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Spotlight Report

Two more alleged abuse victims sue Boston Archdiocese

Say they were molested in '70s

By Kathleen Burge, Globe Staff, 8/27/2002

Two more men who say they were abused in the 1970s by Catholic priests, including convicted pedophile John J. Geoghan, have filed lawsuits, charging the Archdiocese of Boston with ignoring earlier complaints about the priests' alleged sexual crimes.

The two lawsuits, filed late Friday in Suffolk Superior Court, charge church officials with negligence for allowing the two priests - Geoghan and Eugene O'Sullivan, a former priest at St. Agnes in Arlington - to work with children despite warnings that the priests preyed on them.

The Geoghan lawsuit names Cardinal Bernard F. Law, in addition to the archdiocese, as defendants. The O'Sullivan lawsuit names Thomas V. Daily, former vicar general in the archdiocese, and two unnamed archdiocesan supervisors as defendants.

The case involving O'Sullivan was filed by a man, now 35, who says the priest molested him repeatedly after Mass in the sacristy of St. Agnes in 1978. The alleged victim was an 11-year-old altar boy at the time.

Six years later, O'Sullivan pleaded guilty to raping another Arlington altar boy and received five years' probation. The lawsuit charges that church officials knew of O'Sullivan's pedophilia as early as the 1960s but that a succession of cardinals - from Richard Cushing and Humberto Medeiros to Law - continued to give O'Sullivan access to children.

The defendant says he lived for decades with memories of the abuse tucked aside in his mind. ''I never thought about it. It never came up. It was really something that was just hidden away,'' said the man, who asked that his name not be used. Although the man's name is listed in the lawsuit, it is the Globe's policy not to name alleged victims of sexual assault unless they agree to be named.

But when he read a June story in the Globe about Law's decision to transfer O'Sullivan to a New Jersey parish in 1985, after the priest had pleaded guilty to rape, he could no longer suppress the memories.

Although he had never before shed a tear over the abuse, he said, when he told his oldest brother about the molestation, he was so overcome he couldn't speak for 15 minutes. ''I think it was kind of a mixture of triggering everything and total outrage at the fact that the church knew,'' he said.

He has told only a few people about the abuse, he says. But he often struggles to talk dispassionately about the priest abuse scandal with acquaintances who don't know his own involvement.

''Sometimes it's hard to keep this kind of facade up,'' he said. ''I have days where I want to tell everyone.''

In a June deposition, Law said he allowed O'Sullivan to transfer to New Jersey because the priest had ''responded well to treatment,'' and also to avoid the ''possible scandal'' caused by publicity from the criminal case.

Both lawsuits were filed by attorney Roderick MacLeish, who is on vacation and could not be reached. An archdiocese spokeswoman did not return a phone call seeking comment.

In the second lawsuit, the alleged victim of Geoghan (who is now serving six years in prison for molesting a boy in the early 1990s) charges that he was abused by the now-defrocked priest between 1975 and 1977. Geoghan abused him, the alleged victim charges, after he became an altar boy at St. Andrew's Church in Forest Hills.

The boy, his four siblings, and their mother had recently moved to Jamaica Plain when Geoghan visited the family to welcome them to the parish. The priest often took the children out for ice cream, taking such an interest in the alleged victim that Geoghan became a surrogate father, the suit says.

After the child became an altar boy, the lawsuit says, the abuse began. Geoghan allegedly visited the boy's house at night, when his mother was working and he and his siblings were in bed.

To avoid Geoghan, the boy began slipping out at night, according to the lawsuit. He started hanging out with gangs, and began drinking, smoking marijuana, and committing small crimes. His delinquency escalated, the lawsuit says, and he has now spent most of his life in prison.

Kathleen Burge can be reached at

This story ran on page B4 of the Boston Globe on 8/27/2002.
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