Priest's Alleged Victims Cleared to Sue Cardinal
By J.M. Lawrence
January 30, 2001
Victims claiming defrocked priest John J. Geoghan sexually abused them as children can now sue Bernard Cardinal Law for letting the priest work after allegedly learning in 1984 that he molested several boys, a Suffolk judge has ruled.
"I wonder to myself sometimes why the church protected the priest and not the children," said Patrick McSorley, a Boston man who says Geoghan molested him as a boy in 1986 when the priest took him out for ice cream.
Judge James McHugh approved a motion to add the cardinal as a defendant in 24 out of 84 lawsuits pending against Geoghan and five bishops.
Geoghan, 65, of Scituate, worked in six Boston area churches over three decades and has been indicted on rape and sexual abuse charges in Suffolk and Middlesex counties.
The Archdiocese of Boston had no immediate comment yesterday.
The judge also allowed attorneys to add Father Paul E. Miceli as a defendant in 57 lawsuits. Miceli allegedly learned in 1973 that Geoghan molested four Melrose boys.
In a prior interview with the Herald, Cardinal Law said the charges against Geoghan sickened him but he maintained the church acted "as responsibly as we can."
"Were we able to put ourselves back 10, 20, 30 years, would we be able, with the knowledge we have now, to do things differently? Of course we would," he said.
The judge denied a request from attorneys for the Archdiocese to impound the lawsuits naming Law.
Law's failure to keep Geoghan from contact with children as a priest opened the door for the priest to molest McSorley in 1986, the suit contends.
McSorley, 26, now suffers "severe and permanent mental distress and emotional injuries," according to the suit.
In an interview at the offices of his attorney Mitchell Garabedian, the unemployed cable installer and father of a 2-year-old son said he grew up "very confused, very frightened" and has difficulty forming relationships now.
"If you can't trust a priest, who can you trust?" he said.
He blamed Law for allowing Geoghan to continue as a priest.
"I'm angry with the cardinal," he said. "They let the problem persist. It could have been prevented but wasn't."
McSorley never told anyone about the alleged incident as a child and "basically put a mental block on it."
He remembered the abuse when news about other Geoghan victims became public two years ago, he said.
According to McSorley's civil suit, information about Geoghan's behavior reached Law's office in September 1984. Law took over the Boston archdiocese in March 1984.
"Defendant Cardinal Law, Archbishop of Boston, acknowledged receipt of the September 1984 notice to him about Defendant Father Geoghan's sexual misconduct with minor boys," the suit alleges.
Garabedian said he could not reveal any additional information about the 1984 notice because of a confidentiality order imposed by the judge.
A mother's meeting with a Jamaica Plain priest in 1980 set the stage for information about Geoghan to bubble up to the archdiocese, the suit contends.
The woman claimed to the pastor of St. Thomas' parish that Geoghan had molested her sons and nephews, who were ages 6 to 11.
The pastor reported the mother's claim to Bishop Thomas V. Daily, who was then Chancellor and Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Boston.
Bishop Daily confronted Geoghan about the charges and he admitted to sexually abusing the boys, the lawsuit contends.
Over the next four years, Daily received more information about Geoghan's conduct "with at least seven children" and ended the priest's assignment to St. Brendan's Parish in Dorchester in September 1984.
Geoghan began work at Saint Julia's in Weston the next year.
Bishop Daily of the Brooklyn Archdiocese referred comment yesterday to attorneys. The attorney for the Catholic church in Boston could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Another alleged victim of Geoghan accused Cardinal Law and Father Miceli of protecting the priest and "feeding children to him," said Mark Keane. Keane says Geoghan put his hand down his swimming trunks at the Waltham Boys and Girls Club in 1980 when he was an 11-year-old boy.
No amount of money can recover the lost innocence and trust of Geoghan's victim, Keane said.
But the New Hampshire graphic artist and father of three said the Archdiocese should be forced to pay "millions if not billions of dollars" to ensure against a future coverup.
"It has to hurt to in order for them to change their policies," he said.
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