The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


Next trial is set for February

By Mac Daniel, and Sacha Pfeiffer, Globe Staff, 1/19/2002

A month from now former priest John J. Geoghan, convicted yesterday of molesting a boy at a pool in Waltham a decade ago, will be back in court to stand trial for allegedly raping a young boy in the basement of Geoghan's family home in West Roxbury in the 1980s.

About 130 people have come forward and said they were sexually assaulted by Geoghan during his 30 years as a priest in parishes in and around Boston, but only three criminal cases have been filed against the defrocked priest.

The first ended yesterday with Geoghan's conviction for molesting a boy at the Waltham Boys and Girls Club a decade ago. A second criminal trial on rape charges is scheduled for Feb. 20 in Suffolk Superior Court. The date of a third Suffolk County trial on sexual assault charges has yet to be determined.

The low number of criminal charges is due in part to the fact that the statute of limitations has run out on alleged crimes committed decades ago.

In cases of rape of a child under 16, criminal charges must be brought within 15 years after the crime was reported to police or within 15 years after the victim turns 16, whichever comes first.

In cases of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14, criminal charges must be brought within six years after the crime was reported to police or within six years after the victim turns 16, whichever comes first.

Over the years, the statute of limitations for rape has been amended to allow victims more time to bring criminal charges, but under the statutes that prevailed in the 1960s and '70s, the window of time to bring charges has closed for many victims.

Another reason why more criminal charges were not filed against Geoghan is that the archdiocese was not required to notify police of sexual abuse allegations involving priests, and did not do so.

Yet, even in cases that fell within the statute of limitations, some of the alleged victims have been unwilling to file criminal charges and testify in court. Scores of them, however, have filed civil lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Boston, which thus far has spent about $10 million to settle civil claims against Geoghan.

On Feb. 20, Geoghan will go on trial in Suffolk Superior Court, charged with two counts of rape of a child.

In that case, Geoghan is accused of raping a 7-year-old boy he met when the boy's mother's boyfriend -- who had served as an altar boy for Geoghan as a child -- introduced them. With the permission of the child's mother, Geoghan began taking the Jamaica Plain boy out for ice cream. He then asked the boy sexually explicit questions, prosecutors allege.

Within one or two months, prosecutors say, Geoghan began taking the boy to the West Roxbury High School swimming pool in the evenings, where the child was allegedly fondled in the pool locker room on dozens of occasions.

Geoghan later began taking the child to his home on Pelton Street in West Roxbury, where Geoghan allegedly performed oral sex on the child six or seven times over several visits, warning him never to tell his mother.

"Believing that a priest could do no wrong, the child hid his confusion, fear, and shame from those around him," according to the prosecutors' statement.

It is also alleged that Geoghan visited the child's home late at night and molested the boy while praying with him in his bedroom.

This story ran on page B4 of the Boston Globe on 1/19/2002.
Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

For complete coverage of the priest abuse scandal, go to