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Spotlight Report

Police warned archdiocese about priest's activities

By Thomas Farragher, Globe Staff, 2/5/2003

Nine years before a Hanover priest was removed from ministry for sexual misconduct with minors, State Police privately warned the Archdiocese of Boston that its officers had spotted the priest at Cape Cod rest areas where, the priest later admitted, he was having sex with strangers.

After it received back-channel warnings from police about the Rev. Arthur P. O'Leary, church officials warned O'Leary in 1985 that he was under surveillance. He promised to stay away from the rest stops, church records made public yesterday show.

But within months he returned, according to the records. ''Arrest will be made if we don't do something,'' said a church memo.

O'Leary's case is at least the fourth in which once-secret archdiocesan files show law enforcement authorities deferring to the church over matters of clergy sexual misconduct.

The Rev. Edward T. Kelley was allowed to continue in ministry after Nahant police found him in a state of undress with a 19-year-old man in his car in 1977. Instead of arresting Kelly, police called Bishop Thomas V. Daily, a chancery official.

The Rev. George J. Rosenkranz was arrested in 1981 for lewd conduct in a public restroom at a Sears department store. Rosenkranz contacted a friendly judge and soon the charge was dropped. And in 1985 and 1986, the archdiocese used its influence to arrange a favorable and private court disposition when the Rev. Benjamin McMahon was arrested on Cape Cod for performing a sex act with a man.

In O'Leary's case, there were at least three apparent warnings that the police were poised to arrest him.

The priest, now 71 and retired on the Cape, denied sexual activity when church officials first questioned him about the allegations. But later he told therapists that he had engaged in anonymous sex for at least two years there, according to the files.

O'Leary could not be reached for comment.

He was transferred from St. Catherine Church in Marshfield to St. Mary of the Sacred Heart Church in Hanover in 1991. In 1994, he was placed on administrative leave after the father of two boys in Hanover complained that O'Leary had touched his sons inappropriately.

A spokeswoman for the State Police said yesterday that she was not immediately able to confirm police knowledge of O'Leary's conduct in the mid-1980s.

Thomas Farragher can be reached at

This story ran on page B4 of the Boston Globe on 2/5/2003.
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