Ex-delco Clergyman Laicized by Vatican

By Patti Mengers
Delco Times

August 29, 2008

Forty years after he was accused of sending letters describing sadomasochistic rituals to a school boy, a man who served as assistant pastor at two Delaware County parishes has been removed from the priesthood.

John H. Mulholland, who was assistant pastor at St. Anastasia Church in Newtown Square from June 1968 until June 1973, and at Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Darby from June 1973 until September 1977, has been laicized by the Vatican at his request, said officials in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

In a prepared statement released Thursday, archdiocesan officials said that in 2005, they received an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by Mulholland, who is now 69 and was ordained an archdiocesan priest in 1965.

"The Archdiocese of Philadelphia investigated the allegation, which was subsequently substantiated, and he sought removal from the clerical state," said the press release.

However, members of a grand jury convened by Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham in 2002 reported in 2005 that complaints about Mulholland's behavior with parish boys were brought to archdiocesan officials as early as 1968.

According to the grand jury report, in August 1968, a mother brought two letters written by Mulholland to her son while he was at summer camp to the pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Hatboro, Montgomery County, where Mulholland was assistant pastor at the time.

In the first letter, the priest implored the boy to "get me to beg to be punished" and offered him "a homage payment - such as you can be my financial bookkeeper for the school term, possessing the checkbook with signed blank checks."

The second letter described specific acts of submission the priest planned to engage in with the boy and suggested several other parish boys participate, according to the grand jury report.

At the time the mother brought the letters to the pastor, her son was on a two-week trip with Mulholland and, according to the grand jury report, was discouraged by a lawyer "sympathetic to both sides" from having police interrupt the priest's trip with her son.

When the boy returned from the trip, the archdiocesan vicar recorded that the boy "confessed a relationship with Father."

The priest admitted writing the letters and said his relationship with the boy was one of "testing strength" and denied anything sexual.

The vicar told Mulholland the archdiocese's response to the priest's behavior would depend on the boy's mother "and how far she would want to follow up the matter." Mulholland was told to have no further communication with the boy, but remained at the parish.

According to the grand jury report, the Archdiocesan Review Board in 2004 found that "Rev. Mulholland's letter to a young boy in his parish," though "quite disturbing in its language regarding issues of power, descriptions of human excrement and use of restraint," did not "fall under the definition of sexual abuse as contained in the Essential Norms."

In 1970, when Mulholland was on staff at St. Anastasia Church, archdiocesan officials received a report that a boy "was being strung up and Father Mulholland (was) piercing him or at least jabbing him with some instrument all over his body" while on a trip with the priest, according to the grand jury.

A junior adult adviser to St. Anastasia's Catholic Youth Organization and St. Anastasia's pastor both alerted archdiocesan officials to Mulholland's inappropriate behavior with boys, according to the grand jury report, but Mulholland remained in the parish.

On June 5, 1973, Mulholland was transferred to Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Darby "without any record of treatment, restrictions or even warnings to Father Mulholland," according to the grand jury report.

Mulholland was subsequently assigned to four more parishes in Philadelphia and Montgomery counties, including two where he was parochial vicar in charge of schools. He was in residence at a fifth Philadelphia parish while serving as chaplain at Immaculate Mary Nursing Home in Philadelphia. In September 2005, Mulholland began a leave of absence from archdiocesan duties and is last listed in archdiocesan records as living in a "private residence."

Mulholland did appear before the grand jury, but declined to answer questions about the allegations against him, according to the grand jury report.

Mulholland is among 43 priests with Delaware County connections out of 63 mentioned in the Philadelphia grand jury report on clerical sexual abuse.

He is among at least 12 men with Delaware County connections removed from the priesthood since 2005.

They include Edward V. Avery, Stanley M. Gana, James E. McGuire, Raymond Leneweaver, John Delli Carpini, Thomas J. Durkin, James M. Iannarella, Richard G. Jones, Thomas M. Kohler, David C. Sicoli and Francis X. Trauger.



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