Crisis in Church
Sordid Tales Emerge As More Priest Files Opened

By Robin Washington
Boston Herald
December 12, 2002

[Note from This article has been redacted because in its original form, it identifies "Br. Ricardo" as belonging to the wrong religious order, and appears to provide the wrong secular name for Br. Ricardo. This error seems to have resulted from the mixing during discovery of files belonging to Br. Ricardo and another cleric who is not to our knowledge accused of sexual abuse.]

The files on eight more priests and one religious brother unveiled yesterday detail allegations that include molestation on a cross-country trip, cocaine use and child pornography, and a priest cleared by the church's clergy sex abuse Review Board but removed on the same charge after the current scandal erupted.

Here are summaries of their cases:

- The Rev. Alfred Murphy, O.S.A.

During the summer of 1983, Murphy, pastor of Lawrence's Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, paid a 17-year-old member of his congregation to accompany him on a three-week, cross-country trip in his newly purchased Winnebago, a lawsuit states.

On the trip, he allegedly preyed on the boy nightly.

"The priest approached (the victim) while he was sleeping, removed his underpants and then fondled and caressed the boy as well as himself . . .," reads a complaint filed nearly nine years later by the boy's attorney, John Corrigan Jr.

The teen tried to avoid the abuse, the complaint asserts, by staying awake as long as possible, but after he fell asleep each of the 21 nights, the attacks occurred.

A member of the Order of St. Augustine, Murphy did not return several calls from the Herald to the order's St. Thomas Monastery in Villanova, Penn. Because Murphy is an order priest, Bernard Cardinal Law does not have jurisdiction over him.

- The Rev. George Callahan, O.S.A.

Just before Murphy's Winnebago trip, another Augustine priest at the Lawrence parish attempted to molest the same 17-year-old victim, the same complaint states.

Callahan, who had been drinking Scotch whisky, allegedly lured the victim up to his room and made sexual advances toward him, asking, "if he wanted to 'get closer to God,' and if so, he should 'get undressed and get closer to him.' "

In a separate complaint, Callahan allegedly sexually harassed a 22-year-old Lawrence church employee in 1993. The alleged victim, who was married with two children, was eventually awarded $ 17,000.

Callahan, who is no longer listed in the Official Catholic Directory, was last known residing at the Augustine monastery in Villanova. Callahan, like Murphy, is an order priest and Law has no jurisdiction over him.

- The Rev. Ross Frey

Placed on administrative leave in 1996, Frey was alleged to have molested at least 11 adolescent boys in the 1970s and 1980s during weekend retreats at St. Basil Salvatorian Center in Methuen.

Attorneys for the men, now in their late 30s and early 40s, say Frey was a charismatic priest who chose his victims carefully, allegedly molesting one boy after the youngster's mother asked the priest to break the news to her son that his stepbrother had just been killed in an accident.

"Only those youths who were most vulnerable were picked to become victims," attorney Richard Fleming wrote in a June 17, 1996, letter to the Salvatorian Center, adding that Frey sometimes used the confessional as the stage for his assaults.

Several boys reported the assaults to the Salvatorian Center's staff, only to be ignored, he said.

"That will teach you not to take your pants down for anybody," the Rev. Martin Hyatt, another priest at the center, reportedly told one.

- The Rev. James F. Power

The archdiocese agreed in 1996 to pay $ 35,000 to settle a complaint against Power, now 72, but a review board found insufficient evidence to support a claim of abuse against him.

"The cardinal accepted this recommendation on Jan. 9, 1997. Alleluia!" the Rev. William F. Murphy, Law's delegate, wrote to Power.

Power was allowed to go back to parish duty that year, and was sent to St. James the Great in Wellesley.

The allegation originally emerged in 1992, when the young man approached Power and allegedly demanded money, accusing him of sexually abusing him on a camping trip to Maine's Acadia National Park in 1980. Power reported the matter to church authorities.

Power never admitted guilt in the settlement, and the records do not indicate any other complaints against him.

Power was removed from parish duty in February 2002 as part of a wave of suspensions for old sex abuse allegations. He could not be located for comment yesterday.

- Brother Ricardo

Upon entering the [redacted] in [redacted], [redacted] took the name of Brother Ricardo and in two years became headmaster at St. John's Preparatory School in Danvers.

It was then that he orally sodomized a student who had endured a serious beating, and threatened to keep him from graduating should he report the assault, the single complaint in his file states.

One spring evening, Ricardo took the senior from Lowell to the hospital where he received kidney X-rays. To help him feel better, Ricardo gave the student a back massage before coaxing him onto his back, where he began massaging the victim's thighs.

"Br. Ricardo concluded the sordid episode by orally sodomizing (the victim)," read the 1994 complaint.

The disposition of Ricardo's case is unclear from his file.

- The Rev. Richard J. Ahern

The director of the Stigmatine's Camp Elm Bank in Wellesley in the 1960s, Ahern allegedly took advantage of a 13-year-old boy who had lost his father, ordering two other teens to hold him down while he masturbated him, a 1993 complaint asserts.

"The two boys held me down, while Fr. Ahern began to touch my penis and testicles. . . . When I climaxed, I felt so ashamed as if I were to blame."

Ahern and another priest, whose full name was not included in the complaint, together abused the victim in another weekend incident, the complaint reads.

Ahern, who died last year, was the subject of another complaint by an altar boy who served when Ahern was a pastor at Our Lady of Angels Church in Woodbridge, Va., between 1959 and 1961.

An altar boy ultimately alerted the area bishop that Ahern, during those two years, allegedly "seduced and sexually abused" him.

- The Rev. Robert A. Ward

Ward's file documents a lurid past involving cocaine and child pornography.

In a June 16, 1999, memo to Bishop William Murphy, the Rev. Charles Higgins wrote that a technician trying to repair Ward's computer stumbled upon some child pornography. Ward denied downloading any such material "recently," but admitted to doing so in the past, and was assessed at a treatment center.

The following month, Cardinal Law placed him on health leave, and subsequently removed him as pastor of Whitman's Holy Ghost and banned him from working with youngsters.

A memo from a meeting of the archdiocese's sexual abuse review board noted because Ward's misconduct involved downloading child pornography, "there is no victim," and recommended Ward be re-evaluated, resulting in Law's ending his health leave and appointing him development officer for special projects.

But last February, the review board got its victim when a man stepped forward to allege Ward molested him in the mid-1970s at the Presentation parish in Brighton, ending his public ministry.

Despite a court order demanding the release of all personnel records of accused priests, the archdiocese provided incomplete files on the following two priests:

- The Rev. George D. Spagnolia, whose high-profile denial of a child sex charge in March ended when he admitted to having had consensual homosexual relationships with adult men during a 20-year leave of absence, and

- Monsignor Frederick J. Ryan, who is alleged to have molested former Catholic Memorial High School sports players Garry M. Garland, David Carney and a third unnamed man. Chris Nilan, a former Boston Bruin and friend to Ryan and the alleged victims, said in a deposition this summer that Ryan admitted to the abuse.

The file includes correspondence of Rhode Island police investigating Carney's claim that Ryan took him to the Ocean State, paid to have him tattooed and molested him.

In a police interview, Ryan declined to answer any questions about allegations against him.

A handwritten note on the Garland charges says "first lawsuit, but not first call," and another memo says "a very well-balanced male parishioner" told of being propositioned by Ryan when hitching a ride from the priest 25 years ago.


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