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Former New Bedford altar boy says Porter raped him in church

By Linda Matchan, Globe Staff, 8/13/1992

In 1992, the Rev. James R. Porter case in Fall River brought the problem of clergy abuse into the open.  
Coverage of the Porter case
he attorney representing the alleged victims of former priest James R. Porter says he now has evidence that church officials allowed Porter to supervise altar boys in a New Bedford church -- despite his reassignment to hospital duties in the wake of allegations that the priest abused children -- and that he raped at least one of the altar boys.

"This is the third location where Porter had unsupervised, unrestricted access to altar boys when officials in the church were aware of his behavior," said Boston attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr. "This is a very unfortunate development."

The Fall River Diocese has been under criticism for several months since more than 70 men and women began coming forward to say that Porter had sexually abused them while he served at three parishes in North Attleborough, Fall River and New Bedford between 1960 and 1967. Porter, who is now married and has children, lives in Minnesota.

Alleged victims and their families have charged that church officials merely transferred Porter from one parish to another when they became aware of his behavior, and that by the time he arrived at St. James Parish in New Bedford, priests were instructed to keep him away from children because he had a "problem with boys." Porter was then reportedly assigned to St. Luke's Hospital in New Bedford.

But MacLeish says he has evidence that Porter was still allowed to say Mass at St. James Church and to oversee the activities of altar boys.

MacLeish said yesterday that he has been contacted by a man who lives in southeastern Massachusetts who claims that, in 1966, while Porter was primarily assigned to the hospital, the priest raped him while he was an altar boy at St. James Church. The man said he fled the church after the incident and told a priest named Msgr. Gallagher about it; he said Gallagher then told another priest named Rev. Shovelton to take Porter's place at Mass. The man said he never saw Porter at the church again.

MacLeish said the man also told him he witnessed one other altar boy being sexually molested by Porter.

MacLeish said it has taken this man several months to come forward with his story because of his difficulty in coming to terms with the alleged rape.

"I think the damage this man has done to hundreds of children is almost impossible to convey in a meaningful way," MacLeish said about Porter.

There have been previous allegations that Porter sexually abused children during his time in New Bedford. However, yesterday's remarks by MacLeish contained the first charges that Porter molested anyone on the premises of St. James Church.

Meanwhile, other alleged victims of Porter are forming a nonprofit foundation to provide assistance to victims of child sexual abuse.

"Our mission is to provide a safe environment for all survivors of child sexual abuse," said Steve Johnson of Rhode Island, who is coordinating the group's activities. He said the group, tentatively named "Protect the Children," is attempting to raise funds for therapy for survivors of any sort of child abuse and to provide educational information to schools, parent organizations and churches about the issue of sexual abuse.

This story ran in the Boston Globe on 8/13/1992.
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