Another Allegation In Boston

Priest abuse scandal. Roman Catholic church. Sex abuse.
A priest fathered at least two children in the 1960s and apparently failed to call doctors immediately when their mother collapsed from an overdose, according to personnel files that contain some of the most lurid allegations yet in the Boston Archdiocese sex scandal.

Handwritten notes in the Rev. James D. Foley's file indicate that when the woman collapsed from an apparent drug overdose, Foley got dressed, left and returned an undetermined time later before calling 911.

The woman later died, but it is not clear if it was a result of the overdose. Police in Needham, where the documents indicate the woman lived, said they have no record of it. The state Attorney General's office is also examining the documents.

The notes, released Thursday, were among 11,000 documents that the archdiocese was ordered by a judge to hand over to attorneys representing dozens of alleged victims of church sex abuse.

When the details on Foley came to church's attention in 1993, the documents indicate, Cardinal Bernard Law and Bishop John McCormack ordered Foley to resign his post at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Sudbury and to undergo treatment at a residential center in Canada.

Foley's history, which includes allegations of at least one other relationship with a woman, appears to have deeply troubled Law.

On one occasion, McCormack wrote: "Cardinal Law thinks that (Foley) should not be in pastoral ministry due to potential scandal. His remark is that this man should spend his life in a monastery doing penance."

After his release, however, the archdiocese in 1994 agreed to let Foley live at a rectory and to celebrate Mass while continuing his therapy, although it barred him from performing other ministry duties or having anything to do with "vulnerable women."

Foley was placed in a parish in 1995 and has since been appointed associate pastor.

An initial review of the documents do not show that any further allegations of sexual impropriety surfaced against Foley. However, the order restricting his ministry duties was renewed as recently as 1998, the documents show.

In an interview with New England Cable News and The Boston Globe, Foley initially insisted "my record in the archdiocese is above reproach. There's never been a single allegation. I have no idea where this kind of wild speculation comes from."

But then Foley was confronted with a 1994 letter he wrote to McCormack, in which he said he had gotten a call saying if he ever tried to contact the children of the deceased woman, an investigation of her death would follow.

"It happened over 25 years ago and it is in the interest of no one to open that tragic story," Foley wrote McCormack. "I will regret to my dying day the circumstances but I cannot turn back the clock nor bring back the dead. How can the church suffer scandal from an episode that will never possibly be revealed? Who will reveal it? The Cardinal? Myself? A family member?"

Foley curtly responded: "This is something very personal, very confidential, very private. I don't think it's an issue for public hearing."

Foley did not return a phone message left at St. Joseph parish in Salem where he is associate pastor. Parish secretary Betty Richard said Foley had been terminated as of Thursday.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Donna Morrissey did not return several phone messages seeking comment.

Files released by the plaintiffs' attorneys on Tuesday focused on eight priests. Among the allegations: a priest beat his housekeeper and threatened alleged sex-abuse victims; another priest traded cocaine for sex with boys; and a third had sex with teenage girls studying to become nuns.

Thousands of other pages on more than 55 priests have yet to be made public by the attorneys.

The plaintiffs say the church failed to protect parishioners by ignoring the sex allegations and simply moving accused priests from parish to parish.

The files released Tuesday prompted renewed calls for Law to step down.

On Wednesday, the archdiocese Finance Council authorized Law to seek bankruptcy protection for the archdiocese to deal with the hundreds of sexual-molestation claims against priests. Law has not made a decision on whether to file for bankruptcy, and would have to get approval from the Vatican.

By Robert O'Neill