Church Settles Sex Abuse Cases for $1.4m
By Breanna Edelstein
August 26, 2020
LAWRENCE — The Catholic church has agreed to pay $1.4 million to settle a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse against 11 children who attended St. Mary’s School in Lawrence, according to the victims’ joint attorney, Mitchell Garabedian.
Garabedian, who is well known for representing victims of clergy sexual abuse, said the clients in this case were all victims of the Rev. John J. Gallagher between 1974 and 1978, when Gallagher was assigned to St. Mary’s Church and taught at the parish school.
The victims at the time — both female and male — ranged from 8 to 14 years old, Garabedian said.
According to Gallagher's obituary, he died in 2006 at age 87. He was assigned to schools in New York, Pennsylvania and Florida, as well as locally at Merrimack College in 1969 and 1970 and St. Mary's from 1972 to 1979.
This case against him involves 10 women and one man — now between 54 and 58 years old — who say they were abused by Gallagher in the gym and cafeteria at St. Mary’s School, the swimming pool of the Lawrence Reform School and the Lawrence YMCA.
“Fr. Gallagher gave at least one sexual abuse victim alcohol before the sexual abuse occurred,” Garabedian said. “Some sexual abuse victims were sexually abused on many occasions.”
Gallagher at times coached the basketball and swim teams at St. Mary's, and according to Garabedian, “used his position as a Catholic priest and coach to sexually abuse innocent children.”
These 11 victims are not alone in accusing Gallagher of sexual abuse.
A similar settlement was announced in 2018, when the Catholic church paid $1 million after five men and three women filed a lawsuit stating they were sexually abused by Gallagher and the Rev. Robert Turnbull during the 1970s and 1980s in Lawrence and Reading.
Garabedian said at the time three of his clients, adult women, were abused by Gallagher when they were 9 to 12 years old.
"He (Gallagher) was a swim coach and basketball coach for CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) and would abuse young girls on the two teams in the rectory," Garabedian said. "He would also take them on field trips, including a trip to Saratoga, New York."
Garabedian said the latest settlement agreement was reached during mediation with the Augustinians — an order of Catholic priests whose primary duties are teaching — in February, shortly before the coronavirus pandemic began.
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Boston did not respond to a request to comment before deadline for this story.