|Weymouth Pastor Cleared of Sex Abuse Charge
By Jack Encarnacao and John P. Kelly
The Patriot Ledge
January 17, 2009
Lawyer for accuser says client is outraged by archdiocese’s ruling
WEYMOUTH — The Archdiocese of Boston reinstated a St. Francis Xavier Church pastor on Friday after paying the alleged victim $475,000 to settle a lawsuit in which he accused three priests of sexually molesting him in the late 1970s.
But the victim’s attorney, Mitchell Garabedian, said his client was “outraged” that the Rev. Eugene P. Sullivan, 72, would be taken off administrative leave and permitted to publicly minister.
“My client fears for the safety of children,” said Garabedian, a Boston lawyer who said he has handled more than 500 claims of clergy sexual abuse.
Kelly Lynch, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said the settlement “does not constitute admission of liability” but instead reflects the church’s commitment to resolving claims and “furthering the healing process.”
“This was a complicated case,” Lynch said.
Unlike the two other priests accused in the lawsuit, the Rev. Sullivan was accused only of a single, isolated incident. He was accused of fondling a 15-year-old in his car in 1977.
The Rev. Sullivan maintains his innocence, and an Archdiocesan Review Board found the accusation unsubstantiated.
“As a result of this finding, Cardinal (Sean) O’Malley has lifted all restrictions on Father Sullivan’s exercise of public ministry,” the archdiocese said in a statement issued Friday.
The Rev. Edward Kelley and the late Rev. Joseph Birmingham were the two other priests named in the settled lawsuit, Garabedian said. The Rev. Kelley, a senior priest, is restricted from ministry, Lynch said. The Rev. Birmingham has since died.
Garabedian said his client alleges that he was molested separately by the three priests in 1976 and 1977, when he was 14 and 15 years old.
“If the archdiocese paid to settle these claims, one has to come to the conclusion that maybe the diocese felt these three individuals sexually molested my client,” Garabedian said.
The Rev. Sullivan voluntarily stepped down in 2005 after the allegation was made. At the time, the Rev. Sullivan, a former superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, said through his lawyer that the victim was probably confusing him with another priest, the Rev. Eugene M. O’Sullivan.
That priest pleaded guilty to raping an altar boy in Arlington in 1984 and was accused of molesting several boys and teenagers on the South Shore.
Reach Jack Encarnacao at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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