February 16, 2005 by

James Porter

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Categories: Criminals, Religious Leaders

James R. Porter, a former priest and convicted child molester, died on Feb. 11. Cause of death was not released. He was 70.
Born in Revere, Mass., Porter was the second son of an oil company chemist. He graduated from Boston College with a degree in mathematics and entered St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. Although the seminary recommended Porter as a young man of “excellent character,” allegations of abuse surfaced only a few weeks after the church gave him his first post in North Attleborough, Mass., in 1960. He molested children, often brazenly, even as parents shared their suspicions with church authorities. Instead of turning Porter over to the police, however, the church transferred him to a parish in Fall River, Mass.
Over the next few years, the church responded to numerous complaints about Porter’s inappropriate behavior with children by transferring him to two more towns. In 1965, Porter was ordered to seek spiritual counseling at the Jemez Springs Foundation House, a Catholic rest center in New Mexico that helps priests overcome problems with alcoholism and sexual misconduct. Upon his release, Porter resumed his criminal activities and the church continued to protect him. Before he left the priesthood in 1974, Porter abused children in Texas, Minnesota and New Mexico.
Porter married, fathered four children and lived a quiet life until 1987 when he served four months in jail for molesting his children’s baby-sitter. Three years later, Frank Fitzpatrick, a Rhode Island private investigator who had been an altar boy under Porter, contacted the former priest. During taped telephone conversations, Porter admitted to sexually abusing dozens of children but couldn’t remember any of their names. In response, Fitzpatrick took out advertisements in New England newspapers to find Porter’s victims and seek justice.
Porter returned to face trial in Massachusetts in 1993, and was convicted of molesting 28 children and sentenced to 18 to 20 years in prison. In a television interview, he confessed to abusing as many as 100 children. The high-profile case foreshadowed the clergy sex abuse scandal that swept through the Roman Catholic Church in 2002.
Porter completed his prison sentence last year, but was being held pending the completion of a civil commitment hearing to determine if he should be committed indefinitely as a sexual predator. The hearing, which was postponed last month when Porter became ill, featured testimony from several of his victims. Porter’s ex-wife also came forward and testified that she once caught him touching a neighborhood boy.
“Father Porter came to symbolize the start of an era when people could talk about priest abuse. The irony is James Porter caused a lot of laws to be changed, caused a lot of people to come forward,” said attorney Roderick MacLeish, who represented 101 Porter victims in lawsuits.
Last May, Porter married Anne Milner, a former nun he knew from seminary. The couple became reacquainted in 2002 when Milner wrote Porter in prison.
Complete Coverage of Abuse in the Catholic Church From The Boston Globe

One Response to James Porter

  1. valerie

    unbelievably horrifying that this man left so many victims in his path, including his own family ~ what a pathetic legacy, made all the more so by the swift cover-ups of his superiors.

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