17 more allege abuse by Geoghan, file suit

Boston Globe/October 4, 2002
By Michael Rezendes

Sixteen men and a teenage boy filed new lawsuits yesterday against convicted pedophile John J. Geoghan and a roster of church officials who supervised the former priest, signaling that the Boston Archdiocese may be defending sexual abuse claims against Geoghan for years to come.

Some of the cases allege relatively recent acts of abuse and could lead to further criminal prosecution of Geoghan, said attorney Mitchell Garabedian, the attorney for the 17 alleged victims. One of them, at age 17, is still a minor, and says he was fondled by Geoghan five or six years ago at a Roslindale swimming pool.

Garabedian said the accusations made in the new cases range from fondling to rape and occurred over more than three decades, from 1964 to 1996, when Geoghan was affiliated with more than a half-dozen parishes and the Regina Cleri home for retired priests in Boston.

None of the alleged victims has, until now, ever publicly accused Geoghan.

Geoghan's practice of targeting young boys with absent fathers was cited by some of the victims, Garabedian said, as it was by some of the 86 other victims and their relatives who settled their claims against Geoghan and church officials for $10 million last month.

''Once again, in many of these cases there was an absentee father and the mother was overwhelmed,'' Garabedian said. One alleged victim was raped while his father was in the service stationed in Vietnam, Garabedian said.

The lawsuits settled last month set the stage for an international sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church that erupted in January when the Globe aired church documents that showed Law and other officials knew Geoghan was a child molester before awarding him new assignments where he abused more children.

''The plaintiffs in these cases believe the church really doesn't care, as it didn't care in the cases of the 86 victims,'' Garabedian said. He cited what he said was a church decision to stop paying for psychological counseling for the 86 Geoghan victims who settled their claims last month.

But archdiocese spokeswoman Donna M. Morrissey said the victims who settled their claims, like all other victims of clergy sexual abuse, are eligible to receive psychological and spiritual counseling at the new archdiocesan Office for Healing and Assistance Ministry, in Newtonville.

''We have a lot of concern for all victims of abuse,'' Morrissey said. ''We've repeatedly said they deserve our support, we've apologized repeatedly for the suffering and pain they've endured, and we care very much for them.''

Morrissey also said Law has offered to meet with any of the victims of clergy sexual abuse, including those who settled claims against Geoghan last month.

The lawsuits filed yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court bring the number of those who say they were sexually molested by Geoghan to about 150. They also bring the number of active civil lawsuits against Geoghan and his supervisors in the Boston Archdiocese to 19 - and Garabedian said he is assessing three additional claims for possible civil litigation. Law is named as a defendant in two of the lawsuits filed yesterday. Bishop Thomas V. Daily, a top deputy under Law and the late Cardinal Humberto S. Medeiros and now the head of the Brooklyn diocese, is a defendant in six of the complaints.

Geoghan, who was defrocked in 1998, is serving six years of a nine-to-10-year prison sentence for groping a boy in a Waltham swimming pool, and is facing rape and indecent assault and battery charges involving two additional boys in Suffolk County. The vast majority of accusations against Geoghan have not been criminally prosecuted because they fall outside the statute of limitations.

Yesterday, David Procopio, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, said he could neither confirm nor deny that criminal investigations are underway in any of the new cases.

With yesterday's civil filings, the 67-year-old Geoghan has been accused of sexually molesting children, mostly boys, at each of the six parishes where he was formally assigned during his 36 years as an active priest. Those parishes are located in Saugus, Concord, Hingham, and Weston, and in the Boston neighborhoods of Forest Hills and Dorchester.

Geoghan also has been accused of molesting children while officiating at St. Anne Church in Boston's Readville section, and at St. Joseph Church in Hyde Park.

Yesterday, Douglas Fage, a 45-year-old Maine resident who filed one of the 17 new lawsuits, said he contacted Garabedian after seeing televised news accounts of the Geoghan case earlier this year that featured interviews with former boyhood friends from St. Paul Church in Hingham. ''I'm very mad,'' Fage said. ''I think someone should be held accountable.''

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