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Spotlight Report

  The Rev. Daniel Twomey, accused of sexual misconduct with women, apologizes to his former St. Patrick's parishioners in the Natick Elks Hall. (Globe Staff Photo / Matthew J. Lee)

Priest tells Natick parish he's 'sinned'

By Jenn Abelson, Globe Staff Correspondent, 3/19/2003

NATICK - The Rev. Daniel Twomey stood before a swelling crowd of parishioners from St. Patrick's Church last night, but rather than preach the gospel, he declared, ''I have sinned.''

Just miles from the church where he presided for nearly a decade, Twomey apologized for causing a scandal, breaking his vow of celibacy, and betraying the trust of his congregation.

Before nearly 300 former congregants at the Natick Elks Club, Twomey made an emotional public confession that he engaged in consensual, physical relationships with adult women over a period of years, including one woman who filed a civil lawsuit last year.

''I am sorry for what I've done, and I just want to take responsibility for that,'' Twomey said. ''You are as sick as your secrets.''

The woman who filed the suit in Suffolk Superior Court said in a telephone interview last night that she was curious to hear what Twomey had to say, but could not bring herself to attend.

''I'm still very angry at him and the church,'' she said. ''It's changed my whole life. I have no way to feed myself spiritually,'' she said. ''I'm lost.''

Many of Twomey's former parishioners, who gave him a standing ovation when he arrived last night, have not seen him since he abruptly left the church without explanation in June 2001.

''It just made sense to say I'm sorry,'' Twomey told the congregants who crowded the hall. ''This is the earliest opportunity.''

For half an hour, Twomey fielded questions, some of them pointed, some about how he is handling the ordeal. At one point, Twomey asked the audience members whether they were feeling frustrated. A rousing ''yes'' pierced a quieter chorus of no's, and one woman shouted, ''You broke our trust.''

The woman, who declined to identify herself, said she had looked for strength in Twomey, and seeing him fall made her feel weak.

Twomey, who said he spends much of his time with a prayer community in New Hampshire, gave out his address in case the parishioners wanted to write to him.

Until a few weeks ago, most of the congregation had no idea why he left. Then Twomey's name appeared on a list published by the Globe of 48 priests whose names were dropped from this year's clergy directory because they were suspended from ministry for abuse allegations.

Twomey, who criticized the archdiocese for silencing him at the time of his departure, is one of two priests on the list facing allegations of sexual misconduct with adult females, not minors.

The lawsuit filed in December alleges that ''on various occasions between March 1999 and October 1999, Father Daniel Twomey engaged in sexual activities with the plaintiff within the rectory at St. Patrick's.''

In an attempt to allay concerns, the archdiocese wrote a March 7 letter to St. Patrick's Parish, saying ''Please know that Father Twomey has never had any allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor against him. The personal issue referred to at the time of his resignation as pastor referred to inappropriate sexual misconduct with adult women.''

Described by parishioners as a strong spiritual leader and a friend, Twomey asked the audience on several occasions to refrain from applauding or praising him.

''I really want us to be in touch with the pain of the victims,'' he said.

Twomey talked about the 14 months he spent at St. Luke's Institute in Maryland, where the archdiocese sent him after charges of sexual misconduct were brought against him.

He also discussed his father's alcoholism, and how that has made him understand but not excuse his actions.

Bill Gately, a former member of St. Patrick's Church and the co-coordinator of New England Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, helped Twomey organize last night's event.

Although he believes the dialogue was beneficial for the parishioners, Gately said, ''I'm concerned that for some people, in their enthusiasm to hear from Father Dan, and to have closure for themselves, that they may momentarily fail to remember the plight of the victims.''

The Rev. Brian Kiely, who replaced Twomey as the pastor in October 2001, said he has taken calls from church members in recent weeks about Twomey's sexual misconduct.

''It's very sad for everybody involved,'' said Kiely, who did not attend Twomey's event. ''We are particularly concerned with the hurt that has been inflicted upon so many people, and we're just praying the parish can move forward.''

After Twomey's apology, and before church members gathered around him, he led the group in a prayer for the archdiocese, the parish, and those who have been hurt.

Jenn Abelson can be reached at

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 3/19/2003.
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