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Spotlight Report

Alleged victim of Geoghan nearly drowns

By Michael S. Rosenwald, Globe Staff, 6/19/2003

Patrick McSorley in May 2002. (Globe Staff Photo / David L. Ryan)
One of the alleged sexual abuse victims of convicted child molester and defrocked priest John J. Geoghan nearly drowned yesterday afternoon in the Neponset River in Dorchester's Pope John Paul II Park, authorities said.

Patrick McSorley, 28, of Hyde Park, was in critical condition last night at Boston Medical Center, where he was taken by ambulance after a friend found him splashing and struggling in the river, said David Procopio, the Suffolk district attorney's spokesman.

Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer who represented McSorley in one of the 84 lawsuits brought against Geoghan and church officials, said that McSorley was unconscious and on life support last night. His family told Garabedian that he had a ''50-50 chance'' of survival.

State Police are investigating how McSorley wound up in the river and the events leading up to what transpired, Procopio said. A preliminary inquiry indicates that around 2:30 p.m., McSorley and his friend became separated somewhere in the sprawling park, which has a long, sloping grass embankment along the water.

Moments later, the friend and a passerby heard him splashing. The friend then pulled a submerged McSorley from the river, performed CPR, and called 911. McSorley had scrapes and a contusion ''consistent with being pulled out of the water,'' Procopio said.

Garabedian refused to comment on whether he thought McSorley had tried to kill himself. The two spoke on Monday, and Garabedian said, ''He was talking about how the church hasn't changed its attitude at all with regard to helping victims heal.''

McSorley was 12 years old and living in a Boston housing project when he was molested by Geoghan, according to Globe reports and ''Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church,'' a book by the newspaper's Spotlight team.

Geoghan learned of the suicide of McSorley's father and not long after dropped by to offer his condolences, according to the book. Then, he took the boy for ice cream. On the way home, Geoghan patted McSorley's upper leg, then slid his hand up toward his crotch and molested him.

''I didn't know what to think,'' McSorley says in the book.

McSorley, who has young children of his own, was outspoken during the church abuse scandal that shattered support of the Catholic Church and led to the resignation of Cardinal Bernard F. Law last December.

He sat in on hours of depositions, including Law's. During one session, he said he could not bring himself to shake the hand that Law offered him as the morning testimony got underway.

He characterized the cardinal's testimony as not believable. ''It was despicable,'' McSorley said. ''We couldn't get the truth out of someone who is supposed to tell nothing but the truth.''

Garabedian said McSorley sat through the lengthy depositions because he ''felt he should inform the public as to the pedophile priests in the Archdiocese of Boston.''

''Patrick is a hero,'' Garabedian added. ''Patrick poured his heart and soul into making the public aware of the pedophilia within the Catholic Church. It was very important to Patrick that other people be protected.''

When Superior Court Judge Constance M. Sweeney in September accepted a $10 million settlement of 84 lawsuits against Geoghan and church officials, she said in the courtroom: ''There is no question from the point of view of the civil side that Mr. Geoghan either raped or assaulted you or members of your family ...''

Afterward, McSorley said: ''Those words were honest words. That was exactly what I wanted to hear. We were sitting there, we were noticed by her, and that was very comforting.''

The money, he said, would not change his life. ''My heart is always going to be broken because of this,'' he said. ''I mean these are people my family once loved. And they let something go tragically wrong.''

Globe correspondents Jared Stearns and Heather Allen contributed to this report.

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 6/19/2003.
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