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Church settled 6 suits vs. priest
Kept him in post despite allegations
By Sacha Pfeiffer and Stephen Kurkjian, Globe Staff, 1/27/2002
The Rev. Bernard J. Lane was accused of sexually molesting teenagers in the 1970s at Alpha Omega, a Littleton center for troubled youths operated by the Boston Archdiocese, and at a location in New Hampshire, according to Frederic N. Halstrom, a lawyer for one of Lane's alleged victims who has a pending lawsuit against the priest.
A lawyer for another Lane victim who has reached a settlement with the church said that the abuse involved anal and oral rape and that the New Hampshire incidents took place at a "bachelor pad" with mirrored ceilings. The lawyer spoke on condition of anonymity because a confidentiality clause prevents him from commenting publicly about the case.
For the archdiocese to retain Lane as associate director of its office for senior priests underscores the church's interest in protecting its priests while ignoring their victims, said Roderick MacLeish Jr., a lawyer who has represented several of Lane's victims who reached settlements in suits against the priest.
MacLeish called the priest "an absolute monster."
Lane, who is 67, denied the accusations in a telephone interview from his home in Barnstead, N.H., where he is retired. He referred all questions to his lawyer and nephew, Gerard F. Lane II.
Gerard F. Lane, interviewed yesterday at his Medford home, acknowledged that the archdiocese has settled three sex-abuse cases against his uncle for incidents that happened during his tenure at Alpha Omega. Gerard Lane said Wilson Rogers Jr., the archdiocese's lawyer, told him the cases should be settled or more claimants would "come out of the woodwork" even though Lane believed there was no merit to the accusations.
Rogers did not return a telephone call yesterday. Reached at his home last night, Rogers's son and law partner, Wilson Rogers III, hung up on a Globe reporter.
Asked to respond to several questions about Lane, Donna M. Morrissey, the spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said last night that she had been unable to reach other church officials for comment.
Among the most disturbing aspects of Lane's abuse, according to a lawyer for a former Alpha Omega resident who settled a case against Lane in the late 1990s, is that Lane played a role in selecting which youths were accepted to the facility.
To MacLeish, the church's handling of Lane mirrors the long-running favorable treatment of pedophile John J. Geoghan, whose abuse was overlooked as he was shuttled from one parish to another. MacLeish said he believes there is evidence that the archdiocese had long known about Lane's abusive behavior.
Cardinal Bernard F. Law said earlier this month that in January 1993, as part of a new archdiocesan policy on sexual abuse, the church reviewed its personnel files on all living priests and that some priests were removed from active ministry "because of what was discovered."
Indeed, Geoghan was removed from St. Julia Parish in Weston in January 1993. And church directories show that Lane was removed that same year as pastor of Our Lady of Grace Church in Chelsea and placed on sick leave.
But after three years on sick leave, Lane was associate director of the Office of Senior Priests at Regina Cleri, the archdiocese's principal retirement home for priests in downtown Boston, from 1996 to 1998, according to church directories.
Before Lane had that position, it was held for two years by Geoghan, who left it in 1996 after public attention was focused on his abuse of children.
Lane retired in 1999. But despite the seriousness of the abuse allegations against him, he remains a priest. Geoghan was defrocked in 1998.
MacLeish, noting that his clients' claims against Lane were filed and settled in 1995 and 1996, said he has little doubt that Lane was taken out of his parish in 1993 because Law's review that year revealed that the church had known about Lane's abuse in the 1970s and '80s but had done nothing about it.
Given the number of youths who were at the Littleton facility over time, MacLeish said, he urged the archdiocese when the cases were settled to reach out to see how many more Lane victims might have needed help. But church officials did not, he said.
With Lane and Geoghan, "we are seeing the same theme," MacLeish said. "The focus of the archdiocese is solely on protecting members of the clergy, with absolutely no regard for those whose lives have been so profoundly and tragically altered as a result of this kind of abuse."
Alluding to the Geoghan case, MacLeish added: "They should have looked at this as a crime, and not just another priest who had an illness."
Gerard Lane, the lawyer, denied that the church had transferred his uncle or put him on sick leave because of the allegations and subsequent settlements. He was placed on sick leave after undergoing surgery for both melanoma and prostate trouble, Lane said.
He said his uncle denies the charges, and asserts they were made by unsavory claimants -- two of whom are in prison -- who were hoping to make money off the archdiocese.
Lane was also critical of the archdiocese's decision to settle the cases, saying the church and its attorneys sacrificed his uncle's reputation to avoid bad publicity.
"They said if you fight it, it'll mean that more people will come out of the woodwork, so he settled it," Lane said.
"There's no due process here," Lane said. "And what it's come down to is my uncle, who has given his life to the church, in the end got double-crossed by it. It's so unfair."
But MacLeish, whose office has represented more than 150 victims of sexual abuse, including several of Lane's accusers, called the accusations against Lane "some of the most horrendous abuse we have ever heard of." MacLeish said the accusers were credible because they did not know one another but had suffered similar abuse.
In Lane's case, he said, the victims were troubled teenagers, many of whom subsequently ended up in jail and were in no position to come forward later.
Because of the number of teenage youths in the Littleton facility, MacLeish said he believes there are probably many more Lane victims who have never come forward.
Indeed, Halstrom, who represents a man with a pending lawsuit against Lane stemming from abuses alleged to have occurred at Alpha Omega and in New Hampshire in the mid-1970s, said his client has told him that he witnessed Lane abuse other teenagers at the facility. Halstrom said a court hearing on his client's case is scheduled for this week in Lowell.
In addition to serving as director of Alpha Omega House, Lane founded a treatment center for drug-using adolescents in Malden in 1969, and he organized retreats for youths at the churches where he worked as pastor.
He was also a former chaplain at Malden Catholic High School.
According to one account in the Globe, Lane addressed the Rotary Club of Boston in 1970 and spoke about how youths alienated by a materialistic society needed the love of their parents.
Walter V. Robinson, Matt Carroll, and Michael Rezendes of the Globe Spotlight Team contributed to this report.
This story ran on page A6 of the Boston Globe on 1/28/2002.