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Priest who served in Granite Falls is accused of sex crime

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Priest who served in Granite Falls is accused of sex crime
Morris Minnesota 607 Pacific Avenue 56267

By Linda Vanderwerf, West Central Tribune

An Irish Catholic priest accused of raping a teenage boy in Ireland is also alleged to have sexually abused at least one boy during the short time he served in Granite Falls in 1982.

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The allegations against the Rev. Francis Markey were raised in a Cable News Network report last weekend.

Markey, 82, is fighting extradition to Ireland, where he is charged with raping a 15-year-old boy in 1968.

In the CNN report, an unidentified man whose face was not shown said that Markey hugged him and "stuck his tongue down my throat" in the priest's house across the street from the Church of St. Andrew in Granite Falls.

The man also said Markey had obviously been drinking.

A news release from the Diocese of New Ulm, which includes the Church of St. Andrew, says Markey served in the parish for about three months in spring 1982. He was in Willmar to participate in the Clinical Pastoral Education program at Willmar Regional Treatment Center.

During that time, he served St. Andrew's for about three months after the priest there died and before the new priest arrived. Markey left in June 1982 and never served the diocese again in any capacity, according to the release. After that, he reportedly worked in drug and alcohol treatment facilities in California and Michigan.

According to media reports in Ireland, Markey has been treated in mental health facilities four times for sexual abuse of children. The first time was in 1964.

He came to the United States in 1981 for treatment with the Servants of the Paraclete in New Mexico.

Jim Almich, who was president of the St. Andrew Parish Council in 1982, said he remembers Markey and his excellent sermons delivered in an Irish brogue. Almich is now retired and lives near Glenwood.

Markey was well-liked at the time, and members of the parish asked Almich if they could find a way to keep Markey in the parish longer. "But he had a dark side to him that no one saw," he said.

Because it's been 28 years, his memories of that time are foggy, he said, but he does recall how he learned that Markey had left.

Almich had made an appointment to meet with Markey one morning, but when he arrived for the appointment he learned that the priest had left during the night, and no one knew where he had gone.

A few days later, the vicar general of the diocese met with him and several other parishioners to explain that Markey would not be back, that he had some personal problems he had to take care of.

Almich said he doesn't recall being told directly what those problems were, but he guessed on his own what may have happened. "I prayed to God he had not molested anyone," he said, and no one ever said anything about it.

Almich said he has prayed and done a lot of soul-searching about that time. However, he had no idea who Markey was or what might have happened until after the priest was gone. "I think I did what the average person would have done" in the 1980s, he said.

Almich said he hopes that people who may have been affected by Markey can get the help and understanding they need. "It needs to be brought out, and we need to start the mending process," he said. "If there's a human being that's hurting, we need to address that."

Bob Schwiderski is ready to help with that. Schwiderski is Minnesota director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. He is also a former resident of Granite Falls, having served as the community development director from 1985 to 1989.

"I'm going to show up in Granite Falls, and I'm going to do an outreach," Schwiderski said Tuesday afternoon. He said he knows the person who spoke to CNN and expects that there could be other victims in west central Minnesota.

"When you take a serial predator like Markey, there's more victims or more people he attempted to victimize," he said.

Schwiderski said the architecture of Markey's last parish in Ireland and of St. Andrew's are eerily similar. For that reason, he said, he believes Markey "had a comfort level" that could have led him to start abusing children in a short time.

Some people think he is attacking the church when he speaks out against abuse, he said, but he does not have a problem with the Catholic religion. His criticism is aimed at a church hierarchy that allowed abuse to go on and transferred clergy to new churches without warning parishioners.

In the case of Markey, "they picked him up and dropped him on the unsuspecting children and families of Granite Falls," he said.

Sexual abuse is a crime of silence, he said, and he expects that more victims may come forward when they realize that they aren't alone.

Schwiderski said he follows criminal proceedings somewhat, but that's not his main concern.

"I have more priority on healing the wounded," he said.

The New Ulm Diocese and SNAP both provided contact information for victims of sexual abuse.

In its news release, the diocese states its commitment to assist sex abuse victims and to prevent sexual abuse in the diocese. Anyone who believes that they have suffered sexual abuse, exploitation, or harassment by a member of the clergy is asked to report it to the Victim Assistance Coordinator or the Bishop's Delegate in Matters Pertaining to Sexual Misconduct, 1400 Sixth Street North, New Ulm, MN 56073; 507-359-2966.

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