5 Years Later, Rev. T. Kane Teaches Ethics
House of Affirmation

By Paul Della Valle
Worcester Telegram & Gazette
June 21, 1992

The thing you've got to love about the Roman Catholic Church is the forgiveness angle.

Take the Rev. Thomas A. Kane, for example.Kane, you may remember, is the priest who allegedly had his fingers about two-knuckles deep in the till at the House of Affirmation in Whitinsville five years ago.

By the time that scandal played out - allegedly the good padre siphoned off mucho dinero to support his own real estate empire - Kane had been barred from the House of Affirmation for life and several of the managers and employees who blew the whistle on him had been fired.


Lately, Father Kane has been breeding bulldogs at his pet shop in Boston and teaching classes at Anna Maria College in Paxton. He taught ethics, once and for all proving what a wonderful and whacky world this is.

Now he's got a new gig, associate pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Gardner.

The House of Affirmation didn't fare so well. The publicity from the Kane-sized controversy proved a heavy load, and the once-thriving nonprofit corporation went belly up in 1990. The house, which had provided mental health services for clergy at centers in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Florida, California, Missouri and England, was founded by Kane, Sister Anna Polcino and lay Catholic psychiatrist Conrad Baars in 1973. Although not part of the church, it had close ties to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester.

Kane avoided litigation by agreeing to write the House of Affirmation a big check on Oct. 16, 1987. Bishop Timothy J. Harrington of the Worcester Diocese then sent him on sabbatical "to get rest."


The next year, Harrington wrote a letter of recommendation that helped Kane get a job as director of the National Guild of Catholic Psychiatrists. In his letter, the bishop neglected to mention Kane's fiscal problems at the House of Affirmation.

In the spring of 1991 and again this past spring, Kane, taught an ethics course at Anna Maria. He also taught a course at the college's Wellesley site. Kane is also a part-owner of "Fish on a Leash," a pet store on upscale Newbury Street in Boston, although he's usually there only on weekends, an employee said Friday. For four months recently, Kane had been loaned by the Worcester Diocese to St. Donato's in New Haven, where he served as acting pastor.

In May, Harrington appointed Kane associate pastor of Sacred Heart. He is scheduled to arrive in the Chair City later this week. Why was he appointed? "Why not?" the Rev. John Barrett, the Worcester Diocese's director of communications, said Friday. "He's a priest in good standing."

It was never made public how much Kane allegedly embezzled because the out-of-court settlement his lawyer agreed to with the diocese's lawyer, Samuel R. DeSimone, contained a non-disclosure provision.

When the story of Kane's alleged fiscal misdeeds first broke in the Telegram & Gazette in September 1987, Kane owned an inn in Isleboro, Maine (he sold that for $650,000 before the settlement), a farm on Islesboro (he sold that to actress Kirstie Alley this spring), three condominiums in Boston in total worth more than $200,000, two condos in Florida worth more than $120,000, a home in Whitinsville worth $98,700 and at least several other properties in this and other states.

Kane also had a major interest in trusts that owned a condominium building at 398 Marlboro St., Boston, valued in 1987 at $720,000, and in properties on St. Stephen Street and Symphony Road, Boston, then with a total value of more than $700,000.

Kane, who never lost his good-standing designation with the Worcester Diocese, continues to live in his suite at 398 Marlboro St., Boston. On Friday, Babak "Bob" Bagheral, Kane's longtime sidekick, answered the phone there and said the priest was vacationing in Canada and could not be reached for a comment until Tuesday.

"When he goes on vacation," Bagheral said, "he really goes on vacation."


The Rev. Edmond L. Tinsley, vicar general of the diocese, said Kane, 51, will live in the rectory at Sacred Heart once he begins serving there. Tinsley would only say "he is a priest in good standing" when asked why Kane was appointed to Sacred Heart.

Kane's problems began in October 1986 when 11 HOA managers first made their allegations to the House of Affirmation's board of directors. They later went to Cardinal Bernard Law, then Attorney General James Shannon and the T&G because, they claimed, the board and Bishop Harrington were more interested in covering up the scandal than correcting it.

They alleged, among other things, that Kane illegally used the house's tax-exempt numbers for private purchases; that he and Polcino put relatives and friends, including Bagheral, on the House of Affirmation payroll although they did not work there; that Kane used House of Affirmation crews to work on his private properties; and that he charged the House of Affirmation exorbitant rents on properties he leased to the corporation.

"It is important to note," the 11 managers wrote in a letter to Shannon, "that the foregoing abuses are believed to be only the tip of the iceberg."


Although DeSimone, in his own investigation, found at least some of the allegations to be true, Shannon's office never pursued the investigation.

And it wasn't the first time such allegations had been made. Virginia Baars, the widow of co-founder Baars said in 1987 that her husband tried to blow the whistle on Kane and Polcino in 1975 because he suspected they were keeping "double books."

Baars was fired instead and, according to House of Affirmation employees, Kane and Polcino then spread the word that he had been incompetent. Baars died five years later.

Virginia Baars said he died broken-hearted.


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