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Spotlight Report

Cambridge priest is facing child rape charges

By Ralph Ranalli and Neil Swidey, Globe Staff, 8/9/2002

A longtime Cambridge priest paid a 15-year-old South Boston boy $80 to $100 on numerous occasions in exchange for sex in the rectory of Blessed Sacrament Church, knowing the boy would use the money to buy drugs, the Middlesex district attorney's office charged yesterday.

The Rev. Paul W. Hurley, who was assigned to the church for more than a decade but has been on leave from active ministry since last year, was indicted on two counts of child rape for conduct that allegedly occurred in 1987 and 1988, said Martha Coakley, Middlesex district attorney.

Hurley, who was ordained in 1970, is the fifth priest in Massachusetts in the past three years to be indicted on charges of sexually assaulting children, but his case is the first to involve allegations that cash was exchanged for sex.

''The victim believes the money was related to how well he performed on that particular occasion,'' Coakley said at a news conference yesterday. ''The money was used to obtain substances, and the victim believes that Father Hurley knew that.''

Interviewed yesterday in the living room of the cedar-shingled house in Sandwich where he lives, the 59-year-old Hurley denied the charges, suggesting that he was the victim of public resentment surrounding the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic church.

''I'm going to be pleading not guilty, naturally,'' he said, after gesturing for a reporter to come inside his house, out of earshot of his next-door neighbor watching her children play outside. ''Seems like everybody's being charged lately. It seems like you're only a charge away.''

Coakley, however, painted a picture yesterday of an illicit, multiyear relationship between a trusted priest and a troubled, drug-abusing boy who would ride the MBTA Red Line from his native South Boston to Central Square, then either wait for Hurley's car or walk the tree-lined streets of Cambridgeport to the gray and white two-story rectory of Blessed Sacrament.

The two performed sex acts on each other, exchanged money, then parted, Coakley said.

Coakley did not identify the boy, except to say that he is now 29, lives out of state, and still has family in the Boston area. Hurley said the man is a prison inmate, a fact confirmed by law enforcement sources yesterday.

Hurley's lawyer, James Coviello of Revere, said the priest's accuser is ''in federal custody serving a seven-year sentence for armed robbery, and it's not the first felony he's been convicted of.''

Coakley would only say that the man is ''working out some issues.'' She said he revealed his allegations against Hurley a year ago to authorities in another state, who relayed them to Cambridge police.

Coakley said the allegations occurred well in advance of widespread media coverage of the national priests sexual abuse scandal.

Coviello asked why it took the man so long to come forward with the allegations. ''I view them with suspicion; there's only one kid making a claim about this,'' he said of the allegations. ''That's inconsistent with what we know about people guilty of a charge like this.''

District attorneys in six Massachusetts counties are investigating at least 100 allegations against priests turned over by church officials earlier this year, although prosecutors say they have found that the majority of cases cannot be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has passed.

Coakley said that Hurley, who was ordained as a priest in 1970, first met the boy when he was serving as a priest at Saints Peter and Paul Church in South Boston, when the boy was 12.

Neither Coakley nor Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley's office would comment yesterday on whether Suffolk County prosecutors are also investigating the case.

Hurley was friendly with the boy's family and sometimes picked him up from his family's house, Coakley said, even after Hurley was transferred to Blessed Sacrament in late 1987.

The indictment alleges that Hurley raped the boy on ''diverse'' occasions in 1987 and 1988; Coakley described their alleged encounters as occurring at least monthy, and often more frequently.

Coakley said that Hurley was not arrested and that she does not believe he poses an immediate danger to the public. He is due to appear in court to face the charges on Aug. 18.

Hurley said yesterday that he had yet to be informed of the charges, but that they were not a surprise.

''I didn't know. I was out,'' said Hurley. ''I knew it was a possibility, though.''

Hurley said he was out on medical leave, the aftermath of a fall from a ladder a year ago and his failure to promptly seek medical treatment.

The archdiocese, which was notified of the allegations against Hurley last year, said it was ''continuing to cooperate with civil authorities in their investigation.

''...Father Hurley is on administrative leave and does not hold any assignment in the Archdiocese of Boston and is restricted from practicing any public ministry,'' church spokeswoman Donna Morrissey said in a statement released yesterday. ''The Archdiocese of Boston continues to extend prayers and support to all those who have suffered the effects of sexual abuse.''

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 8/9/2002.
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