Asked to help prevent new victims, he now feels bitter

Boston Globe/January 31, 2002
By Stephen Kurkjian

For more than a year in the early 1990s, Ray Sinibaldi, himself a victim of sexual abuse by a priest in Weymouth, worked directly with Cardinal Bernard Law and other top church officials as the Archdiocese of Boston formulated its first policy to deal with the problem of pedophilia among priests.

Sinibaldi said he emerged disappointed by the experience, feeling that the advice he offered - to encourage victims to report the allegations of abuse to prosecutors - was ignored. The archdiocese's decision to handle complaints on its own resulted in the church covering up the extent of the problem, Sinibaldi said.

Sinibaldi, now 48 and a special needs teacher in Florida, had gone to the archdiocese with a Weymouth friend to report to Law that they had each been molested by the Rev. Ernest Tourigney. They told church officials they had no interest in suing the church for money. Moved by the uproar over the sexual abuse case against former priest James R. Porter, they decided to reach out to the archdiocese to make certain that Tourigney was either terminated as a priest or given no assignments that would involve him with children.

The church agreed to place Tourigney on sick leave. After an hour's meeting with Law and the Rev. John B. McCormack, Law's supervisor for all priests and the principal architect of the new abuse policy, Sinibaldi and his friend, who asked not to be identified, agreed to assist the church in drawing up the new program.

In his communications to Law, Sinibaldi, who had worked with sexually dangerous men at Bridgewater State Hospital, said he emphasized that the antiabuse policy needed to emphasize the seriousness of the crime and encourage victims to report the allegations to prosecutors. ''The crime of sexual abuse of a minor is one of such heinous proportion that to withhold information about a known perpetrator is in and of itself criminal,'' Sinibaldi wrote in a letter to Law.

It should be the victim who decides whether to seek a criminal complaint against any abusing priest, and ''if they choose to take that course they should do so with the assistance and blessing of the church,'' he added in his letter.

But Law's new policy, announced on Jan. 15, 1993, left the responsibility to hear and investigate allegations of sexual abuse by priests completely with the archdiocese.

If wrongdoing was found by the church, it would offer counseling and compensation to the victims, and discipline priests by either reassigning them to positions that would keep them away from children or placing them on sick leave.

Law also pledged that the archdiocese would report to authorities ''in accordance with the law'' any allegations that were reported to it. That pledge was illusory, however, as priests were not then among the 25 professional groups that had to report allegations of abuse of children to the state. No cases of sexual abuse of a child by a priest has been reported to the Department of Social Services - by the archdiocese or a lay person - in recent years, according to state officials.

Feeling betrayed by the church, Sinibaldi and his friend hired lawyers and brought suits against the archdiocese and Tourigney, and each gained $35,000 in civil settlements in 1995.

Tourigney, now retired and living in Pocasset, did not return several phone calls seeking comment.

''I think in the end they used us,'' Sinibaldi said. ''I think they wanted to say they had worked with victims on the new policy, and they did say that. The problem is they didn't hear anything we said.''

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