Ralph Ranalli of the Globe Staff Contributed to This Report
Pastor Resigns before Reardon Trial
By Farah Stockman, and Yvonne Abraham
February 24, 2001
MIDDLETON - The Rev. Jon C. Martin, pastor at St. Agnes Church, where Christopher Reardon allegedly molested dozens of boys, has resigned his post.
In the days following the arrest of Reardon, Martin's trusted youth ministries coordinator, on what eventually became 131 child molestation and pornography charges, the 62-year-old priest appeared near collapse while saying Mass. In early October, Martin said he had to get away and took a temporary leave from the little white wooden church on Boston Street.
Now, four months later, the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has announced that Martin, a key witness in the case against Reardon, will not return as pastor of St. Agnes.
The priest, whose whereabouts during his leave have not been revealed, will make his final farewells at Masses this weekend.
The archdiocese cited health and personal reasons for Martin's departure. Spokesman John B. Walsh declined to say whether the resignation had anything to do with Reardon's alleged offenses.
Martin could not be reached for comment.
The Rev. Stephen M. Healy, who has been filling in for Martin at St. Agnes, said Reardon's upcoming trial will demand so much of Martin's time that there will be little left for parishioners.
"He's not coming back, basically for his own health," Healy said. "He will have to be in court a lot. Chris Reardon is trying to drag everyone down with him."
Details obtained by the Globe of Martin's testimony before a grand jury considering the Reardon case, indicate that he faced tough questioning about his own actions in overseeing the St. Agnes rectory during the years when Reardon is charged with molesting children.
On the stand, the pastor steadfastly denied any knowledge of Reardon's activities.
He did admit to lapses in his own oversight. For instance, Martin acknowledged receiving a warning from another priest about Reardon's behavior around children. However, it is unclear whether Martin took any action.
He also admitted to breaking his own rules forbidding lay people in the private areas of the church rectory, allowing several former prisoners to sleep in his own quarters and giving the church's pass code to a troubled young man.
Still, Martin maintained that he never noticed Reardon's alleged offenses, even though they repeatedly took place only a few feet from Martin's own sitting room and bedroom.
Reardon is accused of luring at least 20 boys into sex acts during his years as a youth minister at St. Agnes Church and as summer camp director at the Danvers YMCA. Scores of other boys viewed pornography with him. The alleged abuses occurred in his open office on the second floor of the rectory, in a basement of the YMCA building, and in the home he shared with his wife.
The room in which he allegedly abused victims at the rectory was just a few feet away from Martin's quarters. Reardon allegedly used the rectory computer to download images of child pornography and video taped some of his alleged crimes, including the molestation of a 12-year-old, with cameras hidden in the rectory ceiling.
Martin told the grand jury that the Rev. Richard Driscoll, a retired priest from a neighboring parish, called him to say he was concerned that Reardon might be behaving inappropriately with children in the office.
"He called me and talked to me about being concerned," Martin testified, according to a source familiar with the investigation. "Either he said a child up in the room or in the lap, and I really can't recall which one."
Driscoll declined to comment to the Globe, but confirmed that he had warned Martin about Reardon. While it is unclear how Martin reacted to the warning, Reardon continued to work with children until his arrest at a church picnic on June 10.
By his own account, Martin paid little heed to the comings and goings in his own rectory: Reardon repeatedly violated the priest's rule barring children and other laypeople from the rectory's second floor, as did Martin himself, when he allowed several troubled men to sleep at the rectory.
One young man, a 26-year-old who had followed Martin from parish to parish for more than a decade, even had the security code to the rectory, and Martin admitted on the stand that the man could have been using the rectory in his absence.
Indeed, investigators soon discovered that the young man had also been viewing pornography on the computer outside Martin's living quarters. Investigators also questioned Martin about two other men who had spent nights at the rectory, former inmates Martin had met as pastor at the Middleton jail and who struggled with drug addiction.
On the stand, Martin insisted he hadn't seen any signs of Reardon's alleged abuse. He had observed children in Reardon's office only once, he said.
"I opened the door and found two kids sitting on the couch, talking to him," he told the grand jury, according to the source. "And I just closed the door."
Martin said he talked to Reardon about it later.
The priest was so trusting of Reardon that after the youth coordinator's arrest, Martin planned to use parish funds to bail him out, believing the charges to be fabricated, according to his testimony.
He was unable to do so when a judge denied Reardon bail.
After seven months of investigation, prosecutors have found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by anyone except Reardon. But civil lawyers say they will scour testimony in Reardon's criminal trial for signs that Martin knew, or should have known, about Reardon's alleged abuse in preparation for civil suits against either the archdiocese or Martin himself.
Stephen Guschov, a lawyer who represents several families of Reardon's alleged victims, said: "Given the fact that there are hundreds of counts alleged against Reardon and given the fact that [some of] these occurred in a very small church, it strains credibility to suggest that Reardon committed these alleged crimes in a sort of vacuum where nobody knew it was going on, in broad daylight, when there were a lot of people around."
But some St. Agnes parishioners remain steadfast in defending Martin, who they say could only have been broken and blindsided, as they were, by the allegations.
"If he saw a wrong, he would do his best to right it," said Martin's friend, Maureen Doe, his secretary for several years during a previous parish assignment. "You pray to God you don't wake up and find yourself in the same situation. I have no doubt whatsoever he would never have allowed such a thing if he'd known."
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