January 2, 1935 |
Suffolk County, Massachusetts, U.S.
February 11, 2005 (aged 70) |
|Conviction(s)||Child sexual abuse|
|Penalty||20 years imprisonment|
James Porter (January 2, 1935 - February 11, 2005) was a Roman Catholic priest who was convicted of molesting 28 children; he admitted sexually abusing at least 100 children of both sexes over a period of 30 years, starting in the 1960s.
Porter started both training for the priesthood and molesting children at a young age; he abused his earliest known victim in 1953, the summer before he entered seminary. He was ordained in 1959 and became a priest of the diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts.
Porter was assigned to St. Mary's parochial grammar school in North Attleboro, Massachusetts in April 1960 and put in charge of the altar boys. Complaints of sexual abuse, ranging from fondling to rape, quickly surfaced against him, but no action was taken.
In 1964, Porter was arrested for molesting a 13-year-old boy and sent to a mental institution for 13 months. Once released, he was quickly reassigned to another parish, the first of many such reassignments over the years. He was shuffled into two more parishes before more accusations piled up and he was hospitalized again in 1967, this time to a hospital run by fellow priests who practiced holistic psychotherapy upon its patients, many of whom were clergy members suffering from psychological problems. Porter's "problem" was not unique among the hospital's patients; two of them were later imprisoned for abusing, between them, hundreds of children.
Porter was released after a few months, once again declared cured, and given probationary assignments in parishes in Texas, New Mexico and Minnesota, all of which included access to children. Complaints surfaced by the dozen against Porter, but none of them resulted in disciplinary action beyond his being moved from post to post.
In 1973, Porter wrote a letter to Pope Paul VI requesting to be released from the priesthood, in which he admitted molesting children across five states; the Pope granted his request and, in 1974, Porter gave up his collar. He married, and eventually settled in Minnesota. He and his wife had four children.
In 1990, Frank Fitzpatrick went public with accusations that Porter had molested him as a child in the '60s. Over the next two years, Fitzpatrick contacted the state police, the FBI, and the media, resulting in over 200 people coming forward and leveling charges of abuse against Porter. A 1992 segment on Porter's crimes on the ABC TV news magazine Primetime Live, hosted by Diane Sawyer, sparked national attention. Porter was arrested, tried and convicted of sexually abusing his children's babysitter in 1984. He served four months of a six-month prison sentence before his conviction was overturned by the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Cardinal Bernard Law, Archbishop of Boston, criticized the media attention Porter's case received, calling Porter's case "aberrant". A decade later, Law resigned the Boston see after widespread criticism of his handling of cases like Porter's.
By 1993, dozens of lawsuits had cropped up against Porter in Minnesota, Texas and New Mexico; in Minnesota alone, he was charged with over 200 counts of sexual abuse. Porter's lawyer struck a plea bargain, and Porter was sentenced to 18–20 years in prison, with possibility of parole, with counseling, after six years. Parole was consistently denied.
Porter died February 11, 2005 of cancer in New England Medical Center in Boston, where he had been transferred the month before from a Massachusetts hospital. He had finished his prison sentence in 2004, but was being held pending a civil commitment hearing.
- "Victims testify of Porter assaults" The Boston Globe April 13, 2004 Cite error: Invalid
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- "Pedophile priest James Porter dies at 70" MSNBC.com. February 11, 2005
- Father James Porter: Pedophile Priest Cite error: Invalid
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- Butterfield, Fox. "Paper Says Ex-Priest Admitted Sex Abuse to Pope" The New York Times October 25, 1992.