A&E's 'American Justice' Outlines Geoghan's 'Sins'

By Sarah Rodman
Boston Herald [Boston MA]
Downloaded May 26, 2004

As Catholic churches around the state prepare to close their doors partly due to the financial consequences of the clergy abuse scandal, A & E spotlights defrocked priest John Geoghan tonight at 9.

The latest installment in the network's "American Justice" series, "Sins of a Priest: The John Geoghan Story" documents the now-familiar pattern of a pedophile priest being shuffled from parish to parish by the Archdiocese of Boston to outrun allegations of sexual abuse.

Aside from mildly illuminating background information on Geoghan, however, this visually inert and often uncomfortably breathless hour adds precious little to the collected wisdom on this sad topic.

For anyone playing catch-up, however, "Sins" does a straightforward job of presenting the chronology of Geoghan's crimes against his young parishioners - as many as 140 during the course of several decades - in such areas as Saugus, Hingham and Jamaica Plain. It allows some of those victims and their parents to speak out, sometimes graphically, about how Geoghan abused them and then told them, "God wants you to keep this a secret."

The explosion of the scandal, the resignation of Bernard Cardinal Law and Geoghan's trial, conviction and murder at the hands of a white supremacist are explored through video, newspaper headlines and commentary from the likes of Middlesex County District Attorney Martha Coakley and victims' attorney Mitchell Garabedian.

Aside from a defense attorney who questions Geoghan's sentencing, the predatory priest's lone defender is fellow priest and close friend Joseph Casey, who talks about Geoghan's devotion to his work. But as viewers are told of Geoghan's repetitive patterns of molestation and his outright confessions - including the abuse of seven boys from one family - it's hard to stomach Casey's statement that "I personally think he should be remembered as a saint."

For anyone with personal ties to the scandal, sentiments like those should be enough to warn them off from re-living these "Sins."