Accused Monsignor has Whitinsville Ties
Monday, February 17, 2003
By Richard Nangle - Telegram & Gazette Staff
A Long Island grand jury's inquiry into priest abuse took on a Central
Massachusetts flavor when it linked a high-ranking church official
who bragged about negotiating low cash settlements there to do legal
work for the scandal-plagued House of Affirmation in Whitinsville.
In a report released last week, the Suffolk County Supreme Court
Special Grand Jury noted that Monsignor Alan J. Placa, who is a
civil lawyer as well, was also counsel to at least one clergy-related
treatment center, The House of Affirmation in Massachusetts. This
fact was not well known to other high-ranking priests in the diocese.
The findings make a strong case for convening a similar grand jury
in Worcester County, according to Daniel J. Shea, a Houston-based
lawyer who represents several local people who allege clergy abuse.
We never knew Placa was the counsel to the House of Affirmation,
Mr. Shea said of the former clergy treatment center.
The grand jury, which heard testimony from 97 witnesses, reported
that Monsignor Placa strove to settle potentially multimillion-dollar
sex-abuse cases inside a range of $20,000 to $100,000.
That tells me that the sum in the Mark Barry settlement agreement
of $42,500 is in Placa's range, which in truth would be worth millions
of dollars, Mr. Shea said.
The grand jury report said the Rockville Centre Diocese protected
numerous priests accused of sexual abuse by reassigning them.
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said the grand jury
could have indicted 23 priests for sexual abuse and charged the
church heirarchy with a cover-up had the proper laws been in place.
The grand jury made a list of recommendations to New York lawmakers
that included the abolition of statute-of-limitation laws in child
sex abuse cases.
The diocese has been critical of the report. Abuse victims have
Last week, Mr. Conte said the Worcester Diocese several months ago
turned over the names of priests accused of sexual abuse dating
back to 1944. He said he issued a grand jury subpoena prior to receiving
the list. Mr. Conte has resisted pressure to release both the number
of priests and their names. He has said he will release the number
after concluding his investigations.
A grand jury is hearing testimony on the priest sex-abuse scandal
in Boston, but in more than a year since the scandal re-emerged
locally, Mr. Conte has made no indication that he would set up a
similar proceeding here.
In 1995, the Catholic Diocese of Worcester agreed to pay Mr. Barry
to settle a lawsuit in which he claimed that beginning at age 9
in 1968 he was repeatedly sexually abused by House of Affirmation
co-founder the Rev. Thomas A. Kane.
Rev. Kane left the House of Affirmation, a treatment center for
priests with sex abuse and other problems, in 1986 amid allegations
of financial impropriety. The facility closed in 1989.
The Barry settlement agreement, obtained in February 2002 by the
Telegram & Gazette, named three other priests but provided no
context for the inclusion of their names. The three were: the Rev.
Thomas Teczar, the Rev. Robert Shauris and Monsignor Brendan Riordan.
Those names had never been linked to the Barry case in the past.
Disclosure of the settlement clause prompted Mr. Shea to say, I
can only conclude that there was a ring of priests who passed Mr.
Barry around. The diocese has denied that any such priest
sex ring existed and Bishop Daniel P. Reilly has said he signed
the agreement in good faith as prepared and approved by the
legal counsels representing all the parties and agreed upon by Mr.
Barry at the time.
Monsignors Riordan and Placa have longstanding ties to each
other and to the House of
Affirmation. The former was once a director at the House
of Affirmation and was a friend of Rev. Kane. Before Rev.
Kane filed for bankruptcy in the early 1990s, he transferred
property he owned in Florida to both men.
In a 1999 deposition, Rev. Kane said he was teaching English in
Mexico. The diocese continued paying Rev. Kane a stipend until last
year, when the Telegram & Gazette first reported his whereabouts
Mr. Barry has called for Worcester District Attorney John J. Conte
to prosecute Monsignor Riordan. Mr. Conte has said he does not have
a case against the monsignor.
The New York Times has quoted Monsignor Placa saying Mr. Barry
lied under oath about alleged abuse by Monsignor Riordan.
Regarding his work for the Rockville Centre Diocese, the grand
jury quoted from a letter written by Monsignor Placa that read in
part, I am able to give some of my time to helping other bishops
and religious congregations with delicate legal problems involving
the misconduct of priests. ... In the past 10 years, I have been
involved in more than two hundred such cases in various parts of
The report also accuses Monsignor Placa of making sexual advances
toward several boys. Three men who gave grand jury testimony accused
Monsignor Placa of making sexual advances toward them while they
were adolescents 25 years ago.
Monsignor Placa would go on to become the diocese's liaison to victims.
According to the report, he pursued aggressive legal strategies
designed to avoid both litigation and publicity about priest sex
Those strategies included gathering information that could be used
to call a victim's credibility into question. According to the report,
Monsignor Placa used that strategy even in cases where he knew charges
of priest rape were credible.
The report identifies Monsignor Placa as Priest F and
provides details about his career that make him identifiable, including
his work as a high school teacher and as a civil lawyer who wrote
the Rockville Centre Diocese's sexual-abuse policy.
Monsignor Placa did not testify before the grand jury. He lives
at St. Aloysius in Great Neck, where Monsignor Riordan is pastor.
He works at the office of Giuliani Partners, for childhood friend
and former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. Attempts to
reach Monsignor Placa at his home by telephone for comment were
Last April, he resigned as vice chancellor of the diocese after
being confronted with allegations of abuse. When news stories detailed
the abuse allegations, the diocese suspended Monsignor Placa pending
its own investigation.
Alleged abuse victims who dealt with Monsignor Placa often were
unaware that he was a lawyer representing the bishop and was gathering
evidence to defend the diocese.
Please do not identify me as an attorney (to complainants),
he wrote to top officials of the diocese in a confidential memo
quoted in the report. In fact, in these cases, I am functioning
in an administrative capacity. ... My legal training is very useful
in helping to gather and analyze facts, and in helping us to avoid
some obvious pitfalls, but we must avoid 'frightening' people: I
have had several people refuse to see me without having an attorney
of their own present, because they are afraid that 'the church lawyer'
will somehow do them harm.
According to the grand jury, the fears of these victims were
The grand jury described Monsignor Placa's role as leaving many
victims ignored, belittled and revictimized. In some cases,
the grand jury finds that the diocese procrastinated for the sole
purpose of making sure that the civil and criminal statutes of limitation
were no longer applicable.
The diocese covers 1.3 million Catholics in Nassau and Suffolk
counties on Long Island.
Mr. Shea said the he was particularly interested in the timing
of the real estate transaction between Rev. Kane, Monsignor Riordan
and Monsignor Placa.
He said he hopes to be taking Monsignor Placa's deposition sometime
in the coming weeks.
Richard Nangle can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org