Abuse by Convict Priest Connects Two Strangers

By Robin Washington
Boston Herald
May 13, 2002

Though they have never met, two men a half-continent apart say they feel inextricably linked, co-owners of a dark past few would understand and no one would want.

Their connection is the late Rev. Thomas F. Dempsey, who died in 1998 on a Bellingham golf course a year after his conviction in La Crosse, Wis., for sexually molesting Paul Heintz in the 1960s.

In the Bay State, former Hudson altar boy Michael Carr says the same thing happened to him.

"It was 1970-72, when he first came from Wisconsin. I still get choked up when I think about what he did and how much it affected me," Carr, 45, said yesterday of the priest who ran the CCD program at St. Michael's in Hudson after serving at 15 Wisconsin parishes in 15 years.

A Bay State native, Dempsey joined the Diocese of La Crosse after his 1955 ordination, quickly beginning what Heintz says church officials knew was a decades-long child sex spree.

"He kept getting caught. Every time he got caught, they sent him back to Boston to cool his heels," said Heintz, who failed to win a civil suit against the priest but succeeded in getting him criminally convicted.

In 1975, Dempsey came home for good, joining the Archdiocese of Boston despite a warning from La Crosse Bishop Frederick W. Freking to Humberto Cardinal Medeiros about his "difficulties" - a euphemism for child molesting.

He ultimately served in five Bay State parishes, including two assigned by Bernard Cardinal Law after the warning to Medeiros.

But it is unclear what Boston church officials knew during his earlier stints in the region.

"They didn't warn anybody in Hudson. They didn't warn the altar boys," said Carr, who says the priest ingratiated himself into his family and devised ways to catch him alone.

"He would hug me, rubbing himself against me and gyrating himself. Then he started kissing me like you would kiss a woman, on the lips. I didn't know exactly who to tell," he said, adding that he eventually did tell his mother.

"She didn't believe me. I remember her saying, 'He's just an affectionate man.' "

That contact continued until one day in the rectory, where Dempsey tried to take it further, Carr said.

"He said, 'You're going to sleep over tonight.' I said, 'Father, where am I going to sleep?' and I remember his exact words: 'You're going to sleep with the old padre.' "

Carr said he escaped and the molestation ended. But a troubled life of substance abuse and indifference toward the church began, he said.

Though he shared the root of his shame with few others, that changed when he saw Heintz's story in the Herald recently.

"I immediately called him. For so many years I just wanted to know if there was someone else I could speak to about it," Carr said.

"I thank Paul wholeheartedly for coming forward."


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