An Albany priest accused of sexually abusing a boy in the 1970s was quietly transferred to the Archdiocese of Boston as part of a deal between then-Bishop Edwin Broderick and the Albany County district attorney that helped avoid a criminal prosecution.
The Rev. Dozia Wilson, who is no longer a priest, left Albany’s Sacred Heart Church in 1976 and moved to a parish in Roxbury, Mass., after parents complained about an incident involving Wilson and young boys at a local motel, according to people familiar with the case.
The transfer now is at the center of a claim by a 42-year-old man who said Wilson befriended him in Albany almost 30 years ago and became his guardian in Boston, where he molested him for two years. The man’s attorney is seeking a $2 million payment from the Diocese of Albany, saying the priest’s transfer was an underlying cause of the abuse of his client, according to documents obtained by the Times Union.
In 1980, Bishop Howard Hubbard allowed Wilson to return to the Albany Diocese and work in parish ministries for 10 years until he was removed in 1990 because of a new complaint about his conduct with minors, church officials said.
Wilson’s case is the first known connection between the Diocese of Albany and the Archdiocese of Boston, where the church’s national scandal erupted 13 months ago.
In 1976, after a call from Albany County District Attorney Sol Greenberg, Broderick told Wilson he had to leave the area.
“He was the only priest that I knew of that I had to dispose of in a way — tell him he couldn’t work in the Diocese of Albany,” Broderick said Thursday in an interview from his home in Manhattan.
“When the DA spoke to me about it, I told him [Greenberg] that he [Wilson] would not be in the priesthood here in Albany anymore,” said Broderick, who stepped down from his post in Albany in September 1976 and went back to New York City as head of Catholic Relief Services. The following year, Hubbard was ordained Albany’s eighth bishop.
Greenberg said that a child’s parents reported an incident but were not interested in pressing charges, and the matter was dropped after Broderick agreed to send the priest to therapy and transfer him out of the area.
“He was told to stay out of Albany,” Greenberg said Thursday, recalling the 27-year-old case. “And that was the end of that.”
In an interview last month, Broderick, who is now 86, was reluctant to discuss the problem of sexual abuse in his diocese in the 1970s, saying he had no recollection of it.
But Wilson’s case offers insight into the handling of allegations of sexual abuse cases by Broderick, who headed the diocese for eight years, at a time when much of the abuse discussed during the past year allegedly occurred.
Broderick said Thursday that he did not recall notifying church leaders in Boston about any complaints lodged against Wilson, but instead allowed Wilson to raise the issue himself. “I think he told them what he was doing,” Broderick said.
Bernard Guekguezian, the Boston attorney representing the man who has accused Wilson of molesting him, said he was hoping to negotiate a settlement with the Albany Diocese and declined comment on the case.
Wilson met the man’s family when Wilson was working at the Albany parish in the early 1970s, according to legal documents that Guekguezian sent Hubbard in November 2002, outlining a potential lawsuit if a settlement was not reached.
In 1973, when the boy was about 13 and living with his family, Wilson cultivated a close friendship with the teen. Wilson frequently plied him with Scotch and marijuana, according to the legal documents prepared for filing in a Massachusetts Superior Court.
In 1976, when Wilson was transferred to the Boston Archdiocese, he gained custody of the Albany teen, who went to live with him in Roxbury at the rectory and attend Catholic school there, according to the legal documents.
Shortly after they began living together, Wilson allegedly started a sexual relationship with the teen, who was then 16. The abuse continued until the teen graduated from high school in 1978 and moved out of the rectory, according to legal documents.
A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Boston, Donna Morrissey, did not return repeated phone calls last week inquiring about Wilson.
Wilson’s alleged victim said he has suffered severe emotional problems as a result of the sexual abuse. He first contacted the Albany Diocese in 1997, and he was offered a secret settlement payment of $8,500, according to the legal papers.
In November 2002, the man’s attorney demanded $2 million, more than twice what the diocese has said is the largest payment provided to a victim of sexual abuse $997,500 to a man abused in the 1970s by the Rev. Mark Haight.
In response to a Times Union inquiry, a spokesman for the Albany Diocese, Kenneth Goldfarb, issued a statement on Thursday that said Wilson “moved away from the Albany area in 1976 at the insistence of local law enforcement authorities because of an incident regarding the appropriateness of Wilson’s interaction with minors.”
“The Albany Diocese had immediately informed Boston church officials of Wilson’s background in 1976, when Wilson sought an assignment in the Boston area,” the statement said.
Wilson returned to the Albany Diocese in 1980, where he served for 10 more years, at St. Ann’s in Fort Ann and St. Mary’s in Hudson. He also worked as a part-time chaplain at the Columbia County jail, the statement said.
“In 1990, the bishop received a call from the Hudson area expressing unease about Wilson’s interaction with minors,” the church statement said. “Although no allegations of sexual misconduct were made and the caller identified no particular victim, nevertheless Bishop Hubbard, since he was mindful of the earlier concerns expressed in 1976, immediately removed Wilson from his post.”
Wilson was never reassigned after 1990, and Hubbard requested and received his resignation from the priesthood in 1993, the church statement said.
“Bishop Hubbard noted today that the procedures regarding the removal of priests are thankfully much more rigid now than they were in the 1970s,” the statement said.
After a Times Union inquiry about Wilson and numerous allegations of sexual misconduct, the diocese distributed a news release containing the statement Friday.
Wilson, who lives in Westchester County, could not be reached for comment.
Wilson’s history of alleged sexual abuse came to the attention of local police in an unusual incident in which he was beaten up Aug. 31 at his home in Dobbs Ferry, where Wilson had worked as a chaplain at a residential drug treatment center for boys.
Wilson had gone into Manhattan that night and picked up an 18-year-old homeless man in midtown named Luis Canales Sanchez, police said.
Wilson, now in his 60s, was found unconscious in the hallway of his apartment building. Five days later, Sanchez was arrested in Massachusetts driving Wilson’s car, police said.
Sanchez was charged with first-degree robbery in September but never indicted. The investigation stalled because Wilson was unwilling to cooperate with authorities, Dobbs Ferry police Chief George Longworth said last week.
Longworth said that investigators were aware of the allegations of Wilson’s sexual abuse, but he declined to comment further.
The Albany Diocese’s statement about Wilson came after several weeks of new public disclosures about the extent of sexual abuse in the diocese in the 1970s.
Hubbard removed six priests from the ministry last year and placed two more on administrative leave this month because of credible allegations of sexual abuse in the 1970s and 1980s.
Hubbard and other church officials have refused to say how many victims have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse or how many active priests remain under investigation.
Hubbard said last year that the diocese had paid out $2.3 million in confidential settlement agreements. Hubbard also acknowledged that he gave one victim more than $225,000 last year.
Wilson is one of at least 135 priests who worked in the Boston Archdiocese to have been accused of molesting children, and one Boston priest was revealed to have attacked 130 boys over the course of three decades. In December, Cardinal Bernard Law was forced to resign.
Need Legal Help?
New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, and Florida
Our personal injury attorneys in NYC are here to help you when you need it the most.