Law Knew Priest Had Been Accused Mahan Reassigned after Allegations
By Michael Rezendes
May 23, 2002
Cardinal Bernard F. Law apparently knew of allegations of sexual misconduct against former priest Paul J. Mahan as early as 1993, before Mahan was temporarily assigned to a Cambridge parish and before he allegedly molested one of his nephews, according to church documents made public yesterday.
In an August 1993 letter removing Mahan from parish duty, Law said he was "sorry to learn of the recent allegations" made against the priest. Law also referred to allegations in a February 1994 letter in which he formally accepted Mahan's resignation as pastor of St. Matthew Church in Dorchester.
Law acknowledged the accusations against Mahan in letters in which he took disciplinary action against him, but not without offering the same kind of effusive praise the cardinal has employed with other sexual abusers, including former priest John J. Geoghan and the Rev. Paul R. Shanley.
Citing the "genuine care and concern that has prompted your thoughtful, zealous and extremely generous ministry," Law wrote, "Your accomplishments on every level will stand as a tribute to your dedication and that of the good people who have worked with you in such varied ways to bring the message of God's love to His people."
Law added that he appreciated that "these days may have their measure of confusion and discomfort for you."
It was not until 1998 that Mahan was defrocked, or involuntarily removed from the priesthood. But in the meantime, Mahan sexually abused one of his nephews, according to claims in a lawsuit.
In a document released last week, an aide to Law wrote to another Chancery official that later in 1994 - after Law's acknowledgment of the allegations - Mahan was treated for sexual disorders, released, and "immediately lapsed into a pattern of predatory behavior."
The letters from Law to Mahan were among hundreds of pages of additional church records made public yesterday under a court order by Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney who is representing 11 people who say they were sexually abused by Mahan beginning in 1969.
The Globe reported in February, based upon other church records, that officials of the archdiocese knew of allegations of sexual abuse against Mahan dating to the late 1980s.
But the church records released yesterday show for the first time that Law himself dealt with the allegations against Mahan, and that Law's involvement preceded the assignment of Mahan to Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Cambridge in 1994.
At a news conference yesterday, Garabedian declined to characterize the newly released documents in the Mahan case, but he accused the archdiocese of failing to provide all of the Mahan personnel records covered by the court order. He said he knows the records are incomplete because documents that he did receive refer to others that are not among those turned over by the archdiocese.
"If I don't receive those documents in a very short period of time I will be taking additional court action to make sure they are produced," Garabedian said during a news conference yesterday.
Garabadian's clients allege they were molested by Mahan from 1969 to 1982, when Mahan was a priest at St. Ann Church in Dorchester and St. Joseph Church in Needham. None of the church documents made public yesterday and last week, when additional church documents from the Mahan file were released, date to the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s.
But Garabedian said, "I believe I can prove that the church had notice of Paul Mahan's sexual tendencies as early as 1969."
The Globe has reported that Mahan is the subject of a criminal investigation by Marblehead police and Essex County prosecutors. And he is also being sued by members of his own family over the alleged abuse of two nephews.
An older nephew was allegedly abused by Mahan between 1989 and 1993.
Joseph Abromovitz, a lawyer representing Mahan's nephews, said, "The thing I find most offensive is that they just released him back into the community without telling anyone about the allegations against him, not the police or even his own family."
For the last several years, Mahan has lived with a sister in Arlington, Va., and worked at a Radio Shack outlet in McLean, Va. He was ordered to take a leave from that job earlier this year after the allegations against him received wide public notice.
The documents made public yesterday, like those released earlier, show that psychotherapists who treated Mahan in 1994 and 1995 considered him a high risk for continued sexually abusive behavior.
In one memo, the Rev. Brian M. Flatley, Law's assistant in charge of dealing with sexually abusive priests, said one therapist had informed him that he found Mahan had "no sexual orientation" and posed "a danger to men, women and children."
The documents also reflect the measures taken to keep the allegations confidential.
In a July 1997 letter welcoming Mahan to Baldpate Hospital, a Georgetown residential facility used to treat priests with sexual disorders, Dr. Lee Maynard wrote, "It is expected that you will not discuss your situation, nor that of fellow residents, with anyone except residence staff and church liaisons." The letter also directs Mahan to consult with another doctor "about this singularly important matter."
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