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Spotlight Report

Wrong name attached to charge

By Globe Staff, 1/22/2003

When an Archdiocese of Boston file containing an allegation of sexual misconduct against a priest was made public last Friday, it mistakenly substituted the name of a Jesuit priest for a long-deceased diocesan priest who was accused of the abuse.

Donna M. Morrissey, the spokeswoman for the archdiocese, issued a statement yesterday apologizing to the Rev. James W. O'Neil, S.J. for ''his misidentification and any harm it may have caused.'' O'Neil is in residence at Boston College High School.

O'Neil's name and a one-sentence description of the allegation appeared in an article in the Globe last Saturday about six priests who had been accused of sexual misconduct.

Morrissey said the allegation, made last May by a lawyer on behalf of an alleged victim, actually accused the Rev. William J. O'Neill, who was assigned to Immaculate Conception Church in Everett in 1957 when the sexual abuse allegedly occurred. O'Neill died in 1960, according to Morrissey.

In the file, the letter from the attorney identifies the alleged molester only as ''Father O'Neil,'' omitting the final ''l'' on his surname. The two other pages accompanying the letter are a cover sheet labeled ''Rev. James O'Neil'' and a short synopsis of the Jesuit priest's assignments, including one in the 1960s to Immaculate Conception Church, the Jesuit parish in Boston's South End.

An attempt by the Globe last Friday to locate the Jesuit priest was unavailing.

Last month, the archdiocese made a similar error when it included in a file on Rev. Richard J. Ahern, a Stigmatine priest accused of sexual abuse, pages from the personnel records of two diocesan priests, one dead and one who left the priesthood. Neither of the two faced any charges, but they had almost identical names to the Stigmatine priest.

This story ran on page A10 of the Boston Globe on 1/22/2003.
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