Diocese details efforts to resolve new sex abuse claims; result called "unreasonable"
By Brian Fraga
Wicked Local Dighton
May 13, 2014
|Robert Hoatson, right, the co-founder and president of Road to Recovery, a nonprofit that advocates for victims of clergy sexual abuse, holds up court documents as he and Kevin Waldrip, a clergy abuse survivor, speak to the media on Tuesday.|
The Diocese of Fall River was first notified in 2012 of sexual abuse allegations against the late Monsignor Maurice Souza.
FALL RIVER — The Diocese of Fall River was first notified in 2012 of sexual abuse allegations against the late Monsignor Maurice Souza, diocesan spokesman John Kearns told reporters Tuesday.
Kearns said independent investigators hired by the diocese did not find evidence to support some of the claims made by two former altar servers that Souza sexually abused the boys for almost 10 years in the late 1970s and mid ‘80s. Kearns said the diocese offered both men counseling, and tried to resolve the issue through mediation, but he claimed that their attorney, Mitchell Garabedian of Boston, called off the mediation in May 2013.
“We wanted to resolve it through mediation, but that process was stopped,” Kearns said.
Garabedian said the mediation was unsuccessful because the diocese was “unreasonable in its position.”
“No one called it off. Neither side called it off,” Garabedian said. “This is again purportedly the most moral institution in the world acting as the moral immoral.”
Garabedian, who has represented dozens of victims of clergy sexual abuse in civil lawsuits against the Catholic church, said the two plaintiffs came forward when the healing process allowed them to do so.
“Victims of sexual abuse can only come forward and reveal the ugly horrors of sexual abuse when their coping mechanism allows them to,” Garabedian said.
A lawsuit filed Jan. 4 in Connecticut alleges that Souza sexually assaulted the victims from the time they were approximately 9 and 10 years old to when both were 17 years of age. Both alleged victims met Souza when he was the pastor of St. Anthony’s Church in East Falmouth, according to court documents.
The lawsuit, which seeks monetary compensatory damages, says the boys were taken to Connecticut and Massachusetts for athletic events and other activities, and alleges Souza sexually abused them in both states. The lawsuit claims the victims spent nights with Souza in hotel rooms, a church rectory and Souza’s private residence in Taunton.
The alleged victims — both now in their late 40s — also told their stories to Road to Recovery, Inc., a New Jersey-based nonprofit that advocates for victims of clergy sexual abuse. Robert M. Hoatson, the co-founder and president of Road to Recovery, and Kevin Waldrip, a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, held protest signs Tuesday morning across the street from the Diocese of Fall River’s headquarters on Highland Avenue.
“We’re here to say good for you, and to use all of the means of justice that are available to you men and we hope you are successful in this,” said Hoatson, a former priest in the Archdiocese of Newark who said he was forced out of the priesthood after he began blowing the whistle against clergy sex abuse.
Souza, a native of New Bedford, died in August 1996 at age 83. He served in several parishes in New Bedford, Fall River and Taunton after he was ordained in 1939 until his retirement in 1986. Kearns said the diocese does not have any other documented allegations of misconduct against Souza.
The lawsuit — which names the Diocese of Fall River and its former bishop, Daniel A. Cronin, as defendants — remains pending in Connecticut. Garabedian said the diocese’s lawyers have moved to dismiss the complaint, and added that a hearing will be scheduled soon.