As we know from media coverage over the past two days. Guardian, the insuring agent for the Archdiocese of St. John’s, lost it’s claim that it should not be responsible for the defence of a current lawsuit filed against the Archdiocese of St. John’s Newfoundland by a victim of the now deceased and notorious molester, Father James Hickey. Guardian claimed evidence showed that Archbishop Penney knew in 1980 that Hickey was molesting and that therefore its policy with the diocese is not void, this because the diocese failed “in its duty to provide full and complete disclosure regarding complaints involving James Hickey.”.
We know that Archbishop Alphonsus Penney has always denied any knowledge that Father James Hickey was sexually abusing boys until charges were laid in 1987.
However, Judge Richard D. LeBlanc’s ruling on the Guardian matter suggests otherwise. Indeed, according to the text of ruling, Archbishop Penney knew as early as 1980; that was a little over a year after he became Archbishop of St. John’s ( He was installed as Archbishop of St. John’s in April 1979).
It is known from the findings of the Winter Commission that in 1975 Archbishop Skinner , Penny’s predecessor, had been told of the allegations of sex abuse against Father James Hickey by Monsignor David Morrissey, the Vicar General for the Diocese.
Hickey himself at some point said that Archbishop Skinner knew of certain allegations against him and was told by Skinner that it was being dealt with by Monsignor Morrissey and that he, the Archbishop, wanted nothing to do with it.
So, we know and have known all along that Archbishop Skinner knew and did nothing.
As for Archbishop Penney, when testifying before the Winter Commission he denied any knowledge of sex abuse allegations against Father James Hickey prior to 1987 when charges were first laid. Penney also denied being informed by Archbishop Skinner.
Indeed, in a 1989 interview with CBC’s Rex Murphy, Archbishop Penney had this to say:
“It’s a great mystery to me how such a thing could go on for so long without somebody blowing the whistle …every, every case, every complaint of this type of thing that has ever come to my attention, I’ve always addressed it,” said Penney.
Here then is what is now public knowledge about who knew what and when about Father James Hickey. Some of this information has been in the public domain in whole or in part through the Winter Commission. The information regarding Penney’s knowledge in 1980 is new, at least to the general public.
(1) Monsignor David Morrissey
A 17-year-old boy told Morrissey, then Vicar General of the Archdiocese, that Father James Hickey sexually assaulted him. Morrissey confronted Hickey with the allegations. Hickey denied. The boy was TC.
According to the court document Morrissey relayed the allegations of abuse to Archbishop Skinner
(2) Father Philip Lewis
A Father Philip Lewis said that in the Fall of 1977 T.C had told him “in rather vague terms” that Hickey had made a pass at him. Lewis told the then Vicar General, Monsignor Dave Morrissey. According to Lewis, in a later conversation Morrissey made some comment about the victim being nuts, or receiving psychiatric treatment: Lewis got the impression that Morrissey didn’t believe the victim. The Archbishop at the time was Skinner.
Father Lewis said that he reported the allegations to the Vicar General (Morrissey) because the Vicar General during Skinner’s tenure was the “troubleshooter” for the Archbishop and “any bad news went to the Vicar General. It didn’t go directly to the Archbishop.”
Lewis set up an appointment for the boy (T.C) to meet with Morrissey.
According to T.C. Monsignor Morrissey offered no help.
Hickey later contacted TC and said that he, Hickey, was not responsible for things he had done while sleeping.
(3) Father Ronald McIntyre
In an affidavit TC stated that in 1974-1975 he told Father Ronald MacIntyre that he was sexually assaulted by Hickey a number of times between 1973 and 1974.
MacIntyre served in Newfoundland from 1970-1979 doing chaplaincy work for the Christian Brothers throughout the province. Part of his duties in the 70s was to serve as co-chaplain to Hickey at Brother Rice High School [MacIntyre was a Capuchin Father, ofm cap])
Father MacIntyre, for his part, stated that he was approached by a youth who told him of an incident of sex abuse by Hickey. That would have been TC. McIntyre said the boy was visibly distraught and weeping.
McIntyre met with the Vicar General, then Monsignor David Morrissey, and related what TC told him.
According to MacIntyre, Morrissey said something to the effect of: “leave it us and we’ll take care of it.”
(4) Father Frank McGee
Around 1976 TC told Father Frank McGee , a priest at St. Pus X, that he had been sexually abused by Hickey. It is not specified in this particular document what action McGee did or did not take. I am not sure if these are also the TC allegations or others.
Father Hickey gave evidence at the Winter Commission. According to Hickey Archbishop Skinner was aware of the allegations against him. Also, according to the report:
“On one occasion Hickey attempted to raise the subject with Archbishop Skinner, he told the Commission, but was informed that the matter had been dealt with by Monsignor Morrissey and that the Archbishop wanted nothing to do with it.”
So, between 1974 and 1977 four priests were told that Hickey was molesting. The Vicar General was aware. And, as early as 1975, Archbishop Skinner was aware.
Archbishop Penney claims he never heard a word of this.
That brings us to Judge Richard Leblanc’s ruling and the ‘new’ information contained therein.
What is totally new in this court document – at least to us – is the August 1993 evidence of Randy Joseph Barnes, a former seminarian.
As you can see, this information was elicited nearly 20 years ago. Because all of these legal proceedings take place behind closed doors and out of the eye of the general public, we rarely hear a boo. Such information is, alas, generally kept under wraps by confidentiality agreements.
No matter. Nearly twenty years later this little piece of information slipped out into the public domain.
According to Randy Joseph Barnes, while he was a seminarian in Rushoon, Newfoundland, he was aware that boys were spending evenings at the rectory with Hickey. He was also aware that there was sexual activity involving Hickey.
Around May 1980 Barnes allegedly met with and told Archbishop Penney that Hickey was abusing boys and another seminarian in Rushoon. During the same visit Barnes told Penney he wanted to take a leave from the seminary.
Barnes felt that Penney was not listening to him. Penney allegedly said he would take the matter into consideration.
So, according to Barnes’ sworn evidence, in 1980 Archbishop Penney was explicitly told that one of his priests, Father James Hickey, was sexually abusing boys and a seminarian!
Who to believe? Archbishop Penney who has adamantly denied both under oath and otherwise, any knowledge of Hickey’s proclivities as a sexual predator? or, Randy Joseph Barnes, who made a sworn statement of what he saw while he was seminarian at Rushoon and what he reported to Archbishop Penney?
Barnes says that when he saw Penney he, Barnes, asked for a break from his seminary studies. I see no indication that Barnes ever returned to seminary or that he was ordained.
Did Barnes decide to take a break because of the goings on at Rushoon? I’m inclined to think so, but don’t know for certain, But, it would make sense, would it not?
Was a ‘good’ vocation lost because of Hickey’s perversion and Penney’s non-action?
I would love to speak to Randy Joseph Barnes.
But, back now to the Winter Commission Report. According to the report:
“The Archbishop stated to the Commission that, before becoming Archbishop in 1979 he had been made aware of general rumours that Hickey was homosexual . Hickey was on the list of priests regarded as having a homosexual orientation which was given by Monsignor Morrissey to Archbishop Penney shortly after he assumed office.”
So, Morrissey passed on this list of homosexual clergy, but said nothing to Penney – nothing! – about the sex abuse allegations against Hickey? Does that not seem just a bit odd?
Also, according to the report, Penney did see fit to move Hickey from Rushoon (presumably at Hickey’s request in 1979) to Holy Rosary in Portugal Cove. This after Hickey had served a mere three years in Rushoon.
In 1980, shortly after the move to Holy Rosary, Hickey initiated the “altar boy jamboree program.”
According to the Winter Commission Report:
“A number of priests refused to send altar boys to the jamboree citing specifically the reason that ‘homosexual’ were holding the jamboree. Several priests interviewed by th Commission said that they would not send anybody to the jamboree. Indeed, some priest reported raising the propriety of the matter directly with Archbishop Penney.”
Following one jamboree the then Vicar General, Monsignor Denis Walsh, told the Archbishop that “some of the boys have found Father Hickey different from the other priest – some reference was made to him wrestling with boys.”
However, according to the WCR, “except for Monsignor Walsh’s observations…the Commission has no evidence of any impropriety or problems associated with those events.”
As an aside, I wonder if anyone has come forward since the WCR was issued in 1990 with allegations related to the jamborees? Does anyone know?
No matter, I see that Archbishop Skinner was still alive when this jamboree business got of the ground. We know that he had been told Hickey was molesting. And, he did nothing? He watched this jamboree take off and he was silent?
I don’t know about Msgr. Morrissey. Was he still alive to witness this travesty? Was he still alive when the Catholics and children of Portugal Cove were subjected to a priest he had been told was molesting boys? I don’t know.
Hickey, as we know all too well, went on to molest countless young lads. On 08 September he pleaded guilty to 20 counts of sexual assault, indecent assault and gross indecency. Twelve charges which related to second or third offence against the same victim were dropped.
I’m not certain how many of those specific charges were for offences committed by Hickey after 1980, but I do know that there were a goodly number of young lads who fell prey to Hickey after 1980 , and those under Archbishop Penney’s watch as ‘shepherd of the flock.’
Penney said he knew nothing before 1987. Remember that in 1989 he told Rex Murphy:
“It’s a great mystery to me how such a thing could go on for so long without somebody blowing the whistle …every, every case, every complaint of this type of thing that has ever come to my attention, I’ve always addressed it,”
A mystery indeed!
According to legal documents, Barnes blew the whistle, and not only did he blow the whistle, he blew it right into the Episcopal ear of Alphonsus Penney. In 1980.
I must admit that in this instance I am inclined to believe Barnes. What would he gain by lying? Why would he lie?
As for Archbishop Penney, I honestly had deep trouble years ago believing that he heard nothing of sex abuse allegations against Hickey prior to 1987. We are to believe that, after Penney assumed office, Monsignor Morrissey presented him with a list of priests “regarded as having a homosexual orientation,” and that included in the list was the name of James Hickey, but that Morrissey failed to tell Penney that no less than three priests told him that Hickey was sexually molesting a young lad?
I really do have trouble with that.
Anyway, if we are to believe Barnes, Archbishop Penney is lying. And he perjured himself. And he could have prevented the sexual abuse and lives of torment inflicted on a number of boys, and their families, after 1980.
This truly warrants investigation. If there is evidence that Penney perjured himself, he should be charged. It seems to me there is evidence. And, if there is evidence that he failed to yank Hickey when he could have and should have, then the archbishop should be charged with whatever charge is appropriate for wilfully placing children at risk and thereby giving Hickey the latitude to continue molesting..
I have been working on the situation of former Catholic teacher and convicted molester Raymond Gareth (Gary) Stanford. I now know that Stanford definitely is working at the Newfoundland & Labrador Sports Centre on Crosbie Road in St. John’s Newfoundland. There is a daycare centre in the building. Children and youth frequent the facility. I have been trying to find someone somewhere to explain how in this day and age this can be possible. More on this troubling situation later.
Enough for now,