Path of a Pedophile Priest

Dallas Morning News
August 31, 1997

[This article was scanned by from a xerox of the original printed article. We have added links to the documents quoted in the article. See also Documents Show Bishops Transferred Known Abuser: Church Officials Say Policies Have Since Changed, by Brooks Egerton with Michael D. Goldhaber, Dallas Morning News (8/31/97). In addition, see Holley's own Affidavit (7/12/93) with links to the documents he cites.]

Top Catholic officials knowingly allowed the Rev. David A. Holley to work in more than a dozen parishes or hospitals in Massachusetts, New Mexico, Texas and Colorado, according to church documents reviewed by The Dallas Morning News. Here are excerpts from their correspondence about and with Father Holley, who is now in prison.

Aug. 17, 1968

Letter from Worcester Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan to the Rev. Jerome Hayden, a Catholic therapist in Holliston, Mass., referring Father Holley for treatment. [See a PDF of the letter.]

“This man has been ... [accused of] molesting teenage boys on at least two occasions—most recently in a hospital from which he has been barred—and with carrying around and showing to these boys pornographic magazines and books. Although the ... [accusations] were established beyond any doubt in the judgment of the priests who assisted me in the investigation as well as myself, Father has denied any wrongdoing.”

(A quarter century later, Father Holley submitted a sworn affidavit stating that “my psychosexual disorder first began to manifest itself in approximately 1962," the year Bishop Flanagan accepted him in the Diocese of Worcester on a trial basis. [See the affidavit.]

Before he was officially made a diocesan priest in 1967, he testified, Bishop Flanagan had received reports that “I had sexually molested boys” in three parishes. “On at least two occasions Bishop Flanagan called me in to discuss the allegations, cautioned me against causing a scandal in the church, but he expressed no comments about my victims.”)

July 27, 1970

Letter from Worcester Auxiliary Bishop Timothy J. Harrington to Dr. Louis Cleary, clinical director of Seton Psychiatric Institute in Baltimore. [See a PDF of the letter.]

“Bishop Flanagan and I have had such serious doubts about Father continuing in the priesthood that, at one time, it was suggested that he seek a dispensation and return to the lay state.

“His last three parochial assignments were among those that priests would consider ideal. In each place Father’s difficulty came to the fore and caused us to give him leaves of absence. He was referred for therapy after the first incident, and he continued in therapy with Father Jerome Hayden until his hospitalization at Seton. During this time, he was transferred to two other parishes where his problem became even more public and a wake of trouble ensued.

“People have been so greatly disturbed by his behavior that we would wonder whether he can avoid his reputation going before him in any area of this compact diocese. We also question whether we can chance the possibility of his having another relapse."

Nov. 25, 1970

Letter from Bishop Flanagan to Dr. Chung-wuk Kang, Father Holley's therapist at Seton Institute. [See a PDF of the letter.]

“I presume that Father David Holley has informed you that we met in Washington last week and that I confirmed the decision ... that he not return to active ministry in this diocese....

We would be willing, of course, to help Father find a benevolent bishop who could use his services.... To this end, it would be important to have a report from you or an authorized person at Seton Institute which could be used with the greatest confidentiality.

Dec. 24, 1970

Letter from Dr. Kang and Dr. Cleary to Bishop Flanagan, summarizing the results of more than a year's inpatient treatment. [See a PDF of the letter.]

“For quite some time during his hospitalization Father Holley was resistive.... He had great difficulty in recognizing his problems, and consequently in being motivated toward trying to do something about them.... While ... [subsequent improvement] certainty gives some reason for optimism, it is important to note that this is only the beginning, and continued outside therapy is strongly indicated....”

(Earlier in the year, according to Dr. Kang's treatment notes, “There was a report that Father Holley in an informal way was counseling a young teenage patient [at Seton] and he brought up the subject of sex. He admitted himself that he has been counseling a few young patients in the hospital, and has brought up the topic of sex. He realized how seductive it can be for him, because of his past history which was quite similar, namely he starts out with counseling in any subject and then very smoothly gets around to sexual subjects to arouse young men and goes on to masturbating. When we brought this subject up in the sessions, he associated this with his current anger toward authorities....”)

Feb. 11, 1971

Letter from Bishop Flanagan to Wilmington, Del., Bishop Thomas J. Mardaga, discussing the possible transfer of Father Holley. [See a PDF of the letter.]

“We have a priest who we do not feel should resume his ministry here after spending about 15 months at Seton Institute.... Previous to his hospitalization, there were at least two incidents which, though they did not evoke wide public scandal, did become known to several priests and lay people. In this very compact diocese, it is practically impossible to transfer a priest to a place where his previous history is not known—at least by the priests of my diocese.”

March 2, 1971

Letter from Bishop Mardaga to Bishop Flanagan, rejecting the transfer. [See a PDF of the letter.]

“Despite the unfavorable decision in this particular case, I trust that you will realize that we are still sympathetic to requests regarding the placement of priests who have experienced difficulties in their own communities. This has been our policy and we are determined to continue it. Regrettably, Father Holley's case presented a greater problem than we could handle, at least with the present prognosis.”

March 15, 1971

Letter from Bishop Flanagan to Father Holley, telling him that he'd been rejected by the Wilmington diocese and probably by Boston, too. [See a PDF of the letter.]

“In discussing the problem with Bishop Harrington, we agreed to suggest that you accept the idea of going to one of the houses of the Paraclete Fathers [an order of priests]—either Via Coeli in New Mexico or one of their other hospices. They now have some professionally directed programs of therapy, so that you could continue whatever treatment is indicated. Also, by reason of their many contacts with bishops who are in need of priests, they are able to find openings for their guests after a reasonable period of time.

“If you are willing to do this, we will make the arrangements for you and provide for your care. I do hope that you will accept the suggestion since it would appear to me as the best possible solution to helping you return to an active ministry.”

Sept. 30, 1971

Letter from Bishop Flanagan to the Rev. Joseph McNamara, supervisor at Via Coeli, accompanying Father Holley's records. [See a PDF of the letter.]

“His past history would seem to give us little hope of his being able to resume an effective ministry for a long time, if ever."

Nov. 1, 1971

Letter from Father Holley to Bishop Flanagan. [See a PDF of the letter.]

“Since my arrival in Albuquerque, I have been at Pius XII Villa, a few miles from the city limits. Via Coeli is about 70 miles northwest in Jemez Springs. I visited there three weeks ago and found that ... the buildings are antiquated to say the least. The second floor of the main building has not been used for several years and is scheduled to be torn down soon....

"Here at Pius XII Villa are four Paracletes. One is 72 years old, another is a foreigner who speaks poor English, one is an alcoholic patient and the other is a belated vocation (53 yrs.) recently ordained. I was disappointed to learn that none are professionally trained. Seven guest priests, in their 30s and 40s, are living here on a renovated chicken farm but the spirit is very good, thank God. All the priests go out to neighboring parishes on weekends....”

Feb. 10, 1972

Letter from Father Holley to Bishop Flanagan. [See a PDF of the letter.]

“My visits to the Lovelace Clinic in Albuquerque [which provided psychiatric services under contract with the Paracletes] have been very beneficial and I am grateful for the therapy from Dr. [D.H.] Cummings. I have worked in three local parishes on weekends and occasionally during the week.”

March 28, 1972

Letter from Father Holley to Bishop Flanagan. [See a PDF of the letter.]

"Since my last letter to you, I have heard from the Veterans Administration in Washington. There are no vacancies at present but they are retaining my application for a chaplaincy for future consideration.

“Dr. Cummings at the Lovelace Clinic and the new superior at Pius XII Villa both approve my desire to work in this [military] apostolate. There was only one question about medical history on the application which I showed to Dr. Cummings. He said that the question did not affect me and there was no need to volunteer information about my past problem.

“In regard to my present status, I wrote that I am on special assignment outside the diocese working as an assistant. I was advised to do this by the chaplain at the local VA hospital....

“I am most eager to return to full active duty as soon as possible and can finally say that I have conquered the tragedy that has plagued me in the past.... Thank you for your charity and understanding of a priest in need.”

July 3, 1975

Letter from Father Holley to Dr. Cummings, requesting release of records to the Diocese of El Paso, with which the priest was seeking an assignment. [See a PDF of the letter.]

“Perhaps you remember that I have been assisting the pastor at St. Jude Mission in Alamogordo. At first, I came only on weekends from Pius XII Villa in Albuquerque. Father [Wilfrid] Diamond then asked me to stay for longer periods of time.... For the past three and a half years, I have been at St. Jude almost continuously.”

(Nearly 20 years later, after Father Holley and church leaders had been sued by 16 young men over alleged molestation in Alamogordo, Father Diamond testified in a deposition that:

• Two hundred to 300 priests under Paraclete care—for problems ranging from alcoholism to pedophilia—helped him over the years. "There were no [other] priests available."

• He got permission from top church officials in El Paso to use the priests under treatment. “They said, 'Sure, what the hell. Go ahead.’"

• After Father Holley had been in Alamogordo for at least a year, a family complained that he had molested their son. Father Holley admitted what he'd done, promised it would never happen again and was allowed to continue work; the family moved away “a couple of months later.”

• He thought Father Holley would reform but soon learned that “he was still playing around.” The victims included three boys in one family Father Diamond named. “And the others, I don't remember who they might have been.”)

Oct. 3, 1975

Letter from Dr. Cummings to the Diocese of El Paso. [See a PDF of the letter.]

“In my opinion the unhealthy and grossly immature pattern of thoughts and feelings that led to the abnormal impulses and behavior of the past has been totally eliminated...."

Dec. 26, 1975

El Paso Bishop Sidney M. Metzger's grant of priestly powers to Father Holley. [See a PDF of the letter.]

“Since for the good of souls it is necessary that we provide ... [an assistant pastor] for the Church of St. Raphael’s in the city of El Paso, and having confidence in your knowledge, piety, prudence, experience and general character, we ... [are] granting you the necessary rights and powers...."

April 27, 1976

Letter from the Rev. A. Dixon Hartford, pastor of St. Raphael's, to Bishop Metzger. [See a PDF of the letter.]

“I informed Father that his assignment at St. Raphael's is immediately terminated and that I would have his things packed and shipped to wherever he wished. Of course, Father was deeply humiliated and mortified and very apologetic....

“I know that Father [Carlos] Frias could use help at the Immaculate Conception [in El Paso]. I propose that you send Father to the Immaculate with the understanding that Father Frias knows what the problem is and that Father Holley and myself will have a regular schedule of appointments. I feel that my training in Reality Therapy could be of some use to Father.

“Bishop, I know what I propose is very risky and if you think it is worth merit, I would suggest that one or two others from the Priests Personnel Board be consulted.”

Dec. 30, 1976

Letter from Bishop Metzger, addressed to Father Holley at Immaculate Conception. [See a PDF of the letter.]

“It gives me great pleasure to give you the appointment as associate pastor of the Church of Our Lady of the Valley, El Paso.... With the grace of God you will succeed.”

May 23, 1977

Letter from Bishop Metzger to Father Holley. [See a PDF of the letter.]

“... I have come to the painful decision that you will, no longer be permitted to function as a priest in the Diocese of El Paso....

“We do not intend to pass judgment on you or your actions, realizing that many past events have had an impact on your life.

“It is my suggestion that you remain with your family and seek employment as a layman....

“I hope that you will not think harshly of us....”

Sept. 20, 1977

Letter from Bishop Metzger to San Angelo, Texas, Bishop Stephen A. Leven, whom Father Holley had asked for an appointment. [See a PDF of the letter.]

“We tried to help him but the situation became simply untenable. I personally have no objection if you wish to give Father Holley an appointment ... all the more since you have sent him to Canada for treatment.

“... You and I also know from our experience with such unfortunate matters that such cases are always a calculated risk....”

June 2, 1982

Letter from Bishop Leven’s successor, Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, to Bishop Flanagan in Worcester. [See a PDF of the letter.]

Father Holley “has been working in the Diocese of San Angelo for four years and, as far as I know, there has been no serious problem with his ministry here. I am aware of his past difficulties yet I do not know the extent or his problems.

“With our shortage of priests, I am willing to risk incardinating him [formally accepting him in the diocese] unless you would advise me against it...."

June 14, 1982

Letter from Bishop Flanagan to Bishop Fiorenza. [See a PDF of the letter.]

“... since he expresses no desire to return here but rather, for good reasons, to remain in the south, I am willing to excardinate [formally release] him.”

Dec. 22, 1982

Letter from Bishop Fiorenza to Bishop Flanagan. [See a PDF of the letter.]

“... some of his past problems surfaced again, which made it advisable for me not to incardinate him....

"For the past several months Father Holley has been studying Spanish in San Antonio and Mexico in order to more efficiently minister to the people of this diocese. I have made it clear to him that I will give him a fair chance to exercise his priesthood here, but if there is one more lapse I will ask him to leave”

May 25, 1984

Letter from Bishop Fiorenza to Bishop Harrington in Worcester. [See a PDF of the letter.]

“It is with great regret that I write now to say that Father Holley has made it impossible for us to keep him in this diocese.

“... I will continue to pray for him and hope that he will successfully deal with his problems so that he can continue a useful priestly ministry....”

July 23, 1984

Letter from Bishop Fiorenza to Bishop Harrington. [See a PDF of the letter.]

'Bishop [Leroy] Matthiesen has informed ... [Father Holley] that he could not accept him in the Diocese of Amarillo. However, he is presently staying at one of the parishes there.”

Aug. 13, 1984

Letter from Father Holley to Bishop Harrington. [See a PDF of the letter.]

"After leaving the Diocese of San Angelo, I immediately came to Amarillo where I am now working at St. Joseph Church. My plans are to remain in this diocese and, God willing, to be incardinated."

Aug. 11, 1986

Letter from Father Holley to Bishop Harrington. [See a PDF of the letter.]

“I have recently completed a Clinical Pastoral Education course at St. Joseph Hospital here in Albuquerque....

“Shortly after arriving in Amarillo from San Angelo, I saw that the diocese was having serious financial and personnel problems. After sound advice, I applied for the CPE course in Amarillo but was told there were no immediate openings. The director suggested, however, that I apply in Albuquerque and I was accepted the following week....

“As an adjunct to the program, all the interns had to consult weekly with a psychotherapist.... The most difficult time for me was getting in touch with my painful childhood when I was frequently beaten, burnt and cut by my stepfather and lived in isolation and rejection. I can see now, however, that God never abandoned me.

“Presently, I am working as a chaplain just a few hours each week at St. Joseph Hospital and at Vista Sandia Hospital....”

Oct. 5, 1987

Letter from the Monsignor Lawrence St. Peter, vicar for priests and seminarians in the Archdiocese of Denver, to Father Holley. [See a PDF of the letter.]

Bishop Harrington “assures me that you are a priest in good standing and that he has given you permission to be a chaplain at St. Anthony Hospital Central, Denver.”

Sept. 19, 1988

Letter from Monsignor St. Peter's successor, the Rev. R. Walker Nickless, to Father Holley. [See a PDF of the letter.]

“... your faculties for the Archdiocese of Denver are hereby revoked, effective immediately.”

Oct. 5, 1988

Letter from Auxiliary Bishop George E. Rueger to Monsignor Nickless.

“I know how sincerely you tried to give Father Holley permission to serve.”

(There is no indication that Father Holley ever worked as a priest again. In 1992, church officials sent him to inpatient therapy in Maryland as old molestation allegations resurfaced. Criminal charges came in 1993, and Father Holley pleaded guilty to molesting eight boys during his early 1970s Alamogordo stint. He was sentenced to a maximum of 275 years in prison and is now confined at the Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in Grants, N.M.)


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