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Spotlight Report

6 more priests removed on allegations of abuse

By Michael Rezendes and Matt Carroll, Globe Staff, 2/8/2002

For the second time in five days, the Boston Archdiocese late yesterday announced it had discovered more allegations of sexual abuse of children by active clergymen, and removed six additional priests from their assignments.

In addition to the six, the names of nine other unidentified priests were forwarded for possible prosecution to district attorneys in Middlesex and Norfolk counties yesterday. And the Norfolk prosecutor's office asked the archdiocese to hand over information on five additional priests about whom the office learned on its own.

What's more, at least two of the six priests removed yesterday were living in church rectories. In both cases, in Wellesley and Dedham, the pastors told the Globe last night that they had never been told that the priests had been accused of molesting children.

Donna M. Morrissey, speaking for the archdiocese, said the priests publicly removed from their posts yesterday were identified during an ongoing review of clergy personnel records dating back 40 years.

Last month, Cardinal Bernard Law twice assured the public that the archdiocese had removed all priests known to have sexually molested minors from any assignments.

Law previously had said that in 1993 the archdiocese combed its personnel records and removed those priests who presented a danger to parishioners because of past allegations of sexual misconduct.

In addition, of the six priests ousted from their positions yesterday, the Globe has learned that at least four had previous sexual abuse claims against them settled by the archdiocese.

The six clergymen held a variety of posts in parishes and administrative offices throughout Greater Boston: Three performed the traditional functions of a priest, a fourth was a chaplain at Brockton Hospital, a fifth worked as a parish business manager, while a sixth was posted in the development office of the archdiocese.

Five of the priests had been accused of sexually molesting minors once, and one - the Rev. David C. Murphy, the Brockton Hospital chaplain - had been accused more than once, church officials said.

Besides Murphy, the priests are:

The Rev. James F. Power, 71, assigned to St. James the Great parish in Wellesley.

The Rev. Robert A. Ward Jr., 55, an employee in the development office of the archdiocese for the last year, living at St. Mary's in Dedham.

The Rev. Thomas P. Forry, 60, who filled in for other clergymen in parishes throughout the archdiocese.

The Rev. Gerald J. Hickey, 64, officially unassigned but assisting at St. Helen Church in Norwell.

The Rev. Richard A. Buntel, 56, a business manager at St. Thomas of Villanova Church in Wilmington.

The church has already settled sexual molestation claims againt Power, Hickey, Buntel, and Murphy, according to people involved in the settlements.

On Saturday, officials abruptly ousted two pastors from active ministry: the Very Rev. Daniel M. Graham, 57, of St. Joseph Church in Quincy, and the Rev. Paul J. Finegan, also 57, of St. Bernadette Church in Randolph.

Graham, before he was removed from his parish, was a regional vicar with oversight responsibility for 19 Catholic churches in Braintree, Milton, Quincy, and Randolph - including St. Bernadette, where Finegan was pastor.

The action Saturday occurred only three days after church officials had provided the names of 38 priests accused of sexually molesting children to six district attorneys. The Globe Spotlight Team has reported that church officials settled child molestation claims against at least 70 priests in the last decade.

''This represents the disorder that rises to the surface when essentially unhealthy procedures and patterns deeply in place for centuries are unearthed,'' said Padraic O'Hare, professor of religious studies at Merrimack College, a Catholic institution in North Andover.

Carmen Durso, an attorney who has represented victims of priests, said the cardinal's assurances that all pedophiles had been removed from active service have now been so undermined that the archdiocese needs to appoint the equivalent of an independent counsel.

''The cardinal has made too many contradictory statements,'' Durso said last night. ''He needs to quickly find someone who is independent and not beholden to the archdiocese. And that person has to make sure there is no priest with a record of abuse who is anywhere near children. That is the only way to restore public confidence in the church.''

Durso said the archdiocese is ''clearly overwhelmed'' by the circumstances. And he said he expects that many more victims are likely to come forward now that the issue has become so public.

In one sign that the archdiocese has compiled its lists of accused clergymen hastily, archdiocesan officials listed Buntel at a Wilmington church where the pastor said Buntel has never worked.

''He's not employed here, he's never been employed here, and he has never had anything to do with this church,'' said the Rev. Kevin Horrigan, pastor at St. Dorothy's parish. Church officials later said Buntel was working at St. Thomas of Villanova Church before he was ousted.

And only yesterday morning, Ward, the accused priest living at St. Mary's in Dedham, received a telephone call from church officials and was told to leave the premises, according to St. Mary's pastor, the Rev. John A. Dooher.

Morrissey would not say how long it would take the archdiocese to complete its review of personnel files.

David Traub, speaking for Norfolk District Attorney William Keating, said the archdiocese yesterday provided Keating with the names of three priests accused of sexually molesting minors, in addition to the seven names they gave the office last week.

Keating, in turn, has asked the archdiocese for information about eight additional priests about whom his office has learned of on its own, Traub said.

Anson Kaye, spokesman for Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley, said the archdiocese yesterday forwarded the names of 12 accused priests, in addition to the 10 it provided last week.

But, as they did last week, officials working with the district attorneys said yesterday the new information handed over by the archdiocese was insufficient to prosecute any of the priets.

''Once again they have given us the names of priests but not the other relevant information we previously requested,'' Traub said.

Law, after apologizing to victims of clergy sex abuse last month, said church officials would begin reporting the names of suspected child abusers among clergymen to civil authorities.

State law currently requires teachers, doctors, and other professionals to report the sexual abuse of children to the state Department of Social Services, which in turn may report the allegations to law enforcement authorities.

Priests are not covered by the mandatory reporting law, although the church says it is supporting proposed legislation that would cover Catholic clergy.

Law's announcement that the church would comply with the state's mandatory reporting law followed a Globe Spotlight Team investigation which found that the cardinal and other church officials assigned former priest John J. Geoghan to parish work even though they had credible evidence that Geoghan had sexually molested several minors.

About 130 individuals say Geoghan molested them as children while he was serving in six parishes in Greater Boston from the late 1960s through the late 1990s.

Last month, Geoghan was convicted of indecent assault of a Waltham boy while he was assigned to St Julia Church in Weston. He faces two additional criminal trials - one for allegedly raping a Jamaica Plain boy - and about 90 civil lawsuits.

Law and five bishops are defendants in many of the suits, which accuse the cardinal and his top aides of negligence in supervising Geoghan.

Stephen Kurkjian, Sacha Pfeiffer, and Walter V. Robinson of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 2/8/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.


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