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Spotlight Report

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Priest differs with Law testimony

By Wendy Davis, Globe Correspondent, 3/12/2003

The Rev. Eugene O'Sullivan, sent to serve as a priest in New Jersey after pleading guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old altar boy in Massachusetts, appeared to contradict prior testimony of Cardinal Bernard Law about the reason for the transfer, in a pre-trial deposition released yesterday.

When Law was deposed last June, he testified that O'Sullivan was sent to the diocese of Metuchen, N.J., in 1985 both to avoid a scandal resulting from publicity due to the criminal case and because he had relatives in that state. ''He had family in New Jersey, which is important in terms of support to the priest himself,'' testified Law.

But O'Sullivan, who was sentenced to probation after pleading guilty in 1984 to having sex with the altar boy from his parish in Arlington, testified this January that his family was in Boston, not New Jersey.

He added that he requested an assignment in New Jersey because it was close enough to home that he could return frequently. For the seven years he was in Metuchen, he came to Boston once a month to see his family and probation officer. O'Sullivan was recalled to Boston in 1992 and was placed on sick leave. He retired two years later.

O'Sullivan, a St. John Seminary classmate of the Revs. Paul R. Shanley, Joseph E. Birmingham, and Bernard J. Lane -- all accused of molesting minors -- was deposed as a witness in the civil lawsuit brought by several alleged victims. The plaintiffs say the church and its leaders should not have reassigned priests who allegedly molested youngsters to new parishes where they continued to have contact with children.

O'Sullivan acknowledged in his deposition that he worked with youngsters in two of the three New Jersey parishes to which he was assigned after his 1984 conviction. Pastors in three of the four New Jersey parishes where O'Sullivan worked told the Globe in 1993 that they were never informed of his conviction or that he was on probation.

O'Sullivan also testified that he taught confirmation classes, adding that the church did not restrict his contact with minors. But, he said, he never spent time alone with children in New Jersey because he feared another accusation.

Also released yesterday was pre-trial testimony of Shanley's niece, Teresa Shanley, in which she defended her uncle against accusations of sex abuse. She stated her uncle told her he never ''raped a child'' or ''forced anybody to have sex with him.'' While denying that she thought Shanley had ever molested young children, she acknowledged having previously expressed the belief to her mother, husband, and lawyer that Shanley might have had sexual contact with youngsters in the 14- to 17-year-old range.

This story ran on page B4 of the Boston Globe on 3/12/2003.
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