Personnel files show the Boston Archdiocese was told about sexual abuse allegations against five priests that dated back four decades, but waited years to remove some of them from active parish work.
An archdiocese spokesman said all five priests were eventually suspended, but would not elaborate. The files did not make clear when the priests were disciplined and for what offenses.
The personnel files, released Thursday by lawyers representing 250 people who say they were abused by priests, indicate one priest was asked to resign in March, eight years after he was accused of abuse. Another was removed from active ministry in 1989, two years after a man accused him of abuse.
The charges appear in letters to three church supervisors: Bishop John McCormack of Manchester, New Hampshire, who served in Boston from 1984-1994; Bishop Robert Banks of Green Bay, Wisconsin, a Boston auxiliary bishop until 1991; and New York Bishop Thomas Daily, chancellor of the Boston Archdiocese in the early 1980s.
“There are a number of occurrences, with the knowledge of the supervisors of the archdiocese going back pretty far, and yet they don’t remove the priests,” said Jeffrey Newman, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
The Rev. Christopher Coyne, an archdiocese spokesman, said the files “once more indicate the level of the problem that we were dealing with as an archdiocese in terms of abuse of children by clergy and the problems around how we dealt with the allegations.”
The records detail several allegations against Rev. Robert V. Gale, charged last month with raping a boy at a Waltham parish over four years in the 1980s. Gale, suspended last month, has pleaded innocent.
The allegations in Gale’s file date back to 1979, including a letter sent to Bishop Daily alleging Gale had sexually abused two boys, ages 14 and 17, at a Quincy parish. A 1981 letter claims Gale molested a 13-year-old boy in the boiler room at St. Jude’s Parish in Waltham. It wasn’t clear who sent the letter.
Another letter sent to McCormack in 1992 says a man was sexually abused by Gale from 1971 to 1975, when he was an altar boy at a Boston parish.
Included in the personnel file of one of the other five priests, is a letter sent in 1987 to Cardinal Bernard Law by a man who claimed the priest molested him for more than a year. The priest was removed from active ministry and placed on sick leave in 1989, according to the file.
In 1985, a man who said he was abused by yet another priest in the 1960s met with McCormack, urging him to tell church officials about the priest who by then was running a boys’ choir in California.
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