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Spotlight Report

The life of a violent South Shore priest is detailed

By Michael Rezendes, Globe Staff, 12/4/2002

Rev. Thomas P. Forry

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Of the scores of priests accused of sexual misconduct in the Boston Archdiocese, none was as violent or as defiant as the Rev. Thomas P. Forry allegedly was.

In more than three decades as a South Shore priest, Forry allegedly issued beatings, chewed out parishioners, and beat back attempts by Cardinal Bernard F. Law and others who tried to mete out discipline or persuade him to accept psychiatric care.

In 1979, after Forry beat up his housekeeper for the second time, he attempted to ensure her silence by threatening ''to come back some night from his home in South Boston, assault her again, and then get people in South Boston to say he never left South Boston,'' according to the church's 486-page file on Forry.

And in 1985, a man accused the priest of having a long-term affair with his former wife, and physically assaulting and sexually molesting their son. Forry's accuser said the priest told him that unless he kept the matter to himself, Forry would have his friends kill him. The man backed away from reporting Forry.

Forry's success in escaping discipline and evading treatment began after his housekeeper was examined by a doctor, who found she had suffered ''a contusion over the right eye, abrasion at the corner of her lip'' and a scalp injury ''due to having had a large amount of hair forcefully pulled out by the roots.''

Bishop Thomas V. Daily, a top assistant to then-Cardinal Humberto S. Medeiros, recommended that Forry be transferred to another parish. But Forry remained at St. Francis Xavier Cabrini Church in North Scituate for another three years, apparently without sanction.

In 1984, after Forry admitted to a decade-long secret life with a woman and her young son in a Cape Cod home owned by his aunt, Forry defied clinicians at a St. Louis clinic, who recommended immediate hospitalization and long-term psychiatric care.

Even after a face-to-face meeting with Law, arranged by officials who urged him to send Forry back to St. Louis, the priest was allowed to return to his South Weymouth parish with only a few months of out-patient psychotherapy.

Then in 1988, Law approved Forry for full-time duty as a military chaplain in correspondence that made no mention of his myriad problems.

For the next four years, Forry served as a chaplain with the Army's 82d Airborne Division, and he served with US forces during the Gulf War. But just after Forry informed Law in 1992 that he was coming home and eager for a church assignment, the son of the woman who had lived with Forry contacted the archdiocese to say the priest had molested him and had badly beaten him twice.

It had been eight years since Law and other church officials learned of Forry's secret life, when the woman wrote a pleading letter to say that Forry had ended the affair, leaving her destitute.

''I asked Tom for help but he refused,'' the woman wrote in 1984, explaining that Forry had agreed to provide for her after they began their affair, when she was still in her teens, and was divorced by her husband.

In 1992, when the chancery again heard from the woman, she was dying of AIDS and seeking redress for what she said Forry had done to her. Soon, the woman's former husband also contacted church officials. He expressed concern about possible reprisals by Forry, but also provided more details about his former wife's long-term affair with the priest.

Forry was suspended and, in December 1993, he signed a three-way agreement to secretly settle the son's claims of abuse with $20,000 from the archdiocese and $10,000 of his own funds. Yet in 1995, the archdiocesan review board, created by Law in 1993 to assess clergy abuse complaints, lifted all restrictions on Forry's ministry, and by end of the decade, he had been approved for full-time prison ministry.

Then, in 1999, the archdiocese was notified of a complaint by other prison chaplains about Forry losing his temper. There was a separate complaint about ''a very ugly incident,'' in which Forry ''shoved a piece of food'' into a nun's mouth at a lunch. Forry abruptly quit the chaplaincy, but with no apparent sanction. Law moved Forry to the ranks of clergy who fill in on weekends for ill or vacationing priests.

But late last year, as Forry said Mass at a Quincy church, a parishioner recognized him as the priest who allegedly molested him and his sister years earlier. ''The boy was inappropriately touched and after much turmoil reported the incident to his parents,'' the church deacon wrote to chancery officials in October 2001.

''The boy's sister was allegedly molested (penetrated) many times over a long period of time.''

It was another four months - after the clergy abuse scandal erupted - before the archdiocese removed Forry from ministry.

Michael Rezendes can be reached at

This story ran on page A28 of the Boston Globe on 12/4/2002.
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