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Records on 10 clergy released

Documents reveal McCormack's role

By Sacha Pfeiffer, Globe Staff, 1/31/2003


Bishop John B. McCormack (Globe Staff File Photo / Frank O'Brien)
In 1993, the Rev. John B. McCormack knew that a Xaverian brother seeking a job in the Boston Archdiocese had been diagnosed as a pedophile and had been forced to resign from a Boston homeless shelter for coming on sexually to a shelter resident.

Still, McCormack, then a top aide to Cardinal Bernard F. Law and now the bishop of Manchester, N.H., hoped to find a job here for Brother John H. Dagwell. And he lamented when he could not do so because of ''the present climate,'' an apparent reference to growing public awareness of sexual abuse by clergy.

Dagwell, whose personnel file was among the records on 10 accused clergymen released yesterday, had also been convicted of sexual assault for misconduct as a teacher and coach at a Catholic high school in Montvale, N.J. It is unclear from the records whether McCormack knew of the conviction.

Meanwhile, other documents that emerged this week further fill out the portrait of McCormack - under fire for his role in transferring abusive priests - during his years as a deputy to Law.

The documents show McCormack advocating a return to parish duty for a former seminary classmate, the Rev. James D. Foley, who had told McCormack that he had fathered two children by a married woman who later died of a drug overdose.

McCormack, in a February 1994 memo, described the woman's fate as ''horrendous.'' But three months later he indicated he would recommend a new parish assignment for Foley, even after Law advised that Foley spend the rest of his life in a monastery ''doing penance.''

''The publicly filed records once again disclose that Bishop McCormack was a very effective advocate for priests who had been engaged in sexual misconduct,'' said Roderick Macleish Jr., an attorney at Greenberg Traurig, the law firm that represents at least 200 alleged abuse victims. The files were given to the firm by the church under court order.

McCormack's letter informing the Xaverians that the archdiocese could not offer Dagwell an assignment suggests that his impulse was to overlook the troubled background of Dagwell, whom he viewed as ''bright'' and who made ''a good impression.''

''The present climate does not support the taking of aggressive steps to find John a placement,'' McCormack wrote in March 1993 to the Xaverian Brothers Provincialate. ''The public nature of his previous difficulty and the recent accusation locally confirm the sense that it would not be wise to place him within the archdiocese at this time. ... I regret that I cannot be more helpful in this matter.''

McCormack, who had asked an aide to check out job possibilities for the brother, also expressed regret for giving Dagwell ''the hope that I could do something for him.''

A spokesman for McCormack, Patrick McGee, said he had not seen Dagwell's file and could not comment on it. But McGee noted that although McCormack's notes about accused priests were often sympathetic in tone, ''ultimately you have to look at the decision of whether the guy gets placed or not.'' McCormack, he added, was ''trying to be a brother priest, even when he's delivering bad news.''

In 1995, Dagwell went on to become director of Crossroads Family Shelter, a facility for women and children located in a former convent at Most Holy Redeemer parish in East Boston. He landed the position after Brother Edward J. Keefe, the Xaverian provincial, wrote a job recommendation describing Dagwell as a priest ''in good standing.''

Dagwell was fired a few months later when Catholic Charities, which helped support the shelter, learned about his background from one of Dagwell's former coworkers. Catholic Charities president Joseph Doolin criticized the ''Xaverians' lack of forthcomingness'' in a letter to a church official.

It is unclear from the file whether McCormack knew of the East Boston assignment. Dagwell and Keefe could not be reached for comment.

Many of the other priest personnel files made public yesterday are thin and contain only a single recent allegation of sexual misconduct, most of which appear to have been made last year. One of the files - on the Rev. Richard S. Moran, who is assigned to St. Bernard's parish in Newton - does not contain an abuse accusation.

In Moran's case, the archdiocese received a report in 1992 that several female high school students felt uncomfortable with the way he had held their hands during a prayer. After an investigation, church officials declined to take action against him. Moran did not return a call for comment.

The Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, an archdiocese spokesman, said Moran's file was given to plaintiffs' lawyers because the church wanted to ''make sure we turn over anything that could possibly have to do with anything like this so we don't look like we're not cooperating in any way.''

Files were also released yesterday on the following priests:

The Rev. Charles E. Aubut, accused of sexual assault on an unspecified date or location. Aubut died in 1984.

The Rev. Leonard Bacigalupo, accused of unspecified abuse at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in East Boston in 1969 or 1970.

The Rev. Barry F. Bossa, who is accused in a lawsuit of repeatedly molesting two boys when they were about 10 at St. Thomas Aquinas parish in Bridgewater in the 1970s. Bossa is now assigned to Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Yonkers, N.Y. He could not be reached for comment.

The Rev. Louis J. Govoni, who is accused in a lawsuit of repeatedly molesting a 14-year-old boy in the early 1970s.

The Rev. Paul Hightower, accused of repeatedly sexually abusing at least two minors at Nazareth, a Jamaica Plain children's home, in 1968 when he was a student at Cardinal O'Connell Seminary. Hightower died in 1994.

The Rev. Jon C. Martin, who was accused of a single incident of kissing and fondling a 14-year-old boy in 1965. Martin was placed on health leave and resigned in 2001.

Raymond A. Prybis, an Oblate priest accused of approaching, while naked, a 14- or 15-year-old boy at Sacred Heart rectory in Lowell in the 1980s and asking the teenager to beat him with a belt.

The Rev. Patrick J. Tague, who is accused of repeatedly molesting a 16-year-old boy in 1971 when he was a staff member at Hyde Park House, a Boston facility for delinquent teenagers. Tague allegedly told boys there that he could get them paroled if they engaged in sex acts with him. In 1979, Tague was convicted of stealing $30,000 from the facility.

Sacha Pfeiffer can be reached at pfeiffer@globe.com.

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 1/31/2003.
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