A Case Study of Sexual Abuse
Osgood, however, did not reform. His interest in teenagers created problems. In March 1960, Rev. Joseph Donahue of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Manchester wrote to Msgr. Thomas Hansberry at the chancellery that Sergeant King of the Manchester police had been contacted by a father whose son was missing from home. The father called King the next day to report that the boy had returned home and had “spent the night at the Sacred Heart Hospital” with Osgood. The father then “started a tirade about the reputation of Fr. Osgood,” a tirade which must have been forceful, because King told the father “to forget any threats and that he would see the matter was taken care of.” Donahue reported that “no formal charges have been filed” and only King and Inspector Curran knew about the complaint.12NHAG, p. 3890. Letter of Rev. Thomas M. Donahue to Msgr. Thomas S. Hansberry, March 22, 1960. King took care of the complaint by referring it to the chancery.
The new bishop, Ernest Primeau, had had enough. He gave Osgood an “official canonical warning: that Osgood would be suspended ‘a divinis’ [not allowed to administer the sacraments] unless an immediate, drastic and permanent reformation is made in your personal life.”13NHAG, p. 3916. Letter from Bishop of Manchester to Rev. Donald M. Osgood, June 30, 1961. The letter is addressed to Osgood at the Saint Joseph Cathedral Rectory in Manchester, so Osgood was apparently sharing a residence with Bishop Primeau at the time. Primeau informed the Rev. Gerald Fitzgerald, head of the Servants of the Paraclete, that “I have a young person [Osgood] who has been involved with boys and we feel that the time has come, after repeated warnings, to send him away for a while.”14NHAG, p. 3919. Letter from Bishop of Manchester to Very Rev. Gerald Fitzgerald, Servant General, July 10, 1961.
But Fitzgerald soon became suspicious. He wrote a mysterious letter to Thomas Hansberry, Chancellor of Manchester. It began “our work calls for us to be as simple as the dove and as wary as the serpent.” Fitzgerald stated that Osgood was eager to return to the diocese Fitzgerald said that it all depended on “a quite easily ascertained fact. If [redacted] of [redacted] in Manchester is a married man that recommendation is hereby given to His Excellency. If, on the other hand, (redacted) is not married, we do not make this recommendation.” As Fitzgerald concludes, “undoubtedly all this seems rather cloak and dagger to you, but when I see you or His Excellency I will be able to give the explanation viva voce.”17NHAG, p. 3937-3938. Letter from Father Gerald Fitzgerald to Msgr. Thomas Hansberry, November 16, 1961.
There was something about Osgood’s relationship with Mr. X in Manchester that was innocent if X was married but not innocent if X was not married. Fitzgerald may have been naïve about married homosexuals.
Hansberry replied that X “is a young married man in the early twenties with two small children. He is presently seeking to adopt or take in a foster child, a boy age 12. His recommendations seem to be in order and he has been active in Scouting. I do not know what his connection is with Fr. O., but any young man friendly with him would be suspect. This may seem harsh, but it is true because of past experience.” Even worse, Hansberry reported, Osgood was writing a boy back in Manchester, and the parents were unhappy. The boy “has become very irritable and disobedient and his marks in school have dropped.” Hansberry reported there were “rumors” that other boys were getting mail from Osgood and that “some of the stories are a bit wild.” Consequently, Hansberry wrote Fitzgerald, “you can judge that the Bishop will not be interested in having Father O. return to New Hampshire in the near future.” 18NHAG, p. 3936. Letter from Msgr. Thomas S. Hansberry to Father Gerald, November 27, 1961. But Osgood’s correspondent was married, and Fitzgerald’s suspicions were temporarily allayed.
Fitzgerald was away in Rome when Hansberry’s letter arrived, and someone replied that “we cannot interfere with the public mails.” The staff at Via Coeli did not like Osgood: “Since Father is not frank and honest in his talks with us, [we are] protesting his complete rehabilitation. There does not seem much that we can do to help him. His masquerade of child-like innocence is hard to stomach and harder to deal with.”19NHAG, p. 3939. Letter from [unsigned] to Msgr. Thomas S. Hansberry, Chancellor, no date. Osgood got wind of the worries his correspondence was causing and claimed, “I only sent a postcard and that with the written permission of the parents.”20NHAG, p. 3940. Letter from Don [Donald Osgood] to Tom [Rev. Thomas Hansberry], December 28, 1961.
The Paracletes sent Osgood to Dr. Thomas Evilhizer for psychiatric evaluation (we
do not have medical records). Apparently, Evilhizer thought Osgood had reformed and
could be returned to ministry. In April 1962, Fitzgerald wrote to Bishop Primeau that
he could make a “favorable report” about Osgood, who had been “very much on the beam
and is a generous contributor to the welfare of the community here.” Fitzgerald therefore
thought “it within prudence to give him at least one opportunity to prove himself on
active duty.”21NHAG, p. 3947. Letter from Father Gerald, Servant General to Bishop Ernest J. Primeau, April 7, 1962. Osgood was good: he could briefly fool even Fitzgerald, who did not like or
Osgood did not much care for the strict regimen of seclusion, prayer, and penance at Via Coeli. By June 1962, Fitzgerald’s suspicions were again aroused: “We are not internally satisfied as to the complete change of heart necessary. There has been no off-side actions as far as we know, but he is definitely attracted to the laity.”22NHAG, p. 3955. Letter from Father Gerald, Servant General to Bishop Ernest Primeau, June 12, 1962. Fitzgerald thought that Osgood could work out of the Paraclete house in Nevis, Minnesota, where the Paracletes could keep a close eye on him. Bishop Primeau was agreeable to this, but obviously did not want Osgood back: “If reports are good we will find him a benevolent Bishop.”23NHAG, p. 3954. Memo from the desk of Bishop Primeau to Msgr. Hansberry, no date. Osgood did not like this proposal: “One could not say that he is happy about the prospect. He expected, unreasonably, a far broader relaxation of his penance.”24NHAG, p. 3952. Letter from Owen Kirley, Secretary General, to Msgr. Thomas S. Hansberry, no date.
In August 1962, Fitzgerald reported that Osgood has “even more fully committed himself to the cultivation of the laity.” Osgood offered to work in the kitchen so he would not have to attend prayers and often made himself scarce, or as Fitzgerald put it more elegantly, was “in abscondito.” Fitzgerald had no idea what Osgood was up to during these periods of absence. Fitzgerald did not feel he had enough hard evidence to take any disciplinary actions that Rome would back up: “It seems to me that the Roman mind would want something more positive than that before taking any drastic action.” Fitzgerald added, “Unless Your Excellency already has positive evidence that justifies positive action of that sort …” This remark implies either that Fitzgerald was not told about police reports and the results of the investigation of the homosexual ring at St. Anselm’s or that such activities were not considered serious matters by Rome.
Fitzgerald mentioned his plan (which Primeau later aborted) to have “an island retreat house where we could keep these unusual cases with a minimum of publicity and scandal.” Fitzgerald added a Postscript: “Tonight I had the 7 p.m. Mass at our little parish church – on the way back to this monastery I had my Paraclete driver the way up the canyon – sure enough there was our boy [Osgood] – perched knees up all above on a boulder about a half mile up the state highway!”25NHAG, p. 3951. Letter from Father Gerald, Servant General, to Bishop Ernest J. Primeau, August 15, 1962.
Osgood continued to get on the nerves of the staff at Via Coeli. In October 1962, Father Fitzgerald called Hansberry and said that Osgood “did not follow the life of the community and he had apparently volunteered to serve in the kitchen with the thought of using this activity as an excuse to avoid spiritual exercises. The authorities have come to the conclusion that he has no interior life and is making no progress from a spiritual standpoint.” Moreover, “father has been taken off the cooking work because of the above reason and also because it was found that he was using his position to obtain and take out food for his lay friends. He was recently intercepted on his way out to a big party with a supply of food including a roast.” Father Fitzgerald concluded that “he is a playboy – polite and genial, interested in being with the laity, rather than with the men of the house.”26NHAG, p. 3956. Repot of Telephone conversation with Father Gerald, s. p., Superior of Via Coeli, Jemez Springs, N.M. on October 22, 1962. Thomas S Hansberry, Chancellor.
Fitzgerald also knew that con artists could fool psychiatrists. Hansberry wrote: “I
But Thomas S. Evilhizer, the psychiatrist to whom Osgood was sent, gave Osgood a favorable report, and in March 1963 Osgood was sent to the Santa Fe archdiocese and was stationed at Our Lady of the Assumption parish in Albuquerque. Shortly thereafter, in June 1963, Bishop Byrne wrote to Osgood about “your failures”28NHAG, p. 3893. Letter of Archbishop Edwin V. Byrne to Rev. Donald Osgood, June 3, 1963. that necessitated the termination of his assignment and immediate return to Via Coeli. The chancellor of Manchester wrote Osgood that there would be no further assignments.29NHAG, p. 3899. Letter of Msgr. Thomas S. Hansberry to Rev. Donald M. Osgood, June 6, 1963. Osgood found the regimen at Via Coeli too confining, so in June 1963 he packed up and without permission moved to Albuquerque, taking a job as a night manager at a restaurant.
In December 1963, Osgood wrote to Bishop Primeau of Manchester to explain why
I realize that I had a very severe problem that I seemed to be incapable of controlling, and being aware of this I wished professional treatment. The treatment offered at Via Coeli did not seem to be aimed at the root of the problem but only in increasing my will power. This I knew wouldn’t get at the root of the problem as I had used all the will power at my command in the past with no avail.
With the intention of receiving psychological help in depth, I left Via Coeli and gained employment and a place to stay to actualize this intention. I am happy to report to Your Excellency that I received the professional psychological help I needed and that the problem that I had for so long is no more. I have had no difficulty or feeling of necessity for such activity for the past four and one-half months.30NHAG, p. 3910. Letter from Donald Osgood to Bishop Ernest J. Primeau, December 14, 1963.
In a March 1964 letter, Osgood further explained that he could not accept either of the alternatives offered to him by the Manchester diocese: “1. Permanent protective custody at Via Coeli or 2. Laicization,” because “it was difficult for me to see how either of these choices would solve or even alleviate my personal problem.” He protested that Via Coeli had become “a dumping ground for unwanted priests” with “an atmosphere heart-rendingly conducive to shiftlessness or even despair.” Osgood had a deep and sincere conviction that “my ordination was neither a mistake nor something I went into without deliberate consideration and free choice did not permit me to conscientiously seek laicization.”31NHAG, p. 3911. Letter from Donald M. Osgood to Msgr. Thomas S. Hansberry, March 26, 1964. Osgood was not going to admit there were any grounds for him to seek voluntary laicization.
In Albuquerque, Osgood found a doctor, Robert R. Gibson, D.C. Osgood explained that “Dr. Gibson has been treating me almost from the beginning of my settling in Albuquerque.” Osgood “spent most of last summer and fall not only in frequent therapeutic sessions with Dr. Gibson, but also in hour upon hour of careful and methodic study of his observations in dealing with the emotionally disturbed.” Osgood protests that “now more than ever, laicization seems to me to be a traitorous compromising of the promises foresworn by me, knowingly and willingly, immediately prior to my receiving major orders.” Gibson diagnosed Osgood as not a “congenital” homosexual, one born that way, but as a “conditioned” homosexual.” Gibson explained that:
This type comes into being in a normal person, usually early in life due to a psychic trauma. In this type the person does not have the expression of the sexual urge under the control of the will. It may be likened to an allergy. Whenever a situation arises that unconsciously reminds the mind of the traumatic situation, action takes place without the will of the person. During the times there is no reminder by association in the mind the person’s actions are normal. However as soon as there arises a situation in which the association is triggered, the action takes place.
[Osgood] was a victim of this second type. During about 30 hours of psychotherapy, using the insight methods, he discovered the trigger situation. Since that time he has not and will not have any difficulty. Before that time he had no control of his actions. The former trigger situation can arise, he is conscious of it and has no effects.32NHAG p. 3904. Quoted in letter (signature page missing but clearly an official of the Diocese of Manchester) to S. George Brown, M.D., March 23, 1964.
Gibson pronounced Osgood cured. But, as the diocese of Manchester noted, the D. C. after Gibson’s name meant that he was a chiropractor.
One has to wonder about the professional ethics and judgment of a chiropractor who would make a psychiatric diagnosis. Osgood’s actions were not like an allergy, they were not involuntary. It was not true to say Osgood had “no control”; Osgood never had sex in public. If there is any truth in Gibson’s diagnosis, it might mean that Osgood suffered a psychic trauma, that he was himself abused or raped when he was young. But one has to wonder about Gibson’s motivation in writing the letter.
In May 1964, Bishop Primeau of Manchester informed Dr. Francis Braceland of the Institute
of Living in Hartford, Connecticut, that Osgood “is a young man who, shortly after
his ordination, became very seriously involved homosexually with a number of boys and
older men. In spite of repeated warnings and efforts to obtain his reform, he finally
became so notorious that it was necessary to refer him to a home for priests (Via Coeli)
Primeau continued that Osgood had left Via Coeli and worked in Albuquerque. “A short while ago he informed us that he had been under the direction of a certain doctor who had been treating him and had completely cured him of his affliction. Upon our request, this doctor sent us a well-written explanation of his case with the statement that it had been solved. However, the initials after the doctor’s name were D.C., which we presume indicates that he is a chiropractor.” Primeau concluded, “We should like to do everything possible to save this young man.”33NHAG, p. 3994. Letter of Bishop of Manchester to Dr. Francis J. Braceland, May 1, 1964. There is no indication that Primeau (or anyone else in the Manchester diocese) ever showed any concern for Osgood’s young victims.
In 1964, Osgood returned to New England and was evaluated at the Institute of Living. By September, Osgood returned to Albuquerque and continued to see Dr. Gibson, the chiropractor. In March 1965, Hansberry wrote to Dr. Austin McCawley at the Institute of Living that Osgood had been seen by a Dr. Evilhizer at Via Coeli, but that Hansberry felt that from Evilhizer’s report, “the doctor was not aware of the problem or that he was very much deceived by Father Osgood in his talks with him.”34NHAG, p. 3982. Letter of Msgr. Thomas S. Hansberry to Austin McCauley, M.D., March 3, 1965. Apparently, doctors were not informed of the events that led priests to be referred to them; the psychiatrists received their information only from the accused or admitted abuser.
12 NHAG, p. 3890. Letter of Rev. Thomas M. Donahue to Msgr. Thomas S. Hansberry, March 22, 1960.
13 NHAG, p. 3916. Letter from Bishop of Manchester to Rev. Donald M. Osgood, June 30, 1961. The letter is addressed to Osgood at the Saint Joseph Cathedral Rectory in Manchester, so Osgood was apparently sharing a residence with Bishop Primeau at the time.
14 NHAG, p. 3919. Letter from Bishop of Manchester to Very Rev. Gerald Fitzgerald, Servant General, July 10, 1961.
15 NHAG, p. 3917. Letter from Msgr. Thomas S. Hansberry, Chancellor, to Very Rev. Gerald Fitzgerald, Servant General, July 14, 1961.
16 NHAG, p. 3924. Letter from Very Rev. Gerald Fitzgerald, Servant General to Msgr. Thomas S. Hansberry, August 14, 1961.
17 NHAG, p. 3937-3938. Letter from Father Gerald Fitzgerald to Msgr. Thomas Hansberry, November 16, 1961.
18 NHAG, p. 3936. Letter from Msgr. Thomas S. Hansberry to Father Gerald, November 27, 1961.
19 NHAG, p. 3939. Letter from [unsigned] to Msgr. Thomas S. Hansberry, Chancellor, no date.
20 NHAG, p. 3940. Letter from Don [Donald Osgood] to Tom [Rev. Thomas Hansberry], December 28, 1961.
21 NHAG, p. 3947. Letter from Father Gerald, Servant General to Bishop Ernest J. Primeau, April 7, 1962.
22 NHAG, p. 3955. Letter from Father Gerald, Servant General to Bishop Ernest Primeau, June 12, 1962.
23 NHAG, p. 3954. Memo from the desk of Bishop Primeau to Msgr. Hansberry, no date.
24 NHAG, p. 3952. Letter from Owen Kirley, Secretary General, to Msgr. Thomas S. Hansberry, no date.
25 NHAG, p. 3951. Letter from Father Gerald, Servant General, to Bishop Ernest J. Primeau, August 15, 1962.
26 NHAG, p. 3956. Repot of Telephone conversation with Father Gerald, s. p., Superior of Via Coeli, Jemez Springs, N.M. on October 22, 1962. Thomas S Hansberry, Chancellor.
27 NHAG, p. 3956. Thomas Hansberry, “Report of telephone conversation with Father Gerald…on October 22, 1962.”
28 NHAG, p. 3893. Letter of Archbishop Edwin V. Byrne to Rev. Donald Osgood, June 3, 1963.
29 NHAG, p. 3899. Letter of Msgr. Thomas S. Hansberry to Rev. Donald M. Osgood, June 6, 1963.
30 NHAG, p. 3910. Letter from Donald Osgood to Bishop Ernest J. Primeau, December 14, 1963.
31 NHAG, p. 3911. Letter from Donald M. Osgood to Msgr. Thomas S. Hansberry, March 26, 1964.
32 NHAG p. 3904. Quoted in letter (signature page missing but clearly an official of the Diocese of Manchester) to S. George Brown, M.D., March 23, 1964.
33 NHAG, p. 3994. Letter of Bishop of Manchester to Dr. Francis J. Braceland, May 1, 1964.
34 NHAG, p. 3982. Letter of Msgr. Thomas S. Hansberry to Austin McCauley, M.D., March 3, 1965.