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Spotlight Report

Everett church vandalism eyed for possible scandal tie

By John Ellement, Globe Staff, 11/2/2002

EVERETT - In what might be the first hate crime linked to the clergy abuse scandal roiling the Boston Archdiocese, vandals scrawled the word ''whore'' on a statue of the Virgin Mary, and spraypainted a profanity, the word ''lies,'' and an inverted cross in red on the front doors of Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, authorities said yesterday.

Everett police were treating the incident as a hate crime with possible links to the nearly yearlong clergy sexual abuse crisis that has seen scores of priests accused of molestation.

''This isn't the normal form of graffiti that people leave around the city,'' said Everett police Captain James Henry.

Investigators said they were concerned by the graphic language and because houses of worship in Everett had not been defaced in several years.

''We are not treating it as a Halloween prank,'' Henry said. ''I believe it has the potential to be a hate crime.''

The Rev. Bernard J. Lane, a former pastor of Our Lady of Grace, is one of several priests accused in civil lawsuits of sexually molesting children in his care.

Donna Morrissey, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said no other Catholic church in the region has been desecrated or vandalized recently.

Henry and the current pastor at Our Lady of Grace, the Rev. James J. Barry, said the church has not been hit by vandals in nearly a decade.

''I would condemn any kind of desecration of a house of worship or a statue or an incident such as this,'' Morrisey said.

Cardinal Bernard F. Law would be told about the vandalism and the archdiocese would provide whatever support the parish seeks, Morrissey said.

''We need to come together and condemn this type of intolerance - whether it is directed at Catholics, Muslims, or Jews,'' said Robert Leikin, executive director of the New England regional office of the Anti-Defamation League.

Lane was pastor at Our Lady of Grace for about six years until he was removed by the archdiocese in 1993 for alleged sexual abuse that dated to the 1970s. The archdiocese has settled at least six civil lawsuits involving Lane.

In the civil lawsuits, however, none of the allegations against Lane are linked to Everett. Lane is alleged to have engaged in sexual misconduct at a vacation home in New Hampshire and while working with troubled adolescents at the Alpha Omega House in Littleton during the 1970s and 1980s.

Nance Lyons, an attorney who represents 15 alleged victims of Lane, said she does not believe any of her clients could be responsible for the vandalism. ''They are adults at this stage and this sounds more like the actions of juveniles,'' she said.

But Carmen L. Durson, an attorney who represents several other men who have filed suit against Lane alleging that he raped and molested them when they were teens, said: ''It's entirely possible that some of the kids that Lane [allegedly] abused might do something like that [vandalism] out of anger. It's wrong. It's absolutely wrong, but I can understand someone lashing out. There is so much pent-up anger out there.''

Barry said he was alerted to the graffiti by church custodian Lincoln Trumfio around 6:30 a.m. yesterday. Police were called and photographed the vandalism. ''It was a shock, absolutely,'' Barry said of the discovery.

Wearing white vestments to mark the holy day of All Saints' Day, Barry officiated at the 7:30 a.m. Mass, during which he urged parishioners to pray for the vandals.

Afterward, Barry, a handful of parishioners, and workers from the Everett Parks Department scrubbed the church's walls, heavy oaken doors, and stairs, removing all the graffiti.

The statue of the Virgin Mary, which stands in a recessed alcove on the right side of the entry to the church, was given a coat of light gray paint.

Many parishioners discovered the vandalism as they arrived to drop off their children at the parish's elementary school.

Barry said plans for the 200 students to attend a 10:30 a.m. Mass were canceled to make sure none of the students spotted the graffiti.

Karen Olivier, a lifelong parishioner who was baptized and married in the church, picked up her daughter, Juliana, a first-grader yesterday. She said the vandals, if they are caught, should not be sent to jail. ''They need therapy,'' she said. ''They need to find out what their problems are, why they are so hateful.''

Diane Pezzano of Revere arrived at the church along with her first-grade daughter, Diandra, before the graffiti had been removed. She told her that ''bad people'' had done something bad to the church.

''If they are caught, their names and pictures should be made public,'' said Pezzano. ''They should do some housekeeping for the church. Maybe they will learn that people associated with the church aren't bad people.''

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 11/2/2002.
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