The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


Records depict Mahan as high-risk sex abuser

By Kathleen Burge, Globe Staff, 8/23/2002

Former priest and accused child molester Paul J. Mahan was discharged in early 1995 from a Maryland treatment center for priests after a therapist concluded that he was a sociopath, a liar, and a threat to children.

That description of Mahan, who is accused in civil lawsuits of abusing more than a dozen children since 1969, was included among a few dozen pages of records about his treatment that were released yesterday.

The documents also allege that Mahan told a Boston Archdiocese official in 1995 that a couple of his fellow patients, also priests, at St. Luke Institute in Maryland, regularly went to a nearby drag-queen revue with one of the institute's therapists.

Mahan also said, ''Cardinal Law would not be happy about a lot that goes on at Saint Luke's,'' according to a notation written by the Rev. Brian M. Flatley, then Law's assistant dealing with sexually abusive priests, and contained in a confidential file memo recounting the conversation.

The documents were made public at a news conference by Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer who represents 11 people who say they were abused by Mahan between 1969 and 1982 at St. Ann Church in Dorchester and St. Joseph Church in Needham. The documents, like those released earlier, show that psychotherapists who treated Mahan considered him a high risk for continued sexually abusive behavior.

Mahan, who was not defrocked until 1998, went to St. Luke's in September 1993 after two people came forward and said he had molested them years ago. One woman said he had abused her in 1973, when she was 10. A man said that Mahan had fondled him in the early 1980s, when he was 12 or 13.

In one of the papers released yesterday, a February 1994 letter to John B. McCormack, then Law's secretary for ministerial personnel, St. Luke's officials wrote that Mahan had admitted that two of the allegations had ''some substance.'' Mahan spent about eight months at the center. He was released into the care of the Boston Archdiocese in May 1994. But Mahan was suspected of relapsing soon after his release, after former St. Luke's patients who visited him reported that he was drinking, there were several minors in the house, including one boy dressed only in a sheet, as well as sexual conversations. Mahan was sent back to St. Luke's in October 1994.

Later, Mahan spent six months at Southdown, a residential facility in Canada that specializes in treating priests who molested children.

''Why didn't the church watch him after he got out of St. Luke's?'' asked Garabedian yesterday. Garabedian said he is investigating five more claims against Mahan.

According to an earlier lawsuit filed by two of Mahan's nephews and their mother, represented by lawyer Joseph Abromovitz, Mahan sexually molested the younger nephew between 1993 and 1995, when the boy was 11 to 13.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese said she could not comment on pending lawsuits.

''This is just maddening, it's sickening,'' said William Oberle, one of the alleged victims of Mahan who is suing church officials. ''It hasn't strained my faith in God, but it has in humanity.''

Oberle, now 45, said he was abused by Mahan for 21/2 years, beginning in the summer of 1969. Oberle and his family recently had moved to Boston from Illinois, and his mother introduced them to Mahan after Mass at St. Ann's in Dorchester.

Mahan took Oberle and his two younger brothers sailing that summer, Oberle said. The priest molested 12-year-old Oberle in front of his younger siblings, whom Oberle would later abuse, he said.

''We couldn't tell our mother,'' he said. ''She went to her grave, as far as we know, not knowing what happened.''

The Globe has previously reported that Mahan, whose last known address was Arlington, Va., is the subject of a criminal investigation by Marblehead police and Essex County prosecutors. He is also being sued by members of his own family over the alleged abuse of his two nephews.

Also yesterday, a magistrate ordered a retired Franciscan brother, arraigned last week on charges of molesting four altar boys in East Boston 30 years ago, to remain in Massachusetts.

A lawyer for Fidelis DeBerardinis, 75, had asked a magistrate to allow the retired brother, who has had three open-heart surgeries, to live at a Franciscan friary in upstate New York. DeBerardinis's other housing option, a Franciscan center in Onset, is not as well equipped to address his medical problems, his lawyer said.

Suffolk County prosecutors argued that if DeBerardinis, who is free on $10,000 cash bail, lived in New York it would be more difficult to enforce the court's ban on his spending unsupervised time with children.

Magistrate Gary Wilson also rejected DeBerardinis's request that he remain free on personal recognizance, rather than the $10,000 bail posted by his religious order.

Kathleen Burge can be reached at

This story ran on page B4 of the Boston Globe on 8/23/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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