Settlements Reached in Clergy Sex Abuse Cases
By Lisa Wangsness
April 11, 2012
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has reached settlements in sexual abuse cases involving two priests, including the Rev. James H. Lane, a beloved Dorchester pastor and veteran Boston police chaplain whose only previous connection with the abuse scandal was as a whistleblower.
The Boston priests - Lane, who died in 2007, and the Rev. Rickard O'Donovan, who died in 2000 - are among a dozen clerics named in separate sexual abuse claims against dioceses and religious orders that Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian says he settled in the last 14 months. The settlements were five- to six-figure amounts, said Garabedian.
As is standard, none of the settlements involved an admission of guilt.
Terrence C. Donilon, an archdiocesan spokesman, confirmed the two settlements but said in a statement that archdiocesan investigations were inconclusive because both involved a single victim who professed to have been abused more than 40 years ago by a priest who died before he could answer the allegations.
"The capacity to fully determine the credibility of the claims against Father Lane and Father O'Donovan was especially difficult, and the settlement amounts reflected the inability to fully substantiate the facts of the matter," Donilon said.
Garabedian said he plans to announce the 12 names at a press conference Wednesday.
He has already included them in a list on his firm's website of more than 100 priests, members of religious orders, and church employees named in sexual abuse claims for which he has received settlements.
"The reason I'm doing this is a continuing effort to provide validation to clergy sexual abuse victims, to empower all sexual abuse victims, and to protect children," Garabedian said.
Lane served at St. Paul's Parish from 1962 to 1969 and St. Brendan's Parish from 1969 to 1996, according to his Globe obituary.
He became the Boston Police Department's first chaplain in 1972 and held that role for more than three decades.
Garabedian said his client, a 56-year-old New Hampshire man who declined to speak to a reporter on the record, was an altar boy at St. Paul's in the 1960s when Lane befriended him and his family.
According to Garabedian, Lane asked the then 10-year-old to touch the priest's genitals while clothed on about 10 occasions in 1966 and 1967.
The boy began avoiding his house when Lane came to visit, and the abuse stopped. But when he was 15, he participated in an overnight trip, and Lane abused him again, according to Garabedian.
Lane remained close to the family, Garabedian said, marrying the individual he is accused of abusing, baptizing two of his three children, and presiding at his mother's funeral.
Garabedian said his client came forward after suffering a heart attack and undergoing bypass surgery.
Fearing he would die and hoping to reclaim his religion and find peace, the man decided to bring his story forward.
Garabedian said the man's account was bolstered by the fact that he told a friend of the alleged abuse when he was 18 and confided in siblings during the last 30 years.
Until now, Lane's only known involvement in the sexual abuse crisis had been to try to stop abuse when he learned of it.
In 1984, according to records and testimony that surfaced when the abuse crisis erupted in 2002, Lane warned archdiocesan officials about abuse allegations against the Rev. John J. Geoghan, then assigned to St. Brendan's.
A day later, the archdiocese removed Geoghan and later transferred him to St. Julia's in Weston.
Geoghan was eventually revealed to be one of the worst serial molesters in US Catholic church history.
He became a central figure in the sexual abuse crisis after the Globe revealed that church officials shifted him from parish to parish, even though they knew he was abusing children.
Maureen Feeney, the Boston city clerk and a longtime parishioner at St. Brendan's, once oversaw religious education classes for children at her church, a program also known as the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, or CCD. She burst into tears when told Tuesday of the abuse allegation against Lane.
"I really and truly can't believe that," she said.
"I know how devoted Father Lane was, because I was doing CCD on the afternoon he knocked on my door to tell me about Father Geoghan, who was assigned to the CCD kids. He was sobbing like a baby."
According to Garabedian, the other priest of the Boston Archdiocese accused of abuse, O'Donovan, abused a boy from age 9 to 11 on about 20 occasions in the rectory of St. Colman's Church in Brockton.
Four of the 12 clerics Garabedian plans to name Wednesday are not connected to Massachusetts.
Three of the eight with Massachusetts connections were publicly accused in the past.
The remaining three with Massachusetts connections are dead, including the Rev. Leonard Walsh, a Franciscan friar who served in Brookline; the Rev. James Nickel of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, who served in the Diocese of Fall River; and Peter Claver of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, who was accused of abusing Garabedian's client at a school in Rhode Island but also worked at Catholic schools in Massachusetts, according to bishopaccountability.org, an online archive of the sexual abuse crisis.
Anne Barrett Doyle of bishopaccountability.org said the archdiocese should work harder to verify victims' claims and publicize the findings.
"The clerics may be dead, but witnesses are still alive, other victims are still alive, and they could still determine independently if these allegations have substance," she said.