UPDATED: William O’Malley, Jesuit & ‘Exorcist’ Actor, Accused of Sexual Abuse



Reverend William J. O’Malley is known for his portrayal as Father Joe Dyer in the 1973 horror film “The Exorcist.”


Reverend William J. O’Malley, a former theology teacher at Fordham Preparatory School and one-time actor, has been accused of sexual abuse against a minor. Rev. O’Malley is known for playing Father Joe Dyer in the 1973 film “The Exorcist” and formerly resided in Murray-Weigel Hall at the Rose Hill campus. 

Rev. O’Malley taught theology, English and drama at McQuaid Jesuit High School in Rochester, NY, from 1965 to 1986. The accuser, identified only by his initials, “J.W.,” claims that the Rev. O’Malley sexually abused him during the 1985-86 school year. 

J.W., who was 17 years old at the time, claims that he was assaulted multiple times in a classroom, in school hallways and at school-sponsored events. The victim claims to suffer from “severe emotional and psychological distress, humiliation, fright dissociation, anger, depression, anxiety, family turmoil and loss of faith” due to Rev. O’Malley’s abuse.

In 1973, Rev. O’Malley took a sabbatical in order to film “The Exorcist.” During that time he also worked as an assistant theology professor at Fordham University, where the movie was filmed. He returned to McQuaid High School after filming: “I was a moonlight actor, but I’m a teacher,” Rev. O’Malley said in an interview with the Rochester Democrat in 1975. “My life is with the kids.”

After working at McQuaid High School for 22 years, Rev. O’Malley started teaching theology at Fordham Preparatory School in 1986. According to then-Fordham Preparatory School President Rev. Kenneth Boller in a report by the New York Post, he was let go in 2012 for his “abrasive” and “confrontational style.”

Rev. O’Malley, now 87 years old, previously lived in Murray-Weigel Hall, located at the Rose Hill campus. Murray-Weigel Hall is operated by the Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus. He has not been employed at Fordham University nor at Fordham Preparatory School since being let go in 2012.

The allegation comes after the passing of the Child Victims Act in New York which allows sexual abuse victims of any age, including those whose cases had expired under the old statue of limitations, to take legal action. Hundreds of allegations of sexual assault have flooded New York’s courts since the act went into effect on Aug. 14. 

O’Malley is the tenth Jesuit priest connected to the Fordham community who has been accused of sexual assault this year. On Jan. 15, University President the Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., released a statement credibly accusing nine priests of sexual assault

McQuaid High School and the Jesuits USA Northeast Province have denied having any prior knowledge of Rev. O’Malley’s alleged abuse before the release of the lawsuit. Bob Howe, Assistant Vice President for Communications & Special Adviser to the President, has stated that Rev. O’Malley was removed from Murray-Weigel Hall following the the surfacing of the accusations.


Addendum: Fordham University has released a statement regarding the Rev. O’Malley, stating: 

“Fordham has absolutely no tolerance for sexual misconduct of any kind and will continue to take all actions necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of our students and others in our community.  Upon learning of the allegations against Father O’Malley in the recent litigation, he was removed from residence at Murray-Weigel Hall, consistent with our agreement with the Province, which owns and operates the facility.”

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Father O’Malley lives in Spellman Hall. Father O’Malley previously lived in Murray-Weigel Hall, which is operated by the Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus. He has never resided in Spellman Hall.