Choir leader ac­cuses of­fi­cer of in­tim­i­da­tion

Church con­fronta­tion joins grow­ing list of prob­lems at Quan­tico, Va., base

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Tom Van­den Brook

WASHINGTON – The com­man­der of the Marines’ famed base at Quan­tico, Va., stormed the al­tar af­ter Catholic Mass in Jan­uary at the base chapel and con­fronted the choir di­rec­tor with an “I will kill you” face, ac­cord­ing to in­ter­views and doc­u­ments ob­tained by USA TO­DAY.

The ac­tions by Col. Joseph Mur­ray on Jan. 14 — and an­other in­ci­dent in Oc­to­ber in which Mur­ray sent Ma­rine crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tors to in­ter­ro­gate a con­tract priest at his off-base home about a ros­ter of parish­ioners — sparked in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions by the Marines.

An in­spec­tor gen­eral’s inquiry found merit in choir di­rec­tor Marie DeSilva’s com­plaint that Mur­ray had in­tim­i­dated her when he con­fronted her in a rage but could not de­ter­mine if he had bro­ken the law. The Marines also found “no prob­a­ble cause sup­port­ing any mis­con­duct” by Mur­ray or the in­ves­ti­ga­tors in the case of Fa­ther Kieran Mandato, ac­cord­ing to a Ma­rine Corps spokesman.

The church flap joins a grow­ing list of prob­lems at Quan­tico, known as the “Cross­roads of the Ma­rine Corps,” in­volv­ing al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and a toxic work environment. The base is about 30 miles south of Washington.

DeSilva and Mandato, a re­tired Navy chap­lain and for­mer con­tract priest at Quan­tico, said in in­ter­views that Mur­ray’s ac­tions had ter­ri­fied them. The in­ci­dents arose from dis­putes about pay­ments to Mandato, a ros­ter of parish­ion- ers he had at his home and per­ceived per­sonal slights from the pul­pit.

DeSilva in her com­plaint to the in­spec­tor gen­eral said, “While it may be ap­pro­pri­ate for ev­ery Ma­rine to have an ‘I will kill you face,’ it is not ap­pro­pri­ate to use that face on a 52-year-old fe­male choir di­rec­tor in church.”

“I feared for my life,” Mandato said. DeSilva be­lieves com­ments she made af­ter the ser­mon trig­gered Mur­ray’s out­burst. She took of­fense at a ref­er­ence by an­other priest she be­lieved was aimed at her and oth­ers in a church group, brand­ing their ac­tions “un-Chris­tian.” In­stead of an­nounc­ing the fi­nal hymn, DeSilva told the priest, “You shouldn’t be call­ing peo­ple names dur­ing Mass.”

She sub­mit­ted her com­plaint about Mur­ray on Jan. 16, ac­cord­ing to the Ma­rine Corps. “A re­view was con­ducted, which found there was no in­di­ca­tion of cred­i­ble crim­i­nal mis­con­duct” on Mur­ray’s part, said Rex Run­yon, a Ma­rine Corps spokesman.

Mandato, the for­mer Navy chap­lain, said his re­la­tion­ship with Mur­ray had soured over a dis­pute about pay­ments for ser­vices he per­formed out­side the scope of his con­tract. Mandato’s last Mass at Quan­tico was on Sept. 10, 2017. At the end of the ser­vice, Mandato told the con­gre­ga­tion that Mur­ray had not al­lowed him to com­pete for the new con­tract.

Around the same date, the Ma­rine Corps re­ceived an al­le­ga­tion that Mandato had fraud­u­lently ac­quired a ros­ter of church mem­bers that con­tained per­son­ally iden­ti­fi­able in­for­ma­tion, ac­cord­ing to Run­yon. Mur­ray re­ferred the mat­ter to the Marines Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion Divi­sion, Run­yon said.

On Sept. 13, plain clothes of­fi­cers ar­rived at the door of Mandato’s home, off the base, ac­cord­ing to the Marines and Mandato. The Ma­rine Corps and Mandato dis­agree about much of what hap­pened next.

Mandato did not re­turn a “pro­fes­sional and re­spect­ful” phone mes­sage from in­ves­ti­ga­tors, Run­yon said. So the in­ves­ti­ga­tors showed up on his doorstep, knocked and Mandato did not an­swer.

Mandato said the of­fi­cers called him 19 times and “al­most broke down the door.” Their visit, he said, was de­signed to in­tim­i­date him.

On Sept. 14, the crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tors ob­tained the ros­ter and found it did not con­tain any sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion, Run­yon said. They closed the case with­out fur­ther ac­tion and cleared Mur­ray and the in­ves­ti­ga­tors.


Col. Joseph Mur­ray

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