Bishop Accountability
  Letter to O'Brien requesting acceptance of controversial priest

Arizona Republic
February 5, 2003

Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien agreed in 1997 to a request from Boston Cardinal Bernard Law to accept the transfer of a priest with a record of sexual abuse allegations so severe that he was banned from ministry in one diocese and nearly defrocked in another, public records show.

Law asked O'Brien in a personal letter to consider Picardi. Here's the April 24, 1997, letter:

Most Reverend Thomas D. O'Brien, D.D.
400 East Monroe
Phoenix AZ 85004

Your Excellency,

I am writing regarding a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston who is interested in serving the Church of Phoenix.

His name is Reverend John M. Picardi, Jr. Father Picardi was ordained in 1983 and has served the Church of Boston well. There have been two incidents during his ministry, which have caused concern, however, and I want to apprise you of them. The first was an incident of homosexual behavior with an adult who had accompanied Father Picardi on a trip to Florida. The man reported the behavior and Father Picardi has expressed deep regret over the incident. The Archdiocese of Boston arranged for Father Picardi to spend time in treatment as a result of this incident and the reports from the facility were positive regarding his ability to return fully to ministry.

Father Picardi did not return immediately to Boston, having sought permission to minister in the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey. While he was there, a twelve-year-old girl reported that Father Picardi had touched her inappropriately at the parish school. Father Picardi maintains that his hand brushed up against the girl while they were both part of a moving crowd, which had stopped abruptly. The civil authorities investigated the matter. They concluded that the girl had been touched, but that it was impossible to say if the event constituted sexual abuse. Our own Archdiocesan Review Board has come to the same conclusion.

Father Picardi is free to minister within the Archdiocese without restriction. He would like to begin his ministry in the Diocese of Phoenix because he has had some recent experience living there and sees the Church that as vibrant. He also feels it would be difficult to re-establish himself in Boston because of the difficult associations, which have developed.

Father Picardi will be in Phoenix from May 17 through May 30. After that he will begin a renewal of several months at the Trinity Retreat Center in Larchmont, New York. If you are interested, would it be possible for you to meet with him at some point during his stay?

I would be willing to provide you with more information than a letter allows. The priest here who is most knowledgeable about Father Picardi is Reverend William F. Murphy. He is my delegate for matters pertaining to clergy sexual misconduct. You may wish to speak to him.

Thank you for taking the time with this request. I honestly believe that Father Picardi has many gifts with which to serve the Church. If you are interested in meeting with him, would you please let me know?

Asking God's blessings on you and those you serve so well, I am.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Archbishop of Boston.


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