Once Cardinal's Top Aides, Bishops Now Share Shadow
April 18, 2002
By PAM BELLUCK
New York Times
This article was reported by Pam Belluck, Fox Butterfield and Sara Rimer and was written by Ms. Belluck.
BOSTON, April 17 - It is a testament to the influence of
Cardinal Bernard F. Law, the archbishop of Boston, that
five of the men who worked as his trusted lieutenants have
been appointed to lead dioceses around the country.
Now as Cardinal Law fights to overcome the stain of a
sprawling sexual abuse scandal, the intense spotlight
focused on him is also casting shadows on several of those
Documents and interviews show that the deputies had roles
in the way the Boston Archdiocese responded to accusations
of sexual abuse by priests. Together they paint a portrait
of officials who seemed solicitous and compassionate to
problem priests, dismissive or perfunctory toward those who
accused the priests of molesting them or simply slow to
respond to warning signs.
Most of the bishops have either apologized or explained
their actions during their time in Boston.
Indeed, when the cardinal issued a statement on Tuesday
night, saying that a secret trip to Rome had reaffirmed his
decision to remain as archbishop, experts on the Roman
Catholic Church suspected that the Vatican had decided to
keep him on in part out of fear that ousting Cardinal Law
could lead to some or all of the bishops losing their jobs.
"Rome has an incentive not to want him to step down because
they're worried about a domino effect, especially with the
bishops who served with him," said Stephen J. Pope,
chairman of the theology department at Boston College.
Noting that Cardinal Law is the most senior and thus most
influential Catholic leader in the United States, Dr. Pope
added, "The Vatican knows the thinking will be, if Cardinal
Law's vulnerable to this kind of pressure, perhaps anybody
The bishops - John B. McCormack of Manchester, N.H., Robert
J. Banks of Green Bay, Wis., Thomas V. Daily of Brooklyn
and Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans - all served as
high-ranking officials under Cardinal Law after he became
archbishop in 1984. They have been named as defendants in
lawsuits filed by people claiming they were molested by
priests. All have denied wrongdoing.
Another former deputy, Bishop William F. Murphy of
Rockville Center, N.Y., has also been named in lawsuits,
but few of the documents refer to his role.
Not surprisingly, experts said, Cardinal Law's deputies
reflect his philosophy. Eugene Kennedy, a former priest and
author of "The Unhealed Wound: The Church and Human
Sexuality," said that like the cardinal, they were
advocates of a paternalistic, top-down structure in the
church, not one that fostered the more democratic,
grass-roots model that was encouraged by the Second Vatican
"These fellows often carry out something they are asked to
do, even though their own better judgment tells them that's
not what they should do," said Mr. Kennedy, who tends to be
liberal on church issues.
In Boston, church documents released in the cases of the
Rev. John J. Geoghan and the Rev. Paul R. Shanley include
only one indication that any of Cardinal Law's top aides
had voiced objections to a known sexual abuser being
allowed to continue as a parish priest.
That bishop was John M. D'Arcy, who wrote to Cardinal Law
in 1984, just after Father Geoghan was assigned to a new
parish. Bishop D'Arcy raised concerns that Father Geoghan
might cause more scandal in light of his "history of
homosexual involvement with young boys."
Bishop D'Arcy, who leads the Diocese of Fort Wayne/South
Bend in Indiana, declined to discuss his time in Boston.
The documents portray other senior officials as
compassionate and sometimes clubby toward priests and
concerned about avoiding scandal and preserving secrecy.
Bishop John B. McCormack
The names that come up most
often in court documents are Bishop McCormack, Bishop Banks
and Bishop Daily.
Bishop McCormack, 66, appears to have played a role in
handling the cases of at least six priests, according to
documents, interviews and newspaper reports.
Now chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic
Bishops' ad hoc committee on sexual abuse, Bishop McCormack
became a part of Cardinal Law's administration in 1985 when
he was appointed secretary of ministerial personnel. He
later was asked by Cardinal Law to handle allegations of
sexual abuse against priests.
In one case, a young man who claimed he had been abused by
the Rev. Ronald H. Paquin met with Father McCormack in
1990, at the urging of the Rev. Frederick E. Sweeney,
pastor of the church where Father Paquin was assigned. In
an interview, the young man, who asked not to be
identified, said he told Father McCormack that Father
Paquin had touched him inappropriately when he was 14, and
that he knew of other boys Father Paquin had molested.
"He showed no emotion, just sat there with his hands folded
on his lap," the young man said of Father McCormack. Then,
he said, Father McCormack asked, " `What do you want?' "
The young man said it appeared that Father McCormack was
offering him money, and he responded that all he wanted was
for Father Paquin to be removed from parish work and
"I said, if he isn't removed from the church, I would go to
the press or to prosecutors," the man said. "Then he
clapped his hands together, and said, `Consider it done,
Father Paquin was removed from the parish and sent for
treatment, but he was later installed as a hospital
chaplain and lived in a rectory near his old parish.
Ultimately, after Father Sweeney complained again, Father
Paquin was sent to a home for priests. At least one other
abuse complaint followed the meeting with Father McCormack,
and the archdiocese later settled several lawsuits against
Father Paquin, who admitted in an interview in January with
The Boston Globe that he had molested boys.
A spokesman for Bishop McCormack, Patrick McGee, answered
some questions about the Boston cases this week, but cut
the interview short before he could be asked about the
The Shanley case provides the most extensive record of
Bishop McCormack's involvement, and his notes and
memorandums portray him as collegial to Father Shanley and
slow to inform officials in other dioceses about the
The record begins in 1985, when Father McCormack wrote to
Father Shanley, then a priest in Newton, Mass., forwarding
a complaint by a woman from Rochester, N.Y., about a speech
in which Father Shanley had apparently spoken approvingly
of sex between men and boys.
"Would you care to comment on the remarks she made," Father
McCormack wrote. "You can either put it them in writing or
we can get together some day about it."
Five years later, after Father Shanley was transferred to a
parish in San Bernardino, Calif., Father McCormack became
his principal contact in the archdiocese, promising, among
other things, to help get him more money for living
In one letter, Father McCormack, who was a seminary
classmate of Father Shanley, wrote sympathetically of "the
loneliness that comes with leaving a parish where you and
the parishioners have meant much to each other," and
invoked Tennyson's words: "Better to have loved and lost
than never to have loved at all."
In 1991, Father McCormack visited Father Shanley in Palm
Springs, Calif., at a time when Father Shanley was
apparently a co-owner of a gay resort hotel. Mr. McGee, the
bishop's spokesman, said the visit was for official
reasons, and he did not know if Father McCormack was aware
of the hotel.
In a statement last Friday, Bishop McCormack said that he
"did not know about any sexual misconduct with a minor by
Paul Shanley until 1993," and that he responded by
informing the San Bernardino diocese, which removed Father
Shanley from the parish. Mr. McGee said that not all the
documents released in the Shanley case last week had been
in Father Shanley's file during Bishop McCormack's tenure,
and that the bishop planned to review his time in Boston
and respond further next week.
The documents do not specify what happened in 1993. But
that same year a nun wrote Father McCormack about a young
man's allegations that he had been forced to masturbate in
front of Father Shanley.
Documents suggest that Father McCormack had some idea about
Father Shanley's problems earlier than that. In December
1990, he wrote to Bishop Hughes that Father Shanley "still
appears not to be well," and "If he came back" from
California, "I do not know what we would do with him."
The next year the archdiocese settled a lawsuit against
Father Shanley, The Boston Globe has reported. And in
December 1991, Father McCormack wrote another memorandum to
Bishop Hughes saying, "It is clear to me that Paul Shanley
is a sick person," and recommending against bringing him
back to Boston.
Even after 1993, Father McCormack's handling of the Shanley
case raises questions. In a 1994 letter to Father Shanley
in San Diego, where he moved after being ousted from San
Bernardino, Father McCormack mentioned that people who had
accused Father Shanley of sexual abuse had asked where he
was and if he was being supervised. Father McCormack said
he had not informed the diocese of San Diego about Father
"Anything I can do to help you, let me know," Father
McCormack wrote in closing.
One document suggests that Father McCormack placed
restrictions on Father Shanley at some point. A 1996 letter
to Father Shanley from the Rev. Brian M. Flatley, then
handling sexual abuse allegations for the archdiocese,
referred to restrictions Father Shanley said Father
McCormack had placed on him, though it is not clear when.
The restrictions included not wearing clerical attire and
celebrating Mass only in private.
In his statement, Bishop McCormack defended his approach to
Father Shanley, saying, "At all times, even though I was
disturbed by what he had said and done, I treated him with
the same pastoral respect that I do for all people to whom
I minister. I feel I was firm while still at the same time
Bishop Robert J. Banks
Bishop Banks, 74, was put in charge of administration for
the archdiocese for several years until 1990, when he was
made bishop of Green Bay. In an interview in Green Bay last
week, he said the 12 major departments of the archdiocese
reported to him, and documents show that he was involved in
the Shanley case and the case of Father Geoghan, who has
been convicted of indecent assault and accused of molesting
nearly 200 children.
When Father Shanley was being transferred to California,
Bishop Banks wrote to San Bernardino officials saying he
was a priest "in good standing" who "has no problem that
would be a concern to your diocese."
In the interview, Bishop Banks said he "did not know of any
allegations" before writing that letter. He did not recall
whether he had looked in Father Shanley's file before
writing that letter, but if he had, he did not see any
cause for concern.
In 1988, however, Bishop Banks mentioned in a memorandum
that a patient in a psychiatric hospital where Father
Shanley was chaplain accused the priest of "coming on to
him" by graphically discussing sadomasochism. In the
interview, Bishop Banks said Father Shanley had denied the
allegation. "A patient in a mental hospital says the priest
came on to him, and the priest denies it," Bishop Banks
said. "What do you do?"
Bishop Banks's role in the Geoghan case is more complex. In
April 1989, Bishop Banks took notes from a conversation
with one of Father Geoghan's doctors: "You better clip his
wings before there is an explosion. You can't afford to
have him in a parish."
As a result of that conversation, Father Geoghan was sent
for another round of treatment. But seven months later,
after Father Geoghan was already back in the parish, Bishop
Banks received a psychiatric evaluation from the treatment
center that described Father Geoghan as "narcissistic and
manipulative" and diagnosed him with "atypical pedophilia,
Bishop Banks wrote to the institute, saying he was
"disappointed and disturbed by the report" because in
earlier conversations with the doctors "I was assured that
it would be all right to reassign Father Geoghan to
The bishop asked for a letter from the center expressing
"the assurance I was given orally about Father Geoghan's
reassignment." He received one saying it was safe for the
priest to return to ministry.
"I agonized over that one," Bishop Banks said last week.
"Clearly, he seemed to me, he was a pedophile. I didn't
think he could be cured. I wanted him out of parish work. I
was shocked that the two highly respected psychiatrists who
had him in residential treatment for several weeks said he
had been cured, that he was one of their best patients,
that it was all right to put him back in parish ministry. I
said, `You put that in a letter.' "
Bishop Thomas V. Daily
Bishop Daily, 74, who was
chancellor and vicar general of the archdiocese until he
left in late 1984 to become bishop of Palm Beach, Fla., and
then Brooklyn, was a pivotal figure in handling one of the
most serious complaints about Father Geoghan.
In 1982, two years after Father Geoghan had admitted
abusing seven boys in a single family and been treated for
pedophilia, members of that family met with Bishop Daily to
complain that Father Geoghan had been seen with young boys
at an ice cream parlor in their neighborhood. The bishop
told the family he would "act responsibly," but he allowed
Father Geoghan to go on a planned two-month sabbatical to
Italy, then return to the same parish near the family the
priest had already victimized.
The family, the Dussourds, said that during their meeting
Bishop Daily encouraged them to keep quiet about their
accusations, something Bishop Daily acknowledged in a later
deposition that he may have done. He also said in his
deposition that when he placed Father Geoghan in the new
parish, in 1981, he did not recall telling the parish's
pastor about the complaints by the Dussourds. It was not
until 1984, after one of the Dussourd relatives wrote to
the new archbishop, Cardinal Law, complaining that Father
Geoghan was still taking boys out at night, that the priest
was removed from the parish.
Bishop Daily's deposition makes it clear that he considered
it important that public scandal be avoided, and his notes
to Father Geoghan while he was in treatment were generally
encouraging about him returning to parish ministry.
Last month, Bishop Daily issued a statement, saying that he
profoundly regrets some of his decisions in Boston.
Bishop Alfred C. Hughes
The few documents that refer to
Bishop Hughes's involvement in the Geoghan and Shanley
cases do not indicate that he knew of specific problems,
but suggest he might not have paid attention to revealing
signals. For example, in late 1991, according to his
testimony at the Geoghan criminal trial, when the
archdiocese received a complaint that Father Geoghan was
"proselytizing" among boys at a pool, Bishop Hughes, aware
that Father Geoghan had been treated for pedophilia, told
him not to return to the Boys and Girls Club, but Father
Geoghan was allowed to continue being a priest.
In a January statement, Bishop Hughes said: "There was no
allegation about physical abuse" regarding Father Geoghan
"brought to me during my tenure." In a newspaper column
that same month he admitted that the Boston Archdiocese
made mistakes in the Geoghan case.
Bishop Hughes wrote, "The continued acceptance of John
Geoghan for priestly assignment was a tragic error."