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Massachusetts Priest Fathered Two Children, Documents Say

By Pamela Ferdinand

special to the washington post -- boston

A Massachusetts priest now serving as an associate pastor fathered at least two children with a married woman and apparently failed to call for help immediately when she collapsed from an overdose in his presence in the late 1960s, according to Boston Archdiocese documents released Thursday by attorneys for alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Handwritten notes from the personnel file of Rev. James D. Foley suggest the priest got dressed and left the woman’s house, but returned later to call 911. The woman died, according to the records of a 1993 meeting between Foley and top church officials, including Cardinal Bernard Law.

But the brief and cryptic notes -- “Started to faint. He clothed. Left came back. Called 911. She died. A sister knows” -- do not indicate the timing or circumstances of her overdose and death, the extent of Foley’s involvement or exactly when the incident occurred.

Roderick MacLeish Jr., an attorney for dozens of alleged abuse victims, said he had contacted the Massachusetts attorney general about the case, which church officials apparently did not report to law enforcement authorities. Neither Foley nor archdiocese officials could be reached to comment.

The revelations came during a dramatic week in the archdiocese at the epicenter of the Roman Catholic church scandal, deepening public outrage and intensifying calls for Law’s resignation as the church seeks to resolve hundreds of lawsuits at a potential cost of more than $100 million.

They also expand the range of alleged offenses committed by Boston clergy beyond the sexual abuse of minors and extend a pattern of church officials protecting troubled priests.

On Tuesday, MacLeish’s firm released more than 2,000 pages of documents containing files on eight priests and evidence of some of the most egregious behavior by Boston clergy disclosed to date -- including a priest who beat his housekeeper.