Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sins of the Father - Part 1

The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas issued a press release on February 14, 2008:

"Vicar General Michael F. Olson Wednesday announced diocesan officials have learned that Father Philip Magaldi is HIV positive, and they have alerted persons who have lodged sexual misconduct allegations against Magaldi that Magaldi is HIV positive. In addition, the diocese has notified parishes where Magaldi served of Magaldi’s health status."

Magaldi, 71, lives in a residential nursing care center and is said to have had a series of strokes that left him legally blind. He also suffers from dementia according to his caregiver. He was ordained for the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island in 1960 where he served until 1990 when he transferred to Texas.

Magaldi was removed from active priesthood in 1999 after sexual misconduct allegations emerged in Rhode Island and Fort Worth. He was formally removed from ministry in August, 2006. The Fort Worth diocese has begun the process of laicization by which a priest is returned to the status of layman. Based on private interviews, diocese officials believe Magaldi has been HIV positive since at least 2003.

Magaldi has consistently denied allegations of sexual misconduct. Nevertheless, his alleged transgressions have been documented throughout two decades both publicly and behind closed doors.

The Road to Perdition

"Priest indicted on charge of lying in affidavit that backed vonBulow"
Providence Journal; June 13, 1985; pg. A-13

"5,000 tell Violet in petition that Father Magaldi is 'sincere'"
Providence Journal; June 19, 1985; pg. A-13

"Father Magaldi pleads innocent to perjury, obstruction of justice
Pastor involved in vonBulow case is released for hearing"
Providence Journal; June 20, 1985; pg. A-08

Alan Dershowitz authored the book,
Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case, (1986)

"State drops all charges against Father Magaldi"
Providence Journal; June 19, 1987; pg. A-01

"Pastor resigns after probe shows accounting errors
Bishop makes unusual disclosure from the pulpit of St. Anthony's"
Providence Journal; May 30, 1988; pg. A-03

Magaldi has been on leave since the week before Easter, when he announced he was going to San Antonio to attend an intensive program to learn Spanish.

"Diocesan Report: Church building fund 'intermingled' Says former pastor of St. Anthony's in N. Providence mixed cash with other funds"
Providence Journal; June 15, 1988; pg. A-03

"Ex-pastor Magaldi gets post in Newport"
Providence Journal; October 20, 1989; pg. A-03

Parishioners learned in a financial report several weeks after Father Magaldi resigned that money from a parish building account, to which they had donated $79,000 since 1980, had been mingled with other parish accounts to pay for operating expenses and church renovations.

"Priest indicted in theft of funds from parish"
Providence Journal; November 9, 1990; pg. A-01

In August 1989, Father Magaldi returned to Rhode Island and volunteered to help at St. Augustin's Church in Newport, where the pastor was recovering from a heart attack. By January 1990, Father Magaldi had left and was assistant pastor at St. Mary's Church in Henrietta, Texas.

"Parish is relieved by indictment"
Providence Journal; November 9, 1990; pg. B-01

"Priest pleads innocent to stealing from parish"
Providence Journal; November 29, 1990; pg. B-07

"Former pastor goes on trial next week
Judge rejects motion to drop one charge against Magaldi"
Providence Journal; February 25, 1992; pg. E-01

"Priest pleads guilty in theft Stole $123,400 from parish"
Providence Journal; February 29, 1992; pg. A-01

Superior Court Judge Thomas H. Needham said he will abide by the terms of a plea bargain that Father Magaldi worked out with the attorney general's office, and will not sentence Father Magaldi to a term of more than two years in prison.

Father Magaldi, 55, appeared in court dressed in a black suit and white Roman collar. He pleaded guilty to four felony charges: embezzlement of church funds, soliciting a parish worker to commit a crime, issuing five checks with intent to defraud church funds, and filing false financial reports for three years with intent to mislead the parish.

"The Catholic Church's second greatest scandal"
Michael W. Ryan;; September 19, 2004

The same grand jury indicted an employee of Magaldi’s parish on a charge of embezzling $58,000 from the parish. That employee had control during 1987 and 1988 over moneybags containing donations collected during Sunday Masses. During that period, bank records showed the church collection was unusually low while the employee deposited unusually large amounts of cash into his personal bank accounts. The employee pleaded no contest to reduced charges as part of a plea bargain that assured his testimony against Magaldi.

"They love their priest in Texas
Father Magaldi still has his supporters despite embezzlement"
Providence Journal; March 14, 1992; pg. A-11

Bishop Delaney: the priest may have been "reckless and very careless" in the way he managed the funds of his Rhode Island church, and that he probably "unknowingly violated the law," he does not think Father Magaldi "personally profited" from his activities. The prelate said he hoped Providence Bishop Louis E. Gelineau, who is still Father Magaldi's superior, will allow him to return to his duties in Texas. In the meantime, Bishop [Robert Delaney] is giving the priest two months of rest to "recuperate" from his "recent ordeal".

"Priest wants parish to help keep him free of jail term"
Providence Journal; April 6, 1992; pg. A-01

At a news conference the day Father Magaldi entered the guilty pleas, prosecutors said they had been prepared to show that he had stolen at least $123,400 from weekly church collections, bingo games and a parish activity fund and used it to buy thousands of dollars in lottery tickets and to support a lavish lifestyle that included trips, with several young male friends, to luxury resorts and hotels.

Some have noted that after Father Magaldi's departure it took the parish only two years to raise the money to build a new parish center. Before he left, the parish had been trying to raise the money for 10 years but the building fund never seemed to grow.

"Fr. Magaldi gets 2 years for stealing"
Providence Journal; May 6, 1992; pg. A-01

"I'm ready to accept whatever sentence" the court imposes, Father Magaldi, his usual strong voice cracking, told Needham before the judge pronounced sentence. "I only ask in God's name not to send me to jail but allow me to atone in some other way," he said, breaking into tears.

"Priest paroled after 8 months in prison"
Providence Journal; January 30, 1993; pg. A-03

The Rev. Philip A. Magaldi's status as a priest will be reviewed at the end of the two years he was ordered to spend in prison, according to William G. Halpin, a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Providence.

1997 – Confidential Fort Worth church investigation found him "guilty of sexual exploitation" after he admitted paying an older teen to administer enemas. He denied sexual harassment allegations and remained on duty in North Richland Hills under close supervision.

(Note: Within months, Magaldi sent a letter to Bishop Delaney protesting the supervision arrangements. He found it humiliating having to make a weekly report of his daily schedule “like a child to a parent”. He was angry that the personnel board passed him over for an assignment he felt he was entitled to. He vented about having tolerated his supervising pastor’s “need to be the center of attention” for four years.)

"Bishop Hired 2 Priests after Suspensions
He defends their work since joining FW diocese"
Dallas Morning News; August 12, 1998

After being indicted on embezzlement charges in 1990, Father Magaldi told Texas parishioners that he had been forced to resign to protect a banker and a Providence politician, according to published reports. He would not provide names.

(Note: In confidential documents Magaldi professed his innocence of the embezzlement charges. His explanation for entering the guilty plea was to save “the Bishop of Providence, the priesthood, and the Church further embarrassment". It’s the old “I did it for my friends” defense,
a common theme among seasoned liars.)

"Priest vows to keep job, despite crime
Churchgoers applauds pledge after embezzling reports"
The Dallas Morning News; August 17, 1998

The Rev. Philip Magaldi received a thunderous standing ovation from parishioners Sunday when he vowed that news reports about his embezzlement conviction would not force him to leave St. John the Apostle Catholic Church. "Father Magaldi isn't going anywhere. Father Magaldi is staying right here," he told the congregation before launching into his sermon at 11 a.m. Mass.

1998 – Church officials told The Dallas Morning News that they had full confidence in Father Magaldi and that there have been no sexual misconduct allegations against him in Texas. Later, another man alleged enema-related abuse.

"Former R.I. priest accused of sex abuse"
The Dallas Morning News,
The Providence Journal
; April 27, 1999; pg. B.03

"Priest denies abuse claim"
The Providence Journal; April 29, 1999; pg. B.04

I view this as an attempt to blackmail the Diocese of Fort Worth and to embarrass the church I have served for 38 years and four months," said the Rev. Philip Magaldi, who announced his retirement Sunday as associate pastor at St. John the Apostle Catholic Church in North Richland Hills.

"Priest asks to resume duties after judge dismisses lawsuit"
Providence Journal; December 9, 2000; pg. A.05

2000 – Bishop Delaney allowed Magaldi to work in Keller (as a supply priest), where still more complaints surfaced. Among them, according to church records: Father Magaldi touched the buttocks of a teen – who was wearing a shirt touting a TV as "thin, attractive and available" – and said words to the effect of "You are not very thin back here."

"Supporters want priest reinstated
Old sex accusations false, parishioners say"
The Dallas Morning News; December 14, 2000

The Rev. Philip Magaldi and his supporters want the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth to answer this question: Why can't he preach here when he's fit to celebrate Mass with the pope in Rome? A Massachusetts man who accused Father Magaldi last year of molesting him as a child in the 1970s has been exposed as a career criminal, they say.

2001 – The priest was removed from ministry again. Magaldi pressured the Vatican to allow his return to ministry. Soon, church officials were notified that he had "pedophilic material" on his computer but did not alert police. Father Magaldi moved to Florida and tried, with no known success, to work as a priest there.

2003 – He returned to Tarrant County and lived at a retirement home, where he celebrated Mass regularly.

2006 – The News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram won a court order unsealing the diocese's clergy-abuse records. New Bishop Kevin Vann ordered Father Magaldi to cease all ministry and said he will ask the Vatican to defrock the priest.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram; November 28, 2006

The Rev. Philip Anthony Magaldi: Retired from ministry April 25, 1999. Continued to perform services at an assisted-living center in North Richland Hills until Aug. 10, 2006, when Bishop Kevin Vann forbid him from continuing to function as a priest.

"FW Diocese concealed abuse - 700 pages of unsealed records show
7 priests allowed to stay on job despite repeated warnings"
The Dallas Morning News; November 29, 2006

Fort Worth Catholic Diocese leaders systematically helped predator priests stay in ministry for two decades by concealing information from parishioners, police and the public, court records unsealed Tuesday show. The records, which The Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram obtained after a 19-month legal battle, contain more than 700 pages from the personnel files of seven priests that the diocese had fought to keep secret.

"FW diocese reveals another abuser"
The Dallas Morning News; December 14, 2006

Additionally, North Richland Hills police are investigating a recent allegation that a priest named in the records, the Rev. Philip Magaldi, sexually assaulted a boy in 1994 outside a shopping center. All of the abusers whose records were unsealed worked under Bishop Vann's predecessor, Bishop Joseph Delaney, and have been removed from ministry or died. Bishop Delaney died last year. Nearly half of the 700 pages deal with Father Magaldi, who worked as an associate pastor at St. John the Apostle in North Richland Hills until 1999 and has denied wrongdoing.


The Fort Worth documents are located at

Philip Anthony Magaldi’s claim that he pleaded guilty to theft in 1990 only to protect “the Bishop of Providence, the priesthood, and the Church further embarrassment” is mind boggling in light of the fact he ultimately became a major source of embarrassment to the Diocese of Fort Worth. Despite repeated suspensions and as allegations swirled around him, Magaldi was persistent in demanding that his faculties be restored, eventually complaining of his shoddy treatment by the diocese to the Vatican.

Currently, at the request of the Fort Worth diocese, the Vatican will decide whether Magaldi should be returned to the status of layman. Bishop Vann, of Fort Worth, traveled to Rome in February to expedite the laicization process he initiated against Magaldi. I have concerns regarding the timing and sudden urgency to thrust the 71-year old into society. Particularly in light of reports that Magaldi is said to be incapacitated and unable to function without assistance. For all practical purposes, Magaldi’s career as an active minister is over.

If defrocking is intended to humiliate Magaldi, he won’t feel the impact considering he suffers from dementia. Should the Vatican hand Magaldi his walking papers, what then? Will provisions be made for his support or medical care? Will he be become a ward of the state? Will taxpayers be saddled with the financial responsibility of maintaining him for the remainder of his life? Who owns the problem, the church or the government?

When Magaldi was sentenced for his 1990 embezzlement conviction, Judge Needham stated, “Since childhood, he had been taught that stealing from the poor box was one of the most heinous crimes you could commit.”

Perhaps that was the appropriate time for the Providence diocese to begin the laicization process. Unfortunately, Bishop Gelineau swept it all under the carpet when he pawned the priest off to another diocese in Texas. The lame excuse for Magaldi’s hasty departure was that he went to study Spanish as though the language wasn’t taught in Rhode Island. Magaldi was never ordered to make restitution, as he was considered indigent. The Bishop didn’t penalize Magaldi for dipping into church funds, he simply recommended a change of scenery for the poor priest.

In an interview with The Dallas Morning News, December 2000, Magaldi is quoted as saying, "I know the Lord works in mysterious ways, but this one I have not been able to figure out. Maybe it has been a purification, to make me wake up and realize I have to be careful what I say and do, to not give the wrong impression."

When asked if he would have done anything differently by the same news agency in November 2006, Magaldi replied: “I can’t think of anything at the present time.”

2008 – “The Fort Worth diocese announces it has learned that the priest is HIV-positive.”

Some folks never ”wake up”!


Update: 8/13/08

Catholic Priest in Sex Abuse Case Dies in North Texas.

The Rev. Philip Anthony Magaldi, who weathered embezzlement charges and was accused by two people of separate but similar charges of sexual abuse, died Tuesday. He was 72.