NORWICH, Conn. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A former deacon has stepped forward accusing a Connecticut priest of sexual harassment and assault.
Mark King, one-time deacon at Sacred Heart Church in Groton, told local newspaper The Day last week that during a 2006 trip to Rome, Fr. Gregory Mullaney repeatedly pressured him for sex and at one point even tried to assault him in the street.
King explained that after coming to Sacred Heart in 2005, he and his wife befriended Fr. Mullaney, frequently socializing with him and even taking a trip to New York with the parish priest.
Not long into their friendship, Mullaney told the couple he went to Italy each year to buy vestments and religious books and invited King along on his upcoming trip. King accepted, and in February 2006, the priest and deacon started off on an 11-day trip to Rome.
In a sworn statement filed after his return, King detailed a pattern of increasingly predatory behavior.
The first sign of trouble came on their third day in Rome. That morning, King met Mullaney at his hotel room to begin a day of sightseeing. When Mullaney came to the door, King recalled, the priest mentioned that he'd had a difficult night. When King asked why, Mullaney replied, "The Twisted Sisters broke in last night and jumped me and raped me and one of them stuck her [expletive] in my face."
King was shocked.
"I was a little stunned and baffled that a priest would talk like that, particularly when we were preparing to go celebrate Mass," he recounted. "I tried to make light of it and go on with the day."
Each morning, Mullaney would share some "highly inappropriate story" with King. He frequently resorted to impure comments about other priests, nuns and church staff, telling King he'd had sex with several of them.
The priest began drinking heavily at lunch and dinner, and his sexually graphic banter increased.
"You want it Marco, you want it bad. Come on, be my [expletive]," he told King. "Come on, let's go into the bathroom, just you and I, we'll be quick, you want it, you know you want it bad."
Mullaney even tried to cajole King into sex by referencing his service for the Church.
"Come on," said the priest, "be a good deacon," adding "what happens in Rome stays in Rome."
As the days wore on, Mullaney became more aggressive, moving from verbal haranguing to physical assault. One day while at lunch, he reached under the table. Grabbing King's shoe, Mullaney untied his laces and forced his foot into the priest's groin. King quickly pulled his foot back, losing his shoe in the process.
On their last night in Rome, Mullaney got drunk at dinner and started making embarrassing comments to surrounding patrons. King left the restaurant, but Mullaney was close behind; the priest came up behind King, grabbed him and repeatedly thrust his groin against the deacon's buttocks. King yelled at Mullaney to stand back and returned to their hotel.
As soon as he returned to the United States, King wrote down all that had happened to him in Rome. He compiled a four-page statement and delivered it to Msgr. Robert Brown, a leading Norwich Church official (now deceased), as well as diocesan investigator Deacon Al Fecteau.
In his statement, King emphasized that he never indicated any interest in a sexual relationship with Mullaney, writing, "I have not and never have had any interest in engaging in the type of relationship that Father Greg tried to develop between us. His advances were always unwelcome."
After the document was typed up, King signed it. His wife and Fecteau co-signed as witnesses. The Kings told The Day that at the end of their meeting at the chancery, Msgr. Brown told them to keep the incident confidential in order to protect Mullaney's privacy.
"They told us don't say a word to anybody. Mark was sworn to secrecy," he wife recounted. "I left the room thinking there was no doubt, these people will take care of it. Mark is a deacon. He is one of their own."
"I felt they would take it seriously," King added, noting the clerical sex abuse scandal was still fresh on everyone's minds.
Father Mullaney was removed from Sacred Heart Church but was allowed to continue in ministry. Since 2006, he's been assigned to at least three other Connecticut parishes, including St. Agnes in Niantic, where he currently presides.
King said he was prompted to go public for the sake of justice, after Norwich Bp. Michael Cote was interviewed about the clerical sex abuse crisis.
"I think communication is very important. If the people stay in the dark with this, it doesn't help them heal or help the victims heal," Bp. Cote told The Day in September. "We need to talk this out and do so in a frank manner."
The bishop was asked if he would be willing to open diocesan secret files containing sexual abuse complaints against his priests. After earlier praising open communication and transparency, Cote said he would not turn such records over to the police or to the Connecticut attorney general's office.
"I can't by law make a record available unless the person whose file that it is signs off and gives me permission to do it," he claimed.
True to his word, Bp. Cote refuses to address King's allegations. He refuses to disclose Mullaney's parish assignments since 2006. He refuses to say whether other complaints have been lodged against the accused priest.
Likewise, Fr. Mullaney refused to comment on King's account when approached outside St. Agnes earlier this month.
For his part, King is undeterred.
"The truth has to be told," he said, adding:
This is not against Greg. He is a sick man. But [the problem] is perpetuating itself. If nothing is said, then nothing gets done. You have people dropping 10, 15, 20 bucks in the [collection] basket each week and they put their trust in the bishop to do the right thing.
"I'm not looking for money," King said. "I'm looking for people to be safe."