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  Archdiocese Says Priest's File Found

By James L. Franklin
Boston Globe
April 3, 1993

Officials of the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston said yesterday that they have located records showing they did inform a California diocese of sexual abuse complaints against a former Boston priest. An Eastham man said this week that he told Boston officials seven years ago that he had been abused by the priest, Rev. Richard T. Coughlin. But officials of the Catholic Diocese of Orange, Calif., which suspended Father Coughlin in January after he had been accused of sexually abusing boys there, said Boston never informed them of such a complaint. In a statement issued by the Boston Archdiocese late yesterday, officials said they have found a file that indicates they had not ignored the 1985 complaint. "The file shows that archdiocesan officials did take action by notifying the proper church officials," the statement said. The records were not found in an initial search of files "because they were in a transitional location" after having been scrutinized in a review of such cases ordered by Cardinal Bernard F. Law last summer, said John B. Walsh, director of communications for the archdiocese. According to the archdiocese, the rediscovered file indicates that Bishop Robert Banks, who was then the Boston Archdiocese's vicar for administration, informed the Orange diocese of the accusations against Father Coughlin. Msgr. John Urell, chancellor of the Orange diocese, said last night the Boston archdiocese told him yesterday that "Bishop Banks had spoken to Bishop John T. Steinbock, who was our auxiliary bishop at the time, and Bishop Steinbock had said he would look into the matter."

Msgr. Urell said a further check of records in the Orange diocese found no indication of the call, however. Bishop Steinbock, who is now bishop of the Fresno diocese, "told us he has no recollection of this at all" and was unable to find any mention in his records, Msgr. Urell said. Earlier this week Boston officials had said that aside from an entry in an appointment book, they could find no record of a 1985 complaint by David Coleman, 45, of Eastham. Coleman told the Globe that on Nov. 19, 1985, he had informed Rev. John B. McCormack at the Boston chancery that he had been molested from 1958 to 1962 by Father Coughlin, who was associate pastor at St. Patrick's Church in Stoneham and St. Mary's Church in Lynn during that period. Father Coughlin, who moved to California in 1965, was suspended from priestly duties Jan. 29. Orange officials said they had received complaints that Father Coughlin had sexually abused four members of the All-American Boys Chorus, a group he founded in 1970. Officials of the Orange diocese confirmed that they also had received a complaint from Coleman concerning Father Coughlin's activities while he was still in the Boston archdiocese. But Msgr. Urell said they had never received any allegations concerning Father Coughlin from church officials in Boston. Coleman told the Globe he complained to Orange officials in a phone call around Dec. 10, 1992. He also said that when he met with Father McCormack, who is secretary for ministerial personnel in the Boston archdiocese, on Dec. 22, Father McCormack told him he did not remember the 1985 meeting and could not find any record of a complaint. After a friend helped Coleman establish the date of his 1985 meeting, Father McCormack said he found an appointment book entry listing the meeting with Coleman but no other records. Coleman said Father McCormack called him yesterday to say that the file had been found and that it showed Bishop Banks had relayed the complaint to church officials in California on March 13, 1986, four months after Coleman first complained to Father McCormack. Walsh, the Boston Archdiocese communications director, said Bishop Banks acted after Father McCormack informed him of the allegations. Although Father McCormack had no recollection of the specifics of the case, Walsh said, the handling of the case was consistent with the usual procedure for abuse cases. "The practice then in 1985 was the same as our written policy now," Walsh said. "Knowing Father McCormack, I am sure he takes these cases very seriously."

 
 

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