Boston Archdiocesan Documents
Showing the Involvement of
Bishop Richard G. Lennon
in Abuse Cases

When Richard G. Lennon was named apostolic administrator after the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, Lennon told reporters that "he knew 'zero ... nothing' about the extent of sexual abuse by clergy." (See Paulson and Robinson, Lennon Promises Effort to Settle Abuse Claims.) But as more archdiocesan documents were released, Lennon's knowledge of and involvement in abuse cases came under renewed scrutiny. (See Rezendes and Kurkjian, Lennon Gave Advice on Reassigned Priest.) A close examination of the Boston documents reveals that Lennon's knowledge was very extensive, because of two administrative positions he held in the 1990s. His knowledge was also deep and detailed, because as the vicar general's assistant for canonical affairs for a decade, he handled laicizations and also advised Cardinal Law on abuse cases that involved other dioceses.

This page will be updated frequently as we identify additional Boston archdiocesan documents. Last updated April 6, 2006.

Deep and Detailed Knowledge

Lennon States That He Has Reviewed the File of Accused Priest John M. Picardi (9/26/95) at Cardinal Law's request. See also an Flatley's report to Law on Lennon's detailed analysis and discussions of the allegations in the Picardi file. Lennon okayed expenses that Flatley incurred in the Picardi case. Flatley's own description of the file shows what Lennon read.

Lennon and the Boston Vicar General, Bishop William F. Murphy, Meet with Confessed Sexual Abuser Rev. James L. Wilson, Jr. (3/18/97) to discuss residence at a special facility for accused priests or possible laicization. Wilson had frequently abused a boy, beginning in the 10th grade, who had allegedly been abused previously by another priest. When the Lennon-Murphy meeting occurred, Wilson's abuse crimes were within the criminal statute of limitations, but the Boston files seem to show that Lennon and Murphy did not report the crimes to police. For details about the abuse, see a 1/21/93 memo describing Sr. Mulkerrin's interview with the victim. For Wilson's admission, see McCormack's 2/5/93 report to his Review Board. See also a detailed 2/8/94 account by the victim's lawyer. The lawyer's full "formal demand" is a large PDF (1.2M). All these documents were in Wilson's file when he met with Lennon and Murphy. In 1998, Lennon reported that Wilson had been laicized.

Lennon Certifies That Rev. Paul R. Shanley Is a Priest in Good Standing (1/18/90) This little-known document supported Bishop Banks' notorious "Father Shanley has no problem" letter to the San Bernardino diocese. Yet Shanley's file, which Lennon surely reviewed before certifying Shanley, included a 1988 abuse complaint made to Banks himself and also a 1967 abuse complaint, as well as many other disturbing documents. Lennon was kept in the loop about Shanley. On 2/14/94 McCormack instructed Lennon to keep Shanley's new California address a secret from the public, tactfully neglecting to mention that the address was the clothing-optional Cabana Club Resort. On 2/27/95 Miceli confirmed Shanley's residence in NYC.

Letter to Lennon from Fr. Murphy, Then the Abuse Delegate, Describing in Detail the Abuse History of Rev. Gary E. Balcom, Who Wanted to Be Laicized (9/15/97) and Lennon's follow-up letter discussing Lennon's approach. Lennon was involved in the laicizations of many accused Boston priests, including John Geoghan. Laicization was not a cut-and-dried process. Often Lennon had extensive conversations with reluctant priests whom the archdiocese was eager to laicize, as can be see from this 11/5/98 memo about accused priest Robert Morrissette.

Lennon Opposes Excardinating Accused Deacon Mark C. Doherty to the Charlotte Diocese (10/22/97) after Law had sent to Lennon and the Abuse Delegate the Charlotte bishop's decision and Law's answer; previously Law had described the Doherty allegation. For a useful overview of the case, see Washington and Mashberg, Files: Cardinal Tried to Help Accused Man Get Ordained.

When Lennon became apostolic administrator in late 2002, after a stint as rector at St. John's Seminary, he again had deep involvement in the archdiocesan abuse situation. After O'Malley was installed, Lennon's involvement continued. In this 11/4/03 memo, a canon lawyer details for Lennon the sexual abuse allegation against Martin J. Walsh.

Extensive Knowledge

During the 1990s, Lennon was resposible for two archdiocesan functions that gave him an extremely detailed administrative picture of sexual abuse by priests in the archdiocese.

  • In the mid-1990s he was the facilitator for the Clergy Fund. In this role, he worked closely with Cardinal Law's abuse delegates and paid out reimbursements for psychiatric treatment of accused priests, travel expenses for priests going to treatment centers for assessments and in-patient care, and travel costs for the abuse delegates, when they traveled to St. Luke Institute and Southdown to participate in assessments.

  • During the 1990s Lennon received Status/Address Changes for every diocesan priest, so that he could maintain the "clergy cards" that contain priests' assignment histories. He also maintained cards listing the assignments of order priests who worked in the archdiocese. As a result, Lennon knew every instance of promotion and demotion, what priests were unassigned and on administrative leave, and what priests had been "lend-leased" to other dioceses. This information, combined with the abuse payment information that he also handled, provided Lennon with a unique and extensive administrative perspective on the abuse crisis in Boston.

The Example of Rev. Arthur P. O'Leary

Lennon received status reports on many accused priests and handled therapy coats for them too. For each priest, Lennon's involvement could entail dozens of memos between Lennon and the archdiocesan abuse delegates, and as the following example shows, it could also require Lennon to make important decisions about an accused priest's access to children.

The archdiocese received allegations in 1985 (see Bishop Banks's note) and again in 1986 (see letter) that O'Leary was meeting men and boys for sex at a wooded rest area near St. Christine's, his Marshfield MA church. The accusations were in fact warnings from a Catholic police chaplain and a state trooper that the police would soon apprehend O'Leary, who claimed the visits to the rest area were innocent and even pastoral. In 1992 a mother complained that O'Leary had touched her son and other altar boys and had used sexually suggestive language to them. O'Leary was evaluated at Saint Luke Institute and Southdown, and then was an in-patient and out-patient at the latter facility. O'Leary was put on sick leave and his ministry was restricted. See the summary prepared for St. Luke's, as well as abuse delegate Flatley's summary memo, with some details softened and additional details supplied.

In 1998, Lennon was asked to provide O'Leary with a celebret so that O'Leary (then under restriction) could preside at the wedding of a former altar boy. A celebret is a formal permission issued by a priest's diocese of incardination so that "he may celebrate" Mass or other priestly functions in another diocese. If Lennon had consulted Flatley's memo in O'Leary's file, he would have found cause for concern about this wedding. A thank-you email from O'Leary to abuse delegate Murphy indicates that the celebret was granted.

Did Lennon read O'Leary's file before issuing the celebret? He should have, because Lennon already knew that O'Leary had been accused of sexual abuse, had been in treatment, and was under restriction.

Lennon knew these things because he had corresponded extensively with the abuse delegates about O'Leary and had paid the bills for his travels to and from treatment. He had also received Status/Address Change reports about O'Leary that documented his "lend lease" appointment in Baltimore, his sick leave, and the routing of all his mail through the archdiocesan priest personnel department. These 24 internal memos and letters made Lennon thoroughly aware of O'Leary's problems. Did Lennon put that knowledge to use when he was asked to approve a questionable exception to O'Leary's restrictions?

Here is the correspondence that Lennon had over the years about O'Leary's status and treatment (the three-digit numbers are the Bates numbers of the documents in O'Leary's released file):

055 Status Change (Letter) 5/14/91 (see card 004)
073 Memo to "Clergy Fund" mentions St. Luke's 11/8/93
183 Status/Address Change to Lennon – lend lease, not on 004 card 6/6/95
193 Abuse delegate Flatley to Lennon CF – Flatley's Toronto travel mentioned but not O'Leary 10/16/95
199 Flatley to Lennon Clergy Fund (CF) – O'Leary's out of pocket expenses, Toronto not mentioned 11/14/95 (O'Leary's request 195 does mention Southdown)
204 Lennon to Flatley enclosing checks for both 193 and 199 12/7/95
206 Flatley to Lennon on O'Leary's sick leave 1/19/96
210 Status change to Lennon – sick leave, mailing still in care of personnel 1/24/96
221 Flatley to Lennon CF – O'Leary's Southdown trip, Southdown not mentioned 2/20/96
227 Lennon to Flatley enclosing check for 221 3/13/96
232 Flatley to Lennon CF mentioning Southdown and requesting partial car insurance reimbursement 4/25/96
235 Flatley to Lennon CF to reimburse for Flatley's Toronto trip, O'Leary's name written-in 4/26/96
239 Lennon to Flatley enclosing check for 232 5/7/96
247 Flatley to Lennon CF to reimburse O'Leary 5/21/96
249 Lennon to Flatley enclosing check for 247 6/5/96
251 Address Change to Lennon – from in care of personnel to Cape address 6/5/96
268 Delegate Murphy to Lennon CF – reimbursement for O'Leary (trip to Southdown Connection not mentioned) 10/21/96
269 Lennon to abuse delegate Murphy enclosing check for 268 10/29/96
275 Delegate Murphy to Lennon requesting reimbursement for O'Leary's travel "while he was in treatment," enclosing invoice (unusual to specify this enclosure) 1/21/97
277 Lennon to delegate Murphy enclosing check for 275 2/3/97
280 Lennon to O'Leary denying request for reimbursement for Southdown retreat 3/13/97
293 Delegate Murphy to Lennon requesting reimbursement for O'Leary at Southdown Connection; Toronto mentioned and invoices attached 7/2/97
297 Lennon to delegate Murphy enclosing check for 293 7/28/97
301 Delegate Murphy to Lennon requesting reimbursement for O'Leary 9/4/97
323 Delegate Murphy to Lennon requesting a celebret for O'Leary to preside at a wedding in NC 9/23/98 (In his request to Murphy, O'Leary had explained 321 that the groom was a Harvard grad and former altar boy at St. Christine's in Marshfield, where O'Leary worked in the 1980s.) O'Leary thanks Murphy the next day 322, so it seems Murphy cleared the request before writing to Lennon. No mention is made of squaring this celebret with O'Leary's history, which involved sexual misconduct with adult males while at St. Christine's and a complaint from a boy who went to Harvard about improper touching and talk. For a summary of those complaints, see Flatley's memo 258.

Other Examples

Lennon Responds to McCormack, Then Law's Abuse Delegate, Describing the Archdiocesan "Faculties" Granted to Accused Stigmatine Priests Richard J. Ahern and Leo Landry (11/3/93)

Memo to Lennon Notifying Him Rev. Richard Buntel Was on Unassigned Status and That Mail Should Be Routed through Personnel (6/13/94). For most of the 1990s, all such Status/Address Changes came to Lennon, and though they did not specify that the priest was accused (as Buntel indeed was), the number of unassigned, incommunicado priests after Porter was striking. Sometimes Lennon would encounter the priests again in other contexts. See Buntel again in the 4/29/97 memo below.

As Clergy Fund Facilitator, Lennon Issues a Check to Pay for Accused Priest Robert Morrissette's Therapy Expenses (6/12/96)

Memo from Miceli to Lennon Asking Payment from the Clergy Fund of Assessment Costs for Accused Priest George Berthold (8/6/96)

Memo from Bishop Murphy, the Vicar General, Asking Lennon Not to Send Stipends to Four "Inactive" Priests: Buntel, Conte, Keefe, and Rosenkranz (4/29/97). With this memo was an enclosure whose reference to "a residence for priests who fit into the category of being on Administrative Leave" made it clear that the stipends were for accused priests not in adequate communication with the archdiocese. At the time, the archdiocese was considering a residence for priests with allegations (see the Reilly report pp. 44-46).

Letter to Lennon from Accused Priest Robert Barrett, Asking that Bishop Murphy Pay Barrett's Legal Expenses (5/19/98)


| Home | Resources | Timeline | Ten-Minute Activist | Service Record Project | Books to Order | Settlements | Treatment Centers | Transfers | Bishops and Dioceses | Legal Documents Project | Diocesan Web Sites Project |

: The documents in these files are offered solely for educational purposes. Should any reader wish to quote or reproduce these documents for sale, the original publisher should be contacted and permission requested. makes no claim regarding the accuracy of any document we post.

Please send suggestions for adding documents to


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.