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Spotlight Report

Archdiocese said to have been told about Reardon

Parent, parishioner reportedly suspected man later convicted

By Farah Stockman and Stephen Kurkjian, Globe Staff, 1/27/2002

The Archdiocese of Boston was informed at least twice in the six months before the arrest of Christopher Reardon that he was abusing boys at St. Agnes Church in Middleton but apparently did not follow up on the information, according to Reardon's lawyer and a church worker who called the archdiocese.

John Andrews of Salem, who represents Reardon, said yesterday that he learned before Reardon's trial that a concerned parent and another parishioner separately informed archdiocesan officials of their suspicions concerning Reardon's association with boys at the church.

"It is tragic that those in a position to do something did not," Andrews said in an interview.

Donna M. Morrissey, the spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said yesterday that the Priest Delegate Office, which investigates allegations of sexual abuse by priests, was not alerted by anyone about Reardon's activities before his arrest in June 2000.

Morrissey said she has been unable to determine if anyone else at the archdiocese may have been contacted.

However, another lawyer involved in the case, who asked not to be named, said a former clerical worker at the church had told state investigators that she had called the archdiocese about six months before Reardon's arrest to voice her concerns about his activities.

The woman, who asked that she not be identified, told the Globe last night that she contacted James Flanagan, an official of the archdiocese's Office of Youth Ministry, and told him she had heard of two youths referring to Reardon as a child molester.

"I used to hear kids talking . . . At first I really didn't want to believe it, and then it was just eating at me," the worker said.

She said Flanagan told her to relay her concerns to the Rev. Jon C. Martin, the church's pastor, which she did.

Martin, she said, sent a letter to Lay Council members at the church and asked them to evaluate Reardon's performance, but never asked them to address any allegations of abuse. Only one member criticized Reardon, she said. The woman said she did not know whether Flanagan acted on her warning.

The worker said she made the call to the archdiocese after a young female parishioner on a school bus overheard boys warning each other about Reardon's strange behavior and talking about an upcoming ski trip Reardon had organized. The girl told her parents, which set off a flurry of concerned phone calls in the parish.

"By the time Reardon was arrested, at least 18 people knew about the allegations against him," Andrews said yesterday, adding that most of the crimes that Reardon was convicted of were committed after the archdiocese received the calls about him.

Morrissey, the archdiocese's spokeswoman, did not return a subsequent phone call asking for information about any contacts regarding Reardon to the Office of Youth Ministry.

The Rev. Thomas A. Dunne, director of the office, was out of state yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

Details about the prior contact made to the archdiocese were first reported yesterday in the Boston Herald.

Reardon, 29, a youth worker at the church and YMCA camp counselor, pleaded guilty in Essex Superior Court last August to 75 charges -- involving 24 boys -- of child rape, indecent assault on a child, and giving pornography to minors. He was sentenced to 40-50 years in prison.

The archdiocese has said that it had never been told of any improper activity by Reardon before he was arrested at a church picnic in June 2000.

Following his arrest, police found that Reardon had molested some of the youths in the second-floor office that he shared with Martin.

The calls were triggered by two separate incidents, the first occurring when the clerical worker heard of talk by the two youths. Around the same time, the clerical worker said, she observed Reardon taking a youth up to the office.

Last fall, Martin told a grand jury that a fill-in priest, the Rev. Richard Driscoll, had informed him of Reardon's strange behavior around children.

"He called me and talked to me about being concerned, that either the child -- either he said a child was up in the room or on the lap, and I really can't recall which one," Martin told the grand jury, according to minutes of his testimony.

This story ran on page A25 of the Boston Globe on 1/27/2002.
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