The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


A plea to Law: 'See us, help us'

Compiled By Globe Staff, 8/15/2002

Excerpt of a letter to Archbishop Bernard F. Law from Gregory Nash alleging abuse of his wife, whose name has been deleted by the Globe.

March 25, 1984

Most Rev. Bernard F. Law

Archbishop of Boston


Archdiocese of Boston

2121 Commonwealth Avenue

Brighton, Mass. 02135

Your Excellency:

I write to you with hope, yet with sadness that I must burden you with an unhappy story in this time that should be a positive and joyful new beginning for our Archdiocese.

My family has been deeply hurt by the actions of a priest of this Archdiocese, Rev. Anthony J. Rebeiro. We have further been hurt, perhaps even more seriously, by the response (and lack of response) of our Pastor, Rev. Henry P. Boivin of St. Mary's in Franklin, and of the Regional Bishop of Brookline, Bishop Daniel Hart.

My wife [name omitted] was the victim of two sexually graphic and degrading actions by Father Rebeiro. In May, 1983 when she was in a St. Mary's rectory office to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, he blocked the only exit door, exposed himself, and masturbated in front of her. In seeking confidential advice from another priest outside the parish, she was told that it was in her best interest to tell no one of the incident, avoid Fr. Rebeiro, and try to forget about it. Imagine the difficulties. [My wife] was active in the parish as a CCD teacher, prayer group member, scripture class attendee - and Fr. Rebeiro was an Associate Pastor. Several months later, my wife felt she could keep her horrible experience to herself no longer, and she told me about it. We discussed it and decided to try not to judge, to try to forgive, to try to suppress our outrage. Imagine going to mass and trying to concentrate on the homilies preached by this man. Imagine receiving the Eucharist from this man, trying not to judge, trying to forgive, trying to forget. Nevertheless, we managed to carry on through last fall and winter.

My father died of cancer at his home in Florida two days after Christmas. His children and grandchildren were all with him at the end. My wife and three young children were forced to return to Franklin while I remained in Florida to help with funeral arrangements. [My wife] called St Mary's to inquire about a memorial mass. Fr. Rebeiro learned of this inquiry and called her [to] offer the parish's condolences. He also said that he would be coming by our house to offer comfort. [My wife] was in a panic. She called a woman in the parish, who had been a confidant, to express her anxiety. While she was in the bedroom, Fr. Rebeiro arrived and was admitted by one of the children. [My wife] spent two hours fighting off his pawing and pathetic pleas for her to give in while the children (ages 3, 7 and 9) were watching TV in another room. She didn't want to alarm them and sour them to our Church by drawing their attention to this sick man's activities.

I returned home the next evening after my father's funeral services. When I learned of the previous day's incident we had to reassess our decision made after the last incident. We knew it would be [my wife's] word against the priest's. We guessed we faced great difficulties. We also felt that we could no longer ignore this man's problem. We determined that I should go to the Pastor and reveal the incidents. I saw Fr. Boivin on January 1, 1984. I told him the whole story as I knew it. He questioned me in great detail about my wife's sexual and psychological history. He implied that, if any of what I said was true, she must bear some of the responsibility. He asked to see my wife in private the next day. She saw him and was subjected to the same line of questioning and innuendo. ...

... [I]t became clear that we were being cut-off from the parish. Fr. Rebeiro was still on the staff. To avoid him, as agreed, CCD was out for my wife and the children, prayer group was out, scripture class was out, mass was out. We also learned that week from our priest friend that Fr. Rebeiro had a history. He had been dismissed from Wellesley College as chaplain for sexual misconduct. He had been transferred from St. Linus parish in Natick after incidents involving sex and character assassination. Given the level of response we were given at the parish level, we were advised to go to the regional bishop.

We arranged to see the Bishop Daniel Hart during the second week in January. We drove over thirty miles in a blizzard to see him. We told him our story. He indicated that he had not been made aware of the situation by the pastor. He denied any knowledge of Fr. Rebeiro's ''alleged'' problem history. He told us ''I don't know you from Adam''.

Imagine going to see a bishop of your Church, being deeply troubled, expecting some acknowledgement of your pain, some sympathy, and being told ''I don't know you from Adam.'' We understood that he had only heard our side of the story. In all justice he could not commit to any action without investigating for himself. He could have shown us some compassion. He could have assured us that if his investigation bore out our story something would be done. He did not. ... We went to the bishop seeking help, we left feeling even more isolated from our Church. ...

We have never heard anything from anyone in the Archdiocese. We understand that Fr. Rebeiro left St. Mary's ... the week after we saw Bishop Hart. We attend Sunday mass here and there, inside and outside the Archdiocese. Our eight-year-old son, who was to receive First Communion this year is no longer in the CCD program. Our nine-year-old son cannot receive the religion award with the rest of his Cub Scout den because he doesn't have a parish. [My wife], whose social life revolved around her ''friends'' and activities in the parish is an outcast. It has been made clear to us that we are not welcome at St. Mary's. [My wife] and I have both been deeply depressed. ...

Our experience with the Archdiocese has been deeply troubling. It has reminded us of one of those large corporate entities which silently closes ranks to protect one of its own. We would like to think that we are one of the Church's own, that we should be protected. It is also uncomfortably reminiscent of the rape victims who traditionally have been raked over the coals, who have been victimized a second time by being made to feel responsible, who have been ostracized by their own. We must expect much better of our Church. We do.

We try to tell ourselves that some good, some growth must come out of this devastating experience. We have come to hope, from reading about you, and from hearing and seeing you on television that the ''shepherd's heart'' will bring us reconciliation and justice in this Archdiocese. We pray that the promise generated by your appointment as our Archbishop will be fulfilled for all of us.

We would be grateful if you would see us, help us. These clumsy words on paper cannot begin to tell all there is to tell. Thank you for the implicit hope that your installation has provided us.

Sincerely yours,

Gregory B. Nash

This story ran on page A28 of the Boston Globe on 8/15/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

For complete coverage of the priest abuse scandal, go to