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A priest widely known within the archdiocese and beyond and highly respected by brother priests and lay collaborators has been appointed to a permanent position at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Msgr. Robert P. Deeley, who only a few months ago had gone to Rome to serve as a kind of “canonical liaison” for the bishops of the United States will now be working in that department which until last April had been headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.
Msgr. Deeley is a native of Belmont and a son of Sacred Heart parish, Watertown. He attended the parish’s grammar and always pointed to the dedication of the Sisters of St. Joseph who taught him there as important influences on his life. One of the priests at Sacred Heart, Father (later Msgr.) John Keilty was another influence on Msgr. Deeley and others in the parish who sensed a call to service as priest or religious. His brother, Father Kevin Deeley, also a priest of the archdiocese is now a Navy chaplain.
Young Robert was graduated from Matignon High School and prepared for ordination at St. John Seminary, the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and at the Gregorian University, Rome. He is an alumnus of the Pontifical North American College. Cardinal Medeiros ordained him to the priesthood at his home parish on July 14, 1973.
His first assignment was to St. Bartholomew’s Parish in Needham as an “assistant” or what would be today a parochial vicar. In 1978 he was appointed to the staff of the Metropolitan Tribunal. He returned to Rome and his alma mater — the Gregorian University for graduate studies in canon law — where he was awarded a doctorate in canon law (J.C.D) in 1986. His dissertation was about the canon law affecting Catholic colleges and universities.
He returned to the archdiocese and served on the Tribunal in various capacities being named Judicial Vicar in 1989. He was in residence at St. Bridget Parish, Lexington part of the time while his mentor, Msgr. Keilty was pastor. From 1988-1999 he was chaplain of the Grey Nuns at their residence in Lexington. He remained judicial vicar until being named pastor of Quincy’s St. Ann Parish on Oct. 12, 1999. He was delighted to be back in parish life and the people of the parish were delighted with him as well.
His canonical life did not end in the parish, in 2000 he assumed the presidency of the Canon Law Society of America, a mark of the esteem his peers in the ministry of canon law held him.
Among his notable contributions to canon law was his membership on the Canon Law society committee that assisted in the second English translation of the 1983 Code of Canon Law.
A man who is able to be serious about his duties but not too serious about himself, he always seemed to have a smile on his face and a ready comment flowing from a well honed and often dry wit. A priest who was ever ready to assist and lead you readily through the sometimes seemingly endless maze of canon law.
The late Pope John Paul II named Father Deeley a Prelate of Honor with the title of Rev. Msgr. on Dec. 13, 1995.
When Msgr. Deeley took up his initial responsibilities in Rome he was acting as a kind of canonical go between helping the bishops of the nation present and process the cases of priests whose cases arising from accusations of sexual abuse of minors had been sent to Rome. He and several other priests had worked closely with the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on these cases.
The archdiocese received formal notification on Sept. 16, 2005 of the appointment. "With this letter I write to inform you that, Rev. Msgr. Robert P. Deeley, a priest of your archdiocese, has been definitively assumed into service to the Holy See as an Official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith." While in Rome in his new position, Msgr. Deeley will be residing at the Villa Stritch, a residence for American priests who work in various offices of the Holy See.