As most bishops nationwide begin digging themselves out from the avalanche of priest sex scandals, Bishop Thomas O'Brien seems intent on digging himself deeper.
O'Brien's latest outrage of many stems from a column I wrote three weeks ago about two women's accusations of sexual misconduct by Father Patrick Colleary, an associate pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale.
After the column appeared, Colleary admitted to one of the allegations, that he fathered a child in the late 1970s, and denied the other, that he molested an 11-year-old boy around the same time. And Bishop O'Brien backed him up. Colleary remains a priest at the church.
Last week, the Arizona Republic received a copy of a 1999 letter in which one of Colleary's therapists from St. Luke's Institute in Maryland recommended to the Diocese that: "Given the number and nature of complaints over the years [against Colleary], it is reasonable to anticipate that history will be repeated in some way."
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The letter was a bombshell.
The St Luke's warning substantiates the charges first aired here that not only did Father Colleary father a child, but that the priest was also charged with other sexually aberrant behavior.
The St Luke's letter also proved the bishop was lying when, following the two initial allegations in this column, he and diocesan officials gave assurances to parishioners at Our Lady of Perpetual Help that there was never any indication that Colleary was a threat to women and children.
Keep your eye on the St. Luke's line: "Given the number and nature of complaints."
In my initial column, I wrote about Sharon Roy, with whom Colleary fathered a child in 1978, and Doris Kennedy, who says her 11-year-old son was molested by Colleary in 1979.
In the column, Roy stated that Colleary had told her about other allegations against him. One case, she says, involved accusations of child molestation from a mother in Tempe.
Did Diocese officials contact Roy after the column appeared to investigate what she knew about Colleary? Did they ask about this other case in Tempe?
"Are you kidding?" Roy said to me last Friday.
The only call Roy received following her disclosures was from an anonymous man who told her "you better watch your back."
Doris Kennedy of Chandler told the story of her 15-year-old son walking in on Colleary as he was molesting her 11-year-old son, and how she was stonewalled by O'Brien when she went to report the molestation. She said her son, now in his mid-30s, has just begun remembering other incidences in which Colleary allegedly fondled him in the sacristy of Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Tempe.
Colleary now says he passed a polygraph test regarding the alleged molestation in the Kennedy home. But, conveniently, Colleary says he has no proof the polygraph was ever taken.
Take just a second here.
You're a priest accused of pedophilia. You claim a lie-detector test proved you innocent. And you didn't keep the paperwork that cleared you?
Colleary admits there was an investigation. The investigation found no wrongdoing, he says.
Doris Kennedy scoffs at calling the police or Diocese response to her accusations an "investigation."
Nobody in her family was interviewed by police or Diocese officials, she says.
This is remarkable.
A mother goes to the bishop and goes to the police charging a priest with molesting her son. An alleged investigation clears the priest without anyone interviewing the victim or the eyewitness. And the priest does not have the polygraph he says he passed.
Nor can I find a way to confirm that any investigation, even a shoddy one, took place. Police in Tempe, the location of the church, and police in Chandler, where the Kennedys live, have no record of the investigation or polygraph test.
It may have been purged, they say.
Or, as they say in Latin America, maybe it long ago was disappeared.
Of course, the Diocese won't release anything it has.
And the Diocese certainly didn't look for more.
Doris Kennedy says the Diocese never contacted her for more information after this column revealed the appalling charges against Father Colleary. Nor did the bishop contact Kennedy or Roy when the therapists at St. Luke's warned the Diocese that there were multiple complaints. Nor did the bishop contact Kennedy or Roy once Roy pointed out that Father Colleary himself had told her of multiple allegations.
"They don't want to hear any more than what they've already heard," says Kennedy, who never has been contacted by diocesan officials.
However, since their stories broke, Doris Kennedy and Sharon Roy have been contacted by Kathleen McCabe Lecheler, who says she was seduced by Colleary in the mid-1970s when she was 17 after she went to him seeking counseling for a "problem of a sexual nature."
Lecheler told Roy she also remembers Colleary talking about other sexual misdeeds. In one case, Lecheler told Roy, Colleary told her that he had lent his car to a girl he had impregnated so she could drive to get an abortion. Lecheler told Kennedy she remembers that Colleary said he had another girlfriend in Casa Grande.
Lecheler also told Roy that, sometime in the late 1970s, Colleary mentioned that he was going to have to take a lie-detector test regarding accusations of child molestation. Not to worry, he allegedly told her, "there are ways of getting around that."
Colleary's attorney refused to discuss Lecheler's allegations last week.
As of late last week, Roy says, Lecheler also had not been contacted by the Diocese seeking more information. Lecheler hadn't returned my calls by press time.
In fact, the Diocese's only response of any scope was a threat to the media about publishing information from the 1999 St. Luke's letters.
"The questions being presented to the diocese are the result of egregious violations of Father Colleary's privacy rights by certain media outlets," read a two-page response fax to local media outlets.
Of course, there has been no such diocesan huffiness about Father Colleary's swelling list of "egregious violations" of the sacred priest/parishioner relationship.
The faxed threat, by the way, was about as long as the two-page request I made to O'Brien three weeks ago asking him to please quantify the success of the Diocese's sexual misconduct policy. I received a smug little note back saying the Diocese has a 10-year-old policy of not talking to New Times. The policy dates back to when this paper exposed the first wave of molesting Phoenix priests and O'Brien cover-ups in 1989.
Sources tell me church attorneys threatened to sue the Republic for invasion of privacy.
I've been waiting anxiously for a similar call from Bishop O'Brien. Maybe I could finally get him to answer a question or two between threats.
Two weeks ago, I learned from sources within the Maricopa County Attorney's Office that O'Brien's attorneys also threatened to sue them because of a quote I published from an attorney there who called O'Brien an "obstructionist."
You see the pattern here. Somebody tells the truth. The bishop tells the person to shut up or they'll be sued.
Now, though, it appears O'Brien and Colleary will be the ones facing lawyers.
County Attorney Rick Romley, to his credit, announced last Thursday that he will begin a "preliminary inquiry" to determine if the Diocese of Phoenix has properly disclosed incidences of sexual misconduct by priests.
The Kennedys are scheduled to meet with deputy county attorneys this week.
I'm going to make some predictions here:
Father Patrick Colleary will face criminal charges based on the testimony of Doris Kennedy's son regarding incidences in the sacristy in Holy Spirit church.
Lawsuits will follow regarding Colleary as well as several other priests.
Attorneys in these cases will demand, and receive, the Diocese's secret files on priest sexual misconduct that the Diocese must maintain under canonical law.
The files will be damning. Why else would O'Brien act so despicably in hiding them?
As in other dioceses, parishioners will be forced to pay out millions more in the lawsuits because of the obstructionist behavior of their bishop. In the end, O'Brien's disgusting behavior now and in the past will end up draining millions from Catholic services that help so many people in the Valley.
If Bishop O'Brien's attorneys were as savvy as they are amoral, they'd know it's critical that their boss immediately stops playing these games.
O'Brien must immediately turn over everything the Diocese knows about Patrick Colleary's litany of sexual misconduct. And O'Brien must immediately release for review by the county attorney all of the Diocese's sexual misconduct files.
If he refuses, O'Brien should face the prospect of sharing a room with Father Colleary at Madison Street Jail.
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