Parish Shows Support for Priest

By Kevin Rothstein
Patriot Ledger (Quincy, MA)
February 11, 2002

NORWELL — The pastor of St. Helen's Church says he was unaware of an agreement to keep a priest assigned to the parish from having unsupervised contact with children.

The Rev. Thomas Maguire, who has been pastor since Sept. 10, said yesterday he first heard of the agreement regarding the Rev. Gerald J. Hickey from news reports.

Robert Sherman, a lawyer who sued the Rev. Hickey over an allegation of child molestation, has said the Boston archdiocese agreed to keep the clergyman from unsupervised contact with children.

The agreement was part of a confidential settlement reached with the archdiocese during the early to mid-1990s, about the time the Rev. Hickey abruptly left St. Bridget's Church in Abington.

Technically, the Rev. Hickey has been unassigned since 1994, but he has been assisting at St. Helen's for about six years.

The Rev. Maguire said he knew of no restrictions on the Rev. Hickey's work. "I wasn't even aware he had been named in a suit, nor, I'm sure, was my predecessor aware of an existence of an allegation," he said.

Parishioners at St. Helen's have called the Rev. Hickey the "glue" that held the church together while the previous pastor, the Rev. Richard Smith, was ill.

During one Mass yesterday, the Rev. Anthony Charles Jezowski told parishioners that the Rev. Hickey was not aware of any restrictions. The two clergymen are friends and housemates.

Parishioners rallied around the Rev. Hickey during Masses yesterday, occasionally rising to their feet to applaud him, parishioners said.

The Rev. Maguire said he had spoken with the suspended priest.

"He's being supported by hundreds of former parishioners from other parishes" and St. Helen's, he said.

The Rev. Hickey is "bearing up," the Rev. Maguire said.

He said he spoke about the Rev. Hickey during each Mass yesterday, saying little about the allegation but offering his own thoughts on the matter. "Hopefully, this time of suffering and pain will pass, and he will come out of it all the stronger," he said in an interview.

Several parishioners said the mood was generally one of support for the Rev. Hickey.

"What you do is wait and find out more details of the story, and I think it's premature to pass judgment," said Norwell Selectman John Mariano.

Others said the media was wrong to publicize the allegations, which were released by the archdiocese, without additional proof.

"The press has jumped right on this and it's a big witch hunt," said Paula Kernan of Norwell, a parishioner and former employee of St. Helen's. "You people jumped on it like a dog on a meat wagon."

Calls to the Rev. Hickey's Scituate home during the past several days have not been returned.

Speaking during Mass yesterday at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law said it is "terribly painful" to suspend priests or give their names to authorities, because of the risk to the priests' reputations.

In some cases, there is only one allegation against the priest, and it may be decades old, the cardinal said. He also said some of the priests may simply be innocent,

"But unless there is a higher wisdom that someone else has, I believe that the only responsible way for us to handle this issue is with a zero-tolerance policy," said Cardinal Law, who returned from the Vatican on Friday. "Yes, I am concerned for the pain that people suffer in the process of implementing that, but I think we have to do that."

Cardinal Law also reaffirmed his intention not to resign in the wake of the scandal, saying that he felt it his duty to continue leading the archdiocese through this difficult period.

The sex scandal unfolded in the courts and the media with news that the archdiocese had moved now defrocked priest John J. Geoghan of Scituate and West Roxbury from parish to parish despite repeated complaints that he had molested children.

Geoghan, 66, has been convicted of fondling a boy in a Waltham pool. He faces two additional child-molestation trials in Suffolk County. One of the alleged victims in the Boston cases was a Weymouth boy.

Since Cardinal Law's January statement that no priest accused of sexual abuse was in active ministry, the archdiocese has publicly suspended six working priests against whom allegations of sexual misconduct had been made. In addition, the names of more than 80 priests or former priests have been given to district attorneys in the five counties that comprise the Boston archdiocese.

The suspension of the Rev. Daniel Graham has left St. Joseph's Church in Quincy without a pastor. A lawyer who has sued the Rev. Graham related previous allegations of sexual abuse has said the archdiocese agreed to keep Graham from having unsupervised contact with children.

The Rev. Graham is former associate pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Quincy and former assistant pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary in Stoughton.

Other suspended priests with South Shore roots include the Rev. Paul Finegan of St. Bernadette's in Randolph; the Rev. David C. Murphy, 65, a Milton native who was chaplain at Caritas Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton and Brockton Hospital; and the Rev. Thomas P. Forry, 60, who served at churches in Milton, Scituate, Kingston and Weymouth before becoming an Army chaplain.

The Rev. Forry also was a chaplain Concord State Prison from 1995 until he resigned in 1999, said Justin Latini, a spokesman for the state Department of Correction. The prison houses adult males.


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