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April 23
Editorial: Room for BC

March 6
Op-Ed: Give laity role in church
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February 28, 2004
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January 9, 2004
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Op-Ed: Geoghan's 'innocence'

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Earlier stories

Spotlight Report

  Derrick Z. Jackson  

Cardinal Law should resign


IF CARDINAL BERNARD LAW were truly ''profoundly sorry'' about the blind eye he gave to John Geoghan, he would resign.

Only now does Law declare a policy of ''zero-tolerance,'' with Geoghan, the former priest, being buried under a seemingly undeniable avalanche of about 90 civil lawsuits for sexual abuse and rape.

Only now does he wish us all to be ''more alert to its dangers,'' after the trust and humanity of scores of families of Catholic children was damaged and destroyed.

Only now, after he has already paid out $10 million to settle 50 other lawsuits over the last four years, does Law say his judgments regarding Geoghan were ''tragically incorrect.''

This should be Judgment Day for Law himself.

The Globe's Spotlight Team reported two weeks ago that Law knew 17 years ago that Geoghan had been accused of sexual abuse. In a letter to Law, Bishop John M. D'Arcy questioned whether Geoghan should be assigned to St. Julia's parish in Weston, given Geoghan's ''history of homosexual involvement with young boys.''

Accounts of Geoghan's parish pedophilia go back to the 1960s in Saugus and Hingham. Way back then, parents of victims said they informed other priests of Geoghan's acts of abuse, which allegedly included oral and anal rape. Yet Geoghan was allowed in 1974 to move on to St. Andrew's in Jamaica Plain, where he later admitted to sexually abusing seven boys.

Geoghan was exposed enough to get treatment for sex abuse, but not enough to end his career, as relatives of victims were asked by priests to remain silent.

In 1981, Geoghan turned up at St. Brendan's in Dorchester, which was not warned of his prior history. In 1982, when an aunt of the seven abused boys at St. Andrew's realized that Geoghan was at St. Brendan's, she wrote Cardinal Humberto Medeiros to say, ''It embarrasses me that the church is so negligent.''

By 1984, more allegations of abuse cropped up. That is where Law comes in - and should now go out.

It was Law who took Geoghan out of St. Brendan's. It was Law who reassigned Geoghan to St. Julia's in Weston, where he ran the youth programs. It was Law who ignored D'Arcy, who worried about ''further scandal in this parish.'' It was Law who ignored D'Arcy's call for Geoghan to be put on limited duty ''while receiving some kind of therapy.'' Law ignored D'Arcy because of two favorable medical reports for Geoghan, one of which said he was ''fully recovered.''

It was Law who knew Geoghan was not recovered in the least. Geoghan returned to sex abuse therapy after yet more complaints in 1989. It was Law who unbelievably put Geoghan back to work at St. Julia's for another three years.

At least 30 of the more than 130 reports of alleged child sexual abuse by Geoghan came while he was assigned to St. Julia's. That was under Law's watch. Just as bad, despite Law's assertion that ''Today the issue of sexual abuse is a matter of open and public discussion,'' the vast majority of priests who have had any knowledge of Geoghan still operate under a code of silence, a silence no less disgusting than the clamming up of cops in brutality cases.

Just as police sometimes let the power of the gun get to their heads, it is clear that too many leaders in the Catholic Church hide behind the power of God. In one way, the brutality of the church is worse. Police brutality usually happens to young men of color who are society's outsiders. Law allowed a brutality from within. The lives of at least 30 families who believed in the church's authority are forever damaged by Law's imposing of an abusive priest on them.

If Law were running a corporation, he would be fired. In his apology, Law said the church was now opening its doors to victims of sexual abuse for ''confidential psychological counseling and spiritual support.''

When one considers the likelihood of a victim of police brutality going to the police chief for psychological counseling and spiritual support, it is clear that Law still has no clue as to how much his credibility has been destroyed.

If Law wants to do counseling, let him do so as a volunteer at a center for sexually abused children. The only way he can restore the church's credibility on abuse is to leave his altar open for a successor who has both eyes wide open.

Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is

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