Church leaders accused of shielding priest

Lawsuit charges bishop chose to reassign alleged abuser 29, 2004
By Michelle Morgan Bolton

Albany -- A lawsuit filed in Boston this month accuses former Boston Cardinal Bernard Law and Bishop Howard Hubbard of the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese of harboring a predatory priest, despite clear evidence that he should not have been allowed around teenage boys.

Joseph Woodward, 37, of Fort Ann is seeking at least $5 million in damages for the sexual abuse he said was inflicted upon him more than 20 years ago -- from age 14 to 19 -- by the Rev. Dozia Wilson. Wilson was defrocked in 1993.

Until last year, Wilson, 58, was working as the spiritual adviser at a home for troubled youths in Westchester County. He had frequently supervised overnight retreats and camping trips.

Wilson was fired from St. Christopher's Residential Treatment Center in Dobbs Ferry last year after being beaten in his apartment by an 18-year-old man he picked up in Manhattan.

Wilson could not be reached for comment, and a representative at the center did not return a call.

On Wednesday, Woodward spoke at a news conference at the Crowne Plaza hotel arranged by his attorney, John Aretakis.

Woodward, a basketball player and guitarist, recalled being the vulnerable product of a broken home in 1980. He said that played into Wilson's manipulation. He said the priest often plied him with alcohol and marijuana and then fondled him when they practiced music for Sunday liturgies at St. Ann's Church in his hometown.

But he hated the touching and never touched back, he said, describing how he'd ridicule gay men he'd seen on television hoping Wilson would "get the hint."

Woodward, now a devout Baptist employed as a vacuum cleaner salesman, said he decided to go public to protect others from clergy abuse.

The complaint filed by Aretakis and Boston co-counsel Kenneth Gordon alleges that Hubbard and Law both failed in their duty to protect innocent children. Woodward called on Hubbard to admit he covered up for Wilson and other pedophile priests by moving them from parish to parish.

"I challenge you to get out from under the burden of your sins and confess them," Woodward said.

Wilson left Albany in 1976 after parents at Sacred Heart parish complained to then-District Attorney Sol Greenberg that the priest had sex with two boys at a motel. Greenberg said he would not prosecute Wilson if he left town permanently.

According to the lawsuit, Wilson was assigned to a Boston parish, where he was accused of molesting other boys, including an Albany teenager who had contact with him there. He also allegedly misused church funds.

His supervisors pressed him to leave, according to papers contained in his 200-page personnel file, which was released to lawyers suing the archdiocese.

Wilson was eventually returned to Albany and in 1980 Hubbard reassigned him to St. Ann's -- where he met Woodward -- and later, to St. Mary's in Hudson. Wilson was also a chaplain at the Columbia County jail.

Hubbard removed him from ministry in 1990 because of more complaints about his alleged behavior with young boys.

"Bishop Hubbard never knowingly allowed any priest to abuse any child," said diocesan spokesman Ken Goldfarb. He said Woodward's complaint is being investigated by the diocese's Sexual Misconduct Review Board.

The lawsuit said Wilson continued to wear his priest's collar and say Mass at St. Christopher's center and elsewhere in Westchester, with the knowledge of the Albany Diocese.

Goldfarb said once someone has left the priesthood and diocese, "we don't have any control."

Aretakis called on Hubbard to release the personnel files of all priests who have been removed in his diocese. But making those records public is something neither Hubbard, nor any other employer, has the right to do, Goldfarb said: "People have rights."

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