February 8, 2002
Six Priests Suspended After Claims of Sex Abuse

By PAM BELLUCK

BOSTON, Feb. 7 - The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston said today
that it had suspended six more priests from all assignments because of
accusations that they had sexually molested children in the past.

Five of the priests held active ministerial positions, and one had a
non- ministerial role, the archdiocese said. Their names were reported
to law enforcement authorities.

The suspensions come two weeks after Cardinal Bernard F. Law, in
announcing a policy to report past accusations of abuse, said there
were no active priests in the archdiocese who had been accused of that.

But on Feb. 2, the archdiocese said it had discovered accusations
against two active priests, the Rev. Paul J. Finegan at St. Bernadette
Church in Randolph, and the Rev. Daniel Graham of St. Joseph Church in
Quincy. Both were suspended and the cases were reported to prosecutors.

Today, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, Donna M. Morrissey, said in a
statement that the ``review of our records continues and any clergy
found to have a substantial allegation of sexual abuse of a minor will
be immediately removed and suspended from all assignments in the
archdiocese pending a full investigation.''

The archdiocese's actions come in response to court documents released
last month showing that the archdiocese had known about multiple
accusations of abuse by a priest, John J. Geoghan, but continued to
assign him to parishes where he was in regular contact with children.

Mr. Geoghan has been accused by more than 130 people in a half-dozen
parishes of having molested them over 30 years. He was convicted last
month of molesting one boy.

Cardinal Law had said the archdiocese would report to law enforcement
only new accusations of sexual abuse. Then, on Jan. 24, after pressure
from prosecutors and the Legislature, Cardinal Law said priests who had
been accused of abuse in the past would also be reported.

One of the priests suspended today, the Rev. David C. Murphy, 65, a
chaplain at Brockton Hospital, was accused of multiple instances of
sexual misconduct; the other five were accused of a single instance of
abuse.

Four of the priests suspended today were not assigned to parishes,
suggesting that the archdiocese may have already been aware of the
accusations against them. Two of priests, the Rev. Gerald J. Hickey,
64, and the Rev. Richard A. Buntel, 56, had been unassigned since 1994.
Father Hickey was assisting at St. Helen Parish in Norwell, and Father
Buntel was the business manager at St. Thomas of Villanova Parish in
Wilmington.

A third unassigned priest, the Rev. Thomas P. Forry, 60, had been in a
temporary emergency response group since 1999. The fourth, the Rev.
Robert A. Ward Jr., 55, had worked in the archdiocese's development
office since January 2001.

Officials with the archdiocesan communications office said tonight that
they were checking to determine how long the archdiocese had been aware
of the accusations.

The sixth suspended priest is the Rev. James F. Power, 71, a temporary
parochial vicar at St. James the Great Parish in Wellesley.

The pastor of that church, the Rev. George D. Vartzelis, said the
church had just learned of the suspension.

``This happened very quickly,'' Father Vartzelis said. ``We're all
saddened by the whole thing.''