Parish School and a Festival:
Transfers in the Official Catholic Directory
When you look up Fr. José Maria Bettencourt e Ávila
in the 1965 edition of the Official Catholic Directory,
you will discover a change in his fortunes. He has become the pastor
of Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in New Bedford, a great old Portuguese
parish with a well-established parish school and a festival in honor
of the Virgin Mary. In this photograph, the school is at the left,
and the banners for the festival are flying.
How did an administrator with an alleged history of sexual abuse
obtain a transfer to such a place?
In the Official Catholic Directory for 1965, this huge change
in Ávila's life is indicated very simply. His index entry is as
Ávila is still indexed under Bettencourt, as in 1964. The index lists
his new parish in a shorthand: (FR) tells us that he is in the Fall River
diocese.  New Bedford tells us that in the alphabetical list of New Bedford
parishes, Ávila's parish is the fifth one. The address of his residence
is also provided. When we go to the Fall River diocesan pages and find the
fifth parish in New Bedford, this is the entry:
The "5-" corresponds to the  in the index. The parish is
identified as "Portuguese," i.e., it is a national parish serving
an immigrant population. Ávila is one of three priests now, and
he is listed first and without qualification, indicating that he is the
pastor, not an administrator anymore. There is also a parish school, with
an enrollment of 168 boys and 218 girls; they are taught by 12 Sisters
of St. Dorothy and one lay teacher.
Nothing in these entries will alert you that Ávila reportedly left
St. Anthony's under a cloud; according to our sources, parents in the
parish had written a letter of complaint to the diocese.
In the Official Catholic Directory for 1966, another priest has
arrived at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Gilbert J. Simões, who is
alleged to have helped Ávila abuse boys at St. Anthony's in East
Falmouth before Simões was even a priest. Here is the entry showing
Simões's first year in New Bedford:
It is surprising that an administrator with an alleged history of sexual
abuse was made pastor of a parish that also maintained a school. Perhaps
it was felt that the isolated character of this immigrant parish would
afford Ávila some cover, and that the distance from East Falmouth
would assure that stories of Ávila's alleged abuses in East Falmouth
would not find their way to New Bedford.
It is even more surprising that Ávila's alleged lover and fellow
abuser from East Falmouth days, Gilbert J. Simões, should be sent
to join Ávila in the following year.
Where did Simões come from, and whom did Ávila replace at
Our Lady of Mount Carmel? As we will see in the next section, those good
questions bring two eminent priests into the story: one an esteemed monsignor
and the other a high official of the diocese and a future cardinal.
Links to the entire Guide:
1. How to Create
a Assignment Record in a Few Easy Steps
2. Last Year at
St. Anthony's: Looking Up a Priest in the Official Catholic Directory
2a. Are There
Gaps in the Parish Records of the Official Catholic Directory?
3. Parish School
and Festival: Transfers in the Official Catholic Directory
Priests: Background in the Official Catholic Directory
Burial Grounds: Retirement and Death in the Official Catholic Directory
6. Heal the Sick:
Chaplains and Treatment in the Official Catholic Directory