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Spotlight Report

Two priests ousted after abuse cited

DA to get data on Randolph, Quincy pastors

By Michael Rezendes and Walter V. Robinson, Globe Staff, 2/3/2002

Paul J. Finegan

Daniel M. Graham

 Related stories
Parish responds with disbelief

The Boston Archdiocese yesterday abruptly removed two pastors from parishes in Quincy and Randolph after discovering evidence that both men had been accused of sexually abusing children in the past.

Their removal came only eight days after Cardinal Bernard F. Law asserted that all priests known to have been accused of sexually molesting minors had been removed from their assignments.

Even so, an archdiocesan official said a continuing review of records might uncover similar charges against other priests who are still serving.

The ousted pastors, the Very Rev. Daniel M. Graham, 57, of St. Joseph Church in Quincy, and the Rev. Paul J. Finegan of St. Bernadette Church in Randolph, also 57, were both ordained in 1970 and had served in several parishes in the Greater Boston area.

Until yesterday, Graham had oversight responsibility for 19 Catholic churches in Braintree, Milton, Quincy, and Randolph - including St. Bernadette, where Finegan was pastor, according to recent archdiocesan records.

Bishops were sent to each parish's 4 p.m. Mass yesterday to break the news to stunned parishioners. At St. Joseph's, attendees gasped when Bishop Richard J. Malone unexpectedly stepped to the pulpit after Holy Communion was served and told the congregation that Graham had been ousted. Malone said the announcement was ''the most difficult thing I have ever done as a bishop,'' as some in the church openly wept.

In Randolph, Bishop Walter J. Edyvean, Law's chief deputy, told parishioners that Finegan had been relieved of his assignment.

In a prepared statement, archdiocesan spokeswoman Donna M. Morrissey said church officials had reported the allegations against one of the pastors to Norfolk District Attorney William Keating and were in the process of reporting the second pastor.

The archdiocese said several allegations of sexual misconduct with minors had been made against Finegan and that one such allegation had been made against Graham. Morrissey said she did not know when the allegations were made, nor could she provide details of the complaints.

In a message to parishioners printed in a bulletin for weekend Masses, Graham, who has diabetes, said he was taking health leave to care for himself and his 97-year-old father.

''I apologize for the abruptness of this change, but sometimes overwhelming needs must be dealt with immediately,'' Graham said in the statement.

Morrissey said she did not know how the archdiocese discovered the information about Graham and Finegan. But since Thursday, when the Globe reported that the archdiocese had secretly settled sexual molestation cases involving at least 70 priests, readers have contacted the newspaper with information about both men.

The Rev. Charles Higgins, Law's secretary for ministerial personnel, said church officials ''do not rule out finding additional cases in this ongoing review.''

Law, after a difficult month in which he has repeatedly apologized for his role in reassigning priests who were known child molesters to parish work, left Boston for Rome last night on a previously scheduled trip to the Vatican. He is scheduled to return on Friday.

An archdiocesan official said yesterday that church officials did not know the exact whereabouts of either Finegan or Graham, saying only, ''They are not on any church property.''

Attempts to reach the priests were unsuccessful last night.

In what appeared to be an effort to prepare Catholics for more disturbing news, the official said that the continuing review might find evidence that there have been molestation charges against still more priests who have access to children.

Twice in the last month, Law has reassured the public that the archdiocese had removed all priests known to have sexually molested minors from any assignments.

''There is no priest known to us to have been guilty of the sexual abuse of a minor holding any position in this archdiocese,'' Law said on Jan. 25, while announcing the formation of a blue-ribbon committee to study ways of preventing child sex abuse by clergy.

Under questioning from reporters, Law repeated his assertion three times, finally insisting: ''There is no priest, or former priest, working in this archdiocese in any assignment whom we know to have been responsible for sexual abuse. I hope you get that straight.''

Last night, an archdiocesan official said that at the time Law was so insistent, ''It was his belief that there was no one.'' The official declined to be identified.

Law's initial announcement earlier last month that all priests known to have sexually abused children had been removed from their assignments followed a Globe Spotlight Team report that found Law and other top officials of the archdiocese had known that former priest John J. Geoghan had repeatedly molested children before reassigning him to other parish work.

About 130 people - most of them men - have charged that Geoghan sexually abused them as children while he worked at a half dozen Greater Boston parishes from the late 1960s to the late 1990s. Fifty accusers have already received settlements from the archdiocese totaling about $10 million.

Last month, Geoghan was convicted of indecent assault for improperly touching a Waltham boy. And he faces two additional criminal trials in Suffolk County on child molestation charges, as well as about 90 pending civil lawsuits.

Law has repeatedly insisted that in 1993 the archdiocese reviewed all its personnel records and removed priests who posed a danger to parishioners because of past allegations of sexually abusing minors.

Last Wednesday, the archdiocese, embarking on a new policy, provided district attorneys with the names of 38 priests accused of sexually abusing minors during the last 40 years.

On Thursday, there was a possible sign that the church may have filed an incomplete list. It had provided Norfolk County officials with the names of seven priests. But Keating's office wrote back, asking for information on about 10 priests.

Both St. Joseph's and St. Bernadette's are in Norfolk County. Moreover, four district attorneys who received names of accused priests from the archdiocese said church officials had not provided enough information to push ahead with criminal investigations.

Graham has been pastor at St. Joseph's since 1990. Since the 1980s, he has also served at St. John the Baptist in Quincy and then at St. Brendan's in Dorchester - a parish where Geoghan was assigned for almost three years in the early 1980s until he was removed by Law.

Finegan was a parish priest at St. Michael's in North Andover in the mid-1980s, then moved to St. Margaret's in Lowell and St. Mary's in Chelmsford before he was named pastor in Randolph about three years ago.

This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 2/3/2002.
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