Bishops were warned of abusive priests

Photo by Kristine

National Catholic Reporter has an important story adding a new, sad chapter to the chronicles of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
As early as the mid-1950s, decades before the clergy sexual-abuse crisis broke publicly across the U.S. Catholic landscape, the founder of a religious order that dealt regularly with priest sex abusers was so convinced of their inability to change that he searched for an island to purchase with the intent of using it as a place to isolate such offenders, according to documents recently obtained by NCR.

Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, founder of the Servants of the Paracletes, an order established in 1947 to deal with problem priests, wrote regularly to bishops in the United States and to Vatican officials, including the pope, of his opinion that many sexual abusers in the priesthood should be laicized immediately.

Fitzgerald was a prolific correspondent who wrote regularly of his frustration with and disdain for priests "who have seduced or attempted to seduce little boys or girls." His views are contained in letters and other correspondence that had previously been under court seal and were made available to NCR by a California law firm in February.

Fitzgerald's convictions appear to significantly contradict the claims of contemporary bishops that the hierarchy was unaware until recent years of the danger in shuffling priests from one parish to another and in concealing the priests' problems from those they served.

It is clear, too, in letters between Fitzgerald and a range of bishops, among bishops themselves, and between Fitzgerald and the Vatican, that the hierarchy was aware of the problem and its implications well before the problem surfaced as a national story in the mid-1980s.
(read the complete report)



  1. I'm glad this information has come to light, but is anyone really surprised?

    Good for Father Fitzgerald. It's good priests like him (and you) who keep me from throwing myself into full blown schadenfreude.

  2. I read this yesterday.

    Tragic, truly tragic. It also takes the argument that blames the pill and more openness about homosexuality out of the discussion.

    Not that I think that they were so germane to the conversation, particularly the latter.

  3. I read the report. I do not know whether to thank you or wish you would not inform us, but ignorance is never helpful. What I do not know is what to do with the anger and betrayal that surfaces when I read these things. I get so much from my parish and parish life, but I cannot get over not trusting the higher uppers in the Catholic church and I do not know how I can support the emotionally or financially when I read about what they have done. I am also still not pleased with what they are currently doing.


  4. CP thank you for having the courage to post this article. It is a sad reminder that this story has a long way to go.

    Anyone that has been following this story for the past 7 years is not surprised by this.

    For more information from Fr. Tom Doyle, a recognized expert witness involved in the sexual abuse saga for over 18 years and 500 cases in the US and around the world, PLEASE GO TO:

    Especially look at the section on Secrecy & Concealment and the section on the History of the RCC Related to Sexual Abuse and Misconduct.

    The thing that is most surprising is that most Catholics have not spoken out in outrage at what their church has done, and continues to do, in the many ongoing cases of sexual abuse of our children.

  5. Why am I not surprised?????

  6. Hi, Father,

    A saintly late great-aunt of mine, one of the first Catholic women to graduate from Radcliffe, was a good friend of Fr. Fitzgerald. His deep concern about pedophiles and ebophiles in the priesthood was discussed with her as far back as the 1930s. He was horrified at the inaction of bishops and feared greatly for the future of a Church that would harbor such perverts.

    It seems that the devil was especially busy in the Archdiocese of Boston (I grew up on the South Shore, Catholic-educated all the way, from first grade through B.C.) In my Weymouth parish alone, there were two later-defrocked perpetrators at the same time. Troubling, indeed.

    Thank you for being a good priest, and for publishing this information.


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