Priest Who Supervised Reardon Sued by Victim
By Farah Stockman, and Kathleen Burge
November 1, 2001
In the first sign that settlement negotiations between some victims of convicted pedophile Christopher Reardon and the Archdiocese of Boston have collapsed, one victim and his mother have sued the Rev. Jon C. Martin, the Catholic priest who supervised the church rectory in Middleton where Reardon molested young boys.
"I have no hope now that it's going to be resolved in settlement, and I am going to try my case in court," said attorney Jeffrey Newman, who represents the teenage boy and his mother, known only as John and Jane Doe.
The suit, filed late last week in Suffolk Superior Court, alleges that Martin had been warned "that Reardon acted inappropriately with children," yet failed to investigate and take action to prevent further harm. Asserting that John Doe, now a teenager, has been "damaged" by the sexual assault, the youth and his mother are seeking $100,000 to fund psychotherapy for his post-traumatic stress disorder.
Although the plaintiffs are the only victims listed in the suit, Newman - who represents seven other families - is expected to add more parties to the case in the coming weeks. The victims and their families have been in talks with the archdiocese to try to resolve the matter out of court.
Yesterday, an official from the archdiocese declined to discuss the suit. Martin, who has left St. Agnes Church in Middleton but is still a priest, could not be reached for comment.
A married church youth instructor who also taught swimming at the Danvers YMCA, Reardon, 29, was arrested last summer. The charges traumatized the town, which considered Reardon one of its most trusted residents.
Though he faced a possible life sentence, Reardon stunned prosecutors and the community by pleading guilty in July to 75 counts of abuse against 24 boys - just days before the start of jury selection and without a plea agreement.
The move avoided a trial that would have forced teenage victims to testify how Reardon recklessly lured them into sex acts not only in his home but in his doorless office in the St. Agnes rectory and the basement of the YMCA.
But Reardon's guilty plea - and subsequent 40-year prison sentence - also allowed Martin, who would have almost certainly been asked to take the stand, to avoid difficult questions about how the abuse went seemingly unnoticed.
Now that Martin has been sued, Newman will attempt to depose the priest to find out what he knew about Reardon's abuses. Martin, a beloved priest whose living quarters shared a wall with the room in which Reardon molested the children, left his post at St. Agnes shortly after Reardon's arrest and later resigned.
As the case unfolded, he told a grand jury that another priest had warned him about Reardon's inappropriate behavior with children. Martin also testified that he personally had broken church policy by inviting former inmates from the Middleton Jail to sleep in the rectory.
While many other families who have retained lawyers say they are still working for a settlement with the church, one mother said yesterday that she welcomed Newman's civil suit - if it can help illuminate, for all of Reardon's victims, aspects of the case that so far have remained secret.
"How much did [Martin] know? Did he look the other way?" the woman asked, her voice cracking with emotion. "The church never reached out to us after it happened."
Lawyer Laurence Hardoon represents another of Reardon's victims - a teenage boy who was molested at the Danvers YMCA. Hardoon said he is still investigating the case, and his clients have not decided whether to seek a settlement or decide the matter in court. "We're still exploring the directions that we want to go in," he said.
Hardoon said he is also trying to determine the liability of the YMCA staff for Reardon's actions. "One of my contentions is that at least one of the employees at the YMCA had enough information to raise questions about [Reardon's] involvement with children at the facility," he said.
Since both the archdiocese and the YMCA are nonprofit organizations, state law caps their civil liability at $20,000 each - a figure Hardoon said is inadequate and unjust in this instance. "In this day and age, one has to seriously question the fairness of having such an arbitrary, low limit that's been the same for the past 30 years," he said.
However, plaintiffs can avoid that limit by suing individuals like Martin rather than the nonprofit group they work for.
In the case against Martin, the victims will have to prove that he knew or should have known that Reardon was abusing boys.
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