Placa was legal adviser for Whitinsville center
July 22, 2007
Republican presidential candidate Rudolph W. Giuliani has close ties to a Catholic priest accused of sexually molesting boys and who also was the lawyer for a now-closed Whitinsville counseling house for troubled priests that has been described as the center of a pedophile sex ring.
Monsignor Alan J. Placa, who works for Mr. Giuliani’s consulting firm, Giuliani Partners, was legal adviser in the 1980s to the House of Affirmation, where priests accused of sexual abuse were sent for psychotherapy and other counseling services. The center closed in 1987 amid a financial scandal.
Monsignor Placa, who while an active priest arranged the annulment of Mr. Giuliani’s first marriage, baptized his two children and officiated at the funeral of his mother, is a childhood friend of Mr. Giuliani and they both attended Manhattanville College.
He was stripped of his duties as a priest, but not defrocked, after Newsday, a Long Island newspaper, published a story in 2002 about young men who alleged that Monsignor Placa abused them in the 1970s. He has been on administrative leave since and has worked for Mr. Giuliani for the past five years.
Catholic activists who are fighting the church over the clergy sex abuse issue say Mr. Giuliani’s association with the monsignor raises serious questions about the former New York mayor’s candidacy.
“The White House should not be inhabited by a man whose closest friend is accused of being an abuser of young men,” said Ann Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org in Massachusetts. “Giuliani has a responsibility to account for his friendship with Alan Placa and I think he should speak with Alan Placa’s accusers and see how credible they are.
“For Giuliani to turn a blind eye to these credible allegations raises questions about his judgment,” she said.
Jeffrey Barker, a spokesman for Mr. Giuliani’s campaign, declined comment, directing questions to Giuliani Partners, Mr. Giuliani’s security consulting firm. Mr. Giuliani leads all GOP presidential contenders in Massachusetts polls.
“Rudy Giuliani believes Alan Placa has been unjustly accused,” Sunny Mindel, a spokeswoman for the company, said in a prepared statement.
Monsignor Placa did not respond to a request for an interview.
The monsignor was closely associated with several Central Massachusetts priests who were at the center of a clergy sex abuse scandal in the 1990s.
At least three lawsuits were filed by area residents who said they were assaulted as boys by priests at the Whitinsville facility. The accused priests included colleagues of Monsignor Placa, one of whom was the Rev. Thomas A. Kane, former pastor of St. Mary Church in Uxbridge.
Monsignor Placa still lives in the rectory of the Long Island church where Monsignor Brendan Riordan, a former director of the House of Affirmation who was named in a sex abuse lawsuit settled by the Worcester Diocese in the mid-1990s, is pastor. He has also owned property in New York with Monsignor Riordan and co-owned property in Florida with him and Rev. Kane.
A 1993 suit filed against Rev. Kane, the diocese and the House of Affirmation by Mark Barry of Uxbridge alleges that Rev. Kane repeatedly sexually assaulted him. The New York Times has reported that Monsignor Placa was the first lawyer Rev. Kane turned to after learning of Mr. Barry’s accusations.
That suit was settled for less than $50,000 and included a non-disclosure provision. Mr. Barry has not spoken publicly about the case since.
David Lewcon, 53, of Northbridge, who worked at the center in the 1970s as a painter and wallpaperer helping his father, a contractor, renovate the 1898 building, has accused Rev. Kane of sexually assaulting him. Mr. Lewcon settled what he described as a “six-figure” lawsuit with the Worcester Diocese in which he alleged he was sexually assaulted as a minor by the Rev. Thomas H. Teczar at St. Mary in Uxbridge.
Mr. Lewcon described the House of Affirmation as a breeding ground for sexual predators.
“It was presented as a retreat for vocational redirection,” said Mr. Lewcon, a publisher of speciality magazines. “What we have found out since, and what it has been called in the Blackstone Valley by people who really know what went on there, is that it was a pedophile boot camp.”
Monsignor Placa’s involvement with the Whitinsville facility drew additional attention after the release of a 2003 report from a Suffolk County, N.Y., grand jury that accuses him of molesting young boys and, in his role as a lawyer, helping to cover up sex abuse by other priests.
He was referred to as “Priest F” in the grand jury’s lengthy investigative report, which quotes a letter he wrote to colleagues in which he touted his track record of settling multimillion dollar clergy sex abuse claims for “sums ranging from $20,000 to $100,000.” The 180-page report was written after more than 30 priests and more than 40 victims of abuse testified.
The report notes that no indictments were issued because the alleged crimes had occurred more than five years previously and could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired.
Richard Tollner, one of Monsignor Placa’s chief accusers in the Rockville Centre, Long Island, clergy sex abuse scandal, confirmed to the Salon online magazine that he was one of the victims who gave grand jury testimony and that Monsignor Placa was Priest F.
Monsignor Placa has denied Mr. Tollner’s allegations.
Mr. Tollner and other alleged victims in New York have accused Monsignor Placa of presenting himself as a priest in interviews with them when he was really acting as the lawyer for the Rockville Centre Diocese. Monsignor Placa has denied these accusations.
“He was misusing his identity and failing to disclose to them that he was a civil lawyer,” said Daniel J. Shea, a lawyer who has represented victims of clergy sex abuse in Central Massachusetts. “The grand jury report indicated he was representing himself to victims as a priest with a Roman collar.”
With news reports on Mr. Giuliani’s relationship to Monsignor Placa, some clergy abuse victims say they think Mr. Giuliani may be forced to answer harder questions about the link to his boyhood friend and employee.
George “Skip” Shea of Uxbridge, 47, an actor and artist who also agreed to an out-of-court settlement in a sex abuse case against Rev. Teczar, worked briefly at the House of Affirmation in the 1970s as a groundskeeper.
“It was a serious, full-blown sex mentality there,” George Shea said.
“Eventually this will stick,” he said of Monsignor Placa’s links to the GOP presidential contender.
Monday, April 20, 2009
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