Former priest, who was accused of heading a family of children he abused, dies 

— Photo, used with permission, from “The Anderson Report: Sexual Abuse in the Diocese of Albany”

Francis Melfe, who died on Friday, is pictured in a compendium of Albany Diocese priests accused of sexual abuse.

GUILDERLAND — Former priest Francis P. Melfe, who is accused in a suit brought under the Child Victims Act of abusing five children with whom he lived, together with their mother, in a suburban Guilderland home in secret, has died. He was 91. 

Mary DeTurris Poust, spokeswoman for the Albany Catholic Diocese, said the diocese was informed over the weekend that Melfe had died on Friday night, Sept. 20. Then, she said, on Sept. 23, the diocese was informed he would be buried that day in Our Lady of Angels Cemetery in Colonie. 

DeTurris Poust went on to say that the diocese does not have any statement on Melfe’s death because he had not been in ministry for 40 years and was no longer a priest. Melfe left the priesthood in 1979.

The suit also names as defendants the Albany Diocese and former Bishop Howard Hubbard and charges that Hubbard and the rest of the diocesan hierarchy bore responsibility for failing to supervise Melfe or to take any action in response to reports made directly to them, alleging that he was living in the suburbs with a family. 

Hubbard retired as bishop in 2014 and then, on Aug. 16, after a civil suit alleged that he had sexually abused a then-16-year-old boy at St. Mary’s Church in Ballston Spa, “stepped away from public ministry,” DeTurris Poust told The Enterprise earlier.

The mother of the five children, Edith Thomas, declined comment on Melfe’s death except to say, “It’s a sad situation. It’s in God’s hands.”

She added, “I’d rather just let it die with him, and it would be better for my children.”

Thomas told The Enterprise earlier that her children have not spoken to her since 1992 and that everything they say in the suit is true. 

Melfe was 91 and living in Schenectady and married, to a different woman, when the civil suit was filed in Albany County Supreme Court on Aug. 15. 

The suit alleges that the priest abused Thomas’s children sexually and psychologically from 1969 to 1979, after meeting their mother when her oldest son was a student at the school attached to his church in Albany, St. Patrick’s, on Central Avenue. When he met their mother, the four older children ranged in age from 3 to 12.

The suit says that the youngest child is the priest’s biological son.

Melfe soon moved their mother and the children into a home in suburban Guilderland, the suit says, maintaining an elaborate deceit to try to keep his identity from their neighbors. A number of people including neighbors and family members complained to Bishop Hubbard or, in other cases, his predecessor, Bishop Edwin Broderick, about the priest’s secret life, the suit alleges.  

Calls to the children’s lawyer, JoAnn Harri of Smalline and Harry of Albany, were not returned by press time. 

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