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  Vow of Silence; Archdiocese Mum on Church Officials in Reardon Case

By Eric Convey, Tom Mashberg, Tom Farmer and Laurel J. Sweet
Boston Herald
January 29, 2002

Despite Bernard Cardinal Law's pledge for more openness in dealing with sexual abuse scandals, the Archdiocese of Boston yesterday met questions about the role two key higher-ups played in the notorious Christopher J. Reardon case with silence.

The stance came as two church officials who had reportedly received warnings about Reardon a full five months before he was arrested huddled for several hours with higher-ups at the Archdiocese office in Brighton yesterday.

Afterward, neither the two men nor the archdiocese would comment on the allegations, made by a former secretary at St. Agnes Church in Middleton - the house of worship where Reardon molested boys ages 6 to 14 for at least a year before his June 2000 arrest.

"The tone of recent articles is such that it prevents me from making a response," Rev. Thomas A. Dunne, chief of the archdiocese's Office for Youth Ministry, told the Herald yesterday. "So please refer all questions to the archdiocese."

Multiple calls to the archdiocese for comment went unanswered yesterday. On Friday, the archdiocese denied that its personnel office was ever alerted to Reardon's activities before his arrest. But could not confirm or deny if any other office was alerted.

Dunne and his No. 2 man, James M. Flanagan, coordinator for archdiocese youth service programs, spent the afternoon at the chancery yesterday amid reports in the Herald that Flanagan was tipped off to Reardon's proclivities by the onetime secretary at St. Agnes.

The secretary also told the Herald she was assured by Flanagan that he would bring her complaints directly to Dunne - his boss - and says she "is horrified" that there was no action against Reardon for five months after she made her worried 20-minute call.

Reardon was a youth ministry worker at the time of his arrest. He pleaded guilty last summer to 75 of 129 criminal counts of molesting boys in Middleton and Danvers; he received 40 to 50 years in prison.

Many of his victims were abused between January and June 2000.

In an interview with the Herald on Saturday, the church secretary, who worked at St. Agnes in 1999 and 2000, identified Flanagan as the church official she telephoned in January 2000 to complain about Reardon's behavior with children.

Flanagan refused to return phone calls or e-mails yesterday and ducked into the youth ministry office, a two-story brick building at 139 Crescent St. in West Quincy, when greeted by a Herald reporter and photographer.

And Dunne, in issuing his no comment on the street outside the youth ministry office, motioned to a Herald photographer and said jovially: "Please don't make me out to look like a Watergate figure."

The revelations in the Reardon case come as the archdiocese is weathering a hailstorm of criticism over its handling of the John J. Geoghan molestation case and dozens of other instances over decades in which priests treated children as sexual playthings.

Documents released last Thursday show that higher-ups in the archdiocese, including Law, were well aware that Geoghan was a threat to children as early as the 1970s, yet gave every benefit of the doubt to the convicted child molester and to others of his ilk while keeping his crimes secret from parishioners.

Yesterday, one victim of priestly sex abuse added his voice to the chorus of criticism of the Reardon case, one of the worst child abuse scandals in Bay State history.

Steve Lynch of Danvers charged that the Rev. Samuel J. Lombard, now deceased, molested him 30 years earlier at a parish in Salem.

Lynch noted that Lombard was a pastor at St. Agnes in Middleton from 1972 to 1997, a fact borne out by church records. Lynch, 42, said he avoided dealing with the abuse for years before coming forward.

Lynch said when he finally telephoned the archdiocese to report Lombard as a pedophile, in 1998, he was told: "Father Lombard is in the hospital on his death bed and we're not going to do anything."

"I have stacks of faxes and letters asking to meet with someone in the church," Lynch said.

Though Lynch said he has no evidence that Lombard was abusing other children at St. Agnes, he suggested that it was more than coincidence that Lombard, Reardon and a third priest caught up in the Reardom storm, Jon C. Martin, who was pastor at St. Agnes when Reardon was a youth worker there, and is now on indefinite church sick leave due to "sexual issues," crossed paths at St. Agnes and other North Shore churches.

"Anyone obviously can see that Lombard had some type of relationship to Jon Martin and Christopher Reardon," he said. "I have to live with the pain that after my call some of those boys got hurt."

Reardon's parents, John and Cathy, told the Herald that Lombard performed their wedding ceremony at St. Agnes in 1971, and that at age 8 their son Christopher became an altar boy under Lombard's tutelage at the same church.

Also, they said, Martin told them he himself was recruited into the priesthood by Lombard, who befriended Martin when Martin's mother served as Lombard's housekeeper.

Martin is himself under fire because the former church secretary interviewed by the Herald and other witnesses have told state investigators and the Herald that they approached him directly with concerns about Reardon.

Martin, they say, ignored their complaints and shunned the secretary. When the scandal surrounding St. Agnes broke, Martin was highly visible in the media denying any knowledge of Reardon's abuses. He has since fallen out of sight, although the archdiocese recently accepted a summons for him to appear for a deposition.

Meanwhile, another priest, the Rev. Richard Driscoll, apparently raised alarms about Reardon in August 1999, according to multiple sources, by telling Martin that he had concerns about an incident in which Reardon brought a young boy up to his office.

When a church worker knocked at Reardon's door after he brought the boy inside, according to a source, the molester opened it but blocked her view into the room.

Driscoll then called Reardon downstairs. Reardon came but he brought the child with him and bounced the youngster inappropriately on his lap while the two talked, the source said.

The source said Martin assured Driscoll he would look into the situation with Reardon, but that was the last Driscoll heard of it until Reardon's arrest in June 2000.

Driscoll "felt that once he reported it to Father Martin, he had met his responsibility," said the source. "Father Martin was the one in charge of the parish, and (Driscoll) didn't think it was his place to call" the archdiocese.

The source also said Driscoll was also unaware that Martin was having sex with men in his living quarters - something Martin has admitted under oath, according to grand jury testimony.

 
 

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