| BOSTON COLLEGE
HIGH SCHOOL – DORCHESTER MA (1/03)
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By Walter V. Robinson
Fourteen men, 10 of them former students at Boston College High School, will receive about $5.2 million to settle claims against a Jesuit priest who they say molested them during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s - often forcibly after pinning them to the floor during wrestling matches.
The Rev. James Talbot was removed from his position at Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine, in 1998 after the first of his many alleged victims came forward. Last September, Talbot was indicted on rape charges for assaults that allegedly occurred when he taught at B.C. High from 1972 to 1980.
Another alleged victim of a second Jesuit, the Rev. Francis J. McManus, received a settlement of about $600,000 for his claim that McManus molested him while McManus taught at the Dorchester school in the early 1980s.
Altogether, the 15 men will receive payments of $5.8 million, ranging from $75,000 for one alleged victim to a settlement of over $1 million for one of Talbot's alleged victims. The cases were settled through mediation, with all 15 claimants represented by Boston lawyer Roderick MacLeish Jr.
At least two additional civil claims against Talbot are expected to be filed, by two former B.C. High students who have retained lawyer Mitchell Garabedian.
B.C. High President William J. Kemeza and Daniel J. Gleason, the school's attorney, said that 11 of the 15, including the alleged McManus victim, were B.C. High students who were allegedly molested in the 1970s and early 1980s. Two were teenage boys who worked at a Jesuit residence in the South End where Talbot lived. And the final two were students at Cheverus, the Jesuit high school in Portland, where Talbot allegedly sexually abused them in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The costs of the settlement will be shared by the two high schools, the Jesuit New England province, the Diocese of Portland, and several insurance carriers.
Kemeza, who announced the settlements last night, said that since the former students started to come forward last March, the school has instituted policies that he said ''will ensure that nothing like this will ever happen again.''
Kemeza, who attended the mediation sessions that led to the settlements, said many of the victims believed the school's administrators two decades ago should have known what was happening.
''I often wondered: What was going on back then?'' Kemeza said. Sometimes, he said, ''it's amazing that people don't see what's going on right in front of them.''
Kemeza was referring to Talbot's frequent insistence that soccer players he coached, and some hockey players too, strip down to their jockstraps and wrestle with him in front of others - a practice that was openly whispered about among students. In interviews early last year, several of the former students said Talbot later lured them to one-on-one sessions, where he pinned them to mats and molested them.
Last March, the Globe obtained documents from about the time Talbot was transferred to Cheverus in 1980 that hinted that both schools knew something inappropriate had happened.
Talbot was removed in 1998 after a 16th alleged victim, Cheverus graduate Michael Doherty, filed a lawsuit in Maine. His case was settled in 2001. Talbot's criminal indictment was made possible because he was in Maine for 18 years, and the clock on the statute of limitations in Massachusetts stopped running.
MacLeish and Kemeza both credited Brockton mediator Paul A. Finn and his associate, retired Superior Court Judge John Tierney, for the compassionate way they treated the victims and their efforts to reach agreement.
A decade ago, it was Finn who mediated settlements involving more than 100 victims of priest pedophile James R. Porter. Last September, Finn oversaw the settlement of 36 abuse claims against the Providence diocese for $13.5 million. Finn had also mediated a prospective settlement of between $15 million and $30 million for 86 plaintiffs against former priest John J. Geoghan last year until the Archdiocese of Boston backed away from the deal.
With the Boston Archdiocese now facing claims against priests from 500
other people, Finn has recently become involved again to help mediator
Boston -- Fifteen men who said they were abused by clergy who taught at two Jesuit-run high schools in New England have settled their claims, their laywer said.
Attorney Roderick MacLeish did not disclose the dollar amounts of the settlements but called them "fair and equitable." The Boston Globe reported Friday that the settlements totaled $5.8 million and ranged from $75,000 to more than $1 million.
Eleven of the men claimed they were abused while they were students at Boston College High School in the 1970s and early 1980s. Ten men named the Rev. James F. Talbot, a hockey and soccer coach, and the other cited the Rev. Francis J. McManus.
Talbot's accusers said he wrestled them one on one, often pinning them to the floor.
"We hope that those who have been hurt, the brothers and sons of the BC High family, receive some consolation through this settlement," William Kemezza, president of Boston College High, said in a statement to WCVB-TV.
Talbot, 64, was also accused by the other four alleged victims. Two worked as teenagers at a Jesuit residence in Boston where Talbot lived, and two were students at Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine, where Talbot later taught.
Talbot and McManus did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Talbot pleaded innocent in September to rape and assault charges. Prosecutors said that in the 1970s, he plied three of his Boston College High soccer players with beer before challenging them to "aggression drills" - wrestling matches that were pretexts for rape.
Talbot taught at Boston College High from 1972 to 1980, then transferred to Cheverus. He was removed from there in 1998 after a 16th man, Cheverus graduate Michael Doherty, filed a lawsuit in Maine. That case was settled in 2001.
The new settlements were reached individually, and the last was completed Thursday night, MacLeish said.
MacLeish called the discussions "exemplary," saying officials from Boston College High and the Jesuit order, known as the Society of Jesus, spoke at length with alleged victims and their families.
"It was done individually, it was done with humanity, in a way that didn't pit people against each other," said MacLeish, who also represents 247 alleged victims of clergy sex abuse suing the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.
The costs of the settlements will be shared by the two high schools, the Jesuit New England province, the Diocese of Portland and several insurance carriers, the Globe reported.
In a related matter, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester released a financial report showing that it and its insurance companies have spent more than $2.1 million to settle sexual abuse allegations dating back several years.
Insurance paid about $1.3 million; the remainder was paid by the Worcester diocese.
To help cover its losses, the diocese has closed a home for people with AIDS.
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