Priests sexually abused teenage girls, used cocaine and other drugs, and one had an affair with a female parishioner, according to allegations contained in personnel files maintained by the Boston Archdiocese.
The 3,000 pages of files on eight priests were released Tuesday by lawyers representing people who claim they were sexually abused by clergy. The attorneys are seeking to show that Cardinal Bernard Law routinely transferred priests to other parishes even after accusations of child abuse or other wrongdoing.
Last week, the lawyers said they would begin releasing the personnel records of 65 priests, which they have access to via a court order. The priests are not targeted in the abuse lawsuit from which the court order stems.
Archdiocese spokeswoman Donna Morrissey said she could not comment on the specific allegations contained in the personnel files.
But she said, “Some of the information contained in those documents is truly horrible. We’re committed to helping any and all survivors.”
Attempts Tuesday to reach priests whose files were released were unsuccessful. Morrissey said she did not have contact numbers; the priests’ phone numbers are not listed.
The files included those for the Rev. Robert Meffan, who allegedly recruited girls in the late 1960s to become nuns and then sexually abused them while assigned in Weymouth, Mass., according to 1993 letters from Sister Catherine Mulkerrin to her boss, the Rev. John McCormack, who was a top aide to Law and is currently the bishop in Manchester, N.H.
Meffan allegedly would tell the girls to perform sexual acts as a way of progressing with their religious studies. He also allegedly participated in sexual acts with four girls at the same time in a Cape Cod rental, one of the girls told Mulkerrin, according to a 1993 memo.
“They were all young girls planning to be nuns,” said attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr., who represents 247 plaintiffs among dozens of lawsuits against the archdiocese.
Meffan told The Boston Globe the allegations in the files were true and that he still believed his sexual relationships with the teenage girls were “beautiful” and “spiritual,” and were intended to bring them closer to God.
“What I was trying to show them is that Christ is human and you should love him as a human being,” Meffan is quoted as saying. “I felt that by having this little bit of intimacy with them that this is what it would be like with Christ.”
The Rev. Thomas Forry, who served in Scituate and Kingston, allegedly built a house on Cape Cod for a woman with whom he carried on an 11-year affair, the files show. The woman had gone to him seeking advice because of problems in her marriage. The woman’s son later alleged that Forry made sexual advances on him.
An unidentified man who answered the door Tuesday at Forry’s home in South Boston dismissed the abuse allegations and told the Boston Herald that Forry’s “got nothing to say.”
A 1992 memo from Mulkerrin to McCormack outlined the history of allegations against Forry. Seven years later, Law reassigned Forry from being a prison chaplain at a state prison in Concord to being a roaming, fill-in priest to cover various vacations by priests in the archdiocese. He’s currently unassigned.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys and victims advocates say the personnel files show that Law continued to transfer problem priests until recently.
“It’s not ancient history, it’s very, very recent,” said David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
The Rev. Richard Buntel, who served at St. Joseph’s from 1978 to 1983, allegedly used cocaine with boys while serving in Malden. Mulkerrin, in one memo to McCormack, said an alleged victim told her that Buntel provided cocaine to the boy when he was 15.
“He would snort it in the priest’s room ‘every time I went’ and, in a way, it seemed like an exchange for sex which also happened every time,” Mulkerrin wrote.
As of this year, Buntel was employed in a non-ministerial position as a business manager at St. Thomas of Villanova parish in Wilmington. Messages left at the parish and with the parish answering service were not immediately returned.
McCormack’s spokesman, Patrick McGee, would not comment Tuesday, saying the bishop had not read the files. McCormack has said he often did not know about allegations against priests because of poor record keeping.
In other developments:
In Phoenix, a prosecutor is accusing Phoenix Bishop Thomas O’Brien of having once advised the family of a boy making sex abuse allegations that they should not inform authorities of the accusations.
Maricopa County prosecutor Rick Romley says O’Brien told the family that going to the authorities would only cause the then 15-year-old victim more harm.
Romley made the allegations during a news conference announcing the arrest of the former priest who was accused in that incident John Giandelone, 55 who is charged with three counts of sexual conduct with a minor.
Romley says the advice to keep quiet was given in 1979 and 1980, when O’Brien was a priest, but not yet a bishop. Romley also says Giandelone was subsequently transferred to a parish where a family said they caught him in the act of abusing another boy. They called the authorities and Giandelone subsequently resigned from the priesthood.