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Spotlight Report

Lawyers report files on 24 more priests

They note allegations of abuse of children

By Walter V. Robinson, Globe Staff, 2/1/2003

Lawyers who are suing the Archdiocese of Boston announced yesterday that they have discovered records of another 24 priests who allegedly molested children, months after a court order required such records to be given to the plaintiff attorneys.

The new files, which were delivered yesterday to the law firm Greenberg Traurig, would bring to more than 150 the number of priests in the Boston archdiocese who have been accused of sexually molesting minors over several decades.

Roderick MacLeish Jr., a lawyer for the firm, which represents 225 people who allege they were abused by priests, said the thousands of pages of new documents will be made public next week.

MacLeish, who declined to identify the priests, said that much of what he has read is ''very disturbing.'' He added: ''I am very concerned that some of these priests are still in ministry.''

MacLeish and a partner, Jeffrey A. Newman, found the records of the 24 priests among the files of 40 priests they were reviewing after assurances from church lawyers that the alleged sexual misbehavior of the 40 was with other adults.

The news caught archdiocesan officials by surprise, even though the Rogers law firm, which represents the archdiocese, had agreed to turn over the documents late Thursday. The Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, an archdiocesan spokesman, said late yesterday that he could not comment.

Earlier this week, 70 new lawsuits against 40 priests included 16 who were publicly accused for the first time of molesting children. Most were dead, but three are serving in parishes.

The archdiocese had begun a preliminary inquiry to determine whether there is enough substance to the allegations to remove those priests. Yesterday's disclosure suggests that Bishop Richard G. Lennon, who was named the temporary administrator of the archdiocese when Cardinal Bernard F. Law resigned, soon may have to remove a fairly large number of priests.

Since last February, 25 priests have been removed from their positions after allegations against them surfaced. Just one has been cleared and reinstated.

Under an agreement with the church's lawyers, Newman and MacLeish were allowed to scour the latest batch of files, to determine whether any involved priests used force or took advantage of their positions to have sex.

MacLeish, whose law firm is scheduled to take its final day of pretrial testimony from Law on Monday, said the existence of the new documents may compel him to schedule further depositions of Law and other church officials. Meanwhile, the Duxbury School Department said yesterday that it will not be using Louis J. Govoni as a full-time substitute teacher after news reports this week that the former priest recently has been accused of molesting two boys during the 1970s at Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree.

Govoni's personnel files contain a 1977 memorandum to Cardinal Humberto S. Medeiros informing him that Govoni's pastor at a Quincy parish was aware that Govoni was having teenage boys in his room, and had seen one of the boys partially undressed in the priest's room at 2 a.m.

Thursday, when the Globe reported on new lawsuits that named 40 priests as sexual abusers, Govoni was listed incorrectly in a group of priests who are dead. Attempts yesterday to reach Govoni were unsuccessful.

Walter V. Robinson can be reached at

This story ran on page B3 of the Boston Globe on 2/1/2003.
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