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Spotlight Report

Reardon victims still wait for help

Diocese yet to pay for sex abuse care

By Ralph Ranalli, Globe Staff, 6/16/2003

The same day that former religious youth worker and swimming teacher Christopher Reardon was sentenced to up to 50 years in prison for raping and molesting more than 20 preteen boys, a lawyer for some of the victims and their families spoke hopefully about a quick resolution of their civil claims against the Archdiocese of Boston.

''Our purpose here is to get the very best therapy for these victims for an indefinite period of time, which is very, very expensive,'' Boston attorney Jeffrey Newman said at the time. ''These victims should be seeing a psychologist two or three times a week for many years.'' He said that he hoped a settlement could be reached in ''two months.''

That was two years ago. Since then, two of the boys have attempted suicide, at least six have received little or no counseling, and virtually all of them have had significant problems with depression, social withdrawal, and emotional outbursts, attorneys for their families say.

Grades that were once A's and B's are now C's and D's, even F's. Whispers and snickers about ''Reardon's boys'' have driven them off sports teams and out of extracurricular activities. A few years ago they were 11- to 13-year-old boys being victimized in a most horrifying way, lawyers say; now they are 14- to 17-year-olds who must deal with the crushing weight of shame and social isolation, on top of the normal uncertainties and awkwardness of adolescence.

While many of their problems are the inevitable side effects of sexual abuse, lawyers say these boys' woes have been exacerbated by the archdiocese's dragging out their lawsuits long after Reardon, a lay church employee who abused many of them in the rectory of St. Agnes Church in Middleton, admitted what he did and was sent off to prison.

The lawyers say that it never had to be this way. The cases brought by the boys involve virtually none of the difficult legal issues - statute of limitations, repressed memory - that complicate

other sexual abuse cases involving the diocese, some of which allege abuse dating back 20 years or more.

''The Reardon victims are 180 degrees different from the other cases,'' said Waltham attorney Sidney Gorovitz, who represents seven families whose sons were molested by Reardon. ''These are kids who are being the most revictimized. It doesn't make any sense.''

The Rev. Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese, declined to comment on the Reardon cases yesterday. Wilson D. Rogers Jr., a Boston attorney representing the archdiocese, did not return a call seeking comment.

Lawyers for the boys say they pleaded with church officials to separate the Reardon cases from the hundreds of other cases filed against priests who allegedly abused children - some decades ago - and send the civil claims to mediation or arbitration.

Instead, attorneys for the two sides - except for lawyers representing about 100 victims who are refusing to participate - have tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a massive, comprehensive settlement.

Lawyers for Reardon's victims say it should have taken weeks, not more than a year, to resolve the boys' cases. Unlike in other cases, there is virtually no disagreement on whether the abuse happened, because Reardon pleaded guilty. Police searching his home found voluminous, meticulous notes that he took on the boys he victimized.

Also, the issue of the church's insurance coverage - and how much insurers are willing to pay to settle sexual abuse claims - is not a factor, because the Reardon abuse occurred after the church began insuring itself.

''Why the archdiocese has decided not to segment those off is beyond me. It has been unfortunate,'' said Newman, whose firm, Greenberg Traurig, represents 10 families of Reardon victims. ''Some kids could have used that settlement money.''

Fifteen of the boys suing the archdiocese, however, have settled cases filed against the Danvers YMCA, which also employed Reardon. The average settlement was for $140,000 and the money has been put in trust to pay for education and counseling, Gorovitz said.

Before the YMCA settlement, six of his seven clients had received ''no significant counseling'' because their parents' insurance did not pay for it, Gorovitz said.

Newman, however, said six of his clients had no connection to the YMCA and thus have received no money. That has prevented some of them from seeking counseling from specialists who work with sexually abused children.

All of the boys, the lawyers say, remain nervous about the prospect of having to testify at a trial about their abuse, an ordeal they were spared in the criminal case when Reardon pleaded guilty.

''It goes to the issue of closure. [Church officials] should be stepping up, acknowledging that significant harm took place, and saying they are sorry,'' Gorovitz said. ''All the children are aware that the potential for a trial is looming out there.''

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 6/16/2003.
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