Ashfield Man Grateful for Bishop’s Help in Laicizing Priest

By Father Bill Pomerleau
The Observer
February 1, 2009

Ashfield man grateful for bishop’s help in laicizing priest

SPRINGFIELD – William J. Nash, an Ashfield man who says he was sexually molested by a priest in a Xaverian seminary in Wisconsin in the 1980s, said he is pleased that Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell assisted him as he sought the accused priest’s laicization.

Nash, who grew up in Westfield’s Blessed Sacrament Parish, had mounted a months-long, international campaign to bring about the laicization of Xaverian Father James Tully, holding press conferences in several U.S. and Italian dioceses to publicize the priest’s troubled history.

That effort was apparently instrumental in Father Tully’s decision to ask for a dispensation from the obligations of the priesthood, and separation from religious life, on Oct. 10.

Father Tully, who has no connection to the Diocese of Springfield, was accused of sexually molesting a parishioner of St. Brendan Parish in Bellingham, Mass., in 1970. The alleged victim was among the 552 individuals who received settlements from the Archdiocese of Boston in 2003.

The priest pled guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct for providing beer and wine coolers to three minors he took to a baseball game in Milwaukee in 1990, and no contest to a charge of touching the thigh of one of the boys.

Nash, who contends that Father Tully also acted improperly with other individuals, reached an out-of-court settlement with the Xaverian Missionary Fathers in 2002.

Last year, he mounted an effort to have the priest effectively removed from the priesthood.

In June, he joined local members of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) in calling for Father Tully’s laicization at a press conference outside the diocesan pastoral center in Springfield.

A diocesan spokesman told the media at the time that since Father Tully was a religious priest, an effort to impose a canonical penalty upon him was a matter for the Xaverians and the Vatican.

However, Bishop McDonnell also twice wrote to Nash, once informing him that he had also written to “the appropriate authorities in Rome” about Father Tully, Nash told The Catholic Observer.

“I was very appreciative that he had stepped up to the plate in his case,” Nash said, alluding to Bishop McDonnell.

During press events in Springfield, Milwaukee and Rockville Centre, N.Y., Nash complained that Father Tully was living at a Xaverian facility in Vincenza, Italy often used by the local diocese for youth retreats. After Nash was then interviewed by Italian newspapers, a local newspaper there reported that the priest’s background was not known or was minimized by local Xaverians.

Later in the year, Nash learned that Father Tully has been quietly transferred to a Xaverian residence in Wayne, N.J. At still another press event, he claimed that the priest had overstayed his welcome in the Diocese of Paterson.

Father Carl Chudy, the U.S. provincial for the Xaverians, confirmed that Father Tully has asked to be laicized and separated from religious life. He said that Rome has not yet acted on the requests.

Generally speaking, a laicization requested by a priest is completed more quickly than a laicization involuntarily imposed on him.


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