a role in the church's attempts to return the priest to active ministry, records show.
"At my most recent meeting with Bishop Murphy, he expressed a desire that we bring to resolution some kind of job description for Jack Connell and that he receive a letter of appointment to this position from the Cardinal,” said a May 1997 Boston memo from the Rev. Paul Miceli, the archdiocese secretary for ministerial support. "I apprised Bishop Murphy of our conversation with Jack.”
The archdiocese's reasoning, outlined in several memos, was that Connell could safely remain in the priesthood because, though he likely did sexually molest at least one boy in the 1970s, he did so because he had been an alcoholic. Church officials said Connell had been sober for 12 years.
Connell initially admitted to an investigator that he'd shared a bed with an accuser on Cape Cod, but after hiring a lawyer, he recanted several days later.
The archdiocese at first hoped to return Connell to the all-boy high school, but after it learned in 1997 of further allegations against him, church officials started looking for another job for him.
In June 1998, the archdiocese paid a $45,000 settlement to one of Connell's alleged victims.
Archdiocese records show Connell had once before been accused of sexual abuse, in 1983. He was removed May 23, 1983, as associate pastor of a Newton, Mass., parish, and was sent away for treatment. By Oct. 1, 1984, Connell was back working as an active priest, as a chaplain and teacher at St. John Preparatory's 175-acre campus north of Boston.
Connell remained a priest on active duty, as a consultant to the Priest Recovery Program, until Nov. 30, 2001, when, at 61, he was given retirement status.
Msgr. William F. Murphy met Dr. Carol Nadelson at a Vatican reception in January 1993.
In Rome, the discussion quickly turned to the hottest topic in their hometown of Boston, the case of the Rev. James Porter, who was accused of molesting more than 100 children.
It was a sign of what was yet to come. "We are really concerned about this issue; would you be willing to meet with the cardinal about it when we get back to Boston?” Nadelson recalled Murphy asking.
At the time, Murphy was a top aide to Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston and Nadelson was a nationally recognized abuse expert on the faculty of Harvard Medical School. She was part of a delegation meeting with Pope John Paul II about mental illness.
A few weeks later Murphy asked her and her husband, Theodore, also a psychiatrist, on the faculty of Boston University medical school, to a luncheon. Murphy also invited Carolyn and Eli Newberger. Several months earlier, Eli Newberger, a pediatrician who founded the child protection program at Boston's Children's Hospital, had invited Murphy to a seminar on the Porter case.
It was an event the two husband-and-wife teams would never forget because of the atmosphere, the early warnings they gave about sexually abusive priests, and their shock at the response they received.
Carolyn Newberger was a clinical psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and had just testified as an expert witness in priest abuse cases in the Southwest. Among the four high-powered experts, there were 100 years of experience in dealing with abuse cases.
At the luncheon, the guests remember sitting at one end of a long table in the dining room of Law's private residence. Near Law were Murphy, the Msgr. John McCormack, now bishop of New Hampshire's diocese, and six other priests.
As for the menu, Carolyn Newberger only remembers soup; Carol Nadelson recalls her husband joking about the "mystery meat.” But both remember being the only women there, except for the nuns in pearl gray habits who served the food.
And as Jews, all of them remember being surprised and flattered at finding themselves in the place -- the dining room of one of the most powerful men in Boston and the American Catholic Church -- discussing an extraordinarily sensitive topic for almost two hours. "A large part of the discussion was about pedophilia and the likelihood to molest again,” said Carolyn Newberger. "We told them the overwhelming evidence is that people drawn to children as sexual objects cannot turn that behavior off.”
She recalled being asked whether pedophilia can be cured. "We all told them the evidence is that they can't,” Newberger said in an interview last week.
Eli Newberger told the priests their only hope of getting pedophiles to stop is instilling the fear that they might get caught. "The mandated reporting of child abuse to civil authorities needed to be the policy,” he said.
Law's response was that the church couldn't adopt such a policy. "He kept talking about canon law and how we just can't report these cases,” recalled Eli Newberger. "I could tell by his tone that it was unthinkable,” he said of Law. In an e-mail on Friday, Murphy declined to discuss the luncheon.
Carol Nadelson, who specializes in treating physicians who become sexually involved with patients, volunteered to help the diocese review how it screens candidates for the priesthood. The Newbergers offered to develop a reporting process.
The four said they were thanked by Law. None heard from anyone in the Boston church again.
Ten years later, to cool the outcry of Boston Catholics, Law announced that sexual abuse of children would be reported to law enforcement, a policy later adopted by all the bishops in the nation.
"I am very angry. I really feel betrayed,” said Carolyn Newberger.
Eli Newberger expressed particular disappointment in Murphy. "He was very visible, a part of the cultural and intellectual life of this town. He was a champion of interfaith relationships and understanding across ethnic and racial boundaries,” he said.
To Carol Nadelson, Murphy seemed like a "genuinely good guy. It seemed in my assessment that he was being serious and concerned about sexual abuse. He was seen as one of the good guys in that crowd.”
Now, as the details of many abuse cases are made public, she is disappointed he just went along with Law. "I am sure people like him are in enormous conflict, but they have to own up to what happened.”
Long Island (NY) Newsday
Statement issued Monday by the Diocese of Rockville Centre in response to the Suffolk County grand jury report:
The Suffolk County grand jury investigating the Diocese of Rockville Centre's handling of sexual abuse of minors by clergy gave its report to the media without any time for diocesan officials to review it.
Despite this unfair tactic, the diocese unequivocally rejects the characterization of its actions given by this report Specifically, the accusation that the Diocese of Rockville Centre conceived and agreed to a plan using deception and intimidation to prevent victims from seeking legal solutions to their problems is simply not true.
The report covers the more than 45 years during which the Diocese of Rockville Centre has been in existence, and it details incidents that were deaft with many years ago. While sexual abuse of minors is always a grave sin and a crime, the ways of dealing with it have developed over time. This is every bit as true of law enforcement officials as of church personnel. It is unfair to use today's standards to judge sincere attempts in the past to assist victims and to help perpetrators not to offend again. The diocese took extremely seriously any allegation of sexual abuse of a minor, sent the accused priest away for evaluation and treatment, and worked with the victims for a just settlement.
Shortly after his installation as bishop in September 2001, Bishop Murphy reviewed active cases. Before the end of the year, he acted on allegations in those files, removing two priests from restricted ministry. Despite the solid evidence of the effectiveness of treatment, Bishop Murphy demonstrated, by these actions, his recognition that the complete safety of all children must be paramount; and he recommitted the diocese to ensuring that no minor is harmed by any person working for or volunteering with the Catholic Church in Rockville Centre.
To achieve this goal, Bishop Murphy in the months following September 2001, revised diocesan procedures. These were announced in April 2002. He created a new team to deal with these cases. It is made up of a priest social worker, a psychotherapist who is also a woman religious, and a former police commissioner. This team is to handle all incoming complaints of abuse, bring them to law enforcement and provide therapy for the victim, independent of the bishop or his office. Bishop Murphy also established a 24-hour hotline to receive complaints. Settlements were prohibited, and Bishop Murphy stated that any priest who could not minister to young people would not minister in this diocese and would never have his approval to minister in any other. He also named a 10-member Review Board that would review all information and advise the bishop concerning the future disposition of any priest.
All this was set in place and announced in April 2002, two months before the Bishops' Meeting in Dallas. Thus when that meeting passed the Charter to which all bishops adhered, the Diocese of Rockville Centre already had in place all the elements called for by that Charter.
The diocese has also contracted with VIRTUS (a project of the National Catholic Risk Retention Group) to customize for this diocese a program called "Protecting God's Children," requiring the participation in and training of every employee and volunteer.
Bishop Murphy also has called on the state legislature to make all who work with children mandatory reporters, and he endorsed a State Senate bill to extend the statute of limitations for the crime of sexual abuse of a minor.
The diocese has never had any objection to the officials of either county looking into ways to make children safe from sexual abuse within the setting of the Church, within the family, or any other environment. However, along with every other organization and individual, it does not expect to be put at a disadvantage by our civil officials.
To give this lengthy report to Newsday in advance is an attempt to control the media and its reaction to it. It puts the diocese at a disadvantage. However, we do not hesitate to say that the very way the evidence was gathered guarantees that it contains only bits and pieces that do not add up to an accurate picture of the genuine concern to stop abuse and protect children that has truly characterized the Diocese of Rockville Centre. It is ironic that the most immediate effect of this investigation was a reduced sentence for a priest abuser for his supposed cooperation with the grand jury.
Despite evidence of a lack of unbiased treatment in the issuance of this
report and substantial legal opinions questioning the D.A.'s authority
to issue it at all, the Diocese of Rockville Centre remains committed
to do all in its power to respond to the anguish and suffering endured
by the victims of sexual abuse and their loved ones and to see that children
and young people are fully protected in the future. We will carefully
study this report. If any information contained within it might further
enhance our commitment to do this, it will be promptly adopted.
Original material copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.