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BOSTON -- For more than 40 years, Catholic Church officials here overlooked abuse ranging from the molestation of girls studying to become nuns to drug use by priests with parish youth to homosexual rape, according to thousands of pages of confidential archdiocese documents made public Tuesday.
The records show that as recently as last year, bishops and archbishops in Boston consistently ignored parishioners' complaints while protecting priests and striving to minimize financial damage.
"This material is qualitatively different than anything we have seen until now," said David Clohessy, national chair of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
"It debunks a whole range of excuses that church officials have used: that the allegations were all ancient, that the abuse only concerned boys and that it involved just a handful of priests," said Clohessy, who flew in from St. Louis to review the documents. "What we see is that this is clearly a deep and systemic problem."
Archdiocese spokeswoman Donna Morrissey said she could not comment on the specific allegations contained in the personnel files. But she said: "Some of the information contained in those documents is truly horrible. We're committed to helping any and all survivors."
The revelations were mandated by court order as part of a series of lawsuits brought by sexual abuse victims and their families.
In making public about 2,000 pages Tuesday, plaintiffs' lawyer Robert Sherman said reams of additional documents would be released in coming weeks.
The files included those for the Rev. Robert Meffan, who allegedly recruited girls in the late 1960s to become nuns and then sexually abused them while assigned in Weymouth, Mass., according to 1993 letters from Sister Catherine Mulkerrin to her boss, the Rev. John McCormack, who was a top aide to Cardinal Bernard Law and is currently the bishop in Manchester, N.H.
Meffan allegedly would tell the girls to perform sexual acts as a way of progressing with their religious studies. He also participated in sexual acts with four girls at the same time in a Cape Cod rental, one of the girls told Mulkerrin, according to a 1993 memo.
The Rev. Thomas Forry, who served in Scituate and Kingston, allegedly built a house on Cape Cod for a woman with whom he carried on an 11-year affair, the files show. The woman had gone to him seeking advice because of problems in her marriage. The woman's son later alleged that Forry made sexual advances on him.
A 1992 memo from Mulkerrin to McCormack outlined the history of allegations against Forry. Seven years later, Law reassigned Forry from being a prison chaplain at a state prison in Concord to being a fill-in priest to cover vacations by priests in the archdiocese. He's currently unassigned.
The Rev. Richard Buntel, who served at St. Joseph's from 1978 to 1983, allegedly used cocaine with boys while serving in Malden. Mulkerrin, in one memo to McCormack, said an alleged victim told her that Buntel provided cocaine to the boy when he was 15.
As of this year, Buntel was employed in a nonministerial position as a business manager at St. Thomas of Villanova parish in Wilmington. Messages left at the parish were not immediately returned.
-- Information from the Los Angeles Times and Associated Press was used in this report.