Church Removes Bust of Ex-Pastor
Late Cleric Accused of Abusing Girls
By Charles A. Radin
October 14, 2006
The bust of the Rev. Louis Toma stood for years on the grounds of St.
Lazarus Church, a monument to the prominent priest who led the East Boston
parish for a half-century.
But yesterday, in a sign of the Catholic church's continuing struggle
to deal with sexual abuse of children by priests, workers dragged the
bust from its pedestal and carted it away for disposal.
|The Rev. Louis Toma led his church for
Women had complained to Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley that the priest had
abused numerous young girls during his 50 years as pastor of the parish
and asked that the statue be taken down.
Barbara Thorp, director of the Victims' Support Office of the Archdiocese
of Boston, said Toma and another priest had abused children in the rectory,
the sanctuary, the sacristy, and the school of the church, which was renamed
St. Joseph-St. Lazarus Parish as a result of a merger with a neighboring
parish in 1985.
Thorp said the women's stories were individually convincing, collectively
consistent, and showed a pattern of recognizable abuse.
"There was absolutely no doubt that these women were telling a terrible
truth," Thorp said. "We had an obligation to listen and to respond."
Yesterday, about 16 people -- including victims, family members, clergy,
and members of the parish council -- watched quietly as the image of Toma
was lifted into a truck and a minibulldozer knocked over its 5-foot-tall
marble pedestal, said the Rev. John Connolly. Some victims cried, and
some took pictures, Connolly said.
|A bust of the late Rev. Louis Toma was removed near an East Boston
church. Evan Richman / Globe staff
Toma, an Italian-born priest for whom the church's youth center on Ashley
Street is named, was pastor of the parish from 1911 until his death in
1961. Connolly, who is O'Malley's special assistant for dealing with the
sexual abuse crisis in the church, said that the Rev. Guido Caverzan,
who was assigned to the church in the 1970s, also sexually abused children.
Toma "was iconic," Connolly said in an interview in the parish
offices yesterday afternoon. "He literally built this place. There
are people here who were married and baptized by him and whose parents
and grandparents were, too.
"But the only way to deal with these things is openly and in the
light of day," Connolly said. "It is painful but necessary to
say that someone who was entrusted with the care of children harmed and
|Father Toma Square was named for the prominent East Boston priest.
Evan Richman / Globe staff
Thorp, who also was interviewed in the parish offices, said people working
with the victims are certain there are many more victims who have not
"It is a function of how much is out there that this man died in
1961 and these women have carried this weight all these years," she
said. "It is never too late to set things right."
Thorp and Connolly said the continuing presence of the statue honoring
Toma on the church grounds motivated his victims to come forward.
In August 2005, the victims wrote to O'Malley requesting the removal of
the bust. They then related their experiences in detail to social workers
from Thorp's office.
|"But the only way to deal with these things is openly and in
the light of day."
– The Rev. John Connolly
Connolly and Thorp told the Rev. John Kilmartin, the current pastor
of the parish, what had occurred, and three weeks ago they met with the
parish council, a lay group.
"There were varied reactions," Connolly said. "For the
older members of the council, it was very painful and shocking news. They
had pleasant memories of Father Toma, and this filled them with grief.
But they could not have received it with hearts more open. They did not
blame the victims."
After a meeting, consensus was reached that the bust should be removed
When Thorp reported on the meeting to the victims, she said, the women
asked if they could meet with the parish council.
"The council members said they wanted to meet the people who had
been so hurt and to hear from them," Thorp said. "They also
wanted to be able to say to their fellow parishioners that they had heard
directly from the victims" before removing the bust and ordering
Toma's name taken off of the youth center.
Charles A. Radin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Note from BishopAccountability.org: The photographs were scanned from
a paper copy of the newspaper.]