Boise & Garden City

A Boise detective looked into a child abuse claim - but couldn't interview the priest

The Catholic Church's former habit of moving priests suspected of child abuse apparently stymied a 1990s investigation in Boise.

The account of the Boise Police detective who pursued the case offers an example of how the church's former policies complicated even police efforts to investigate abuse claims.

The Rev. James Worsley was accused of molesting altar boys in the 1970s.

In 1993, Boise Police Detective Bob Mack spoke with one of those boys, who claimed he was abused at St. Paul’s Catholic Center. The victim, by then 27, told Mack of “approximately 100 episodes of genital fondling and fellatio” between 1975 and 1980, according to a copy of the police report.

“I believed him. I believed his story, but the statute of limitations had expired,” Mack, now retired, told the Statesman. “The way my victim had described it, I knew there were other victims.”

State law in the late 1970s required felonies to be reported within three years of the date the crime occurred for charges to move forward. Even in 1993, the statute of limitations for sexual abuse and lewd conduct with a child was set at five years after the child turned 18. It wasn’t until 2006 that the statute of limitations on those crimes was entirely eliminated.

Mack reached out to then-Bishop Tod Brown, and learned Worsley was already at a treatment center for abusing children — his second round of treatment.

From there, the accounts diverge. Mack said Brown agreed to bring Worsley back to Idaho for an interview but never did.

Mack said he believes Brown lied to him, and said he was “furious” upon finding out.

Hiding or ignoring child abuse is just as bad as the abuse itself, Mack said.

“When you take the innocence away from a child, I think there is no other more heinous crime,” Mack said. “You destroy their soul. It will affect them their whole life.”

Brown, who went on to serve as a bishop in California, is now retired. He said he doesn't remember agreeing to set up Mack's interview. “I can’t imagine I would lie to police," he said.

Worsley was sent to the Hartford Institute, in Hartford, Connecticut, for treatment after the molestation, Brown said. Brown said he couldn’t reassign Worsley after that because no bishop would take him, another reason Worsley was forced out of the church.

Soon after reporting to Mack, Worsley's victim shared his story with the Statesman.

The publicity led to Worsley being defrocked. But the former priest was never criminally charged.

A devout Christian himself, Mack said this behavior hurts faithful, dedicated Catholic priests.

“There are legitimate priests and parishioners and it neutralizes that when this kind of stuff happens,” Mack said.

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