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Spotlight Report

Doubts in memo slowed '87 case

By Michael Rezendes, Globe Staff, 6/13/2002

Top church officials, such as Bishop John B. McCormack, have been implicated in systematic abuse coverups.  
Coverage of archdiocese coverups
A 1987 sexual abuse complaint against former Rev. Paul J. Mahan was dismissed after it was reported to an archdiocesan vice chancellor who expressed concern that the family of the victim might be ''press-oriented,'' and who recently was removed as pastor of a South Shore church because of allegations that he, too, molested minors in the 1980s.

The complaint was made to then-vice chancellor and Monsignor Frederick J. Ryan on behalf of a woman who said that her son had been inappropriately touched by Mahan and knew of ''other boys'' who allegedly had been molested by the priest. Mahan is now the subject of several civil lawsuits and an Essex County criminal investigation.

Ryan was accused of molesting two student athletes at Catholic Memorial High School during the 1980s in lawsuits filed this year by former hockey star Garry M. Gardland and a teammate.

After receiving the complaint about Mahan, which was made on behalf of the mother of a student at the now-closed Don Bosco High School, church officials waited six years and received several more sexual allegations before removing Mahan from his post at St. Matthew Church in Dorchester. They waited until 1998 before removing him from the priesthood.

Ryan, in a Feb. 13, 1987, memo to Bishop Robert J. Banks, said he defended Mahan to a priest from Don Bosco who relayed the sexual abuse complaint, referring to Mahan as ''a very hard-working good young priest.''

In the memo to Banks, Ryan also questioned the credibility of the family who complained of the molestation. ''I had asked: would he be perhaps `fabricating' and telling something beyond the truth?'' Ryan wrote, referring to the allged victim. At another point, Ryan wrote, ''I asked if the family might be `press oriented.'''

After receiving the memo, Banks wrote a note referencing the Ryan memo and saying, ''Paul Mahan met with me and explained the charges were fake.''

The memos by Ryan and Banks were among dozens of church documents filed yesterday after being turned over to Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney representing 11 people who say they were molested by Mahan beginning in 1969, shortly after Mahan was ordained.

Timothy P. O'Neill, Ryan's attorney, had no comment last night when asked about the memo.

Other church records showing that psychiatrists in the late 1990s viewed Mahan as ''untreatable'' and a ''danger to men, women and children'' were made public last month under a court order.

The documents released yesterday were withheld to allow Garabedian and Suffolk Superior Court Judge Constance M. Sweeney time to block out the names of alleged victims.

The documents released yesterday also show that church officials suspected Mahan ''kissed and molested Haitian boys'' while at St. Matthew's. Previously, court records had referred only to allegations made against Mahan while he was a priest at St. Ann Church in Dorchester and at St. Joseph Church, in Needham.

Two other memos from 1997 described a meeting between Sister Rita V. McCarthy, who met with alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse, and an irate woman who complained vehemently that she and others had been molested by Mahan. ''She kept referring to paying people off to `keep their mouths shut' and not relaying information about the priest from the pulpits,'' McCarthy wrote.

McCarthy's memo also said that the irate woman threatened to take her complaints to the Globe.

Cardinal Bernard F. Law removed Mahan from the priesthood in 1998.

Walter V. Robinson of the Globe Staff contributed to this article.M ichael Rezendes can be reached at rezendes@globe.com

This story ran on page A24 of the Boston Globe on 6/13/2002.
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