Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Irish priest and the belles of St. Mary's... Fr. Hough

St. Mary's church.

Editor's note: At Mass this weekend there was a letter from the Archbishop concerning a priest I once knew who is now accused of sexual misconduct. It really disturbed me, even though I had known about it for years.  The notice here:
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis released the name and assignment history Sept. 16 of deceased priest Father William Hough, who has a substantiated claim against him of sexually abusing a minor while he was a priest of the archdiocese.The alleged abuse occurred between 1964 and 1966. Father Hough died in 1994. He served at St. Mary in St. Paul - Read more here.

Why did this upset me?

Fr. Hough never abused me.  Rather, as a retired priest and chaplain at a Catholic nursing home wherein I spent a lot of time visiting, he was available for confession.  He was a very kind confessor and always available.  I knew the stories about his past, but never questioned him about it, though I did mention I had friends who went to the school at the parish where he had been assigned.  The allegations against him stem from that time.  I left a message for a friend who originally told me about Fr. Hough's predilection, but I don't expect to hear back from him.

Strangely enough, in 2009 I wrote about Fr. Hough (without using his name) in a post about Fr. Flanagan.  There was no connection between the two men.  I think my intention was somehow connect to problems with clerical abuse in Ireland.  I had this to say:

I got to know an Irish priest who came from the old country to Minnesota. As a young priest he happened to be the assistant at a downtown church and school some of my friends attended when we were young. The priest is dead now, but I think I mentioned him once as being the one who lifted up the boys with his hands on their crotch, to see how "big they were getting". Charming little leprechaun, he was. Years later he retired to become a chaplain in a home for the elderly which I visited. I came to find out we both knew an Irish nun from another care facility who had befriended me. Father asked if I would say hello and tell Sister he would like to come by for a visit.
Sister seemed slightly alarmed and asked, "How do you know him?"
I explained he was now a chaplain at a nursing home I visited, and although Sister's reaction suggested to me the priest's fondness for boys may have been known to her, she never said anything about him, and I never let on as to what I knew about him.
"Please tell him hello, but he need not visit." She told me rather solemnly.

She knew.

I'm not sure why I thought it so important to tell my old friend.  I kind of regret having done so now.  It's none of my business, really.

I called only to let him know - just in case he didn't. He and 3 other friends all attended St. Mary's at the time Hough was accused of sexual abuse. It appears someone from that time has come forward with the allegations.  I doubt it would have been anyone I know.  I suppose I thought if my friend knew about the case, he could maybe be a witness for the victim. I thought of my friend because he and another guy told me more than once that Hough used to lift the boys to see how 'big' they were - he'd be in back of them and put his arms around them and lift them by their crotch. We all used to laugh about it. I can't recall exactly, but there may have been more than that going on, according to stories told by another kid. Anyway, I thought I'd give my friend a heads up.

The whole thing makes me sad.  From the looks of things, Fr. Hough was transferred around.  He may have either developed a reputation, or his interest in adolescent boys never abated.  As an old priest, he seemed very faithful.  He knew adults I knew, so I think it would be a mistake to call him a pedophile.  Whenever I brought up his example in private conversation on the subject of sexual abuse of minors, it was always to make the point that he had a homosexual problem, and that it wasn't pedophilia, since the adolescent boys were sexually developed.  

Interestingly enough, the boys I knew who were 'touched' by Hough grew up to be heterosexual.  In other words, the sexual encounters didn't make them gay.

Sr. St. Peter maybe should have punched out Fr. Hough.


  1. Inappropriate touching. It occurred a lot with adults who worked around children. Naivety and denial protected them. Maybe went no further but probably did. Why read a letter now about a man long dead?

    1. The kids I knew at the time were not naive - neither was Fr. H.

      The letter informing people of the charges is part of the legal settlement with the archdiocese - for those not familiar what has been happening here - go to the site I link to in the post. For the attorneys and the victims - money is available. If you know what I mean. The Church is a cash cow.

      Interestingly enough, most of the boys I hung out with from that time through high school never minded a free ___ ___. I think I've mentioned that before in other posts. I have a hard time believing what Hough did was traumatic for the kids I knew, as I said, we laughed about it at the time.

    2. I should add that I only informed my one friend in case he could help substantiate the claim. I don't know who brought forward the accusations - that is never revealed. Fr. H is dead and hopefully at peace. He repented I'm sure. When stuff this old is brought forward, I think it's about cash. It's been over 50 years!

  2. Your writing is good. I thought of the movie "Doubt" after I read the blog post.

    God bless,

    1. Thanks Katie. It's sometimes an overwhelming topic for me to write about.

      It is very much like the play "Doubt" - very much. Remember the scene when the priests were at supper? The pastor smoking the cigar, the table of priests? That was so real. I think that is why so many disliked the film and play.


Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.