Clerics abused girls aspiring to be nuns and used drugs, say records

THOUSANDS of newly released personnel files show that the Archdiocese of Boston went to great lengths to hide priests accused of abuse, including clergy who allegedly snorted cocaine and had sex with girls aspiring to be nuns.

The first round of the documents roughly 3,000 pages on eight Roman Catholic priests were made public on a Superior Court order. They had previously been obtained by victims' lawyers. The records included allegations that clergy sexually abused teenage girls and used cocaine and other drugs, and that one led a "double life" by carrying on an affair with a female parishioner.

Many of the priests whose files were released are not among the 400 clergy members targeted in the dozens of lawsuits against the archdiocese. But attorneys for plaintiffs hope the documents show the archdiocese had a habit of transferring priests to other parishes even after accusations of child abuse.

One of the eight priests, Robert M Burns, had a history of sexual abuse before he came to Boston from the diocese in Youngstown, Ohio, the papers revealed. He was asked to serve in Boston in 1982 as he concluded a year of treatment for child molestation at a church facility.

Then-Cardinal Humberto S Medeiros and at least two of his top aides Bishop Alfred C Hughes and Thomas V Daily knew of Burns' history, but still assigned him to a parish where he would have contact with children.

"There has been no other archdiocese where the extent of the problem has been so clearly identified," said David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.

The files also indicate Cardinal Bernard Law, after establishing regulations in 1993 to deal with abusive priests, continued to assign accused priests to active duty.

"Some of the information contained in those documents is truly horrible," said archdiocese spokeswoman Donna M Morrissey, who said she could not comment on the specific allegations. "We're committed to helping any and all survivors."

In the late 1960s, the Rev Robert V Meffan allegedly recruited girls to become nuns and then sexually abused them, according to 1993 letters from Sister Catherine E Mulkerrin to her boss, the Rev John B McCormack, who was a top aide to Law.

Rev Meffan, now 73, allegedly engaged in sexual acts with four girls in a Cape Cod rental home, one of the girls told Sr Mulkerrin, according to the 1993 memo.

"They were all young girls planning to be nuns," said attorney Roderick MacLeish Jnr, who represents 247 plaintiffs suing the archdiocese. Rev Meffan told The Boston Globe the allegations in the documents were true, and he still believed his sexual relationships with the teenage girls were "beautiful" and "spiritual," and were intended to bring them closer to God.

"What I was trying to show them is that Christ is human, and you should love him as a human being," said Rev Meffan. "I felt that by having this little bit of intimacy with them that this is what it would be like with Christ."

Rev Meffen allegedly encouraged girls to ''be brides of Christ'' and described himself as ''the second coming of Christ'' to get them to engage in sexual acts, according to the records.

The Rev Thomas P Forry allegedly built a house on Cape Cod for a woman with whom he carried on an 11-year affair, the documents showed.

The woman's son later alleged that Forry made sexual advances on him. A 1992 memo from Sr Mulkerrin to Rev McCormack, currently the bishop in Manchester, New Hampshire, outlined the history of allegations against Forry. Seven years later, Cardinal Law reassigned Forry to a job as a roaming, fill-in priest to cover for priests on holiday.

The Rev Richard A Buntel, from 1978 to 1983, allegedly had sex with boys and used cocaine with them. Sr Mulkerrin, in a memo to McCormack, said an alleged victim told her that Buntel provided him with cocaine when he was 15.

"He would snort it in the priest's room every time I went and, in a way, it seemed like an exchange for sex, which also happened every time," Sr Mulkerrin wrote.

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