Law Added to Suits against Ex-Priest
By Michael Paulson
January 30, 2001
Cardinal Bernard F. Law knew that the Rev. John J. Geoghan was accused of being a pedophile but failed to keep him away from children for at least 11 years, two dozen people say in court complaints filed recently in Suffolk Superior Court.
The two dozen individuals have added Law, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston, to a list of Catholic officials they are suing for allegedly failing to keep Geoghan away from children after being told that he had molested young boys.
According to the lawsuits, Law had been notified in September 1984 that Geoghan was accused of molesting seven boys, but that he continued to serve as a priest with access to children. The plaintiffs' attorney, citing a judge's confidentiality order, declined to provide further details about how Law allegedly was notified and how he responded.
"From my understanding, Cardinal Law knew about this two years previous to my incident," said Patrick McSorley, 26, of Hyde Park, who said he was fondled by Geoghan in 1986 when the priest took him to buy ice cream. "I feel as though [Law] should have done something immediately, as soon as he found out, instead of just moving him from parish to parish."
Geoghan served at six parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston from 1962 to 1995: Blessed Sacrament in Saugus, Saint Paul in Hingham, Saint Andrew the Apostle in Forest Hills, Saint Brendan in Dorchester, Saint Bernard in Concord, and Saint Julia in Weston.
Law's spokesman, John B. Walsh, declined to comment on the allegation against the cardinal or other church officials, saying archdiocesan policy prevents him from speaking about pending litigation.
Law dismissed Geoghan from the priesthood in 1998, two years after the first lawsuit was filed.
Geoghan is now the subject of at least 84 civil suits as well as a criminal prosecution by the Suffolk district attorney's office. The former priest has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges of rape of a child and indecent assault and battery. No trial date has been set.
The civil suits, brought by 86 people who claim to have been victims or the parents of victims of Geoghan, initially targeted Geoghan as well as a number of Catholic bishops. Attorney Mitchell Garabedian decided to sue Law, as well as one of Law's top cabinet officials, as a result of statements by witnesses during pre-trial proceedings.
"Plaintiff has obtained information which indicates that from at least September 1984, Cardinal Law, archbishop of Boston, had personal knowledge of defendant Father John J. Geoghan's propensity to harm children," McSorley's complaint said. "Further, information obtained from discovery shows that Cardinal Law . . . failed to take reasonable steps from at least September 1984 to and through 1995, to prevent defendant Father Geoghan, over whom Cardinal Law . . . had supervisory authority, from seriously harming children."
The complaint alleges that Law was notified in September 1984 that Geoghan had molested seven boys, and that Law acknowledged that notification and removed him from St. Brendan's Parish in Dorchester. But, the complaint alleges, Law then continued to give Geoghan assignments for 11 years in which the priest had access to children. The complaint seeks unspecified monetary damages from Law.
The amended complaints also name as a defendant the Rev. Paul E. Miceli, a member of Law's cabinet, also for allegedly failing to intervene after knowing that Geoghan was accused of being a molester. The complaints allege that Miceli knew of concerns about Geoghan as early as 1973, when a mother of four boys allegedly told Miceli that Geoghan had molested her four sons.
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