I am waiting for a return call from Deacon Robert Britton, the Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Halifax. I know that Deacon Britton is familiar with the Father Michael J Walsh situation and hope to get a few things clarified.
Meanwhile, I shall carry on.
Here is the picture we now have of Father Michael J Walsh. I have updated his page and will add a link to this information once it’s posted.
Father Walsh was a priest with Diocese of Grand Falls, Newfoundland, ordained in 1964.
In 1991 Walsh pled GUILTY to six sex charges related to sex abuse of teenage boys in Buchans and the Grand Falls area in the early 1980s.
Six years after his conviction Walsh surfaced in the Archdiocese of Halifax (1997). The bishop of the day was Austin E. Burke. (1991-January 1998)
For the next 12 years Walsh functioned as a priest in various capacities in the Archdiocese of Halifax.
The intervening years
In the intervening six years between his conviction and welcome into Halifax Father Walsh’s address and phone number in Church directories is that of the Diocese of Grand Falls Newfoundland. It is now known that Walsh was not in Newfoundland for all of those years.
Here’s what is known of Walsh’s activities in those years :
– spent 6 months to a year at a rehab centre in Ontario, probably Southdown.
– spent time in Ontario studying to become a hospital chaplain. It is possible if not probable this was accomplished in Toronto. Wherever it was, Walsh was ministering to the sick and dying in hospital to complete the program. In order to do so he would have required faculties from the diocese to, at the very least, hear Confessions of sick and dying Catholics, and in all probability also to allow him to say Mass in a hospital environment on Sundays.
– It is also known that at some point in time Father Walsh attained a doctorate in canon law (JCD). I have no idea when or where. Given the time lines I think it is possible that he pursued his studies to obtain a Licentiate in Canon Law (JCL) during these intervening years ? Perhaps he then worked on his doctoral thesis during his Halifax years? I just don’t know. If he did attain his licentiate in these years, did he do so at Ottawa’s St. Paul University? I think that’s possible but I just don’t know. I am curious and am trying to find out.
Regardless, in 1997 Father Walsh was in Halifax.
In the Archdiocese of Halifax
The Archbishop of the day in Halifax 1997 was Austin E. Burke. Burke, the former Bishop of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, retired January 1998. He was succeeded by Terrence Thomas Prendergast (30 June 1998– 14 May 2007)
We know from activity on this site that on two occasions Roman Catholics from Newfoundland who were visiting Halifax planned to attend Mass and walked out the church when Walsh showed up in the sanctuary as the celebrant. In one instance the Church was St. Mary’s Basilica in Halifax. In another the church was in nearby Dartmouth. It was later learned that Walsh officiated at a funeral in St. Peter’s in Dartmouth.
We now know the following:
– upon arrival in Halifax Walsh was housed at St. Mary’s Basilica. The Rector at the Basilica was Father Martin Currie. Currie was also Chancellor and Vicar General. (As of 20 December 2000 Currie was serving as Bishop of Walsh’s home diocese of Grand Falls, Newfoundland, – and as of November 2007 he assumed the added duties of Archbishop of St. John’s Newfoundland)
– Serving at St.. Mary’s as assistant was a newly ordained priest, Father James Mallon.
– At some point Father Walsh’s primary ‘ministry’ in the archdiocese was as hospital chaplain at the Halifax Infirmary. It is unknown if he commenced his duties immediately upon arrival or soon after.
– As a hospital chaplain Walsh put in a full day’s ‘work’ every day from Sunday to Thursday. He had Fridays and Saturdays off. As part of his duties he said Mass at the Veteran’s building every Sunday.
– Deacon Wilf Boudreau worked with Father Walsh for several years. He believes Walsh left in 2009. Amazingly, Boudreau was never told and did not know until I contacted him today that Walsh is a convicted child molester! He said he never would have guessed.
Boudreau told me that there are criminal background checks on all clergy and chaplains seeking positions. He doesn’t know when the background checks became policy but knows that they are done now. He referred me to the Catholic Pastoral Centre (diocesan centre). As I said earlier, I do have a call in to the Chancellor and will find out when these criminal checks became policy.
– As was already known, while living at the Basilica Walsh occasionally assisted at or offered Mass and heard confessions.
– It is believed he lived in the rectory for 8 years.
– At some point in time, probably around 2005, Walsh served at St. Peter’s in Dartmouth (It is known that he was the celebrant at a funeral Mass at St. Peter’s September 2005.). It is unclear whether he was still living at the Basilica at that time or if he actually moved into the rectory at St. Peter’s. My understanding is that he still carried out his chaplaincy duties..
It sounds as though Father Walsh’s stay at St. Peter’s was brief. Word of his past came to light via a parishioner who was advised by a family member living in Newfoundland. Parishioners were not happy.
Walsh was gone. From St. Peter’s.
By this time Martin Currie was Bishop of Grand Falls, and Terrence Prendergast had been archbishop of Halifax since June 1998, and Archbishop Prendergast and the Bishop Currie had travelled together to Peru to visit the Machu Picchu ruins.
St. Thomas Aquinas Canadian Martyrs
It seems it was right after his time at St. Peter’s that Father Walsh moved into the rectory at St.Thomas Aquinas Canadian Martyrs in Halifax. The rectory sits adjacent to Our Lady of Schools, a grade 1-6 Roman Catholic Elementary School.
It is known that Walsh arrived at St. Thomas sometime in 2005.
Archbishop Terrence Prendergast would have either approved of or ordered Walsh’s move to St. Thomas.
The pastor at St. Thomas was Father James Mallon, the same Father Mallon who served as assistant at St. Mary’s during Walsh’s early years at the Basilica.
Father Walsh lived in the rectory at St. Thomas, continued his chaplaincy ministry, and from time to time assisted at Mass, said weekday Mass and/or heard confessions at St. Thomas.
On 14 May 2007 Archbishop Prendergast was appointed Archbishop of Ottawa, Ontario. He was replaced 18 October 2007 by Archbishop Anthony Mancini.
Some time in 2008 2009 Father Walsh’s past caught up with him at St. Thomas. Eventually Father Walsh was removed. However, my understanding is that initially he stayed at the rectory and those who knew were of the understanding that his ministry was restricted. There was talk that Archbishop Mancini had limited his ministry to chaplaincy services and that he would not longer be permitted to hear confessions or assist at Masses in any parish. Whether fact or not, Father Mallon gave assurances that Walsh would definitely not be active in parish work.
Despite the restrictions, and perhaps due in part to ignorance of parish staff who had not been advised of the restrictions, Father Walsh did on a few occasions say Mass and hear confessions, including confessions of children. If indeed Walsh had been informed that he was not to assist it is deeply disturbing that he chose to disobey.
Eventually, as I said, he was removed entirely.
At some point the pastoral council of St. Thomas Aquinas met with staff from the diocesan centre to pose questions and discuss their concerns about Father Walsh’s service in the archdiocese. One of the staff was Chancellor Deacon Robert Britton. The other the archbishop’s secretary, Marilyn Sweet,
The pastoral council members also met with Archbishop Mancini. According to reports of that meeting the Archbishop said brusquely and variously: “What more can we do?” “He’s out of ministry.” We have our faith protocols.” I have been told that the the Archbishop’s tone was arrogant.
The pastoral council requested a formal review of the processes used and decisions taken by the Halifax archdiocese which permitted Walsh to serve in their area for all those years. Their hope was that a review would ensure that such a situation would not arise again.. To date, there is no sign of a review.
I get the impression that the concerns of those upset with word of Walsh’s past were trivialized, i.e., ‘There was one incident of abuse which happened 39 years ago’
Whether or not there was only once incident of abuse listed on Walsh’s file, or whether that’s just what people were told is unknown. The fact is however that Walsh was convicted on six charges related to sex abuse of teenage boys. There were a further two charges which were dropped before trial. So, definitely not one incident. But, even if it were, what difference should that make? Would that make him any less a molester?
The 2010 Canadian Catholic Church Directory lists Father Walsh’s address as that of St. Thomas Aquinas Canadian Martyrs. In the directory he is shown as having a Doctorate in Canon Law and is listed as Associate Judicial Vicar and Judge. (Judicial Vicar Father John Barry)
The directory must have gone to press before Walsh relocated to Newfoundland.
As we know in 2010 Father Walsh moved to St. Brendan’s Newfoundland and was both concelebrating and offering Masses at St. Gabriel’s in that small Catholic community. According to Archbishop Currie Walsh returned to St. Brendan’s in 2009.
Sadly it was only after some negative publicity regarding the plight of St. Brendan’s Catholics that Currie intervened.
I thought that perhaps hospital chaplains were retained by the hospital. Not so, at least not in Halifax. Priest chaplains are employed by the archdiocese: According to the Halifax archdiocese website:
Hospital chaplains are employees of the Archdiocese: According to the archdiocese’s website:
The Church of Halifax, in response to Jesus’ concern for the sick and suffering, provides pastoral care – a ministry of healing, in most of the regional health care institutions and correctional facilities.
In the health care institutions priest chaplains and qualified lay chaplains, called to embody the healing power of Jesus, are employed by the Archdiocese to provide compassionate presence, sacramental and spiritual care to patients/residents, families and staff of the facility.
I will see what tomorrow brings as far as filling in the gaps and clarifying the fuzzy areas. But, as can be seen, complaints from parishioners in one area simply meant recycling Walsh into another.
And, yes, Archbishop Prendergast is part of the Apostolic Visitation examining the cover-up in Ireland and what the Irish bishops did wrong.
In a 02 June 2010 CTV interview Prendergast stated the following:
“There are times when I have to say: ‘The evidence is here. I need to correct this person; I need to take this person out. I need to say you can’t continue administering anymore.’ And that takes courage, and I think that’s what our day needs. It needs courage.”
What can I say? After how many years of tolerating and shuttling Walsh around, and allowing him to minister to the sick and the dying, what can I say?