Father James Foley
Father James D. Foley
Priest, Archdiocese of Boston, Mass. Ordained 02 February 1960 by Cardinal Cushing. Recycled to Diocese of Calgary Alberta in 1966 after having an affair with a young married woman, Rita Perry. Engaged in affair while in Calgary, Alberta. After “treatment” in Southdown Ontario returned to Boston where he resumed the sexual relationship with the Rita Perry. Fathered two children with Rita Perry. After Perry had a lobotomy it was Foley who rekindled the relationship (she did not remember him). Questions linger regarding his presence in the home and immediate actions taken when she overdosed – some speculate that Foley may have left her to die.
Documents of Interest
(Note that Paul O’Byrne became Bishop of Calgary in June 1968. After the February 1968 death of Bishop Klein, and until his installation as Bishop, Father O’Byrne served as Administrator of the diocese)
22 January 2003: Excerpts re Father James D Foley from Cardinal Law deposition
15 July 1994: Father John McCormack to Dr. Cassem re Father Foley’s potential to serve in ministry (In November 1995 McCormack was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Booston. He later became Bishop of Manchester, N.H.)
14 February 1994: Father John McCormack to Cardinal Law re Review Board Recommendations
07 February 1994: Review Board Summary & Recommendations (references Father Foley’s relationships with three women and the two children he fathered with one.)
Bishops of Diocese of Calgary Alberta during Father James D. Foley’s two years diocese: Francis Patrick Carroll (19 December 1935 – 28 December 1966 ); Francis Joseph Klein (25 February 1967 – 03 February 1968 Died); Paul John O’Byrne (20 June 1968 – 19 January 1998 )
Archbishops of Boston from time of Father James D. Foley’s ordination: Richard James Cushing (25 September 1944 – 8 September 1970 ); Humberto Sousa Medeiros (08 September 1970 – 17 September 1983 ); Bernard Francis Law (11 January 1984 – 13 December 2002 ); Sean Patrick O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap. (01 July 2003 – )
Unless otherwise indicated the following information is drawn from Boston Globe Spotlight (Spotlight), media (M), Canadian Catholic Church Directories (CCCD) [The entries marked “Spotlight timeline” are verbatim]
1996-2002: St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, Salem, Massachusetts. (Spotlight)
2002: Foley is removed from ministry after the records of his sexual misconduct become public. (Spotlight)
01 September 1996: Foley returns to ministry at St. Joseph’s, Salem, Massachusetts. (Spotlight timeline)
July 1996: Foley is diagnosed as having a bipolar disorder after a psychotic episode in which he was running red lights “thinking that they were red only for other people” and “using language in homilies that indicated that he saw himself as the savior of Salem.” (Spotlight timeline)
23 January 1996: Cardinal Law advises Father Foley that period of Sick Leave has ended and Father Foley is appointed as Temporary Parochial Vicar at Saint James Parish, Stoughton, Mass. (Sick leave over )
11 December 1995: Law accepts review board recommendation. Foley will be assigned temporarily to St. James Church in Stoughton.
04 December 1995: Review Board recommends Foley be returned to full ministry. (Spotlight timeline)
13 January 1995: at St. Mary’s Parish in Waltham, Mass. Authorized only to say Mass (ie can not hear confessions or give a homily) ( Father Foley authorized only to say Mass)
1994-95: Health leave. (Spotlight timeline)
20 September 1994: The Rev. Brian M. Flatley, who oversees priests accused of sexual misconduct, writes McCormack, noting that when McCormack visited Foley at the Southdown treatment facility, he noticed that Foley “was interacting sexually with the woman at the table and may not have been aware of it.” Even so, Flatley recommends that Foley be returned to ministry. (Spotlight timeline)
August 1994: In Southdown, Ontario. (M)
15 August 1994: Foley writes Law from Southdown, the treatment center in Ontario, saying he confided to some part of the reason for his removal. “Obviously, I did so in the most self-serving manner, disclosing only those parts of the story guaranteed to win me sympathy and withholding the damaging parts.” (Spotlight timeline)
15 July 1994: McCormack writes to the Rev. Edwin Cassem S.J., a psychiatrist, asking, “If anything did break out about [Foley], particularly that he fathered two children, do you think people would feel we had put them at risk and that it would be a source of scandal?” Cassem’s answers, according to McCormack’s notes: “No basis to put him back in ministry … unstable, unpredictable … highly charged sexually.” (Spotlight timeline)
23 June 1994: : McCormack writes memo saying dead woman’s sister “threatened him that if he bothered the family she would reopen case about cause of her death and who called 911.” Foley, McCormack writes, says there is unlikely to be scandal about affairs in Calgary, Haverhill, and Needham. McCormack notes that Foley’s main problem was “vulnerability… how to make sure it doesn’t happen again–by knowing himself and having a close relationship with the Lord.” (Spotlight timeline)
20 March 1994: Foley writes McCormack about his feeling of “complete betrayal” over the decision. Foley says the circumstances of his affair with the Needham woman are “ugly and tragic,” “I cannot in my wildest imaginings understand how that can ever be made public.” (Spotlight timeline)
14 February 1994: The cardinal’s Review Board, after concluding that Foley was guilty of “serious sexual misconduct and wrong judgment,” recommends that he be removed as pastor and placed in a residential treatment program. (Spotlight timeline)
07 February 1994: McCormack writes memo after talking to Foley’s psychotherapist, including notations: “He is not going to stop,” ” ‘Is he going to continue? Yes,’ ” and “Proud of relationships.” (Spotlight timeline)
December 1993: Foley meets with Cardinal Bernard F. Law, according to McCormack’s handwritten notes. Foley says he fathered two children by Needham woman. Woman “overdosed while he was present – fainted – he clothed – left – came back – called 911 – she died – a sister knows.” McCormack writes: “criminal activity? overdosed – later called.” (Spotlight timeline)
August 1993: After meeting with Foley, Hughes writes memorandum about Foley’s Calgary affairs, including visit from Needham woman. “He felt cornered. He finally persuaded her to return to husband. She has died. Jim is not certain that husband knew, but presumes this because of her leaving home.” (Spotlight timeline)
21 July 1993: The Rev. John B. McCormack writes a note to Bishop Hughes, saying he recalls the Calgary incident and adding, “Sounds to me that he was dealing with growing up issues.” (Spotlight timeline)
1987-93: Pastor, Our Lady of Fatima Roman Catholic Church, Sudbury, MA . (Spotlight timeline)
1983-87: Pastor, St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, Dorchester. (Spotlight timeline)
1979-83: St. Mary of the Annunciation Roman Catholic Church, Cambridge. (Spotlight timeline)
1968-79: St. James Roman Catholic Church, Haverhill, MA. (Spotlight timeline)
1966-1968: St. Mary’s Cathedral. Calgary, Alberta (Spotlight timeline)
1968-69: Assistant at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Calgary, Alberta (Pastor Father J.J. Toole) (CCCD)
01 June 1968: The Calgary diocese warns the Boston Archdiocese that Foley’s assurances he can straighten out cannot be trusted, and cautions against giving him another assignment. Even when he gave assurances that he had no problem, the letter says, “He seemed capable of living a dual life.” (Spotlight timeline) ( O’Byrne to Boston Chancellor re Father Foley capable of leading a dual life)
May 1968: After a husband publicly accused Foley of having an affair with his wife Calgary’s Msgr, Paul O’Brien wrote to Father Foley in Massachusetts: “The double life you have been leading is known much more widely than you realize and will become known to many others, especially if you return.” (M)
23 May 1968: The Calgary diocese administrator informs Cardinal Richard J. Cushing about the Foley scandal, writing that “there are indications that he has been involved with others. There has been considerable scandal.” When Foley is confronted, he has a “breakdown” and is sent to a psychiatric hospital. (Spotlight timeline)
“…when confronted by [his relationship “problem”], Father had a “breakdown and spent three weeks in hospital and was treated by a medical doctor and a psychiatrist” ( Bishop O’Byrne to Cardinal Cushing re Foley breakdown)
22 May 1968: While Foley is in Massachusetts, his affair with a 19-year-old married woman in Calgary is disclosed in a court session. The Calgary diocese administrator writes Foley that his “double life” has become publicly known and he cannot return–not even to retrieve his car, which will be driven back to Boston by someone else. (Spotlight timeline)
“…whatever agreement under which you came to serve in the Diocese must be terminated”) (Bishop O’Byrne to Father Foley terminate agreement 22 May 1968
18 June 1966: Bishop Carroll advises Boston chancery that Father Foley is back in Calgary (Father Foley is back)
May 1966: Bishop Francis Carroll wrote to Boston chancery advising that Father Foley had disappeared with a woman. However, the bishop also indicated his willingness to take Foley back because people were not aware of Foley’s problem ( “I would be quite willing to take Father again if we can discover where he is. His problem is not known here.” ( Calgary Bishop Carroll to Boston Chancellor )
April 1966: Father Foley is relocated to Diocese of Calgary, in Alberta, Canada. Church officials in both Boston and Calgary are aware of Foley’s “problem”
1962-66 Most Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church, East Boston.(Spotlight timeline)
1964: Foley, then 31, is hospitalized at Glenside Hospital, a Jamaica Plain psychiatric facility. (Spotlight timeline)
1966: Foley is transferred to the Calgary, Alberta diocese, where officials knew of his problem with women. (Spotlight timeline)
1960-62: St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church, Needhan, MA (Spotlight timeline)
1962: Foley requests a transfer from St. Bartholomew. “Became involved with a married woman in first assignment,” Bishop Alfred E. Hughes wrote in 1993 file. “Asked to be transferred and was sent to Holy Redeemer, E. Boston, but woman would not let him go. She was obsessed with him.” (Spotlight timeline)
attended St. John’s Seminary
12 April 1933: Born in Beverly, Mass.
Tape Reveals Details of Priest’s Double Life
31 January 2004
By Eric Convey
The Rev. James D. Foley confessed in a tape recording broadcast last night that he lived a double life in which he served as a popular priest while also carrying on an affair and deliberately fathering two children.
“I always tried to, to be a good priest,” Foley told the children of the late Rita Perry, who had been his lover. “I knew that I was a hypocrite. And that I, I had done things that I regretted deeply, deeply, deeply.”
James, Emily, Rich and Chris Perry recorded an extraordinary conversation with Foley last year – with his consent, they said – after the archdiocese inadvertantly released documents disclosing the affair with their mother to lawyers. The family allowed the broadcast of the tape last night on the TV program “Dateline NBC.”
The conversation with Foley, who has been unavailable for comment, provides painful details of his affair with Rita Perry.
Having children was her idea, he said. “She begged me and begged me and begged me to be able to bear my child,” he said.
DNA tests performed last year on a court order indicated James Perry and Emily Perry are Foley’s children.
Shortly after Emily’s birth, Foley obtained permission to fill an assignment in Canada. Rita Perry pursued him, he said.
Eventually, the relationship did end – but only temporarily.
When Foley returned, he said, he pursued her and rekindled the affair.
“I think I was very depressed. I just missed the, the intimacy of the relationship,” he said on the tape.
The affair came to an end one night in 1973 when Rita Perry was found dead in her home. She’d overdosed on barbiturates.
For most of their lives, the children thought their mother, who had suffered from severe depression, died alone.
But according to church records that included an early-1990s confession by Foley to church leaders, Foley was present the night Rita Perry died. He said he fled her home, returned to call for help, and then left again before police arrived, according to hand-written notes.
Foley said in the tape broadcast last night that the night Rita Perry died, they slept together. When he tried to leave, the priest said, she “got a bit hysterical.”
Foley told the Perry children that archdiocesan officials must have gotten confused – that he never left their mother before she died and thought she’d be OK when he did depart.
According to the Perry children, Bishop John McCormack of Manchester, N.H., who had taken notes of the Foley meeting as an official in the Archdicoese of Boston, told them in a face-to-face conversation that he clearly remembered Foley confessing to leaving the house.
Foley said he never followed up with police because “I was scared to death and I was protecting myself.”
The children filed a wrongful death suit against the priest. The Archdiocese of Boston settled it for an undisclosed amount earlier this week.
Boston church settles with priest’s children
The National Post
30 January 2004
After fathering them, man fled their dying mother in 1973
BOSTON – The Archdiocese of Boston will pay an undisclosed sum of money to settle one of the most shocking cases to stem from the clergy sexual abuse scandal that erupted two years ago, lawyers said yesterday.
The church said it had reached a settlement in the case of Father James D. Foley, who carried on a 13-year sexual relationship with Rita Perry, fathered two children with her and abandoned her as she was dying.
The story of passion and death emerged in December, 2002, after a judge forced the church to turn over some 11,000 pages of internal personnel files as part of the widening scandal over abusive priests.Ms. Perry’s three children said when the files were released, they learned not only that Fr. Foley believed he was possibly the biological father of two of them — James and Emily Perry — but that top church officials, including Cardinal Bernard Law, knew this but keep it secret for nearly a decade.
The children took Fr. Foley to court last year, where he was ordered to take a paternity test, and sued the archdiocese.
“Father Foley breached the trust placed in him by our mother and took advantage of her for his own sexual gratification,” James, Christopher and Emily Perry said in a statement in which the settlement was announced.
“It was not Father Foley’s breach of his vows of celibacy that was so abhorrent and which caused our mother and our family so much pain; it was his misuse of his power as a priest, which was a violation of all tenets of human decency.”
Cardinal Law’s successor, Archbishop Sean O’Malley, said in a statement that he “sincerely regrets” not only that a sexual relationship existed between an archdiocesan priest and Rita Perry, but that the cleric was involved “in the tragic circumstances of her death.”
The archdiocese stumbled across the details of Fr. Foley’s “double life” in 1993 when the priest requested an extension of his posting at a parish in Sudbury, Mass.
Looking over his personnel file, church leaders discovered that Fr. Foley had fathered two children with Ms. Perry, who had been hospitalized for a year for severe depression.
Ms. Perry’s children said when they read Fr. Foley’s file, they discovered for the first time that he had been in their home when their mother fainted in August, 1973, and that he left her unconscious and in need of immediate medical assistance right before her death. His file said she died of a drug overdose.
“He had abandoned her when she needed him most,” Ms. Perry’s children said. “Our family, for the previous 29 years, believed she had died alone, as a result of suicide.”According to notes in Fr. Foley’s file, Cardinal Law remarked that the priest‘s behaviour was so egregious that he should spend the rest of his life in a monastery doing penance.Instead, Fr. Foley was treated at a centre for troubled priests and nuns and later returned to the Boston area and took up work at a Salem, Mass., parish.
The archdiocese removed Fr. Foley from ministry after his file was made public in 2002. Father Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese, declined to provide information about his current whereabouts.Neither the family nor the church would discuss the financial terms of the settlement.
Children fathered by priest settle suit
Agreement requires Law to meet family
The Boston Globe Spotlight Investigation
30 January 2004
By Michael S. Rosenwald, Globe Staff
The Catholic Archdiocese of Boston reached a settlement yesterday in the case of a priest who fathered two children with one of his parishioners, a Needham woman, and then fled her home the night she died of a drug overdose.
Church officials announced an agreement with the family of Rita Perry, who died in 1973, in the case against the Rev. James Foley. The priest acknowledged having a lengthy affair with Perry, and paternity tests eventually proved he was the father of two of her four children, Emily and James Perry.
The archdiocese issued a strongly worded statement in which Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley condemned sexual relationships between priests and parishioners.
“Archbishop O’Malley sincerely regrets that a sexual relationship existed between a priest of the Archdiocese and Rita Perry, as well as the involvement of Father Foley in the tragic circumstances of her death,” the written statement said. “This tragic situation illustrates the inherently exploitive and harmful nature of sexual relationships between priests and parishioners.”
Financial details of the settlement were not disclosed, but the agreement calls for Cardinal Bernard F. Law to meet privately with Perry’s four children. Foley’s church personnel file showed that in 1993 he admitted to Law and other church officials that he had an affair with Perry in the 1960s and 1970s and had been with her the night she overdosed. Foley was removed from ministry in December 2002, and Law resigned a week later.
The family had filed a wrongful-death suit against Foley, though not against the church. Roderick MacLeish Jr., the family’s lawyer, called the settlement a “pastoral response” and said the family would drop the lawsuit.
In a written statement, the Perry family praised O’Malley’s strong condemnation of Foley’s actions. It was the first time the archdiocese “has acknowledged the destructive nature of priests preying on vulnerable women parishioners,” the statement said.
O’Malley has met with the family “to express his apology directly to them and to express his further regret with regard to all that the Perrys have suffered since the revelation of these tragic events last year,” according to the church’s statement. It also noted that the archdiocese “has issued a Code of Ministerial Behavior which prohibits such relationships in the strongest possible language.”
Under the settlement, James Perry will serve on a planned archdiocese advisory board, which will reach out to victims of clergy sexual abuse. “There is no closure to the wounds that have been caused and we intend to do everything we can in the future to ensure that these types of relationships never occur within the Church again and are never ignored by Church officials,” read the family’s statement.
For three decades, the Perry children thought their mother died alone of a drug overdose in 1973 as then 3-year-old Emily was asleep upstairs. They were also unaware that their mother had a relationship with Foley. She had originally sought counseling from the priest in the late 1950s and met up with him again following her lobotomy in the 1960s.
But in December 2002, the family had a startling revelation when James Perry saw a story on television about a priest who had an affair with a Needham woman who died in 1973.
Eventually, they obtained church records that showed Foley disclosed the affair and the fatal overdose in 1993 to Law and the Rev. John B. McCormack, now the New Hampshire bishop. But Law never told the Perry family. Instead, church leaders sent Foley for counseling. Law returned him to ministry in 1995, and he was removed in 2002.
In January 2003, Foley met with Perry’s children and, according to them, described his version of what happened the night their mother died. Foley told them Rita Perry, who was 41, invited him to spend the night. Only Emily, who was 3, was home, and she was asleep upstairs. After midnight, Foley told them, Rita Perry became hysterical and questioned his love for her after he refused to spend the next day with her.
Minutes later, she emerged from the bathroom with a bottle of pills and asked Foley to help her get the top off. Foley said he took the bottle away from her and threw it under a sofa. He said that when she became sick shortly after that, and fainted, he realized that she had taken some pills while she was in the bathroom.
Foley acknowledged that he panicked after Rita collapsed and that he was unable to revive her. He fled after making an anonymous call to Needham police.
In a telephone interview yesterday, James Perry said the revelations have made the past year extremely painful for the family.
“It’s been so tumultuous,” he said. “It has deeply affected all of us. It’s been an ongoing process of discovery of a lot of horrible information.”
Material from Associated Press was used in this report.
Records show priest was fired in Canada
30 January 2003
BOSTON (AP) — A Roman Catholic priest who fathered two children and failed to call for help while their mother overdosed in Massachusetts was later dismissed from his post at a Canadian diocese when a married woman said she’d had an affair with him, church personnel records made public Wednesday said.
Rev. James Foley, a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston, was on loan to the Diocese of Calgary when the accusation surfaced in the late 1960s.
“We have come to the conclusion that you can no longer work as a priest in the Diocese of Calgary,” Msgr. Paul O’Byrne wrote to Foley in May 1968. “The double life you have been leading is known much more widely than you realize and will become known to many others, especially if you return.”
Foley was in Massachusetts at the time but apparently was planning to return to St. Mary’s Cathedral in Calgary. Foley insisted there had been no sexual relationship with the woman and blamed her husband for alerting the news media.
Disgraced U.S. priest worked in Calgary
30 January 2003
A Roman Catholic priest who fathered two children and failed to call for help while their mother overdosed in Massachusetts has a Calgary connection, say U.S. church records made public Wednesday.
Rev. James Foley, a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston, was on loan to the Diocese of Calgary in the late 1960s when a married woman said she’d had an affair with him.
He was dismissed in 1968.
At the time, he had insisted there had been no sexual relationship with the woman and blamed her husband for alerting the news media.
Foley, ordained in 1960, was dismissed last month as associate pastor at a church in Salem, Mass., where he had worked for five years. He could not immediately be located for comment.
Boston cardinal under pressure to leave post: Suspected abusers moved from parish to parish
The National Post
07 December 2002
Araminta Wordsworth firstname.lastname@example.org
The head of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Boston faced unprecedented pressure yesterday, confronted by the twin demons of sexual scandal and financial collapse.
Even as Bernard Cardinal Law was deciding whether to file for bankruptcy in the once-wealthy diocese, new details emerged of the sex life of James Foley, a priest who fathered two children and may have left their mother to die from a drug overdose. He also had affairs with several other women, yet was continually reassigned to new parishes.
The latest revelations are fuelling a growing revolt against the Cardinal and the archdiocese, which habitually responded to complaints from parishioners by shuffling offending priests off to a new parish, often in another jurisdiction.
“I’m hearing from a lot of priests, and the level of outrage is more than ever — the anger is very, very deep,” said Rev. Robert Bullock of the Boston Priests Forum.
“[Cardinal Law has] become compromised and marginalized and diminished. He’s become a tragic figure.”
Demands for his resignation seem “more widespread and just unrelenting,” he added. “It’s beyond time for him to leave,” Rev. Stephen Josoma, pastor of a Boston area church, told The Boston Globe.
“It’s clear now that they knew all along and didn’t do anything, and that they moved people around again and again, despite their denials.”
The Foley revelations come at the end of a year of scandal for the diocese, one of the largest in the United States. In February came the sentencing of former priest John Geoghan for sexual abuse of boys. This was followed by similar charges against another priest, Paul Shanley, who at one point ran a gay resort with his lover while on sick leave from the archdiocese.
About 450 people now have lawsuits pending and 24 priests are facing charges of sexual misconduct with children.
Cardinal Law’s latest problem is Rev. Foley, whose vow of celibacy does not seem to have curbed his sexual peccadillos, or his career in the church, as he was simply moved on whenever there was a problem.
Information about the case was garnered from the priest‘s personnel file, which was among 11,000 documents the archdiocese handed over to lawyers representing dozens of alleged victims of sex abuse by priests.
The notes indicate Rev. Foley, while a priest at St. Bartholemew Church in Needham, Mass., in the 1960s fathered two children.
The papers also say that when the the children’s mother collapsed from an apparent drug overdose, he got dressed, left and returned an undetermined time later before calling 911.
The woman later died, but it is not clear if it was a result of the overdose. Police in Needham, where the documents indicate the woman lived, said they have no record of it. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office was also examining the documents.
The Globe reported the priest was moved to a parish in Calgary.
But in May, 1966, his new superior, Bishop Francis Carroll, wrote to the Boston chancellory saying the priest had disappeared with a woman.
Even so, the bishop wrote, “I would be quite willing to take Father again if we can discover where he is. His problem is not known here.” Two years later, the administrator of the Calgary diocese wrote to Boston saying it would have to take Rev. Foley back as a husband had publicly accused him of having an affair with his wife.
“Father has been seriously involved with a young married woman [19 years of age] and has been contemplating leaving Calgary with her,” the administrator wrote.
In his new parish, Rev. Foley became involved with another woman. He was later promoted to pastorships in the Boston area and Sudbury, Ont., where he served at the Church of Our Lady of Fatima.
In 1993, the Foley case finally came to the attention of Cardinal Law, who questioned the priest about the death of his lover and his other sexual relationships in order to decide whether he was fit to remain in the priesthood.
He was ordered to leave his parish and be treated in a centre in Canada for troubled priests and nuns. Then, it was back to work in Boston, although he was not supposed to be alone with a woman.
After the meeting with Cardinal Law, Rev. Foley wrote a three- page letter to Bishop John McCormack, the Cardinal’s top deputy, objecting to the archdiocese’s decision, an action he called a “complete betrayal.”
Referring to the woman who died and her children, he said, “it is in the interest of no one to open that tragic story … How can the Church suffer scandal from an episode that will never possibly be revealed? Who will reveal it?”
He also explained his departure from Calgary had been caused by a nervous breakdown for which he had been treated in hospital.
Lawyers for the victims of pedophile priests say the handling of Rev. Foley demonstrates the Church’s double standard — it treats priests who abused boys differently from those who took advantage of women.
Since February, the archdiocese has suspended 24 priests facing accusations of misconduct with minors. But Rev. Foley continued to serve as an associate pastor until he was fired on Thursday.
That same day, the archdiocese revealed its finance panel had approved a bankruptcy filing, a move that could temporarily suspend the hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits. In a special meeting, the 15- member panel voted to authorize Cardinal Law to file for Chapter 11 protection.
The vote means the Cardinal needs only Vatican approval to move ahead with the bankruptcy manoeuvre, although “no final determination” has been made.
“Our goal is to achieve a global settlement for all the victims which is fair, equitable and satisfactory to claimants,” said Donna Morrissey, the archdiocese’s spokeswoman.
Filing for bankruptcy would suspend action in the civil lawsuits, force the hundreds of claimants into a single group in federal court and set a time limit for filing new claims.
However, it would also open the Church’s accounts to intense outside scrutiny. The archdiocese’s total assets have been estimated at US$1.3-billion.
Critics have accused the archdiocese of using the bankruptcy threat to speed up the mediation process and pressure the plaintiffs into considering smaller settlements.
While moving into bankruptcy court would be unprecedented in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States, the threat to do so is not. In 1997, the Dallas diocese received permission from the Vatican to file for bankruptcy after a jury awarded US$120- million to several victims of one priest.
The diocese never filed, but the threat alone prompted the victims to settle for US$31-million.
Scandal after scandal for Catholics
08 December 2002
Leo Inzaghi, the manager of the Caffe dello Sport in Boston’s Italian district, stopped reading the local newspapers last week. As a practising Catholic and a father, he found their contents too shocking.
“My wife telephoned me and said, ‘Have you seen what the Church knew about Father Nyhan?’ It turned out that the priest at the private school where we sent our daughter was transferred there after being accused of molesting two little girls in another town. People are calling for our cardinal to resign in disgrace and that’s exactly what he should do.”
Inzaghi is not the only Boston Catholic shaking his head in disbelief.
Last Monday a court order, vainly contested by the Church, allowed lawyers acting for local abuse claimants against the archdiocese to publish secret memorandums and personnel files concerning 65 priests. Many bear the personal handwriting of Cardinal Bernard Law.
As a result, two million Catholics in the archdiocese of Boston are finding out what senior figures in the Church knew about a string of scandals over 30 years. The American Catholic Church was already in crisis because of nationwide allegations of sexual abuse of children by clergy. In Boston, a city founded by Irish, Italian and Polish Catholics, the latest revelations have brought the archdiocese to the brink of financial and moral collapse.
Three thousand pages — from 11,000 — have so far been released, mainly dealing with eight priests. They reveal patterns of drug abuse, physical violence, kept mistresses and pedophilia. They also document the strenuous efforts of senior Church officials to buy the silence of victims and transfer miscreant priests to parishes and jobs where their history was not suspected.
In an informal poll, a majority of Boston priests said that Cardinal Law should resign. A decision on whether the archdiocese should file for bankruptcy, to mitigate the effects of more than 450 pending lawsuits, is likely to be made by the cardinal next week. In the words of one churchgoer, the papers have carried the city’s Catholics “beyond outrage to a feeling that nobody knows how to name.”
One priest, Richard Buntel, was known to local youth as “Father Pothead” and the “Blow King.” Buntel was reported by fellow priests to the archdiocese in 1983, amid allegations that he was distributing cocaine to young parishioners in the small Massachusetts town of Malden. Nothing was done.
Eleven years later he was accused of performing sex acts in exchange for cocaine.
And the Norfolk County district attorney’s office said Friday it is launching a preliminary investigation into one of the more shocking cases revealed this week, in which the Rev. James D. Foley, 69, allegedly was with a Needham woman just before she died of a drug overdose, and failed to call for help promptly. Norfolk County District Attorney William R. Keating’s spokesman, David Traub, said the prosecutor would seek “records, documents, and information” from a variety of sources, including the church, police, and medical officials relating to the death of the unnamed woman.
In 1993 and 1994, Foley acknowledged in interviews with church officials, including Law, that he had fathered two children with the woman and was in bed with her when she suffered a seizure. Law suspended Foley for a year.
Foley was removed as associate pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Salem on Thursday, following the public release of church documents describing his relationship with the woman who died.
In an interview Thursday, Foley told The Boston Globe that he had maintained a relationship with the woman for several years in the 1960s while at St. Bartholomew’s in Needham but that he had tried to end it by seeking an assignment in Calgary. They resumed their relationship, he said, when he returned to the Boston Archdiocese in 1969.