Foley: Father James D. Foley

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Rev. James D. Foley (Boston Globe Staff Photo/Tom Herde)

Father James D. Foley (photo Boston Globe )

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.


 “Priest details longtime affair ( Boston Globe Spotlight)


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)

20 May 2003:  Excerpts re Father James D Foley from Dr. Cassem (psychiatrist) deposition

22 January 2003:  Excerpts re Father James D Foley from Cardinal Law deposition

02 April 1998:  Review Board follow up:  Review Board restrictions remain in place –  he will not be available for a pastorate.  Case closed

23 January 1996:  Cardinal Law to Father Foley advising Sick Leave over and assigned to St James Parish in Stoughton, Mass.

17 January 1995:  Father Flatley to Father McCarthy re Father Foley authorized only to say Mass

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.)

23 December 1993:   Cardinal Law notes re Father Foley’s report on woman’s death – he clothed and left etc

01 June 1968:  Calgary Diocese Administrator Paul OByrne to Boston Chancellor re Father Foley capable of leading a dual life

23 May 1968:  Calgary Diocese Administrator OByrne to Cardinal Cushing re Father Foley breakdown

2 May 1968:  Calgary Diocese Administrator Paul O’Byrne to Father Foley “you can no longer work as a priest in the Diocese of Calgary.”

18 June 1966:   Calgary Bishop Carroll to Boston Chancellor – Father Foley is back

19 May 1966:   Calgary Bishop Carroll to Boston Chancellor – Foley gone with woman


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 1995Law 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 1993The 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)

1964Foley, then 31, is hospitalized at Glenside Hospital, a Jamaica Plain psychiatric facility.  (Spotlight timeline)

1966Foley 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)

1962Foley 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

Boston Herald

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

Greg Frost


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

Sudbury Star


Disgraced U.S. priest worked in Calgary

Calgary Herald

30 January 2003


Boston cardinal under pressure to leave post: Suspected abusers moved from parish to parish

The National Post

07 December 2002

Araminta Wordsworth


Scandal after scandal for Catholics

Edmonton Journal

08 December 2002

Julian Coman

1 Response to Foley: Father James D. Foley

  1. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    This appears to be a real and palpable example of how effective Southdown really is. Are placements at Southdown just for show?
    A Roman Catholic priest in these circumstances should have been defrocked, not “treated” at Southdown and then released to continue his warped journey. Mike.

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