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Spotlight Report

2 Jesuits face allegations in scandal

Priests taught at B.C. High in '70s and '80s

By Sacha Pfeiffer, and Walter V. Robinson, Globe Staff, 3/5/2002

Widening the dimensions of a sexual molestation scandal that has consumed the Archdiocese of Boston, officials from the Society of Jesus - one of the Catholic Church's largest religious orders and the one that runs Boston College High School, the region's premier Jesuit preparatory school - said yesterday that they will meet with law enforcement officials this week to discuss allegations against two of their priests.

William J. Kemeza, the acting president of B.C. High, said last night that allegations of ''inappropriate conduct'' have been made against the Revs. James Talbot and Francis J. McManus.

According to two alleged victims of Talbot who recently contacted the Globe, Talbot often held group wrestling sessions at B.C. High in which he persuaded students to strip down to their jock straps, a scenario confirmed by numerous other alumni contacted by the Globe in recent days.

Both alleged victims said they were lured unwittingly into one-on-one wrestling sessions with Talbot in which he overpowered and then molested them.

Kemeza said, however, that an initial search of school records turned up no indication that there were allegations against either man during the time they taught at the school in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Talbot and McManus did not return calls seeking comment last night.

Yesterday's disclosure expands the scope of the sex abuse crisis enveloping the church, which previously had focused primarily on diocesan priests. The allegations against Talbot and McManus mark the first significant complaints in Massachusetts against priests belonging to religious orders, which run many of the Catholic Church's educational institutions.

There are 408 Jesuit priests in the New England Province of the Society of Jesus, which comprises six states. In the Boston Archdiocese, there are about 650 active diocesan priests and roughly 250 retired diocesan priests.

Kemeza said Talbot taught and coached soccer at B.C. High from 1972 to 1980. He said McManus taught there in the early 1980s and, after that, ''was transferred by the provincial to another ministry.''

The Rev. John Murray, S.J., the assistant to the Jesuits' New England provincial, said Talbot's 1980 transfer from B.C. High to Cheverus High School, a Jesuit preparatory school in Portland, Maine, was ''routine,'' prompted in part because Cheverus was fielding a soccer team for the first time.

In the past week, the Globe has been contacted by two B.C. High graduates and one graduate of another area school who assert that they were sexually molested by Talbot when they were students in the 1970s and 80s, and one B.C. High graduate who alleges he was molested by McManus when he was a student in 1982. All four men spoke on condition of anonymity.

In 1998, a Portland man filed a lawsuit against Talbot, Cheverus High School, and the Diocese of Portland, alleging that Talbot had sexually abused him in 1984 and 1985 while he was a student at Cheverus.

Michael S. Doherty, who was 15 and 16 at the time of the alleged abuse, has since reached a confidential settlement in the case. Talbot now lives at the Campion Center, a Jesuit ''residence and renewal center'' in Weston.

In addition, Kemeza said another accusation of misconduct was made against Talbot within the last two years and was handled by the provincial office. The claim was settled, but Kemeza could not say whether it also involved allegations of sexual abuse.

Murray said in a statement last night that the Rev. Robert Levens, the New England provincial, will be meeting with Suffolk County prosecutors next week.

This story ran on page B4 of the Boston Globe on 3/5/2002.
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