| FALL RIVER MA –
JAMES R. PORTER (12/3/92)
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BISHOP TO AID PORTER ACCUSERS
By Stephen Kurkjian
Following a meeting with alleged victims of sexual abuse by a former Roman Catholic priest in the Fall River Diocese, Bishop Sean P. O'Malley said yesterday he will establish a fund to pay for psychological counseling for the alleged victims.
Bishop O'Malley said in a statement that he met Tuesday night with 18 people who have alleged they were molested by James R. Porter and offered them his sympathy and a pledge of support.
"I listened to their stories and their pain," Bishop O'Malley said. "We cried together, we laughed together, we prayed together."
Although Cardinal Bernard Law had previously advised those victims of Porter's alleged abuse who needed counseling to visit local priests, Bishop O'Malley said yesterday that the diocese would be willing to pay for the services of private therapists.
Roderick MacLeish, a Boston lawyer who represents about 70 alleged victims, applauded the announcement. "I think this is a very positive first step," MacLeish said. "This will go a long way to getting people access to therapy which they need."
MacLeish said he did not know how much money will be set aside for the counseling services, but stressed that "as an initial matter, the arrangements are satisfactory."
Bishop O'Malley, who took over as bishop of the Fall River Diocese last week, also said that he intends to say Masses in the several churches in southeastern Massachusetts where Porter is alleged to have molested youngsters between 1960 and 1967, his years in the diocese.
In addition, the bishop said he is working to create a policy on sexual abuse and educational programs for priests in the diocese. "The victims told me that their No. 1 concern is to protect children," he said in the statement. "I told them that I am their ally in this goal."
He said he had established a committee to draft a proposal on how to deal with priests who are alleged to have sexually abused parishioners. Many of the alleged victims have called on Bishop O'Malley to ensure that lay persons serve on any committee that would hear allegations of sexual abuse by priests.
Allegations that Porter sexually abused children also have surfaced in Rhode Island, Minnesota and New Mexico.
Porter, a native of Revere, was first assigned as a priest to St. Mary's parish in North Attleborough in 1960. After parents there complained about him, he was transferred in 1963 to Sacred Heart parish in Fall River. He was transferred to St. James parish in New Bedford in 1965, to New Mexico in 1967 and then to Minnesota.
The case has led to accusations that the church tried to cover up the alleged abuse by shuttling Porter from parish to parish, all the while allowing him to work with children.
Porter, 58, is married with four children and lives in Minnesota. No charges have been filed against him, but Bristol District Attorney Paul Walsh is considering whether to bring the allegations against him to a grand jury.
Bishop O'Malley pledged in his announcement to cooperate fully with Walsh's investigation. However, one possible key witness in the probe, Rev. Armando Annunziato, reportedly has told the bishop and Walsh's investigators that he will not assist in the investigation. According to WBZ-TV, Father Annunziato denied to authorities that he witnessed Porter abusing children at St. Mary's Church when both men were assigned there, and said he knew nothing of the accusations against Porter until they surfaced in May.
Several alleged victims have said that Father Annunziato, who was Porter's superior, walked in on Porter while he was molesting them, but took no action to stop him.
Bishop O'Malley's statement comes within days of a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by the diocese's insurance company to seek to relieve itself of financial liability in the Porter case. The lawsuit by Continental Insurance Co. put on hold plans between the alleged victims and the diocese to begin mediation on Monday to settle potential claims that are certain to arise out of Porter's alleged abuses.
MacLeish yesterday called on Bishop O'Malley to re-commit to the mediation sessions as soon as possible, even without Continental, or face his filing of lawsuits on the alleged victims' behalf. "We need to know as soon as possible whether my clients' cases will be litigated or mediated," MacLeish said.
In its brief, Continental argued that the diocese had been negligent in not removing Porter from contact with children, despite growing evidence that he was abusing them, and in allowing for his transfer from parish to parish.
A lawyer for the insurance company acknowledged yesterday that it had
no independent evidence that the diocese knew that Porter was still sexually
dangerous when it approved his transfers to parishes in New Mexico and
Minnesota. Instead, the lawyer said, the insurance company had based that
claim on other lawsuits filed against Porter by alleged victims in those
By Linda Matchan
It was July 1991 when Boston attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr. first met with Frank Fitzpatrick, a Rhode Island private detective, who said he and eight others had been molested as children in the 1960s by former Massachusetts priest James R. Porter.
MacLeish recalls being "absolutely overwhelmed" by their stories. "I remember thinking, 'Oh my God!' " said MacLeish, 39, a partner in the downtown law firm of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott. "If there are nine now, how many will there be if this ever gets out?"
To get his answer, he adopted classic MacLeish operating procedure. "The only way to find out," he said, "was to do all our homework, get all our facts straight. And make sure this gets out in the public eye."
It has. At the behest of Fitzpatrick, who urged him to make the case public, MacLeish orchestrated a series of interviews in which Porter's alleged victims described their experiences.
MacLeish now represents 70 men and women who claim Porter sexually abused them in three parishes in southeastern Massachusetts. A big payoff came Monday, when Porter was indicted by a Bristol County grand jury on 46 counts involving 32 victims.
Eric MacLeish is jubilant. While he is emphatic in crediting Fitzpatrick in bringing about the indictment, it's clear that he attributes at least a part of it to his unconventional approach -- being media-friendly to the max. Most attorneys are wary of taking their clients' cases to the public, especially in the early stages. But MacLeish -- a tenacious trial lawyer with political aspirations who is said to be happiest when snarling at the heels of tough adversaries while representing the disenfranchised -- contends that the most effective way to advance his clients' cause is to thrust them into the spotlight, as long as they are willing.
"I'm a great believer in the media," said MacLeish, the son of novelist and Monitor Broadcasting radio anchor Rod MacLeish, and grandnephew of Archibald MacLeish, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. MacLeish, in fact, recently joined the media, becoming the legal correspondent for New England Cable News.
"It makes it easier to accept a case if it is a case that has the potential to have a broad impact," said MacLeish, who avers he is not "a publicity hound. The ego rush of seeing my name in print is long gone."
This high-profile strategy has worked for him before. In the late 1980s, he successfully represented mentally ill Bridgewater State Hospital patients who alleged that hospital living conditions were deplorable.
His involvement in the case following the deaths of five patients -- and the resulting flood of national publicity -- led state officials to agree to stop public strip-searches of Bridgewater patients, halt seclusion of new admissions, and end the practice of sending all noncriminal patients to Bridgewater. "I saw the power of the press with Bridgewater," he said. "There were two things that helped us end the disgraceful practice of putting mentally ill men in jail. The lawsuit I filed, and two appearances on "Nightline."
Since then, his clients have included the Behavior Research Institute, a controversial Rhode Island-based school for autistic children; and handicapped children at the Crystal Springs School in Assonet and their parents, who filed a lawsuit to gain state funds for services after the youths turn 22.
Recently, he has acquired a reputation for representing victims of sexual abuse. He is close to completing negotiations in a settlement with the Fall River diocese on behalf of the 70 alleged Porter victims. His goal is to persuade church officials to "create a system in Massachusetts that ensures that the Porter tragedy can't ever happen again."
To some extent, MacLeish himself fuels the image of a man powered by an insatiable ego. A Newton alderman, he has been clear about his political aspirations, including a possible future run for Newton mayor. He was so willing to be interviewed for this article that he made an unsolicited hand- written list of 25 persons to interview. Divided into seven categories, the list included: judges; colleagues; opposing counsel; and people who don't like him.
"Every time I turn on the TV or radio, I hear Eric," said Mark White, a Boston lawyer and fellow Newton alderman who was listed under "people who don't like me." Maintaining that his differences with MacLeish are political, White acknowledged that "some people get really upset with some of the comments he makes because he comes across as arrogant and self-righteous."
It is not easy to know what fuels MacLeish's passion for being in the public eye. By all accounts he is a complex man. He can be aggressive and shrewd, not above playing one member of the media against another.
But he is eminently likable, and clearly compassionate, a man "with a heart," according to his secretary, Beth Anderson. "He is unique and you need to understand the uniqueness of Eric to not be offended," said Matthew McNamara, an associate.
He has garnered the respect of other partners in his office, among them Stephen R. Delinsky, Steven Pierce, the former House minority leader; and Robert Caporale, who represents the New Boston Garden Corporation on the new arena project.
"He really identifies with the underclass," said Delinsky, a former chief of the attorney general's criminal division. "A lot of the people he represents are not State Street clients. They are real underdogs. They are not people who will be able to say to him, 'You're a great lawyer, thank you.' "
Ironically MacLeish's privileged upbringing that is largely responsible, he believes, for his feelings for the unfortunate. When his father became London bureau chief for Westinghouse broadcasting, MacLeish, then 8, was sent to an English boarding school. He was miserable and felt alienated.
"I was the only American in an all-male boarding school of 120. No one talked to me for two years. They were very nasty to me. My stuffed bear was impaled on a light fixture. I was certainly the underdog there."
He said his strong feelings about the Porter case have also been driven at least partly by the the past. When he was a 15-year-old copy boy at a Washington all-news radio station, he was molested by a journalist who was a close friend.
It happened on a camping trip. "I was able to fight him off for the most part, and it doesn't compare with being raped on an altar, but it was such a massive betrayal of trust."
He emphasizes, however, that the attention he has drawn to the Porter
case represents "no crusade. I'm not getting back at people because
of what happened to me as a young man," he said. "There is no
private vendetta going on here. Can you imagine the Father Porter story
not coming out? Because nine courageous people came out publicly, now
there are 70 people whose lives have been incredibly enriched because
of all this attention. They all thought they would be suffering in silence."
By Stephen Kurkjian
Sixty-eight people allegedly molested by Rev. James R. Porter agreed yesterday to drop their claims against the Fall River Diocese, apparently for at least $5 million. Their lawyer called the victims the largest group ever to settle a case of sexual abuse with the Catholic Church.
With several of the victims and members of their families looking on in tears, their attorney, Roderick MacLeish Jr., declared the settlement a victory for their efforts to redress wrongs done to them by the former priest, and a positive step by the diocese in dealing with allegations of sexual abuse.
MacLeish said the settlements prohibited the church and the victims from making public the amounts of the agreements. The amounts for each victim differed, according to the mediators involved in settling the case, and were determined by the seriousness of psychological trauma suffered.
One source familiar with the negotiations said the church would be paying approximately $5 million. A second source, who also asked not to be identified, said the total settlement amounted to "more than" $5 million.
Bishop Sean P. O'Malley, the recently installed head of the diocese, hailed the agreement as a "just settlement." Bishop O'Malley said he hoped that the agreement would bring "comfort and healing" to those "whose childhood was shadowed by the acts of a priest of the church . . . It is also my hope that from this tragic time for our church will come a sense of understanding and compassion for the victims of childhood sexual abuse."
During his seven years in the 1960s as a priest in parishes in the Fall River Diocese, Porter allegedly abused dozens of youths, most of them altar boys at churches in North Attleborough, Fall River and New Bedford.
Although Porter's actions became known to other priests and superiors at the diocese after two years, he was allowed to transfer to other parishes after seeking psychiatric treatment for his problems, according to Porter's diocesan personnel files obtained by the Globe.
The failure of Bishop James L. Connolly, then head of the Fall River Diocese, to force Porter out of the priesthood, despite knowing of his alleged molestation of children, formed the basis of the victims' claims against the church. By agreeing to the settlements, the victims have given up their right to sue the diocese for failing to restrict Porter's activities.
In its present situation, the diocese will have to pay the settlement from its own coffers. The two companies that had sold the diocese general liability insurance during the 1960s, Continental Insurance Co. and Boston-Old Colony Insurance Co., backed out of the negotiations in August, contending that the diocese had been so negligent in handling Porter that they should not have to cover the claims.
Thomas Hannigan Jr., who represents the diocese, said that it was suing the insurance companies to cover the claims. He declined to say how the diocese might otherwise raise the money to pay the settlements.
MacLeish and retired Superior Court Judge George N. Hurd of Milton, who acted as mediator in the case, praised Bishop O'Malley's role in the negotiations between the church, the victims and the teams of lawyers representing both sides.
They said that a turning point in the negotiations took place in late September when the bishop, who had been installed in Fall River in August, invited a small group of the victims to his chancery.
Without any of the lawyers present, Bishop O'Malley heard for the first time the victims tell their stories of how Porter had abused them and how the experience had damaged their lives.
Over the next five days, lawyers for the diocese and the victims sat with Hurd and went over the cases involving the 68 victims. They were "the toughest days of negotiations that I've ever seen," said Hurd.
From those talks, the diocese agreed to pay a total sum of money for all of the claims. During the next two months, Hurd met with each of the 68 people and came up with a settlement amount for each. Although Porter has claimed that he only molested young boys, about a dozen of the victims who gained settlements were women, said MacLeish's associate, Matthew McNamara.
The claimants were divided into four categories, depending on the seriousness of the trauma that they had suffered from the alleged abuse by Porter, Hurd said. All of the victims underwent extensive examination by two psychologists trained in childhood sexual abuse.
MacLeish, at the morning news conference announcing the settlement, said the psychologists had determined that all were telling the truth.
"It was quite striking how dramatically the lives of these people had been affected," said Dr. Stuart Grassian of Stoneham, who with Dr. John Daignault of Brockton had talked with each victim.
"For the most part, they all had come from stable and functionally secure homes. They were apple pie and ice cream kids who had gotten swept up in the compulsions of a priest," Grassian said.
"And we found, with one after another, they began to suffer what would become long-lasting psychological problems: loss of personal confidence, rebellion, loss of trust in elders or established institutions, divorce and financial. It was quite remarkable how their lives had suffered from these acts of abuse."
In addition to the settlement, it was also announced that the victims were establishing a nonprofit organization, Protect the Child Foundation, to help victims of sexual abuse come forward to confront their perpetrators, and to educate children on sexual abuse.
"We're all of us heroes, and every person who comes forward and faces victimization is a hero," said Frank Fitzpatrick, an alleged victim of Porter who first raised allegations against the former priest.
MacLeish said that the settlement represented the largest group of people allegedly abused by a priest who had settled their cases with the church. He said that the diocese did not try to restrict the size of the individual settlements by referring to the state law that limits to $20,000 the amount of money that a person can recover in a lawsuit against a charitable institution.
According to author Jason Berry, the Catholic Church worldwide has paid approximately $300 million in claims since 1985 to people who alleged they had been sexually abused as children and adolescents by priests.
The Vatican has yet to establish a churchwide policy for dealing with allegations of abuse, allowing individual parishes to decide whether they will pay for counseling for victims, appoint lay members to boards investigating allegations, or suspend the priests from active service while the investigations are taking place.
Meanwhile, the incoming head of the National Conference of Bishops, the ruling body for the Catholic Church in the United States, telephoned one of Porter's victims yesterday and said the bishops intended to discuss establishing a national policy for Catholic churches.
Dennis Gaboury, now of Baltimore, said he had been told by Archbishop William Keeler that a subcommittee of the bishops would contact him when it begins discussion.
In Minneapolis yesterday, Porter and his wife sat in a courtroom while jurors were picked to hear the criminal case against him. Porter is charged with molesting a teen-ager who was baby-sitting his four children. In Massachusetts, he is also facing multiple charges of sexual abuse in Bristol County.
Globe staff writer Linda Matchan contributed to this article from Minneapolis.
By Frank L. Fitzgerald
1991, Summer. A New Bedford Porter survivor contacts attorney who directs us to Attorney Eric MacLeish.
1992, May 7. Thursday. Broadcast of 8 people telling their story about abuse by Porter on WBZ-TV Channel 4, in Boston, Massachusetts to reporter Joe Bergantino. Patty Wilson, Judy Mullett, and Frank Fitzpatrick show their faces and use their names. 5 others speak in shadow including Mike Whalen and Pete Calderone who also later go completely public. Within the next 3 months 68 survivors in Massachusetts area come forward. People make reports to police and the district attorney’s office. Survivors of priests and other perps flood Frank’s office and home with phone calls. News media blitz begins.
1992, May 8. John Robitaille and 2 other men come forward and go public. New people to Frank.
1992. July. PrimeTime Live with Diane Sawyer airs 30 minute feature of the Porter case showing 25 people gone public. As a result, dozens of Porter survivors in Minnesota, Texas, and New Mexico hear of what is going on and come forward.
1992. September. James Porter is indicted in Massachusetts for molesting 28 children - now adults - still within the statute of limitations. Same day he is indicted in Minnesota for molesting a babysitter of his children.
1992. October. Civil claim settlement with the diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, by 68 Porter survivors. 31 more are later represented by Attorney Eric MacLeish and settle claims. Then 2 more.
1992. December. Porter is tried for crimes of abusing babysitter in Minnesota. Frank & Sara Fitzpatrick attend along with Porter survivor Fran Battaglia to support the young lady. Porter is found guilty and sentenced to 6 months. Serves 4 months in Minnesota. Minnesota Supreme Court later overturns the verdict based on the prosecutor’s closing remarks that the jury would be “fools” to believe Mrs. Verlyne Porter’s testimony
1993. December. Porter plea bargains with Bristol County District Attorney
Paul Walsh, and judge gives him 18 to 20 years, of which he is serving
6 or more now in Massachusetts. [as of 11/24/2002]
Diocese of Fall River
It is painful to address the issue of the sexual abuse of children, especially when this abuse is inflicted by members of the clergy. This pain is caused in part by the growing realization of the long term injury sexual abuse inflicts on a child and his/her family. The distress is also due to the injury inflicted on the community that is the Church. Despite the pain, or perhaps because of it, the situation should be addressed in a pastoral yet forthright manner.
Developments in the psychological sciences underscore the real and long term injury done to children who are abused. It is also now known that certain types of abuse are of a compulsive and perhaps incurable nature.
It is appropriate, therefore, that a clear written policy be made public so that all will know how the Diocese of Fall River handles accusations of sexual misconduct by a cleric (priest or deacon) with a minor (under eighteen).
The procedures which follow are but a first step in a comprehensive approach to the issue of sexual abuse being undertaken by the Diocese of Fall River. Once the review board is in place, other aspects of the question will be addressed.
Among the first tasks of the Review Board will be to insure that proper personnel procedures govern accusations of sexual misconduct by all employees and volunteers of the Church. Such policies will address not only child abuse but also the issues of sexual harassment and sexual exploitation.
Another issue to be addressed in a comprehensive fashion is the on going development of appropriate educational programs in the area of human sexuality incorporated into the various educational programs offered by the Church. This study will be done in consultation with the Diocesan Education Office.
The first step in addressing the overall issue of sexual misconduct is the establishment of a Review Board and the procedures to be followed when a cleric is accused of sexual misconduct with a child.
* There will be an immediate response to all allegations of sexual misconduct by a cleric with a minor.
* If an initial review reveals that the allegation is credible, the cleric will be placed on administrative leave pending further investigation.
* Any suspected case of sexual misconduct with a minor will be reported to civil authorities.
* Confidential counseling will be offered to the alleged victim and his/her family.
* No diagnosed pedophile will be given any assignment in or by the Diocese of Fall River or be allowed to seek pastoral work outside the Diocese.
The procedures do not detail the processes that are found in the Canon Law of the Church. In order to appreciate the rights and obligations of the clergy in a more complete manner, reference needs to be made to the procedural and penal laws of the Church.
These procedures are not "written in stone". They are to be reviewed and perhaps revised on at least an annual basis. Comments and suggestions for improvement are always welcome.
1. A Review Board shall be established by the Bishop to serve as an advisory body in general matters concerning the issue of sexual misconduct and to serve as a monitoring and advisory board when a specific accusation of sexual misconduct by a cleric with a minor is made. The Board will have seven members:
- An appropriately credentialed mental health worker who has expertise
in matters concerning child abuse;
2. The Bishop shall appoint a Delegate from among the members of the Review Board to serve as his representative in cases involving an accusation of sexual misconduct by a cleric with a minor. The Delegate will chair the Review Board. The Bishop is free to appoint a substitute Delegate as circumstances warrant.
The Bishop's Delegate represents him in these matters. This person may be any member of the Review Team. For various reasons a substitute or alternate Delegate may be named to assume the role. It could be that the Delegate is not available at the time or that a particular case may call for a certain type of person being named by the Bishop, e.g. a woman rather than a man, someone who speaks a foreign language, etc.
3. Upon receipt of an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor by a cleric, the Delegate (or a substitute Delegate) shall conduct a preliminary investigation. This initial review is expected to be completed within twenty-four to seventy-two hours of the receipt of the allegation. If the cleric is a member of a religious order, his religious superior is to be notified and made part of subsequent steps in the process, with due regard for the requirements of canon law.
The procedures call for immediate action when an allegation is received by the Bishop. The intent of this point is that the investigation be done without delay. It is recognized, of course, that the accused is innocent until proven guilty. This does not preclude, however, swift action in response to any and all accusations of this nature. Finally, this point calls attention to the fact that Church law requires the involvement of a religious superior when the accused is a member of a religious order.
4. The initial review will ordinarily include interviews with the accused cleric, the person making the complaint, and any witnesses. The review may include interviews with members of the alleged victim's family and the alleged victim himself/herself if permission is given to interview the minor and it is judged appropriate to do so.
The Delegate, or his/her representative is to talk to the key people involved and as many others as he/she feels warranted. The intent of the initial review is to clarify the nature of the claim. Ordinarily, the interviews should be done in person but circumstances may warrant a telephone interview with some individuals. When a small child is interviewed, this is to be done only by a person with a recognized expertise in this specialized field.
5. The accused cleric is to be advised of his right to retain independent legal and canonical counsel.
The cleric is to be advised of his right to seek the advice of his own counsel and that of a canon lawyer so that his rights may be protected. It is important that the cleric be aware of his rights under the laws of church and state from the beginning of the process.
6. Upon receipt of an accusation, the Delegate shall notify the Review Board which shall meet and prepare a recommendation for the Bishop within forty-eight hours of the completion of the initial review. If the victim is presently a minor, the Delegate will immediately notify the proper civil authorities.
The Board oversees all the steps of the procedure dealing with the accusation. It is the intent of this point that the Board is convened without delay. The Board reviews the results of the initial investigation conducted by the Delegate and advises the Bishop regarding the need for additional action. The Review Board receives periodic reports from the Delegate and offers its advice to the Bishop until the case is concluded. Substitutes and additions to the team may be made by the Bishop as needed
7. If the Delegate, after receiving the results of the initial review, concludes that the accusation of sexual misconduct has some credibility, the Bishop places the accused cleric on immediate administrative leave, pending the results of further investigation, including professional evaluation of the accused. The professional evaluation is to take place at a recognized independent treatment facility. Administrative leave does not carry with it any presumption of guilt. If necessary, temporary residence is to be provided with no contact with minors. The priest's or deacon's faculty to preach is removed and the priest's faculty to hear confessions is suspended and he is advised to celebrate Mass privately. If the cleric refuses to cooperate, the appropriate procedures of canon law shall be invoked. If the accusation is found to be without any basis in reality, appropriate measures are to be taken to respond to any harm done to the cleric's reputation and ministry, especially if the accusations were made public.
The Review Board is to give its recommendation to the Bishop as soon as possible after it completes its consideration of the initial investigation. It is noted that administrative leave has no direct parallel in canon law but it has proven to be a useful instrument to protect both the accused and the accuser. It should be clear that administrative leave does not imply guilt but rather a need for time to pursue a serious accusation. The cleric's faculties are removed on a temporary basis. Finally, the evaluation of the cleric is to take place at a recognized independent treatment facility. Ordinarily this evaluation takes place over several days. If the accusation is without merit, it is important that any damage to the cleric's reputation and ministry be addressed.
8. Appropriate and confidential counseling is to be offered to the alleged victim, and family. When necessary, the needs of the parish and wider community should be included in the response of the Review Board.
Part of the care and concern of the Diocese is the offer of counseling. This extends, of course, to the alleged victim and the family. Depending on the nature of the case, appropriate pastoral care is extended to the parish community and others. The Diocesan Department of Social Services will be available to provide confidential counseling and/or identify other qualified sources for assistance. The diocese will underwrite the cost for this service.
9. All applicable civil reporting laws are to be followed. The Delegate (or substitute Delegate) is charged with acting on behalf of the Diocese in reporting suspected child abuse by a cleric to the appropriate civil authorities. The Diocese will cooperate with the authorities in the investigation and resolution of accusations.
Any suspected case of child abuse is to be reported by the Delegate. This step recognizes the legitimate right of the state to be involved in these cases. In cases which are not prosecutable because many years have passed, the wishes of the adult victim should be taken into consideration. It is also noted that the confidentiality of the internal forum or confessor-penitent relationship can never be violated. However, the seal of confession is not ordinarily an issue in cases where an abuse is reported in the external or public forum.
10. If the alleged misconduct is a matter of public record, the Diocesan Office of Communications shall issue a statement and serve as the ongoing liaison with the media. The members of the Review Board should not serve as spokespersons.
Beyond reporting the alleged abuse to the appropriate civil authorities (cf no. 9 above), the Diocese is not under an obligation to make accusations a matter of public record. Indeed, at times the victims request that they not be. If it is a matter of public record, the Review Board and others should refer all inquiries to the Diocesan Office of Communications. This office will deal with the matter in a manner respectful of the rights of all concerned. Charity, candor, and prudence are to be the characteristics of public statements.
11. The alleged victim and family will be kept informed of the response of the Diocese through regular reports from the Review Board or its representative.
This step is included in the procedures to help guarantee that the alleged victim and the family are aware of what the Diocese is doing to respond to the accusations.
12. Upon completion of any treatment and before any return to public ministry, the Bishop is to consult with the Review Board before a decision is made concerning what, if any, future assignment the cleric is to receive. No diagnosed pedophile will receive an assignment in the Diocese of Fall River or be authorized by the Bishop to minister outside the Diocese.
If the initial assessment by the treatment facility calls for additional residential treatment, the Diocese makes such treatment mandatory before any reassignment shall be considered. The reassignment of a cleric who has sexually abused a minor is a very complex matter. Each case must be studied on its own with the benefit of the recommendation of the treatment center. No cleric is to be given an assignment which places children at risk. Canon law governs any laicization procedure or any other church process that may be invoked.
13. These written procedures are to be given to every cleric incardinated in the Diocese of Fall River or ministering in the Diocese of Fall River.
It is important that all clerics know what procedures govern allegations of sexual misconduct with minors. An appropriate process to assure that this is communicated to all ordained ministers currently serving in the Diocese is to be developed by the Chancery Office. In the future, any cleric beginning his ministry in the Diocese is to be given a copy of the procedures.
14. These procedures are to be reviewed on a yearly basis.
This point asks that some appropriate body review these procedures each year to see that they respond in an adequate fashion to the issue at hand. Two possible units to review the procedures are the Diocesan Pastoral Council and the Priests' Council. The review should include persons familiar with developments in the civil law and the psychological sciences.
15. If you are a victim in need of assistance, please contact Mrs. Arlene
McNamee, the Bishop's Delegate, at the Abuse Prevention Unit of Catholic
Social Services in Fall River at 508-674-4681.
By Steve Urbon
Today the Archdiocese of Boston is reaping the bitter rewards of its lack of a tough policy toward the sexual abuse of children.
But within the Diocese of Fall River there is a sense of frustration: Those in the diocese know that their policies, laid down in 1994, could have saved Boston from this pain and turmoil.
Yet Fall River's initiative has been virtually ignored elsewhere. The diocese's strict and comprehensive guidelines for detecting and reporting sexual abuse (and sexual harassment) established by Bishop Sean P. O'Malley soon after his arrival remain unique in Massachusetts.
The policy is being called a model by child abuse activists outside the church, but eight years after its implementation, the Boston Archdiocese is paying the price for mistakes that the Fall River plan -- right on its doorstep -- was designed to correct.
The proof of Bishop O'Malley's seriousness: a collection of files representing 17,000 criminal background checks on everyone working for the diocese, paid staff, clergy and volunteers, in churches from Fall River to Provincetown.
From the upper-echelon staff to the humblest volunteer, anyone who offers their services to the Roman Catholic Church in this region must attend a session on proper behavior and practices, sign a release form and submit to a criminal background check with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Everyone. Even leaders of scout troops who use church facilities. Everyone.
Gone are the days when people were trusted implicitly. Gone is the assumption that people who appear harmless are harmless. Gone is the innocence.
And gone from the diocese, most believe, is the once-hidden scourge of sexual abuse of children by agents of the church.
This is the legacy of one infamous former priest, James Porter. It's the institutional scar tissue that Porter left in the diocese where he molested dozens of young boys, eventually resulting in an infamous trial in 1993 that left the church and its members reeling in shock and despair.
Today, with Cardinal Bernard Law and the Archdiocese of Boston besieged by lawyers, victims, media and countless other critics because of the mishandling of sexual predators in the priesthood, those in the Fall River Diocese look back with knowing sadness.
That, and a sense of relief that here, at least, the problem appears to be well under control.
There is, along with that, a sense of bewilderment and sorrow that the Archdiocese of Boston and Cardinal Law had managed not to learn from Fall River, had not adopted its policies long ago, and even now is failing to reach out and learn valuable lessons from a diocese on its southern border.
Donna M. Morrisey, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Boston, did not return calls and did not answer a series of questions put in writing at her office's request.
"Its like everything," said Msgr. Thomas J. Harrington, pastor at the recently merged Holy Name of the Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in New Bedford. "It's like that politically. It's like that socially. It's like that economically."
His blood rising, the city native said, "We're rarely, if ever, given credit for our innovation."
Msgr. Harrington lavished praise on Bishop O'Malley, who arrived on the scene in the late summer of 1993, when the pain of the Porter case was at its worst, and seized control.
First he approached the Porter victims. His caring "just burst forth," said Msgr. Harrington. "His reactions were intuitively caring. He did what we would love to do. He met with the victims. He hugged the victims. He prayed with the victims. He cried with the victims."
And within months he put in place a sexual abuse policy that would satisfy even the church's worst critics. "If he were never to do another thing, he will have left his legacy through his actions" in the Porter case, said Msgr. Harrington.
That opinion is echoed by Roderick MacLeish Jr., the militant Boston attorney who represented Porter's victims: "I think Bishop O'Malley did a tremendous job. The procedures we negotiated worked well, and that wouldn't happen unless we were working in good faith with good people."
"He (Bishop O'Malley) just showed great compassion," said MacLeish. "And it's not like it was natural. During Porter, if you remember, there were requests that God come down and strike the news media."
Now, looking at the trouble in Greater Boston, MacLeish said, "I always thought, here was one of the poorest dioceses in the United States (Fall River) and here was this huge archdiocese in Boston ... I always felt that there was a great deal the archdiocese could learn from O'Malley."
"What we had in Bishop O'Malley was someone who truly felt that child sexual abuse was a horrible event to have occurred and that the church had a moral and spiritual responsibility to address it correctly," he said.
He's not alone in that view.
Joyce Strom, president and chief executive officer of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, lavished praise on Bishop O'Malley -- but not on Cardinal Law. "They've got one of the most enlightened policies down there in the Fall River Diocese," she said. "There's no turmoil in Fall River because they have had different standards, different protocols, standardized guidance."
Today, she said, "we're at a higher level of discussion than we ever had before. Unfortunately, it's on the backs of some very, very traumatized adults and children."
The important difference between Fall River and Boston, she said, is that "the emphasis is on prevention rather than being secretive."
Indeed, since the policies went into place in 1994, any reports of abuse within the Fall River Diocese are not only forwarded to church officials for inquiry, but they are forwarded to the appropriate state agencies, either the district attorney or the Department of Social Services. The bishop is notified, but the reporting takes place without his direct input, unlike the procedures outlined for Boston last Sunday by Cardinal Law.
As for the victims, they are provided the counseling of their choice, and are not required to obtain that help within the church or even from counselors selected by the church.
The result has been relative quiet. MacLeish said that following Porter, there were several other cases -- he guessed at eight to 10 -- in which settlements were made and priests were removed, retired or otherwise reassigned away from children because of abuses they committed in past years that were beyond the reach of the criminal statute of limitations. Since then, he said, he knows of no new cases of pedophilia among priests in the Fall River Diocese, and the spokesman for the diocese, John Kearns, said no legal cases are pending.
In the diocese, they credit the deterrent effect of the new policies.
Arlene McNamee, director of Catholic Social Services for the Fall River Diocese, said, "We know it's a deterrent. As we explain (in group meetings) what the policy means, people will leave the room." They won't fill out the paperwork, they won't get the background check, and they won't work with the Diocese of Fall River."
It isn't a huge number who back out, however. She estimated that perhaps 10 would do so over a one-year period in which 2,500 people are screened. But it's important to screen out those people -- and to have everyone else on the lookout.
Ms. McNamee firmly believes it is worthwhile to screen everyone, not just the supervisors, the camp counselors, and the teachers. When everyone who comes into contact with children knows the policy and knows to be on the lookout, they are more likely to spot and report unusual or disturbing behavior, even on the part of their supervisors, she said. Child abusers, she said, "are very subtle. They are going to be very hard to catch unless someone tells us."
This sort of attentiveness pleases Ms. Strom of the MSPCC, but her tone turns to anger as she considers what is happening in the Boston Archdiocese. "It used to be children were chattel. You could do whatever you wanted to them. There were no protective rights for the child. Everyone who was made a mandatory reporter (of abuse) thought it would ruin the business and clients, and things would never be the same. It's taken a lot of work educating the public. It's amazing that the first reaction isn't always the protection of children," she said.
She says she is frustrated that Fall River is the only diocese using CORI checks to screen workers. "Anybody that has contact with a child needs to have a CORI check. We can't afford not to do it."
How affordable are CORI checks? In this case, they are free. Ms. McNamee said that the diocese applied for and received a waiver of the fees usually charged by the state, and so the only costs to the church stem from its own record-keeping and processing. So cost, she said, should not be an object if Boston ever decides to follow suit.
"And it's not just Catholicism," she said. "Where are all the other religious institutions? We've got to put protocols on the table, and get standards so that all children are protected."
Regarding Fall River, she said, "My sense is that it's an enlightened policy and a prototype for others to follow. What's scary is that as a country and society it takes so long to get everyone educated on what's right. We have to do it institution by institution.
"The momentum is coming from everyone who has moved this question. It's the victims who have had the courage to come forward. So often that is what happens. That is the impetus for social change," she said.
Yet, "it's not a national movement. You know how many national campaigns
it takes to get a national movement to work? It was that way with women's
rights. With special needs. With minorities. With every single social
issue. You've got to get enough people talking and enough people educated
to create enough political will. That's not easy to create. Nobody wants
to hear this stuff."
By Kathleen Durand email@example.com
FALL RIVER -- While people of the Fall River Diocese seemed generally enthusiastic Monday about news that Bishop Sean P. O’Malley may become archbishop of Boston, two people who were sexually abused by former priest James R. Porter were skeptical that O’Malley can bring true healing to the troubled archdiocese.
O’Malley became bishop of Palm Beach, Fla., last October, after serving as bishop of Fall River for 10 years. The Boston Archdiocese has been rocked by a priest sex abuse scandal, just as the Fall River and Palm Beach Dioceses were before O’Malley was sent to help them heal.
Porter pleaded guilty in 1993 to abusing numerous children when he was a priest assigned to parishes in the Fall River Diocese during the 1960s. The diocese transferred him from parish to parish and then sent him to New Mexico and Minnesota, where he was also accused of sexually abusing children.
O’Malley is credited with developing a model sexual abuse policy for the Fall River Diocese, but Frank Fitzpatrick of Cranston, R.I., one of Porter’s victims, said there’s a glaring loophole in the policy. Fitzpatrick said it bars anyone diagnosed as a pedophile from working in the diocese, but not all child molesters are diagnosed as pedophiles.
"I’m against it," Fitzpatrick said of O’Malley’s appointment as archbishop. The Fall River Diocese paid out thousands of dollars in settlements to Porter victims. Unless they just want money and don’t want to see a real change in the way the archdiocese handles allegations of sex abuse, Fitzpatrick said, "The people in Boston should be very wary."
Fitzpatrick described O’Malley as a troubleshooter. "I know he’s just someone sent to put out fires," he said. He said O’Malley, a Franciscan, wears brown robes and sandals and has a mild demeanor, but "carries a big stick."
Fitzpatrick said there needs to be a revolution in the way the church treats the sex abuse issue.
Peter Calderone of Attleboro, who works for the Postal Service in Fall River, was abused by Porter when Porter was assigned to St. Mary’s Church in North Attleboro. Calderone said he’d like to think O’Malley would do a decent job in Boston and would bring fresh ideas and honesty to the archdiocese. But Calderone said the church hierarchy violated his trust when he was a child, and he hasn’t forgiven that.
"I’m certain a lot of people in the Boston Archdiocese feel the same way. He’s got his work cut out for him," he said.
Calderone said he wasn’t surprised to hear O’Malley may receive the appointment as Cardinal Bernard Law’s successor. But he said the church hierarchy is playing people as fools. "They took him out of here less than a year ago because there was a whole lot of heat here. They knew Law would resign. They tried to circle their wagons. This was a game," he said. "Let the smoke clear and ease him back," Calderone said.
He said he thinks O’Malley will do a better job of handling the scandal than Law, but, "It’s a brotherhood. They protect their own." Calderone said, "The question I have after all this time is, it’s almost like they’re saying this is just a problem with your local parish priest, who becomes a monsignor and a bishop. This goes all the way up. I’m bitter about this whole thing."
Calderone said the church is grooming O’Malley to move up. He and Fitzpatrick were among the Porter victims who met with O’Malley to discuss a sexual abuse policy. "He ducked us at first," he said. Calderone said the diocese still doesn’t act on accusations of abuse as quickly as it should.
"What have they done to clean up the priesthood?" asked Calderone. He said he still considers himself a Catholic but he doesn’t go to Mass. He said his faith is shattered, not with God or the church, but with the people running the church.
Calderone said the priest abuse victims came forward 10 years after the Porter victims did and there will be other priest abuse victims in the future.
"I’m glad I did it. I’d like to think we were pioneers in allowing people to step forward," he said.
Neither the Fall River Diocese nor the Palm Beach Diocese would comment on O’Malley’s appointment.
"There’s nothing official that we have received," said Deacon Sam Barbero, spokesman for the Palm Beach Diocese. John Kearns, spokesman for the Fall River Diocese, said Bishop-elect George Coleman, who replaced O’Malley, was out of town.
Bishop Accountability © 2003
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