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Spotlight Report

Some who settled now feel betrayed

By Michael Rezendes, Globe Staff, 2/9/2002

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While Catholic Church officials continue to search through personnel records for more accusations of clergy sexual abuse, victims and their advocates yesterday lashed out at the Archdiocese of Boston for placing priests in parish settings even though they had settled sexual abuse claims against them.

Moreover, two attorneys who represented victims of clergy sex abuse said that when claims were settled, the victims received specific assurances that the accused priests would be isolated from children for the remainder of their careers.

On Thursday the archdiocese removed six priests from their positions because of past allegations of sex abuse. The Globe reported that the church had previously settled sex abuse claims against four of the six.

''The victims wanted to be assured that no other children would ever be out in the situation they were in with these priests,'' said attorney Robert A. Sherman, who represented numerous victims of clergy sex abuse in the 1990s.

For victims to learn now that the archdiocese reassigned many of those priests to parish work, Sherman said, ''is a breach of faith by the archdiocese and opens old wounds for the victims.''

In the case of the Rev. Eugene O'Sullivan, who pleaded guilty to raping an Arlington altar boy in 1984, victims and their families said they were ''revictimized'' at least twice: Once, when they learned O'Sullivan had been reassigned to parish work in New Jersey less than a year after admitting his guilt, and in 1999, when the mother of a victim ran into O'Sullivan wearing his priestly collar in Dorchester at Carney Hospital, a Catholic-affiliated institution.

In a 1993 Globe interview, the late Sean O'Sullivan, a nephew of the priest and a victim who settled his sexual molestation claim out of court, said, ''We were told he would no longer be involved with the church, that he would no longer be able to practice as a priest.''

Kathleen, Sean's sister, said in a Globe interview yesterday that old wounds were reopened when her mother encountered O'Sullivan at Carney Hospital three years ago.

''I was just blown away,'' said Kathleen, who asked that her last name not be used.

The Rev. O'Sullivan was recalled to Boston in 1992, during a review of personnel records by the archdiocese, and banned from priestly activities.

The current edition of the Boston Catholic Directory lists O'Sullivan as a ''senior priest'' with an address at the Brighton chancery.

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said it's not uncommon for victims to discover that settlements with provisions restricting the activities of the accused priests are violated.

''In reaching a settlement, survivors typically feel like they have done the responsible thing,'' said Clohessy. ''They haven't trashed anyone in public and they've protected kids from the priest. Then they go into a different parish to attend a wedding and suddenly see that same priest with the altar boys and get a sickening feeling in their stomach.''

Victims and their advocates also said church policies written to restrict the activities of priests accused of sexually molesting children are often ignored because the church is accountable only to itself.

Said Clohessy: ''It doesn't matter what the policy is if there is no one there to enforce it.''

Walter V. Robinson of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

This story ran on page A6 of the Boston Globe on 2/9/2002.
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