Bishop Accountability

Transfers Between Dioceses

The staff at is beginning to gather information on the transfers of abusive priests between dioceses, and the cooperation among bishops that was necessary to maintain this traffic. Hundreds of abusive priests were shuffled into new dioceses to avoid "scandal" while keeping them in active ministry. will map these transfers, gathering reports and documents on each bishop and priest involved. We will identify the so-called dumping grounds and specify the role played by treatment centers, summer camps, and retreat houses.


Robert M. Burns
(Youngstown OH, Boston MA [Manchester NH])

James W. Malone, then-bishop of Youngstown OH, sent Burns to St. Luke Institute and the House of Affirmation after reports of abuse in 1979 and 1981. Malone warned Cardinal Medeiros, future-bishop Hughes, and future-bishop Daily of Burns's past. Nevertheless, Burns was assigned to Boston parishes, where he offended. When Burns was removed from a parish for abuse in 1991, future-bishop McCormack suggested to Hughes that the archdiocese describe Burns to the press as "a priest who is not of the archdiocese of Boston." In 1996, Burns pleaded guilty to indecent assault of a child for a 1995 incident in Salem, New Hampshire and was imprisoned for three years. He is now out on parole.
* Summary of the Case
* Sealing of Files
* More Boston Victims
* Burns's Parole
* Affidavit by Bishop James W. Malone describing transfer of Burns in 1982
* Archdiocesan Notes on Burns (10/19/82)
* Archdiocesan Notes on Burns (10/27/82)
* Medeiros Letter Appointing Burns Associate Pastor (11/8/82)
* Law Letter Ending Burns Assignment (6/24/86)
* Abuse Report (3/18/91)
* "Life is never just one moment" Letter from Law (4/16/91)
* McCormack to Rogers on Abuse Reports (4/26/91)
* Archdiocesan Spin Doctor Statement (3/7/96)
* Flatley Admitting to a Victim: "No Good Explanation" (3/21/96)
* Bad Transfers and Possible Publicity (9/10/98)
* Scandal-Related Portion of Burns Laicization Decree

David Holley
(Worcester MA, Santa Fe NM, Amarillo TX, San Angelo TX, El Paso TX, Denver CO)

A National Conference of Catholic Bishops leader, Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, and many other bishops knowingly allowed Holley to work for at least 20 years in Massachusetts, New Mexico, West Texas and Colorado, their correspondence shows. Holley's abuse was reported to then-Worcester bishop Flanagan during the priest's first assignment in 1962-64, yet the priest went from Worcester to the Servants of the Paraclete treatment center in New Mexico to a series of assignments in five other dioceses. In 1993 he was sentenced to prison for molesting young boys in Alamogordo, N.M., two decades earlier. He is serving a maximum sentence of 275 years at the Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in Grants, N.M.
* Case Study of Holley's Career

John M. Picardi
(Boston MA, Paterson NJ, Phoenix AZ)

After admitting to raping a man in a Florida motel in 1992, Picardi was transferred after treatment to the Paterson NJ diocese, which was told by future-bishop McCormack only that Picardi ''admits to a sexual incident with an adult male in Florida.'' McCormack considered the rape a "single incident," although the victim had accused Picardi of also having inappropriate contact with minors. Picardi was then accused in 1995 of inappropriately touching a fifth-grade girl in New Jersey, and future-bishop Lennon claimed Boston jurisdiction over the case to avoid "scandal." After the Boston review board had recommended Picardi be kept out of parish ministry and Picardi had appealed to the Vatican, the board was persuaded to reverse itself by Law, Lennon, and future-bishop Murphy.

Two weeks after winning that appeal, Picardi asked permission to return to ministry in Phoenix, where he was living in a home owned by the Rev. Thomas Zazella, a senior official of the Diocese of Paterson NJ. Law wrote to Bishop O'Brien of Phoenix in1997, referring to the 1992 Florida rape only as ''homosexual behavior,'' and said it was ''impossible to say'' if the incident with the New Jersey girl ''constituted abuse.'' Within days, O'Brien assigned Picardi to St. Maria Goretti parish in Scottsdale. He worked there from October 1997 to July 2001, when he was transferred to San Francisco de Asis parish in Flagstaff. O'Brien quickly removed Picardi from public ministry in January and said he had been unaware of the allegations. But a confidential letter obtained by The Republic from the released documents indicates O'Brien was told in detail about Picardi's past as early as May 13, 1997.
* Law Letter to O'Brien about Transfer
* Picardi in Florida, Boston, and Paterson
* O'Brien's Decision
* Major Phoenix Analysis, with Paterson-Phoenix Connection

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