Boston Herald.com

 

Notorious Mass. pedophile ex-priest Porter dies at 70
By Laurel J. Sweet
Saturday, February 12, 2005

Former priest James R. Porter, who first put a face to the horrific sexual-abuse scandal that enveloped the American Catholic church, died last night as cancer reportedly claimed his life at New England Medical Center in Boston. He was 70.

 

    "I'm glad he's dead,'' said an even-toned Frank Fitzpatrick, one of a hundred people Porter is believed to have sexually molested during the 1960s and '70s.

 

    "Death was the only thing that could stop him,'' said Fitzpatrick, 54, whose adulation of Porter when he was an altar boy at St. Mary's in North Attleboro in 1962 led to his abuse. ``I don't believe in hell, but now I really wish there was one.''  

 

     Porter, who had been hospitalized since Jan. 26, was pronounced dead at 6:12 p.m., said Diane Wiffin, spokeswoman for the state Department of Correction. He was awaiting trial to determine if he should be civilly committed as a sexual deviant to the Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater.

 

     In 1993, Porter pleaded guilty to molesting 28 children and was sentenced to up to 20 years behind bars, opening the floodgates for the sexual-abuse scandal that would threaten to take down the Roman Catholic Church. But when Porter was up for release last year, the state petitioned to keep him from returning to society.

 

      By his own admission, in a letter he wrote in 1967 to then-Fall River Bishop James Connolly, Porter said the temptation to prey on children ``will always be there.''

 

    "Father Porter came to symbolize the start of an era when people could talk about priest abuse,'' said attorney Roderick MacLeish, who represented 101 Porter victims in early 1990s lawsuits. ``The irony is James Porter caused a lot of laws to be changed, caused a lot of people to come forward.''