The pedophile priest scandal in Boston, a story told in the Oscar nominated movie Spotlight, earned the Boston Globe a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for breaking the news.
But pedophile priests were commonplace decades earlier on the East End, a story that has, for the most part, gone untold. As reported last week exclusively in The Independent — this newspaper has followed the story since 2003 —the Diocese Of Rockville Centre often sent priests accused of inappropriate behavior to eastern Long Island, believing they would blend in better in the sparsely-populated communities here.
According to BishopAccountability.org, published reports, minutes from a Suffolk County Grand Jury investigation, and court documents, the diocese routinely reassigned accused or suspected pedophiles to churches on the East End dating back to the 1960s.
These priests served in East Hampton, Amagansett, Cutchogue, Mattituck, Sag Harbor, Water Mill, Riverhead, Southold, and Manorville.
Rather than turn pedophile priests over to authorities, the diocese discouraged the victims and their parents from filing charges, a world-wide practice the church followed for decades.
According to the grand jury report filed in 2003, “Bishop William Murphy aided and abetted the concealment of criminal conduct of defendant individual priests by failing and refusing to report sexual abuse allegations by said priests to civil authorities, which caused, allowed, and permitted additional children to be molested by predatory priests.”
Boston to Long Island
In Boston, Murphy was the principal assistant to Bernard Cardinal Law, responsible for clergy. Law was a key figure in the Boston Globe investigation that led the Spotlight movie. Law covered up dozens of sexual abuse acts committed by Catholic priests within his archdiocese. One priest, John Geoghan, reportedly raped or molested 130 children while Law and Murphy hid the crimes from authorities.
Father Peter Allen served at Most Holy Trinity in East Hampton and Amagansett from September 1979 until June 2007. He later served at Sacred Heart in Cutchogue and Our Lady of Good Counsel in Mattituck until 2006.
He was “placed on administrative leave due to a `credible allegation’ of sexual misconduct” in December 2006, according to published reports. The diocese reported the matter to the county. Suffolk DA office spokesman Robert Clifford confirmed at the time that Allen was the subject of a sexual misconduct probe involving one alleged victim.
Father James Bergin, before he was pastor at St. John’s in Riverhead for seven years, served at Most Holy Trinity in East Hampton for five years, until 1992.
The Suffolk County Grand Jury’s description of “Priest E” matches a public allegation against Bergin and he was identified by name in Newsday. Bergin is believed to have molested a number of victims.
In one case reported by the grand jury, the victim was 11 when the abuse started. Years later he died of a drug overdose after receiving a $25,000 settlement from the diocese. This account echoes the events surrounding the death of Raymond Trypuc Jr., who was allegedly abused by the Rev. Bergin, and died in 1992. Raymond Trypuc Sr., testified Priest E was indeed Bergin, who also died in 1992.
Rev Angelo Ditta was a priest at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Mattituck in 2002. According to the grand jury, “He began abusing a boy when the boy was 10.” An associate pastor testified that he heard “horsing around” in the priest’s bedroom and believed it was sexual in nature. The pastor told the jury he “never made an official report to anyone in the diocese” about the priest.
Two weeks after Bishop Murphy said there were no “credible” allegations of sexual abuse against any active priest on Long Island, the diocese quietly removed Rev. Ditta from active duty based on a complaint.
“The diocese required the priest to receive psychological counseling, and it later assigned him as chaplain to an ‘area’ hospital, allowing him to celebrate Mass at a parish on weekends,” according to the grand jury minutes.
It was later discovered in civil court the allegations that a victim and his therapist made to a top diocesan official were five years old and kept under wraps by the diocese. Then-Suffolk District Attorney Tom Spota said the charge “might have been prosecutable had the diocese reported them” in a timely manner.
Spota added, “This diocese seems to think they will decide what is a crime and who is a criminal, and that is just not their function.”
New York State is one of the few states that places a limit on how long a sexual abuse victim has to file charges. Bills to scale back the statute of limitations have repeatedly stalled in Albany, including one this year.
As reported last week in a follow up story, in 2003 The Independent uncovered two shocking discoveries which, up to that point, had gone unreported in local news outlets. The diocese assigned two accused pedophiles to run St. Andrew’s Parish in Sag Harbor —Rev. Alfred Soave and Rev. William Burke. Soave was described in court papers as “one of the worst” serial pedophiles in the diocese when he served as a pastor and priest in the 1960s in other parishes. “A number of boys” accused him of sexually molesting them, according to court papers.