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Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church
by the investigative staff of the Boston Globe

Chapter 1 | Father Geoghan | Page 7

Foreword  |  Introduction  |  Page 1  |  Page 2
Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7

This time, after a ten-day stay at the St. Luke Institute, a Catholic psychiatric hospital in Maryland, the diagnosis was far less optimistic than earlier judgments. "It is our clinical judgment that Father Geoghan has a long-standing and continuing problem with sexual attraction to prepubescent males," the evaluation read. "His recognition of the problem and his insight into it is limited." Therapists at St. Luke advised that Geoghan have no unsupervised contact with minor males and that he return for residential treatment. For his part, Geoghan found the staff confrontational, but while at St. Luke he admitted that he had "inappropriate sexual activity with prepubertal boys in the early 1960s," an admission that directly contradicted an earlier contention to therapists that he had not been sexually attracted to children before 1976.

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Former priest John Geoghan

In early 1995, steeling himself for the gathering storm of civil lawsuits against him, Geoghan and his sister struck a business deal. Just months after prosecutors began a criminal investigation, and a year before the first civil lawsuits were filed against him, Geoghan sold his sister his half-interest in two houses he owned with her to a real estate trust she controlled. The two homes, a large brick-and-stucco colonial in West Roxbury and the oceanfront home in Scituate, were once owned by the Geoghans’ mother and their uncle the monsignor.

The two houses—in the family for a half century and together worth from $895,000 to $1.3 million—were now Catherine Geoghan’s alone to control. And they were legally out of the reach of the people who claimed that her brother the priest had attacked them. "My mother said she didn’t think anything should be left in my brother’s name because he’s so generous and so kind to everybody that he wouldn’t have a cent," Catherine Geoghan said. "We wouldn’t have a house over our heads because he was always helping people out. So she thought it was better if just my name was on it." Now, with Geoghan’s legal trouble advancing, his mother’s wish came true. The price Catherine paid for the homes was $1 each.

Increasingly isolated, increasingly desperate, Geoghan grew anxious and bitter. He had difficulty sleeping, and when sleep did come it was fitful. He gained weight. In some respects Geoghan considered himself "already dead," but he assured his therapist that while he was scared, anxious, and afraid, he was not suicidal.

"I have been falsely accused and feel alienated from my ministry and fellowship with my brother priests," he wrote to then Monsignor William F. Murphy after Murphy asked for his resignation as associate director of the Office for Senior Priests in late 1995. Geoghan refused Murphy’s request, considering resignation tantamount to an admission of guilt, which he would not concede. "Where is there justice or due process?" he asked.

Geoghan, still mourning his "saintly" mother’s 1994 death, expressed anger at God for the indignity that was visited upon her in her final days: her incontinence, her helplessness. He tried to buoy himself with a trip to Ireland with the then ninety-three-year-old Monsignor Keohane. He came home with gifts for his therapist. "He gave me a package of three nips of Bailey’s Irish Cream," Messner recalled. "He was enthusiastic about his vacation in Ireland with his uncle, despite the pall over him."

"I enjoy a lot: family, friends, good food, good conversation, but I get tired easily," Geoghan said. He took up golf again. He helped his sister clean out her attic. He gathered salt marsh hay near his home in Scituate for use in his garden. When friends visited from Ireland, he played tour guide and showed them the cranberry bogs of Plymouth and the Hyannis Port compound on Cape Cod that was still home to the extended Kennedy family. He tried to focus his day by gardening, cooking, even cleaning his room at Regina Cleri, the residence for older priests. He even joined his uncle in the celebration of Mass there. And, he confided to his psychiatrist, he was still sexually attracted to boys.

Finally, Law had had enough. In January 1996 he removed Geoghan from his post at Regina Cleri and, weeks later, ordered Geoghan into a residential treatment center, writing, "I know that this is a difficult moment for you." Geoghan resisted. The Church wanted him to attend meetings of Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. Geoghan refused. He insisted he wasn’t tempted. The Church wasn’t convinced. "I see no signs that Father Geoghan has taken the steps that addicted people seem to feel are essential to recovery," Flatley, who was handling Geoghan’s case for the archdiocese, wrote. "He has not joined a group. He does not attend 12-step meetings. He has not been receiving ongoing counseling."

Indeed, Geoghan was digging in his heels. He believed inpatient counseling unnecessary and punitive. "I feel depressed, tired and beaten—on the verge of death row," he said. "I feel condemned." He scrutinized Church law to determine his rights and found the bishops held all the power. He was at their mercy. He wondered about retreating to his family’s home, where he would live with his sister. But in July 1996, a Waltham, Massachusetts, woman filed a lawsuit against him, alleging that he sexually abused her three sons after she asked him to counsel them and be the father figure she felt the boys needed after their father moved out.

This was the first time, after decades of abuse, that Geoghan’s problem with children became public, and it provoked a hand-delivered letter from Law with an ultimatum. Geoghan could choose inpatient analysis in Maryland or at the Southdown Institute in Canada, but he must go. Geoghan again balked, but his elderly uncle counseled him that the priesthood was worth any price, and Geoghan agreed to pay it by going to the Canadian treatment facility. The day after he arrived he said he was doing fine.

By the end of the year, Geoghan’s treatment in Canada and what was left of his active priesthood would be over. The archdiocese declared him "permanently disabled." At age sixty-one, it agreed to finance his retirement from its clergy medical fund. Geoghan looked forward to taking college courses in creative writing and computer science. "Thank you for the permissions granted me. I also appreciate the warmth of your letter," Geoghan wrote Law, acknowledging the cardinal’s letter granting his retirement. "I am sure it was as difficult for you to write as it was for me to read."

As the Church opened its season of Advent in 1996—a bright time of preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ birth—Cardinal Law may well have believed he had heard the last of John J. Geoghan and the allegations against him.

But what he had heard was barely the beginning.

Foreword  |  Introduction  |  Page 1  |  Page 2
Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7

Excerpted from Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church, published by Little, Brown and Company. All rights reserved.

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