Priest abuse lawsuits in Massachusetts name Catholic order in Bellevue
By Paul Hammel
September 20, 2018
A Catholic order based in Bellevue is now a defendant in two lawsuits in Massachusetts that allege sexual abuse of two children by a priest in the 1970s.
The lawsuits say officials with the Columban Fathers of Bellevue, as well as those with the Archdiocese of Boston, knew that a now-deceased priest, the Rev. Brian Gallagher, was an abuser, yet assigned him to serve a parish and nursing home in Dorchester, Massachusetts, granting him “unchecked power to sexually abuse Catholic boys.”
The attorney who represents the two now-grown men named in the lawsuits said Gallagher, a native of Ireland, was transferred from missionary work in Japan, first briefly to Ireland, then to the U.S., where he spent only four years.
“A prudent person would ask question about why he was transferred so much,” said Joseph Wadland, a lawyer based in Andover, Massachusetts.
Representatives of the Columban Fathers, whose U.S. headquarters have been in Bellevue since 1922, did not respond to requests for comment.
The development comes as the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office has asked the state’s three Catholic dioceses to provide records going back 40 years about priests suspected of sexual abuse and misconduct. The Lincoln diocese is also investigating six priests for alleged abuse or improper behavior.
Renewed attention has been brought to clergy abuse in recent weeks after the release of a grand jury report in Pennsylvania that said 300 priests had abused at least 1,000 minors there over the past 70 years.
The lawsuits in Massachusetts were filed on behalf of two now-grown brothers, Dan and Paul Connolly, who say they were sexually assaulted by Gallagher between 1973 and 1976. The lawsuit involving Paul Connolly was filed on Aug. 29, the same day a lawsuit involving his brother Dan — a lawsuit filed a year ago — was amended to include the Columban Fathers as defendants.