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SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas (ChurchMilitant.com) - Police believe a body found buried in a shallow grave is a retired priest with a scandalous past linked to a gay network of priests in Massachusetts.
Reports are suggesting that human remains found buried near Santa Monica, Texas on Friday are that of a retired priest that has been missing since Aug. 1. Father William M. Costello, from the diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, was living in the resort town of South Padre Island about 60 miles south of where the body was found.
Nikki Soto, the public information officer from South Padre Island told Church Militant that until the autopsy was completed, Fr. Costello was still considered a missing person. She noted that no arrests have been made in connection with the case. The FBI has taken over the investigation.
Father Costello was no stranger to scandal. In 2012, he was placed on administrative leave because he was being investigated by the Rhode Island State Police for "possible criminal activity." Father Costello was serving as pastor at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. Sources told Church Militant that he was allegedly giving money to a young man that he was having a sexual relationship with.
Church Militant spoke with John Kearns, the director of communications for the diocese, who confirmed Fr. Costello was still a priest in good standing at the time of his death. Kearns said he did not have details regarding the criminal investigation but noted that no charges were filed at the conclusion of the investigation.
In a statement sent to Church Militant, Kearns noted that Bp. George W. Coleman placed Fr. Costello on administrative leave when he learned of the investigation by the Rhode Island State Police.
"The investigaton did not involve the abuse of minors" it read, adding that parishioners of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish were notified during the weekend Masses of January 14 and 15, 2012.
"The investigation disclosed instances of poor judgment, which resulted in the request of Bishop Coleman that he retire early," Kearns said.
Father Costello was also named in a defamation lawsuit brought by Fr. John Harrington. Father Harrington claims that Fr. Costello and 11 others conspired to defame and strip him of his priestly identity for reporting sexual harassment from Fr. John Farrell he endured while enrolled at St. John's Seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts in the early 1990s.
Father Harrington said this "cabal of homosexual bishops and priests" worked together to fabricate an accusation that he was stalking a teenage parishioner at Fr. Costello's parish. He explained that Fr. Costello was a student of Fr. Farrell in the seminary that refused to remove the abusive priest.
While in the seminary, Fr. Harrington reported Fr. Farrell for making inappropriate sexual advances and describing a very graphic sexual encounter to an entire class.
"I wasn't the only member of the class that was hit on. Another student I know also reported Farrell to seminary officials," he explained.
After a year of inaction by seminary leaders and "feeling increasingly uncomfortable around Farrell and pressured by the gay community of seminarians and faculty that I was no longer welcome," Fr. Harrington left St. John's Seminary.
Father Harrington believes he was further victimized by the seminary leaders for the "scurrilous" psychological evaluation they ordered after he left. He said it was made after four interviews and "written in such a way that no other seminary would want to accept me." Eventually, Fr. Harrington was able to fulfill his vocation and was ordained a priest in 2004.
That vocation was short-lived as he was soon accused of stalking a teenage parishioner while he was parochial vicar to Msgr. John A. Perry at St. Patrick's parish in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Monsignor Perry was approached by Fr. Costello with the accusation but neither Msgr. Perry or Fr. Costello discussed the allegation with Fr. Harrington. Instead, they spread the story with the religious education directors.
Parishioners began treating Fr. Harrington with disrespect and hostility, even vandalizing his ordination chalice that was locked in the sacristy.
Speaking out in self-defense from the pulpit, Fr. Harrington was removed from St. Patrick's and eventually forbidden from presenting himself publicly as a priest. Investigating the matter himself, Fr. Harrington obtained signed affidavits from the boy's mother and two others that proved he never stalked the boy.
Father Harrington tried to work through the canon law process, but the bishop of the diocese of Fall River, Bp. George Coleman, refused to cooperate. Left with no other recourse, Fr. Harrington sued for defamation.
The judge agreed that there was defamation, but could not rule in favor of Fr. Harrington because the statute of limitations had run out, leaving him unable to live out his priestly vocation. To make matters worse, the diocese refuses to provide Fr. Harrington with any financial support.
South Padre Island Police noted family members of Fr. Costello filed the missing person report and said anyone with information on his disappearance should call (956) 761-5454.