Woman claims sexual assaults by former Lee priest

Berkshire Eagle

June 27, 2019

By Larry Parnass

Katherine Finn Diaz waited decades to tell her story of Catholic clergy abuse. Then she could delay no longer.

Diaz says that when she was a high school sophomore in Berkshire County in the early 1970s, the Rev. James D. McKenna lured her into a sexual relationship by plying her with alcohol. His assaults began after she volunteered to play the organ and help direct a youth choir associated with the former St. Francis Church parish in South Lee.

Over the course of 18 months in 1973 and 1974, Diaz says, McKenna regularly served her alcohol from a bar in the rectory’s living room, then pressed her to engage in sexual contact that she felt unable to fight off and now terms sexual abuse.

“He led me up the stairs and started kissing and fondling me,” Diaz said, speaking of how the assaults began.

Diaz blames her routine consumption of alcohol with McKenna for the start of a drinking problem that followed her into adulthood.

“I became an alcoholic. His purpose was to get me drunk. Very drunk. He did that every time I went to church by myself, which was every week,” Diaz said during the course of several telephone interviews from the Columbus, Ohio, area, where she lives.

The sexual contact initiated by McKenna never resulted in intercourse and was carried out while both remained dressed, said Diaz, who at the time was known as Kerry Finn.

After decades concealing what she experienced, Diaz detailed the priest’s actions in a letter last fall to the Springfield Diocese, for which McKenna served. She said she also reported McKenna’s behavior to the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office and to state police.

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