Collared - Post Finds 'Missing' Sex Scandal Priest Back in the Classroom and on the Altar

By Douglas Montero
New York Post
March 19, 2002

A Catholic priest, accused of molesting a boy five years ago, is listed on church records as being on "leave" - but The Post has discovered he's working in a upper Manhattan church.

The revelation comes as the sex-abuse scandal in New York's Catholic Church system widens amid charges that it covers up or disregards allegations of sexual abuse against priests.

[Photo Caption - Rev. Henry Mills.]

The priest, the Rev. Henry Mills (right), who was pulled from parish work in 1997 after he was accused in a lawsuit of raping a 17-year-old parishioner, celebrates public Masses at St. Elizabeth's Church in Washington Heights and, on rare occasions, fills in as a teacher at the parish school.

"He sometimes teaches when they need him in one of the grades," said a woman who answered the telephone at the parish elementary school.

Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said he had no comment. For the past three years, the Official Catholic Directory, which details the names of all priests and churches, has listed Mills as "Absent on Leave," indicating he doesn't have any ministerial duties.

The Mills case appears to exemplify the type of potential trouble the Archdiocese of New York seems to invite whenever it tries to secretly handle sex-abuse allegations lodged against its priests.

John E. Fitzgerald, a lawyer who worked with the boy before the lawsuit was filed, said the Archdiocese of New York's policy makes it almost impossible to resolve a sexual-abuse claim without a lawsuit because the policy is "driven by defense attorneys and insurance adjusters."

Luis Guzman claims in the 1997 suit that Mills allegedly gave him booze and raped him during a "counseling" session at Christ the King Church in The Bronx, and later at St. Joseph of the Holy Family Church in Harlem.

Mills allegedly coerced Guzman into more encounters by threatening to tell his devoutly Catholic family about their relationship. But when Guzman confronted Mills, he and the archdiocese tried to cover up the incident, the lawsuit said.

Guzman claims he tried to negotiate with the church - even going to psychiatrists the archdiocese had recommended because "he simply wanted the church to listen, do a real investigation and find out the truth," said lawyer Deborah Pearl Henkin, who's handling the suit.

Mills referred questions to his lawyer, Joseph Marra, who said his client is innocent but refused to say why Guzman would single out Mills. The case is pending.

After the lawsuit was filed, Mills was relieved of his duties, officially put on "leave" and went to an upstate facility for therapy. Henkin claims the therapy was to treat a sex-abuse problem, while Marra said Mills was treated for trauma triggered by the accusation.

Shortly after, Mills moved into the rectory at St. Elizabeth's, simply as a place to live.

But he gradually returned to ministering to the people.

Monsignor Gerald T. Walsh, the church's pastor, whom I believe and trust because he is a very close family friend, defended Mills, who was already working in the parish when Walsh took over.

"Father Mills is well respected in this community, and people ask him to perform their weddings as an indication of that respect," said Walsh. "We operated on the principle that you're innocent until you're proven guilty."


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