Crisis in Church
Sordid Tales Emerge As More Priest Files Opened
By Robin Washington
December 12, 2002
[Note from BishopAccountability.org: 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
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
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
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
Ahern and another priest, whose full name was not included in the complaint,
together abused the victim in another weekend incident, the complaint
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
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
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
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
- 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
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.