The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


Jurors hold fate of former priest

By Kathleen Burge, Globe Staff, 1/18/2002

Jurors deciding whether to convict defrocked Catholic priest John J. Geoghan of indecent assault on a young boy a decade ago began deliberations yesterday after a swift trial of less than two days.

The question facing jurors, who return to Middlesex Superior Court this morning to resume deliberations, is: Did Geoghan intentionally slide his hand beneath the boy's bathing suit in a swimming pool at the Waltham Boys and Girls Club and squeeze the boy's buttocks? Five witnesses -- including the alleged victim, now a 20-year-old college student, and his mother -- testified for prosecutors. Geoghan's lawyer didn't call anyone in his defense.

"We are not saying this is the most egregious act of sexual touching that ever happened," said Lynn Rooney, a Middlesex County prosecutor, in her closing argument. ". . . But just because it's not the worst thing . . . doesn't make it any less wrong."

Geoghan's lawyer, Geoffrey Packard, has argued that accounts of abuse from the alleged victim and his mother contradict one another. The pair gave differing testimony, from the year Geoghan allegedly touched the boy, to the reason they didn't notify authorities until about eight years later, Packard said.

"They disagree with each other in almost every respect," Packard said in his closing argument. ". . . Facts are stubborn things. They don't change over time. They aren't different for different people."

Packard argued that the alleged victim and his mother only came forward after they decided to file a civil lawsuit against Geoghan, seeking compensation for the emotional pain of his alleged abuse. Eighty-four civil lawsuits claiming sexual abuse over more than three decades have been filed against Geoghan, 66.

The former priest, who has pleaded not guilty, is charged with one count of indecent assault and battery on a child, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Superior Court Judge Sandra Hamlin instructed jurors that in order to find Geoghan guilty, they must find that prosecutors proved six elements of a crime, including that Geoghan intended to touch the alleged victim, that the touching was harmful or offensive, and that it was indecent.

Yesterday, Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans, a former Boston church official, testified that he called a meeting with Geoghan in late October 1991, after the church received a complaint about the priest. Hughes testified that a Salvation Army worker had called to say that Geoghan was proselytizing at the Waltham Boys and Girls Club.

Kathleen Burge can be reached by e-mail at

This story ran on page B4 of the Boston Globe on 1/18/2002.
Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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