Massachusetts priest in abuse case returns to ministry

Associated Press/January 17, 2009

Boston - One of the priests accused in a sexual abuse case settled last month for nearly half-million dollars by the Boston Archdiocese has returned to active ministry, church leaders said Friday.

The Rev. Eugene Sullivan had been on administrative leave since 2005, when he and two other priests were accused of sexually abusing a boy in the mid-1970s. A single allegation was made against Sullivan. One of the other priests whose case was included in the settlement was the late Rev. Joseph Birmingham, a focus of Boston's clergy abuse scandal who was accused by more than 50 men.

Church officials reached a settlement with Mark Martin, 46, on the eve of the trial last month for $475,000, without any admission of guilt.

An archdiocesan review board has found the allegation against Sullivan was unsubstantiated and said that no other complaints ever had been made against him.

"As a result of this finding, Cardinal O'Malley has lifted all restrictions on Father Sullivan's exercise of public ministry as pastor of St. Frances Xavier Parish in Weymouth," the archdiocese said in a release Friday.

Martin's attorney, Mitchell Garabedian, said Martin was outraged Sullivan has returned to ministry.

"None of them admitted the abuse, yet the church paid $475,000 in settlement, which supports my client's claim that he was sexually molested by these priests," Garabedian said.

Sullivan's attorney, Timothy O'Neill said his client has denied the "totally outrageous and wrong" allegation against him and had wanted to face his accuser in court.

"Martin had every right to a trial but he didn't chose to do that," O'Neill said. "He wants a day in the media to rail against an innocent priest."

O'Neill said a judge reviewing Martin's case found last year that the archdiocese could not be found negligent in its supervision of Sullivan, who had faced no complaints in his 40-year ministry, unlike the other two priests. The attorney said he wasn't part of the negotiations between the archdiocese and Martin's attorneys, but that his client's case apparently was included to the settlement because both sides wanted to end it.

The third priest accused by Martin was the Rev. Edward Kelley, who was allowed to continue ministry for years after Nahant police found him in a state of undress with a 19-year-old man in his car in 1977. Kelley is now a senior priest restricted from ministry, the archdiocese said.

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