Suspended priests often carry on quietly near former parishes
By Elizabeth Crowley and Lane Lambert
GateHouse News Service
The Daily News Tribune
October 20 , 2008
The Rev. Daniel Graham is long gone from the pulpit, but he hasn’t left home.
Six years after the Boston Archdiocese removed him from public ministry as part of its new zero-tolerance policy toward child molesters, the former pastor of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Quincy is living quietly in the city, still praying with people in their homes, but no longer administering the sacraments.
Within a matter of months, as the clergy sex abuse scandal reached its height in 2002, hundreds of priests in the archdiocese were pulled from their parishes and dropped out of sight — among them were dozens who had been assigned to South Shore churches.
Most, like the Rev. Graham, never faced criminal charges, often because the statute of limitations ran out long before the allegations became public. But they did face a wrenching end to their way of life. As priests they were respected, even revered. As alleged or admitted pedophiles, they now live under a cloud of shame and suspicion.
Boston College psychology professor Joseph Tecce says some of these priests are probably still in denial about what they did. Their feeling remains, “I’m still a priest, I don’t care what anyone says.”
He said that attitude is an even greater temptation for priests like the Rev. Graham, who still have loyal supporters.
But Tecce thinks a larger number of other priests are feeling guilty and depressed, and are now motivated by the emotional mechanism of “undoing” — making efforts to atone for what they did through good deeds, such as volunteer work for the poor.
The Rev. Graham declined to talk about his current life, but the Rev. Jay M. Mullin did.
The Rev. Mullin, 68, worked at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Hanson for nearly a decade, but was left without a parish when allegations of child sex abuse became public. He denies the charges, and still celebrates Mass, but only in the privacy of his Cape Cod home.
“I’m still a priest,” the Rev. Mullin said by telephone. “I cannot go back to the ministry, but I am still a priest.”
Like other priests listed as restricted or on administrative leave, the Rev. Mullin and Rev. Graham continue to receive salary and benefits from the church.
Priests who’ve been defrocked lose all formal ties to the church and are no longer under church supervision.
They are excluded from the clerical state and banned from performing all ministerial functions.
David Clohessy, national director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests, questions how closely the church monitors suspended clergy — the ones who are technically still priests but aren’t allowed to dress as priests or perform priestly duties. He said they often have little diocesan oversight and behave “as if they have done nothing wrong.”
Archdiocese spokeswoman Kelly Lynch disputes that contention and said church officials stay in contact with suspended priests.
She said the archdiocese has conducted tens of thousands of criminal background checks since Cardinal Sean O’Malley came to Boston in 2003.
“The Archdiocese is working diligently to create and maintain safe environments in its churches and schools,” she said.
But there is nothing to stop a priest stripped of his authority from taking a job outside the church.
The Rev. Louis J. Govoni was working as a substitute teacher at Duxbury High School in 2003 when church records were made public that he had been accused of molesting a male student when he was a religion teacher at Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree in the early 1970s. The Marshfield resident was fired from his job in Duxbury.
Patrick J. Tague, 75, runs a business and lives in Dorchester now, his sister in Marshfield said. Tague was defrocked in 2006 after allegations became public that he abused a 16-year-old inmate at a state halfway house in 1971.
Many suspended or defrocked priests are still listed in the phone book.
The Rev. Gerald J. Hickey, who was removed from St. Helen’s in Norwell in 2002 when allegations that he had sexually abused two of his nephews became public, still lives in Scituate.
A man who picked up the phone at his house recently, answered it this way: “St. Bridget’s Parish” — Hickey was assigned to St. Bridget’s in Abington church from 1987-1994.
When a reporter asked for Hickey, the man said, “He’s not in today. He’ll be in tomorrow.”
Wherever they live, priests who’ve been removed from parish work often stay in touch with supporters, who may view their former pastors as the victims of a witch hunt, rather than accused or admitted abusers, said Weymouth attorney Carmen Durso, who handled scores of clergy sex abuse cases.
St. Joseph’s parishioner Bartholomew Caggiano of Quincy says he and others still talk about the Rev. Graham from time to time, and wonder how he’s doing.
“He was good and efficient,” Caggiano said.
Parishioners were shocked when the man they called “Father Dan” was removed in 2002.
Church records made public around that time showed that the Rev. Graham had admitted in 1988 to molesting a 14-year-old boy in the 1960s, when he was at St. John the Baptist Church in Quincy.
He was suspended in 1995 but Cardinal Bernard Law reversed the order in early 1996 and put Graham in charge of 19 parishes, including those in Braintree, Milton, Quincy and Randolph.