The Scandal of Father Donald Osgood

By Matt C. Abbott
Renew America [New Hampshire]
August 27, 2006

The following slightly edited essay was provided to me by Lee Podles, author of a forthcoming book on the clergy sex abuse scandal. (Note: Contains graphic language.)

The Rev. Donald Osgood of New Hampshire:
A Shallow, Likeable Guy with a Taste for Young Men

By Lee Podles

Donald Matthew Osgood, born July 18, 1927, was the son of a Catholic mother and a non-Catholic father. He therefore needed a canonical indult to receive Holy Orders. Ecclesiastical bureaucrats dotted their i's and crossed their t's in this matter; but they showed less concern for his moral life and the effects he had on the laity.

Osgood was in the Navy until 1947, and then for two years studied at St Anselm's College, run by the Benedictines. Osgood entered the Benedictines in 1949 and made his novitiate at St, Vincent's Archabbey before returning to St. Anselm's. His attempt to become a Benedictine did not work out; Osgood decided to apply for the diocesan clergy in Manchester, New Hampshire. An official at the Abbey reported to Bishop Matthew Brady of Manchester that Osgood "manifested both the good and bad qualities that were observed in the novitiate." The bad qualities were that he "did not like to study" and enjoyed the "social life" at the abbey "to the detriment of his studies." But he spent "much time in training his musical ability and these efforts have shown much fruit." He was willing to work "and labored well and industriously as all sorts of jobs." All in all, Osgood was "industrious, energetic and not too pious" and "kindness itself."

Osgood was sent to St. Paul's Seminary in Ottawa. His file there indicated he was "polite, deferent...well-bred, well-mannered, very nice disposition." He was "cheerful, amiable, affable, sociable, and always ready to help and render service. He has given generously of his time for the music in the chapel." and was "an excellent organist." His grades were acceptable. The rector thought that Osgood had a "solid and sincere piety" and most importantly was "always docile, obedient and submissive."

Bishop Brady ordained Osgood in June 1955 and made him music director of the cathedral. Osgood was then made chaplain of Sacred Heart Hospital and St. Patrick's Home, an orphanage. He immediately attracted the attention of the police. In February 1956 the police reported to the diocese that Osgood was involved "with a boy from our school (mutual masturbation)." And involved "with boy from public school (same thing)." Osborne "has charge of the choir boys."

A boy (age redacted) reported to the diocese that Osgood, who was living at St. Patrick's Orphanage, kept asking him to go to St. Anselm's. Osgood let the boy steer the car. Osgood unzipped the boy's fly and began playing with his genitals, putting the boys hand on his (Osgood's) penis, all the while the boy was driving. The boy could not believe all this had really happened with a priest, but Osgood did the same thing the next time he and the boy were alone in the car. Osgood tried the same tactic on another boy, but this boy was so surprised that he lost control of the car.

When Brady called Osgood on the carpet Osgood was tongue-tied, but later wrote:

"First, the strong intimations made about my past life in the seminary disturb me greatly — for the simple reason that his has NOT been the pattern of my past life. I feel it a duty in conscience you may believe. I am not afraid to state that the future will bear witness to the truth of this statement."

Osgood is not very articulate in writing either. The file does not contain anything about Osgood's behavior in the seminary, but Brady must have heard something about it.

However, Osborne kept up his contacts at St Anselm's College and at the Abbey. In 1958 the diocese of Manchester received a report about Osgood from "official outside sources:" A Father John Burke of Springfield talked to a sophomore from St. Anselm's College, and then Burke consulted with Msgr. T. O'Connell, a diocesan official Springfield, who reported to the diocese of Manchester that:

  1. The Sacred Heart Hospital chaplain's quarters have been and as far as still known are used for licentious purposes. Sodomitcal acts have been performed there by our lay (teenager) informant with certain priests.

  2. Pornographic materials relating to homosexuality have been and perhaps still are on the premises at this chaplain's quarters. However, mechanical (apparently electronic) devices used for the purpose of stimulation have been apart of these operations.

  3. Intoxicating beverages have been and perhaps still are served to the young college boys who have frequented this place. The pornographic materials were there publicly shown. The informant states that the priest concerned boasted of his relations to others who were discussed.

  4. As to his personal experience, our informant places the date as of the close of the first college semester, around Christmas time of last year. He states that relations include everything from mutual masturbation to oral relations.

  5. The informant evidently wishes to protect the Benedictine priest with whom he has been involved at the college. He states that this priest has stated that he has been trying to reform. He also informs us that this Benedictine priest is known to the Boston ring who considers him "one of our kind."

  6. A Springfield priest has also been involved. Our informant claims to have experienced mutual masturbation with him. This priest is a close friend and visitor to the Sacred Heart chaplain. He is alleged to be Father Roy Genest.

  7. The present Sacred Heart chaplain and Father Genest were formerly associated with the Benedictines at the College as clerics.

  8. Our informant is highly afraid of scandal especially as should concern his parents. He himself is one of the leaders of the student body at the College. Some of this information involved the seal [my addition: the seal of confession] but the informant had given all the needed permission and is willing even to testify under oath with the only reservation that he will not become known to the others as the informant.

Monsignor O'Connell believes this to be a nest of homosexuals.

Osgood was an active homosexual; he liked young males, 14 and up. He was sexually involved with college students at St Anselm's College and with Benedictines at the Abbey. There was a homosexual subculture St Anselm's, and it had links to "the Boston ring." The offhand way that church officials referred to the Boston ring implied that they were familiar with it.

Osgood was subjected to what officials must have considered drastic and adequate discipline:

  • Forbidden to set foot on campus

  • Warned several times by superiors

  • Cautioned by the police.

  • Told to get rid of his car and forbidden to drive a car.

This last really hurt, and Osgood protested.

However, Osgood did not reform. Osborne's interest in teenagers created problems. March 22, 1960 "More police reports submitted on relations with young boys. Admission of guilt by party. No formal charges lodged in court. Subject moved around twice and called on carpet several times. Should have been suspended according to many."

Brady had had enough, and ordered Osgood to seek treatment at Via Coeli, a center for priests with psychological problems, run by the Servants of the Paraclete, which had been founded by Father Gerald Fitzgerald. When Osgood arrived at Via Coeli, he initially created a favorable impression in Father Fitzgerald, who in September 1961 thought him "sincere in his attempt to regain his spiritual and priestly balance." It is not clear how much Manchester told the Paracletes about Osborne. Fitzgerald had a harsh attitude to child molesters, but Osborne was not a pedophile. He was a homosexual who liked young men, and boys of 14 are sometimes physically fully mature.

But Fitzgerald soon became suspicious. He wrote a mysterious letter to Thomas Hansberry, Chancellor of Manchester. It began "our work calls for us to be as simple as the dove and as wary as the serpent." Fitzgerald stated that Osgood is eager to return to Manchester, but it is difficult to evaluate "the extent of a real conversion in his case." Fitzgerald says that it all depends on "a quite easily ascertained fact. If [redacted) of (redacted) in Manchester is a married man that recommendation is herby given to His Excellency. If, on the other hand, (redacted) is not married, we do not make this I recommendation. As Fitzgerald concludes, "undoubtedly all this seems rather cloak and dagger to you, but when I see you or His Excellency I will be able to give the explanation viva voce." There was something about Osgood relationship with Mr. X in Manchester that was innocent if X was married but not innocent if X was not married. Fitzgerald may have been naive about married homosexuals.

Hansberry replied that X "is a young married man in the early twenties with two small children. He is presently seeking to adopt or take in a foster child, a boy age 12. His recommendations seem to be in order and he has been active in Scouting. I do not know what his connection is with Fr. O. but any young man friendly with him would be suspect. This may seem harsh, but it is true because of past experience."

Even worse, Hansberry reports, Osgood has been writing a boy back in Manchester, and the parents are unhappy. Fitzgerald was away in Rome when Hansberry's letter arrived and someone relied that "we cannot interfere with the public mails." The staff at Via Coeli did not like Osgood. "Since Father is not frank and honest in his talks with us, protesting his complete rehabilitation. There does not seem much that we can do to help him. His masquerade of child-like innocence is hard to stomach and harder to deal with." Osgood got wind of the worries his correspondence was causing and claimed "I only sent a postcard and that with the written permission of the parents." The Paracletes sent Osgood to a Dr. Thomas Evilhizer for psychiatric evaluation (we do not have medical records).

Osgood did not much care for the strict regimen of seclusion, prayer and penance at Via Coeli. In August 1962 Fitzgerald reported that Osgood has "even more fully committed himself to the cultivation of the laity." Osgood offered to work in the kitchen but made himself scarce at other times. Fitzgerald does not feel he has enough hard evidence to take any disciplinary actions that Rome would back up: "it seems to me that the Roman mind would want something more positive than that before taking any drastic action." Fitzgerald goes on to say that "Unless Your Excellency already has positive evidence that justifies positive action of that sort..." a remark which perhaps implies that Fitzgerald was not told about the police reports and the results of the investigation of the homosexual ring at St. Anselm's.

Fitzgerald added a Postscript: "Tonight I had the 7 P.M. Mass at our little parish church — on the way back to this monastery I had my Paraclete driver the pay up the canyon — sure enough there was our boy — perched knees up all above on a boulder about a half mile up the state highway!"

Osgood continued to get on the nerves of the staff at Via Coeli. In October 1962 Father Fitzgerald called Hansberry said that Osgood "did not follow the life of the community and he had apparently volunteered to serve in the kitchen with the thought of using this activity as an excuse to avoid spiritual exercises. The authorities have come to the conclusion that he has no interior life and is making no progress form a spiritual standpoint. Moreover, "father has been taken off the cooking work because of the above reason and also because it was found that he was using his position to obtain and take out food for his lay friends. He was recently intercepted on his way out to a big party with a supply of food including a roast." Father Fitzgerald concluded that "he is a playboy — polite and genial, interested in being with the laity, rather than with the men of the house."

Fitzgerald also knew that con artists could fool psychiatrists. Hansberry wrote: "I asked if a Psychiatrist would help him and he [Fitzgerald] replied that he {Osgood} had seen a doctor in the field a few times but that it was easy for a person of this type to disguise his true character and he felt psychiatric treatment would do him no good." Hansberry said he would report the bad news to Bishop Primeau, who was in Rome for the Ecumenical Council.

But Evilhizer gave Osgood a favorable report and in March 1963 Osgood was sent to the Santa Fe archdiocese and was stationed at Our Lady of the Assumption parish in Albuquerque. The Chancery in Santa Fe soon reported that Osgood had repeated his "former difficulties," and the Chancellor of Manchester wrote Osgood that there would be no further assignments. Osborne found the regimen at Via Coeli too confining, so in June 1963 he packed up and without permission moved to Albuquerque, taking a job as a night manager at a restaurant.

In December 1963 Osgood wrote to Bishop Primeau of Manchester to explain why he had left:

    "I realize that I had a very severe problem that I seemed to be incapable of controlling, and being aware of this I wished professional treatment. The treatment offered at Via Coeli did not seem to be aimed at the root of the problem but only in increasing my will power. This I knew wouldn't get at the root of the problem as I had used all the will-power at my command in the past with no avail.

    "With the intention of receiving psychological help in depth, I left Via Coeli and gained employment and a place to stay to actualize this intention. I am happy to report to Your Excellency that I received the professional psychological help I needed and that the problem that I had for so long is no more. I have had no difficulty or feeling of necessity for such activity for the past four and one-half months."

In a March 1964 letter Osgood further explained that he could not accept either of the alternatives offered to him by the Manchester diocese: 1. permanent protective custody at Via Coeli or 2. laicization, because "it was difficult for me to see how wither of these choices would solve or even alleviate my personal problem." He protested that Via Coeli had become "a dumping ground for unwanted priests" with "an atmosphere hearty-rendingly conducive to shiftlessness or even despair." Osgood had a deep and sincere conviction that "my ordination was neither a mistake nor something I went into without deliberate consideration and free choice did not permit me to conscientiously seek laicization." Osgood was not going to admit there were any grounds to seek voluntary laicization.

In Albuquerque Osgood found a doctor, Robert R. Gibson, D. C. Osgood explained that "Dr. Gibson has been treating me almost from the beginning of my settling in Albuquerque." Osgood "spent most of last summer and fall not only in frequent therapeutic sessions with Dr. Gibson but also in hour upon hour of careful and methodic study of his observations in dealing with the emotionally disturbed." Osgood protests that "now more than ever, laicization seems to me to be a traitorous compromising of the promises foresworn by me, knowingly and willingly, immediately prior to my receiving major orders." Gibson diagnosed Osgood as not a "congenital" homosexual, one born that way, but as a "conditioned" homosexual:

    "This type comes into being in a normal person, usually early in life due to a psychic trauma. In this type the person does not have the expression of the sexual urge under the control of the will. It may be likened to an allergy. Whenever a situation arises that unconsciously reminds the mind of the traumatic situation, action takes place without the will of the person. During the times there is no reminder by association in the mind the person's actions are normal. However as soon as there arises a situation in which the association is triggered, the action takes place."

    X [Osgood] was a victim of this second type. During about 30 hours of psychotherapy, using eth insight methods, he discovered the trigger situation. Since that time he has not and will not have any difficulty. Before that time he had no control of his actions. The former trigger situation can arise, he is conscious of it and has no effects."

Gibson pronounced Osgood cured. But, as the diocese of Manchester noted, the D.C. after Gibson's name meant that he was a chiropractor.

One has to wonder about the professional ethics and judgment of a chiropractor who would make a psychiatric diagnosis. Osgood's actions were not like an allergy, they were not involuntary. It was not true to say Osgood had "no control"; Osgood never had sex in public. If there is any truth in Gibson's diagnosis it may mean that Osgood suffered a psychic trauma, that he was himself abused or raped when he was young. But one has to wonder about Gibson's motivation in writing the letter.

In May 1964 Bishop Primeau of Manchester informed Dr. Braceland of the Institute of Living that Osgood "is a young man who, shortly after his ordination, became very seriously involved homosexually with a number of boys and older men. In spite of repeated warnings and efforts to obtain his reform, he finally became so notorious that it was necessary to refer him to a home for priests (Via Coeli) in New Mexico. There he seems to have pulled the wool over the eyes of the psychiatrist who worked with him and he was permitted another trial in a parish in that area. Again he got into serious trouble."

Primeau continued that Osgood had left Via Coeli and worked in Albuquerque. "A short while ago he informed us that he had been under the direction of a certain doctor who had been treating him and had completely cured him of his affliction. Upon our request, this doctor sent is a well-written explanation of his case with the statement that had been solved. However, the initials after the doctor's name were D. C. which we presume indicates that he is a chiropractor." Primeau concluded "We should like to do everything possible to save this young man." There is no indication that Primeau (or anyone else in the Manchester diocese) ever showed any concern for the young victims.

In 1965 Hansberry wrote to Dr. Austin McCawley at the Institute of Living that Osgood had been seen by a Dr. Evilhizer at Via Coeli, but that Hansberry felt that from Evilhizer's sole report "that the doctor was not aware of the problem or that he was very much deceived by Father Osgood in his talks with him."

Osgood was then sent to a Dr. Warren T. Brown of Albuquerque, who been recommended by the Institute of Living. Osgood worked as a restaurant manager, and one of the employees confessed to him (not at all aware that he was a priest) that he has committed murder and wanted Osgood to help turn him in to the police. Osgood did so, but then was summoned as a witness and realized that the fact that he was a priest would come out. The Diocese of Manchester wrote a letter to the Albuquerque police department and finessed the situation.

Brown saw Osgood and was quickly (January 1966) optimistic. Bishop Primeau was dubious. Osgood's reputation in New Hampshire was not good, and "he would be of more value in another diocese perhaps in the West," that is, as far from New Hampshire as possible. Osgood had written Primeau that he would like to work in "certain areas in which I could be of most value to the church." Primeau thought this meant music or the choir, and said that "my first reaction to this is that these are the areas which contributed to his delinquency."(I am no sure of the connection of music and delinquency, but this remark implies that Osgood had been after choir boys).

Brown, according to the diocese of Manchester, pronounced Osgood fit to work, and so, despite all the bizarre circumstances, the bishop of Manchester took Osgood back and in January 1967 put him in All Saints parish in Lancaster, New Hampshire. In October 1967 a concerned layman soon called the chancery and said that rumors were circulating, that Osgood was meeting with groups of boys 12 and up, and there were liquor for the older teens and um, "pictures" at these meetings. There were also rumors of "physical actions."

The Chief of Police of Lancaster, Larry Connarry, called the Chancery, according to notes, and warned that "a police investigation is in order" Connarry was retiring within a few days and feared "that is a non-Catholic comes in the whole thing might blow sky high."

Hansberry investigated; Osgood claimed they were Playboy-type magazines that teens were familiar with, and that he now realized it was imprudent to have done this Hansberry wrote "I have no reason to doubt Father Osgood's veracity in this regard. He seems very sincere and determine dot make a go of it." Hansberry has a positive will to believe Osgood, possibly because Hasnberry realizes that he is stuck with Osgood.

Even those who complained about Osgood's sexual behavior did not want to hurt him and said he as "very understanding, always available, very helpful." With all his problems, Osgood was better than their pastor, who "never answers sick calls, never visits the hospital, does not care for the seriously ill, is not interested in CCD, is wrapped up in renovating the church, has an inferiority complex which cause shim to rant and rave at the people in the church for no reason, and the spiritual life of the parish is very low." In some ways an affable molester was better than a neurotic grump.

Hansberry told Osgood to get out of town immediately. Osgood claimed it was all gossip, but started looking for another diocese to work in. Osgood decided to try to get a transfer to Washington, D. C. Bishop Primeau wrote a semi-complete account in his letter to Cardinal Boyle, then archbishop of Washington:

    "Several years ago, Father Osgood was involved in a number of homosexual incidents which occasioned his suspension. I arranged for an examination for him at the Institute of Living in Hartford, Conn. And, upon the advice of the experts there, gave him permission to work as a layman in Albuquerque, New Mexico while under the direction of a recommended psychiatrist in that city. Three years later this doctor advised me that Father Osgood had completed his treatment and he recommended him for active duty in the priesthood."

But Bishop Primeau neglects to mention that the homosexual incidents involved boys in their mid-teens that the police were involved, that there was a homosexual ring, that Osgood was sent to Via Coeli. Osgood also tried Archbishop Davis if Santa Fe.

In 1968, according to the diocese of Manchester, Osgood was "removed from the ministry" but it is not clear what that means. He was not laicized, and seems to have disappeared. His last address was in El Monte, California in 1970. He would be 79 if he is still alive.

Con artistry

The portrait of Osgood in his file would be worthy of a novel by O'toole, Author of A Confederacy of Dunces. Osgood is a caricature of a likeable, gay con artist, who enjoyed playing the organ, parties, and the bodies if young males, especially choir boys

The Navy has a bad reputation for homosexuality. There is the apocryphal apothegm of Winston Churchill, "The only traditions of the Royal Navy are rum, sodomy and the lash," and the more recent "what happens on the ship stays on the ship." There is also the curious allusion to Osgood's overzealousness in the infirmary, which I suspect had something to do with his desire for hands-on treatment of young male bodies.

The file does not have Osborne's psychiatric records. Did he have any psychiatric conditions? His main problem was that he had a taste for sex with men. Homosexuality is not a psychiatric problem any more than the taste for heterosexual promiscuity and adultery is. There is a hint in the chiropractor's report that Osgood may have been abused himself, probably in a religious context, but being abused does not automatically make one an abuser.

I am often asked by anxious parents how to spot an abuser. They come in many varieties, but I have noticed that all or almost all have two characteristics.

Not all narcissists are abusers, but all abusers are narcissists. Osgood was clearly a self-centered jerk (technical diagnosis, narcissism) because he did not consider the effects his actions had on his sexual partners and on the Church as a whole. Even when in treatment, his focus was on "my problem."

Osgood, like all abusers, is self-indulgent. None of the abusers could ever be called ascetic or austere. They indulge in sex, drink, luxuries, and usually finance their vices by stealing from the Church.

Much, perhaps almost all, the clerical sexual abuse was surrounded by an alcoholic haze.

Part of Osborne's affability was his love of the bottle, and like many abusers he found that liquor was a quick way to relax the inhibitions of teenagers.

Alcoholism harms the center of the brain that exercises judgment. It is not clear whether the abusers were alcoholics before they became abusers, or whether they drank to dull their conscience. It was probably circular. An abuser had bad judgment because of his alcoholism; he abused someone, and the dulled his conscience by drinking even more. His judgment was even further impaired; he committed worse abuse, and had to drink even more to soothe his conscience, and so on in a downward spiral. However Osgood does not exhibit any characteristics of the tortured soul, and seems quite untroubled by his sexual activities.

Osgood was a con artist who liked socializing with people, and therefore found the clerical life congenial, and the laity liked him and thought he was a "good priest." All Osgood had to do was interact with people, which he enjoyed, and say a few pious phrases now and then, and even his victims and their parents would like him and feel sorry for him.

Osgood convinced his psychiatrists he was "cured." But there was really nothing for him to be cured of. He had a vice, a taste for homosexual activity, activity both contrary to his vow of celibacy and contrary to the teachings of the Church whose official representative he was. Perhaps the vice had its roots in a trauma (although Osgood's manipulativeness and lack of truthfulness made any psychiatric treatment suspect).

The Vatican

Fitzgerald was frustrated by the Roman refusal to act unless forced to do so. Inertia is a powerful force in all bureaucrats, and Rome invested bureaucracy. Osborne broke the rule of the Via Coeli house, but that was not enough to get rid of him.

From other case we know that Rome was extremely reluctant to remove priests from the priesthood, no matter how strong the evidence. Bishop Wuerl of Pittsburgh had to fight Vatican officials for months to laicize Cipolla. This reluctance has never been explained. Perhaps it was a superstitious belief that the mass offered by a criminal priest in the state of mortal sin was still an objective Sacrifice, and that outweighed any damage the priest's criminal actions did to the souls of children. Or perhaps pederasty is an old Mediterranean custom, and Italians are not deeply shocked by it.

Fitzgerald visited Rome several times, once to see John XXIII and twice to see Paul VI. We do not have records of what Fitzgerald discussed with each pope, but as Fitzgerald was the world's expert on treating priests who we sexual abusers, we can assume that he discussed this with the popes. In one of the letters that Osgood Fitzgerald mentions that he was buying an island to keep abusers on so they would not have access to children. Rome's response to Fitzgerald's visits was to remove him as head of the order that he had founded; his bishop wrote from Rome ordering Fitzgerald to sell the island. Rome was determined to keep abusers in parishes, no matter how many children were harmed.

Vatican II

In the background of the events of Osgood's life is the Second Vatican Council. Bishops attempted to reconnect the Church with the modern world to order to preach the Gospel more effectively. However, the clergy who would be the local agents of such a renewal were people like Osgood, whose faith was weak, whose spiritual life was non-existent, and who worked their way around attempts to discipline them. The changes that the Council soon brought to out were taken by such people as a signal that anything goes, and the enormous spike in sexual abuse by priests (who had been educated and ordained before the Council) followed. Church authorities were even more reluctant to take any sort of disciplinary measures against abusers.

Blindness to victims

Church officials consider sexual relations of males 14 and up to be a firm of homosexuality, not pedophilia. Officials were following the guidance of canon law about the age of consent and also applying the common-sense judgment that a sexual interest in sexually mature males, even if they are 14, is a form of homosexuality. Despite all the allegations that homophobia was rampant in the 1950s, officials regarded homosexual behavior as a moderately serious sin, not a crime that should automatically lead to reporting to the police and to removal from the priesthood.

The authorities did not approve or even tolerate homosexual behavior among priests, but they regarded it as a moral failing which demanded repentance and a change of life. They did not realize that for a teenager to be homosexually initiated by a priest is a psychologically very damaging experience. A boy feels that his whole world of values is shattered, that the foundations of his faith are destroyed, that the whole adult world is a lie.

No one showed any concern for Osborne's young sexual partners. Church officials in Manchester knew that some of them were teenagers, but did not reflect on how Osgood's sexual approaches affected both the faith and psychological balance of the victims. As one of Jenness's (the Genest of the report — see below) victims later said, "As horrific as the sex itself was, what was more horrific to all of us is that we trusted thes men. In our eyes and in our parent's eyes, these men — priests — were here to serve God."

In other cases Fitzgerald wrote in the strongest language about the harm that abusers did, but in Osgood's case Fitzgerald was willing to take the chance that Osgood had changed and sent him to a parish, where he abused.

Rings and Networks

The "Roy Genest" of this report is in fact the Rev. Roy Jennest of the Springfield, Massachusetts, diocese. In 2003 four brothers filed suit claiming that they had been sexually abused by several priests, Francis P. Levelle, Edward M. Kennedy, Ronald E. Wamsher, J. Roy Jenness and Thomas J. O'Connor.

Jenness started the abuse. The oldest brother said "Jenness gave me my first drink of alcohol — Cutty Sark whiskey" when he was 14. The second brother said that Jenness and O'Connor shared him some nights at Jenness camp.

Other priests in Springfield, most of them officials of the diocese, have been accused of sexual abuse. Bishop Dupre of Springfield resigned and fled within hours after he learned that he would be publicly accused of abusing teenage boys. Msgr. Richard Sniezyk of Springfield explained that some priests thought it acceptable to have sex with young men: "It was that era of the '60s — most of it took place from the mid-'60s to the early-'80s — and the whole atmosphere out there was, it was OK, it was OK to do."

Msgr. O'Connell's suspicion that there was a "nest of homosexuals" seems to have been justified.

The Manchester file also makes reference to "the Boston ring" whose existence, from the allusive way it is mentioned, seems to be familiar to priests in Springfield and Manchester. Paul Shanley, according to affidavits of his victims, shared boys with other priests in the Boston archdiocese in the 1970s, and the Davenport, Iowa, abusers had contacts in Chicago. Abusive priest seem to have known each other and passed boy around. Such priests were often (as in Davenport and Springfield) in control of the chancery, the administrative machinery of the diocese. Some also had connections in the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, a missionary structure which would allow priests to go quickly from one country to another on the pretext of doing missionary work. The former international head of the Society was arrested on Canada on charges of molesting boys.


Catholic police officials interfered with the workings of justice to protect the reputation of the clergy. Instead of arresting Osgood, they reported him to his bishop. In Lancaster the police chief made sure that Osgood escaped possible arrest by a non-Catholic. Even if Brady had wanted the police to arrest and charge Osgood, they may have refused, or the prosecutor may have refused to send the case to a grand jury. Even the parents and victims did not go to the police. In part their reluctance was due to the embarrassment that the boy was involved in homosexual activity; I part it was a desire to avoid embarrassment to the Church; and it part it was based on sympathy for Osgood, who had an attractive personality (apart from his vice).


Father Fitzgerald quickly realized that Osgood had no interior life. That is, Osgood did not pray except in public and when necessary, he had no sense of the reality of the Christian life. The regimen at Via Coeli was not that of a psychiatric institution. It was aimed at men who had a sense of the reality of God, of sin, of the possibility of eternal punishment, of the necessity for repentance and conversion. But Osgood, like many priest abusers, had no prayer life, a little or no sense of the reality of the spiritual world.

Why did such men become priests? That is another question that it is very hard to answer. Sometimes it seems that such men had been sexually abused by priests themselves. They thought that the world was divided into powerful abusers and weak victims, and decided they wanted to be on the side of the powerful. There is a hint of that n Osgood's case.

Such men as adolescents were initiated into the demi-monde of clerical homosexuals, and decided to enter it. These men may not be atheists or unbelievers because they minds are not structured around questions of truth or falsehood, but around the poles of power and weakness. The clergy were powerful, the laity weak, so hey became clerics. The emphasis of Catholic doctrine (a medieval development in the Germanic world) on the mysterious powers that ordination conferred on a man contributed to this. The social standing of clergy within the church also contributed to this.

Paradoxically, the worse an abuser behaved, the safer he was, because he knew that everyone would want to avoid the embarrassment of exposing him. It was like the saying in the financial world: "You owe the bank $50,000 and can't repay, you have a problem; if you owe the bank $50,000,000 and you can't repay, the bank has a problem."

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic columnist. He can be reached at


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