Almost to a man, the bishops who worked under Cardinal Bernard F. Law played strong supporting roles as the archdiocese moved to quell complaints of sexual abuse by moving accused priests from parish to parish.
But the thousands of pages of church records released in clergy abuse lawsuits over the last year show that one bishop complained repeatedly about giving new assignments to problem priests - and was repeatedly ignored.
The warnings issued by John M. D’Arcy, now the bishop of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese in Indiana, began in 1978 with a polite letter to a fellow bishop reporting parishioner complaints about the Rev. Thomas P. Forry’s temperament.
A year later, after Forry was accused of beating up his housekeeper, D’Arcy wrote to Cardinal Humberto S. Medeiros to complain that his earlier letter had been ignored, leaving parishioners with a priest beset by “severe emotional problems.”
In November 1983, D’Arcy’s concerns about another priest were even more pointed. In a letter to Bishop Thomas V. Daily, who was vicar general of the archdiocese, D’Arcy objected to a new parish assignment for the Rev. Richard A. Buntel, who had been accused of using drugs with young people and engaging in homosexual activity.
“I believe these allegations are true and if a man like this does not seek help, he should not be given an assignment,” D’Arcy said.
He added: “Young people are open to priests and when assaulted in this way, their souls are often irreparably damaged.”
In 1984, Law received the first of two cautionary letters from D’Arcy.
In the first, which became public earlier this year, D’Arcy expressed reservations about a parish assignment to Weston for the Rev. John J. Geoghan because of Geoghan’s “history of homosexual involvement [with] young boys.”
In the second, he objected to an assignment to the Office of Spiritual Development for the Rev. Robert V. Meffan, who had been accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls.
D’Arcy, who declined to discuss his letter about Geoghan earlier this year, did not return a telephone call from the Globe yesterday.
The Rev. Robert W. Bullock, a leader of the Boston Priests Forum who knew D’Arcy as a student at St. John’s Seminary, said that D’Arcy’s warnings amount to a mixed message for Boston priests: positive because D’Arcy spoke up, but disturbing because he was the only one who did.
“Why weren’t there more?” Bullock said.