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Spotlight Report

Protesters pressure Lennon for settlement

By John McElhenny, Globe Correspondent, 6/30/2003

HINGHAM - About 30 people demonstrated yesterday outside a church where Bishop Richard G. Lennon helped celebrate Mass, urging him to settle hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits brought against the Archdiocese of Boston.

At the end of the Mass at St. Paul's Church, former home to two priests convicted of abuse, five protesters entered the church and angrily confronted Lennon before he was led out a side door.

Outside, one protester used a bullhorn to urge Lennon to ''fire the lawyers'' and settle the lawsuits. Others held signs that read ''Justice'' and ''It's a crime, not a scandal.''

''We feel betrayed,'' said Nancy Daly, who has been a St. Paul's parishioner for 42 years. Daly, a mother of seven, said she often invited the Rev. John Geoghan to her home when he was parish priest in the 1960s. Geoghan was later accused of molesting several boys, defrocked, and sentenced to six years in jail for groping a boy in a swimming pool.

''I would like to see them apologize,'' Daly said. ''I would like to see them embrace the victims.''

St. Paul's was also home to the Rev. John R. Hanlon, a former pastor, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1994 for the rape of an altar boy in 1980.

Despite the protest outside, the church was filled to capacity at yesterday's 10 a.m. Mass.

''Going to the Mass with Bishop Lennon, we were all reenergized and strengthened in our faith,'' said Dorothy James, who has attended St. Paul's for 41 years.

James said she felt sorry for Lennon, who became interim head of the troubled archdiocese after the resignation of Cardinal Bernard F. Law last December.

Through a spokesman, Lennon declined to comment.

Several protesters assailed Lennon yesterday for raising hopes of a quick settlement. Lennon said at a meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in St. Louis that he believed a settlement offer would be made last week. Church officials on Thursday said no agreement had been reached, and Lennon apologized.

Robert Costello said the church was ''jerking people up and down.''

''They're trying to wear people down so they'll take any settlement that's offered,'' he said.

Martha Bewick, a St. Paul's parishioner for 25 years, said she supported Lennon and was honored to welcome him. She said that the protesters' bullhorn interrupted the Mass, and that they could have made their point without it.

This story ran on page D16 of the Boston Globe on 6/30/2003.
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