Sins of a Father

Priest accused of child molesting ,as well as fathering a baby girl, shielded by Bishop Thomas O'Brien

© 2002

Bishop Thomas O'Brien continues to harbor priests who molest children.

In doing so, O'Brien continues to heap anguish and injustice on the children and parents in the Phoenix Diocese who were betrayed, and forever damaged, by their parish priests.

One such parent is Doris Kennedy, who contacted me last week following my column about O'Brien's sordid history of obstruction in cases of child molestation by his priests.

Her son is one such child.

"First we were outraged at what the priest did to our son," Doris says. "Now I've spent the last 22 years outraged by what the Diocese didn't do. They just brushed it all under the carpet and let this priest continue on."

The accused priest is Father Patrick Colleary, who O'Brien has bounced from parish to parish in the Phoenix Diocese over the last two decades, apparently without ever notifying parishioners about the sexual misconduct allegations that fester in his wake.

What O'Brien has done, instead, was attack the victims.

O'Brien must now do what I asked him to do two weeks ago, something several other dioceses around the country have already done:

Turn over to authorities the record of sexual allegations for review by law enforcement and parishioners.

It is time for O'Brien to clear the skeletons he has been hiding in his closet.

Skeletons such as Father Patrick Colleary, who, after 20 years of credible complaints regarding despicable behavior, still spends his Sundays preaching the gospel from the pulpit of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale.

Colleary has already admitted to fathering a child by a woman who came to him for counseling in 1978 after the death of her sister. The woman, Sharon Roy, told me Colleary raped her. Roy only began receiving $400-a-month child support from the Diocese in 1995, after blood tests proved what she had said all along -- that Colleary was the father.

Besides alleged rape and admitted paternity, there are lingering allegations of child molestations against Colleary.

Colleary did not immediately return calls made to him Sunday afternoon.

In 1979, Colleary oversaw youth programs at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Tempe, where Doris and Jack Kennedy's 11-year-old son was an altar boy.

One evening that spring, Doris Kennedy says, Colleary came to their home in north Chandler for dinner.

After dinner, as Doris and Jack cleared the table, Colleary went down the hall to their son's bedroom.

"I didn't think anything of it at the time," Doris says.

She gives this account of the events that followed:

"All of sudden, Father Pat comes up and says he's gotta go," she says. Their son "comes out to our rotunda and he's as white as a ghost."

Their son "goes back to his room," she says. "Then my 16-year-old comes up and his eyes are as big as saucers."

The 16-year-old explained that he walked into his younger brother's room and saw his brother with his pants unzipped and Father Colleary with his hand down the boy's pants.

Doris says she went down to her 11-year-old's room. The boy was hiding beneath his covers. She asked what had happened.

"He wouldn't talk," she says.

The son, now 34, has only just begun talking about that incident, and two others, in which he was allegedly molested by Pat Colleary.

But Doris and Jack Kennedy talked. They demanded to see the bishop at the time, James Rausch. Instead, she says, they were directed to the bishop's assistant, Vicar General Thomas O'Brien.

And Thomas O'Brien, Doris says, ignored them and pressured them to remain silent.

"We wanted them to get therapy for [our son] and for Father Pat -- that was it," she says.

Instead, she says, O'Brien said that Colleary would be transferred.

Then, she says, O'Brien asked: "Have you said anything to anyone about this?"

She said she had told several people.

"You should not have done that," Doris says O'Brien replied.

"I was so angry," she says. "I jumped up and ran into the corridor and yelled back at him, 'You tell your pastor he shouldn't have molested my son!'"

The Kennedys then went to Tempe police and filed a complaint. Officers questioned Colleary, Colleary denied the incident and "that apparently was the end of it for them," Doris says. The police did not investigate further, she says. They did not press charges.

My request for that police report had not been answered by press time.

A second source, who taught religious education classes at Holy Spirit at the time, was appalled at how the Diocese handled the incident. She says that O'Brien and Holy Spirit's head pastor refused to talk to parishioners about the allegations surrounding Colleary.

"After the incident, Father Pat disappeared for a while," she says. "We kept asking what was going on. They just told us that Father Pat was up in Flagstaff for a while."

Colleary returned to Holy Spirit after a few weeks where, according to our source, he continued to run the church's youth and altar-boy programs.

"It was all very strange," she says. "All the boys in my classes said they were afraid of him, that they couldn't stand him. Considering what had happened to Doris and the strange things I was seeing, I began telling parents that they needed to keep their boys away from Father Pat."

O'Brien became bishop of the Phoenix Diocese three years later, in 1982.

According to New Times sources, Colleary was later transferred to a church in Buckeye, then to Glendale, then to Chandler, and, most recently, to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale.

Bishop O'Brien refuses to discuss this issue, or any issue, with New Times.

Doris Kennedy lost track of Father Pat's whereabouts through those years. But she did know he had been transferred somewhere in the West Valley.

"I worried about the children out there," she says.

Doris Kennedy says her son refused to talk about the incident. A month ago, though, she says her son saw O'Brien and area priests on television talking about how they did not, and would not, tolerate child molestation in their diocese.

"That was it for him," she says.

Two weeks ago, she says, "my son spent four hours at the Phoenix Chancery . . . giving them his story of abuse by Father Pat. They gave my son a list of therapists and said they would pay for him to go to one and apologized profusely for the pain he had been caused. They said they would confront Father Pat and quote: 'We will come down hard on Father Colleary.'

"They were supposed to call my son [April 23] but he hasn't heard a word. We smell the Wall of Silence being put in place, once again."

Doris' son refused to discuss the issue with me. His mother says he is worried about the pain the public disclosure would cause. He has, however, contacted an attorney regarding a possible civil suit, she says.

Although her son asked her not to talk publicly, Doris Kennedy says she feels she must. She says she is worried that there are other children, and other parents, who have suffered. She says she feels compelled to stop any further abuse.

"It's awful, it's so hard, but somebody has to talk," she says. "This whole problem goes on and on because people are afraid to talk. And that just allows the Diocese to keep covering it up. And that just allows the predators to keep abusing children."

In the case of Father Colleary, it appears the prey was anyone who was vulnerable.

Sharon Roy says she went to Colleary in 1978 for solace and counseling following the death of her sister.

After several counseling sessions at the church, Roy says, Colleary asked to meet her at her apartment.

"He charges in and says, 'You don't know how long I've been waiting for this,'" Roy says. "He raped me then and there. Then I'm sitting there crying saying we need to talk about what just happened, that I need some answers. And he just turns on the 10 o'clock news."

A few months later, Roy says she told Colleary she was pregnant. She says he told her to have the baby adopted, or get an abortion.

But she kept the girl and raised her. She asked for help paying for the child, but Colleary and the Diocese refused.

In 1994, she again went to the Diocese asking for help in supporting her child. She felt that was the least she deserved since she had been raped by one of the diocesan priests.

"They told me it couldn't be rape because I was an adult," she says. "They said that meant it was consensual. I just couldn't believe it."

Not only did Bishop O'Brien's diocese refuse to supply child support for the priest's little girl, it kept him on the payroll in the face of continued complaints of abominable sexual behavior.

Finally, in 1995, Roy filed for child support with the Department of Economic Security's Child Support Enforcement Administration in Phoenix. The Diocese quietly garnished $400 a month from Father Colleary's wages to support his daughter.

Roy says she continues to receive $400 each month from the Diocese to compensate for the child support she didn't receive from 1979 to 1994.

"It is awful dealing with them," she says. "They intimidate you to the nth degree, make you feel like you're the bad person."

Roy says that she and Colleary attended parent-counseling classes together after his paternity was confirmed. During counseling, she says, Colleary talked about the secret troubles he was having within the Diocese.

She says he told her about another allegation against him, an anonymous letter sent to the Diocese from a person who claims to have witnessed Colleary fondling a student at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glendale.

She alleges he described another incident in Tempe where he was caught by a mother in bed with the woman's two sons.

"The incident with this Kennedy family must be yet another one," she says.

Soon after the Glendale incident, Roy claims that Colleary spent a short sabbatical at St. Luke's Institute in Maryland, a Catholic psychotherapy hospital that treats priests for pedophilia and lack of sexual control, as well as other diseases.

Roy tracked his return. She says he was transferred to St. Timothy's in Chandler, home of the church's internationally known teen program, Life Teen.

In January, a Life Teen church volunteer, Mark Gherna, was charged with 15 counts of sexual conduct with a minor and one count of furnishing obscene materials to a minor.

After the stint at St. Tim's, Roy says, Colleary was moved on to Scottsdale.

All of this is news to most of Colleary's parishioners.

That's because Bishop Thomas O'Brien and his attorneys have quietly fielded all the allegations and quietly slapped Colleary on the hand each time.

It is time for Bishop O'Brien to come clean.

He must open up his personnel files so we can see how many credible accusations of child molestation have been swept under the rug. He must answer all the questions that have been asked about past abuse and the effectiveness of present programs to rid the Diocese of molesters.

Bishop O'Brien must remove Father Pat Colleary.

And for the good of Arizona, and for the good of the Roman Catholic Church, other mothers like Doris Kennedy, and other women like Sharon Roy, must find the courage to come forward with their tales of abuse.

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