the healing ministries

By Diogenes (articles) | Oct 07, 2004

A Cape Cod jury has convicted gay rapist Paul Nolin of murdering 20-year-old Jonathan Wessner last September. So ends one chapter of a story so grotesque in its details as to be improbable in fiction. A brief review:

  • In 1982, Nolin kidnapped a 10-year-old boy from a playground, tied him up with a belt, raped him, and left him lying naked in the woods.
  • At the Massachusetts Treatment Center for the Sexually Dangerous, Nolin was "treated" by Fr. Donald Turlick, a priest on leave from the Diocese of Bridgeport, who employed Satiation Therapy, whereby the patient is made to masturbate in response to normal stimuli until ejaculation, then forced to continue masturbation while fantasizing about paraphilic images.
  • Turlick commenced a sexual relationship with Nolin -- attested to by guards, prisoners, and other therapists -- smuggled him contraband gifts of condoms, silk pajamas, and gold chains, and then testified at a 1995 hearing in Suffolk Superior Court that Nolin was no longer "sexually dangerous." Nolin was released in 2000 and came to live in Fr. Turlick's home on Cape Cod.
  • Turlick introduced Nolin to another promiscuous gay priest on Cape Cod, Fr. Bernard Kelly, who not only employed Nolin as a parish handyman and catamite, but rewrote his own will so as to make Nolin the heir of a $1.4 million horse farm and half of his remaining estate. Kelly was later found to have embezzled funds, perhaps as much as $800,000, from his Woods Hole parish.
  • On September 20, 2003, Nolin bludgeoned Wessner and knifed him through the skull, parked his own vehicle at Fr. Kelly's rectory with his permission, then ditched Wessner's car and asked another friend, Shawn Shirmer, to give him a ride home. Shirmer admitted he too was sexually intimate with both Kelly and Nolin and that the priest had occasionally given him money for yard work.

Can you spot a problem here with the screening and supervision of clergy? If so, you must be one of those knuckle-dragging Right Wingers who, we're taught, are eager for a witch hunt and neglectful of the marvelous contributions gay priests have made to the greater Cape Cod and Nantucket ecclesial community. Diocese of Bridgeport spokesman Joseph McAleer was still insisting last November that Turlick was "a priest in good standing," and even six weeks post-murder Turlick claimed that Nolin's satiation therapy was successful, that his relationship to him stemmed from his duty to "see Christ in everyone." Asked why Kelly was allowed to put a convicted child rapist on the parish payroll, Fall River Diocese spokesman John Kearns said, "Sometimes you have to reach out for someone who is having difficulty in his life. But that's the call of each pastor."

It seems not everyone was satisfied with Kelly's spiritual intuitions. In 1997, parishioner Mary Pat MacKenzie wrote the Diocese complaining of the spending devoted to Kelly's personal comfort and mentioning "that Kelly was cold and distant, read mail-order sermons ... and failed to mention Mother Teresa at Mass the week she died, instead asking the congregation to sing Happy Birthday to a visiting tourist." She concluded, "It would be cruel and cowardly to allow Father Kelly to run a functioning parish into a financial and spiritual morass." The response?

The Fall River Diocese receives many letters about pastors, "some pro, some con," said spokesman John Kearns. If all such pastors were investigated, "we'd never accomplish anything," he said, adding that [Bishop George] Coleman has no recollection of MacKenzie's letter.

It's premature, however, to conclude that the Church has learned nothing from these untoward incidents. Hint: look for increased scrutiny concerning the singing of Happy Birthday at Mass. Regarding MacKenzie's imputation of cruelty and cowardice, Jonathan Wessner was unavailable for comment.

Richard Cross holds a doctorate in psychology, who has taught at the university level, including at Franciscan University. He is currently an educational researcher and consultant in the field of psychology and related disciplines.
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