THE REV. JAMES JOSEPH REILLY
Ordained: Oct. 14, 1945, Dallas-Fort Worth
Died: May 2, 1999
Assignments: Christ the King, Dallas; Sacred Heart, WichitaFalls; St. George, Fort Worth; Sacred Heart, Wichita Falls; ImmaculateConception, Denton; St. John parish and school, Ennis; St. Andrew,Laneri High School, Fort Worth; St. Augustine and Holy Spirit Seminary,Dallas; Holy Spirit Seminary; Our Lady Queen of Peace, Wichita Falls;St. Maria Goretti, Arlington; Holy Trinity Seminary
Monsignor James Reilly drifted out of life in the fog of Alzheimer'sdisease in 1999, even as painful memories kept his accusers comingforward.
As one man wrote to the diocese in 2000, "It's amazing that, even though he's dead, he still exerts some control in my life."
In court documents, 11 men have said the priest abused them whenthey were children in his Arlington parish, St. Maria Goretti CatholicChurch.
Several reported their accusations to the diocese. At least one said he was told no one else had made similar allegations.
"I felt alone and ashamed," one man wrote in a sworn statement.
Other accusers have told the Star-Telegram that they learned of other allegations only after Bishop Delaney released the names of accused priests last year.
Last week, the diocese agreed to a settlement with the men who sued.The group will receive at least $1 million, though exact financialterms weren't revealed, at the men's request.
Sidestepping the problems
Diocese files refer to several accusers but indicate that Delaneyand other church officials were protective of Reilly and wary of badpublicity.
Delaney deliberately avoided asking questions of at least oneaccuser. The released files do not show any documented effort to findother possible victims until years after the first allegationssurfaced. And the officials worried about increasing costs when dealingwith one accuser's counseling bills.
Among the first accusers was a man who wrote Delaney in July 1994 tosay he and other young men were sexually harassed and abused by Reillywhile serving as altar boys.
Reilly's accuser wrote: "I know for sure that another friend of minewas also abused during the years that we served as altar boys andEucharistic ministers."
The man, then about 30, said Reilly had abused him when he was about16, according to an Aug. 26, 1994, note written by the Rev. JosephSchumacher in the confidential files.
The reason for his letter to the bishop was simple: "... I hope thatthe correct steps are being taken to help those who were hurt to findhealing."
It wasn't the first time Delaney had heard allegations againstReilly, according to an Aug. 9, 1994, letter Delaney wrote to Reilly.
"I'm assuming that what happened was along the lines of the previouscase that involved allegations against you a couple of years ago," hewrote.
Delaney didn't ask Reilly what had happened in the new case, and he made it clear that he wasn't going to ask the accuser.
"... I truly don't want to write him for more details since he seemsto be willing to let it go by simply informing me," Delaney wrote.
The next day, Delaney wrote to the man and expressed his sorrowabout what had happened. Delaney wrote that he had previously heard "anallusion to something having happened in the past, probably similar towhat you experienced" involving Reilly.
"Yours is the first concrete report about misconduct with young people," Delaney wrote.
Delaney followed a church policy of sharing the information about anallegation with other bishops, according to the files. Delaney did sowith the bishop in Philadelphia, where Reilly was living at the time.
Reilly called Delaney on Aug. 13 and said he had never done anythingimproper, Delaney wrote in the confidential files. "I shared with himmy knowledge of accusations ... without revealing the source, and otherunconfirmed suggestions I had heard. He was shocked and denying."
Delaney also assured Reilly that he would help if the aging priest were forced to leave Philadelphia.
Delaney learned in 1997 that Reilly was angling for a church honorthrough New York Cardinal John O'Connor. Delaney wrote O'Connor andasked him to drop it.
"Because of certain events in the past which have come to light inrecent years, I fear that any publicity about Monsignor Reillyreceiving any honor or recognition could lead to adverse publicity inthis area which would cause him serious personal distress as well asharm to the local church."
Denials of 'similar incidents'
In 1998, another allegation was made against Reilly. A man in his30s told the Rev. Robert Wilson of the Fort Worth Diocese that Reillyhad fondled him when he was 11, according to the files.
Wilson told the man that Reilly was living in a rest home inPhiladelphia, was suffering from Alzheimer's and "probably would not becompetent to answer."
"I told him of the adult who had complained of a similar incidentseveral years ago ... and of the fact that JR had denied it. ..."
But he told the man that "we knew of no other similar incidents with minors."
Wilson's notes add that he had forgotten at the time about theprevious complaint involving a minor. The diocese offered the mancounseling, which he accepted.
But 15 months later, Wilson wrote to the man, pointing out that hehad been in counseling three months longer than the "normal time thatwe provide counseling for victims of sexual misconduct."
Wilson said he did not want to discontinue payment for the victim'scounseling or medication. But on Oct. 27, Wilson questioned the manabout payments, saying the diocese was being treated like an "insurancecompany."
Angered, the man wrote that he easily could have sought compensation from the diocese:
"... I didn't want anything to do with your money, I just wanted mylife back -- the one that was so horrendously taken from me by aCatholic priest, someone I looked up to and trusted. ...
"You cannot ever hope to know the extent of the disfigurement he didto my inner self. He affected every facet of my life, from interactingwith my family and friends to having relationships with a significantother."
The man said that the healing process was going slowly but that when he was healed, the diocese would know.
"Until such time, I don't expect to receive any more notes quibbling over a few dollars."
Wilson wrote back, apologizing but saying that by March 31, 2001,"we will bring our relationship to a conclusion." Wilson noted that, bythen, the diocese would have exceeded its counseling provisions forsexual abuse victims by a year.
By April 29, 2002, the man wrote to Wilson saying he wantedassurances that the diocese was doing everything it could "to bring tolight any past violations by clergy, no matter their present positionsin the church."
In response, Wilson wrote that Delaney "has always been up front indealing with accusations openly and honestly and with expedition. ..."
In May 2002, Delaney met with another man who accused Reilly ofkissing and fondling him. The man also told him of two others who saidthey had "the very same experience with" Reilly.
One of Reilly's accusers, who lives in Tarrant County, told the Star-Telegram on Tuesday that he believes the church has made changes, but only because the weakest people -- victims -- have demanded them.
Of the settlement with the diocese, the man said, "The church did the bare minimum."
"It's ridiculous," he said. "There's no accountability here."
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