Judge Says Abused Former Altar Boys Can Sue Bishop
By Bob McGovern
March 30, 2018
|Credit: Angela Rowlings|
Former altar boys who claim they were molested by a priest years ago are allowed to sue the bishop they say failed in supervising him, according to a recent court ruling.
Paul Andrews and Daniel Sherwood are suing the Rev. Daniel Cronin, the former bishop of the Fall River Archdiocese. They argue that he was negligent in supervising and retaining the services of Maurice Souza — a now-deceased priest who they say sexually molested them when they would go on out-of-state trips in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Judge Maynard A. Kirpalani ruled that the case could go on, despite a pitch from Cronin’s attorneys to toss the suit.
“While the case is certainly slim, genuine issues of material fact do remain,” Kirpalani wrote earlier this month. “In particular, an issue remains about whether Cronin, who was in charge of the diocese and had the power to remove Souza, should have known that one of his priests spent significant time away from the parish ... on extended road-trips with adolescent boys.”
Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney representing Andrew and Sherwood, said it was a huge decision for his clients.
“This is a significant decision because it states that Bishop Cronin had an obligation to supervise a supervisee, Monsignor Souza, in a reasonable manner to determine if the rules of the organization were violated which then could have triggered an inquiry,” Garabedian said in an email.
But Kirpalani didn’t allow all of the claims against Cronin to move forward. He tossed claims that Cronin owed the altar boys a fiduciary duty, a ruling that was lauded by Ross A. Kimball, an attorney representing Cronin.
“We are also pleased with the Court’s recognition that the case against Bishop Cronin on the surviving claims is ‘certainly slim,’?” Kimball said in an email. “Bishop Cronin denies the allegations against him, and we are confident that, when the case is tried, there will be no evidence to support the claims of negligent supervision/retention.”
In his pitch to have the case thrown out, Kimball argued that Cronin is not liable for Souza’s alleged actions because it “was not foreseeable” and his client “never received any complaints or information regarding sexual abuse or inappropriate sexual conduct on the part of Monsignor Souza.”
Garabedian said Kirpalani’s decision would allow a jury to find Cronin negligent “even though it has not been shown that Bishop Cronin had prior notice of Monsignor Souza sexually abusing the Plaintiffs.”
“This decision helps hold supervisors accountable which helps victims regain a sense of dignity and self-worth,” he said. “And it helps protect children.”