Dolan quietly removes abusive priest; SNAP responds
For immediate release: Sunday, May 3
Trying to avoid bad publicity, NYC Cardinal Timothy Dolan has quietly suspended a priest accused of abusing a teenaged parishioner and giving him money to buy drugs.
In February, Dolan’s second-in-command (Bishop Gerald Walsh) wrote to parishioners of Pine Bush’s Church of the Infant Saviour telling them that Fr. Kevin Gallagher had been suspended. A criminal investigation is on-going.
Dolan should have told the public. He should have put notices on the archdiocesan website and in all parish bulletins. He should have personally visited the parish. He should have gone to other parishes where Fr. Gallagher worked. He should be actively begging anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered crimes by Fr. Gallagher to call police.
Instead, Dolan does the absolute bare minimum: writing one letter to the priest’s current parishioners.
Mikey Kyles says that as an addicted 19 year old, Gallagher sexually abused him in the rectory “after giving him hundreds and hundreds of dollars over a few years to buy drugs for a heroin habit,” according to The Times Herald-Record.
This is a heinous betrayal. Dolan should be outraged. Dolan should be taking decisive action. Instead, Dolan’s doing what bishops have done for decades: telling as few people as possible and doing as little to help as possible.
Our hearts go out to Mikey Kyles and his family. What terrible suffering he has endured: losing his twin brother at an early age, becoming addicted, and then being emotionally manipulated and sexually exploited by an purportedly celibate spiritual guide and now, being essentially ignored by Dolan, Walsh and other top Catholic officials who are choosing to protect their reputations and careers instead of protecting their flock from a predator.
We hope every single person who has information or suspicions about Fr. Gallagher – or any New York archdiocesan child molesting cleric (priest, nun, brother, bishop, seminarian or lay employee) – will find the courage that Mikey Kyles is showing and will call law enforcement immediately. That’s the best way to protect the vulnerable, heal the wounded and expose the truth.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Pine Bush priest removed over sex abuse allegations
Mikey Kyles’ 17-year-old twin brother, Tyler, had just been killed in a car crash – with Tyler sitting in the back seat of the 2004 Honda and Mikey in the front passenger seat.
So in August 2009, the priest who had just officiated at the mass for Tyler visited the Kyles’ bi-level home outside this northern Orange County hamlet.
Rev. Kevin Gallagher of Pine Bush’s Church of the Infant Saviour hugged Mikey Kyles and told him he would be there for the teen who did everything with his twin, from shooting baskets in the driveway to skateboarding around town.
“If you ever need anything, come and talk to me,” Kyles recalls Gallagher saying.
Mikey Kyles, now 22, claims Gallagher subsequently sexually abused him in the rectory behind the church – after giving him hundreds and hundreds of dollars over a few years to buy drugs for a heroin habit that Kyles has since kicked. He claims the abuse started when he was 19.
“He was feeding me money to get close to me; he knew what he was doing,” says Kyles in the home where Gallagher first offered his help. “He groomed me. He found a broken kid and when I needed the help the most he abused me.”
Because of that year-old allegation to the Archdiocese of New York, Gallagher, 63, has been forbidden to serve as a priest.
“Father Gallagher was removed from his position as pastor following an allegation of improper behavior that involved possible criminal activity,” said Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the archdiocese, who noted the allegation against Gallagher – the first – was shared with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office “which has been investigating the matter.”
“He will not be permitted to serve as a priest in this archdiocese or anywhere else,” said a February statement sent to the parishioners of Infant Saviour by the Auxiliary Bishop of New York, Gerald Walsh, the vicar for clergy.
The statement, sent after Gallagher moved back to Pine Bush “despite the very strong request and recommendation of the archdiocese that he not do so” specifies the archdiocese’s actions in no uncertain terms:
“Not only is he here without our approval, he also does not have the ‘faculties’ to serve as a priest - that is, he does not have an assignment, he is not permitted to publicly function as a priest and he should not present himself as a priest.”
The action against Gallagher – who is still in Pine Bush – came after friends of Kyles first reported Gallagher’s alleged behavior to the archdiocese last spring. The archdiocese in June sent Gallagher "for evaluation and therapy."
“As Father Gallagher wrote to you in November,” the statement says, “there has been an allegation brought against him of inappropriate conduct with an adult (Kyles was 19 when the alleged abuse occurred).The matter is under investigation and at least until the matter is resolved, which we hope will be soon,” Gallagher will not be allowed to serve as a priest.
Kyles and his close friends say they’ve been interviewed by archdiocese authorities, its investigator and the Orange County District Attorney’s office.
Although a spokesman for the District Attorney’s office notes that the office policy is not to comment on – or even acknowledge – an investigation, the archdiocese on Monday said that investigation is “ongoing” and it has been “cooperating fully” with it.
But because the alleged abuse started when Kyles was 19, he can’t be treated as a minor, which makes prosecution difficult.
When reached by telephone Tuesday at his Pine Bush apartment, Gallagher said, “I have no comment.”
But a close friend of Gallagher’s, who is living on the same Pine Bush property as the priest, acknowledged what he called the priest’s “improper relationship" with Kyles but denied that the priest gave him hundreds and hundreds of dollars to fuel a heroin habit.
“Every single allegation except the improper relationship he had with Michael was falsified,” said Tommy Tocco, who tried to get Kyles to sign a document saying the allegations were false. “He (Kyles) is 21-22 years old. He’s not an altar boy. This Michael is a predator.”
Tocco says Gallagher “only” gave Kyles about $20 for suboxone – an anti-heroin drug – even though he says he asked for much more. Kyles and his girlfriend, Marigrace Gordon, a drug abuse counselor, strongly dispute that.
At least one Catholic priest, the Rev. James McGuffey of Carteret, N.J., and at least one local school official are aware of the allegations of abuse.
“It is something we know is true,” says McGuffey of St. Joseph Parish. Not only is he an uncle of Kyles’ girlfriend, he also confronted Gallagher when the priest wanted Kyles to sign a statement denying the abuse.
Drug abuse begins
The story of how Mikey Kyles was allegedly abused by a priest echoes that of the victims of another Orange County priest, the late Edward Pipala. He was defrocked and sent to prison for abusing dozens of boys after he abused the faith of those boys and their families – families who trusted the priest so much, one gave him a T-shirt that read “Trust Me I’m a Father” even as the priest plied that troubled teen with beer and abused him.
It’s the story of a priest who allegedly preyed on a vulnerable, drug-addicted teenager who depended on the priest to feed his addiction – until the teen’s family helped set him free by reporting the abuse and Kyles discovered a newfound faith. It’s also a story Kyles wants heard in the hopes that other young men who may also be imprisoned by abuse have the strength to speak out.
It begins shortly after Tyler Kyles died on that rainy August night. That’s when Mikey Kyles started abusing the drug that’s become so common it’s been used by one of every 20 high school seniors in Orange County– Oxycodone, according to a report by an Orange County task force.
Mikey liked the drug so much – especially when he snorted it - he soon began spending more than $500 of his $550-a-week restaurant salary on it. But when the synthetic opiate got too expensive, he eventually did what so many opiod users do – turn to cheaper heroin, which sold for about $10 per bag compared to about $30 per pill for Oxycodone.
He says he met another heroin user in Pine Bush. Not only did they get their drug money by “boosting” from the mall – stealing goods from shops and then returning them for cash – the other user told him of another, easier way to get money – from Father Gallagher. The priest apparently gave the user all the money he wanted for heroin – “$20, $50, $70, $100, $200,” according to Kyles, who says he was soon getting the same amounts of money from Gallagher, who was also comforting and counseling Mikey over the loss of Tyler.
Not only would Kyles get that cash in the rectory behind the church, he would meet Gallagher for dinner at local diners, including the buffet behind Wal-Mart at Orange Plaza in the Town of Wallkill. Once Gallagher gave him the money – which Kyles says he often told the priest was for suboxone – Kyles would run to the bathroom where his dealer was waiting with the drugs.
“Kevin had to know it was heroin,” says Kyles, still calling him what he called him then. “He just had to.”
Kyles was soon visiting Gallagher regularly in the rectory, which he and his girlfriend Gordon say was littered with piles of dirty dishes, rodent feces and leftover McDonald’s burgers for the priest’s dog, Scrappy. Kyles and his girlfriend say that another drug user was apparently staying there – in a room that reeked of marijuana and was littered with bongs and rolling papers. They also say that every time Kyles would broach the subject of treatment for his drug problem, Gallagher would change the subject.
This is when Kyles says Gallagher started calling him “beautiful.” When they sat on a couch, the priest would stroke his head, kiss his cheek, offer him a Hennessey cognac and say, “Don’t worry, Tyler is with you.”
Kyles says he was repulsed – and scared – by the priest, but his craving for heroin overwhelmed him.
“I hated going over there,” he says. “But I loved the drug.”
He particularly hated it when the priest put his hand beneath his shirt and rubbed his chest or reached beneath his pants to stroke his leg – so much so that he started wearing long underwear on his visits to the rectory. But the craving for the drug was so strong that when Gallagher told him to think of his girlfriend to arouse himself, he did. That is when Kyles say the oral sex occurred.
Finally, Kyles told Gordon, a drug abuse counselor for Catholic Charities, what was happening. That’s when her family first contacted the archdiocese.
That was last spring.
And that’s when the sordid tale of events should have ended.
But soon after the archdiocese was contacted, Gallagher asked his friend Tocco to bring Kyles to the church. Kyles says he was told he was about to meet with the archdiocese. Instead, the priest wanted Kyles to sign a document saying the abuse never happened.
Rev. McGuffey, the uncle of Gordon who was in Pine Bush that day visiting family, was alerted to what was happening at the church. He rushed over to the parish because he thought Kyles might be in danger.
When the New Jersey priest confronted the Pine Bush priest, after Tocco drove Kyles away, he says Gallagher “went into a wild rampage,” screaming at him to get out of the church.
After the archdiocese sent Gallagher for what its spokesman Zwilling terms "evaluation and residential care,” he was removed from his duties as a priest.
Today, Mikey Kyles, who was spiritually imprisoned by drugs and sexual abuse, says he has been set free. After a short period of rehabilitation, he is free of his drug addiction – and about 50 pounds heavier than he was during that addiction. He volunteers at the Montgomery nursing home. He wears a crucifix with “St. Benedict, Protector of Evil,” written on it. And he sits in the wooden pews of the church once led by the man he says abused him and prays: “That God will speak through me.”