Sins of a Father

© 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.

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Robert Nelson