Victim Claims He's 'Breaking Chain of Abuse'
By Tom Mashberg
March 24, 2002
Garry M. Garland knows he's no angel. As a minor league hockey player, his job was to protect better players on the ice, and his forehead has the scars to prove it.
Those scars have healed. But the ones on his soul - the result, he asserts, of abuse by a trusted Roman Catholic priest - have not.
"When I was young, I hurt people, I acted out," Garland, 38, said yesterday during a long interview at his sprawling, kid-filled Hanover manse. "But I know why now: After this abuse, the child inside me was replaced by a monster.
"Now I am starting to heal," he said. "And starting to heal others."
Late last week, Garland rocked the already besieged Archdiocese of Boston with new and explosive allegations, directed at a Kingston parish priest and vicar, Msgr. Frederick J. Ryan. The accusations - including rape and pornographic photo sessions inside the cardinal's Brighton compound when Garland was 14, in 1979 - led to Ryan's suspension while the archdiocese investigates the claims.
Two things happened right after news broke of Garland's lawsuit against Ryan and the church: Other accusers stepped forward to denounce Ryan, or to inform Garland of their own abuse at the priest's hands; and people who recalled Garland from his days as a West Roxbury street brawler and problem drinker came forward to accuse Garland of fabrication.
Yesterday, alternately tearful, angry, mournful and upbeat, Garland contemplated his new life as a "survivor of abuse" - and as an inspirational figure for other victims of priestly molestation in the snowballing church abuse scandal.
A fit father of four who "protected" hockey legend Marcel Dionne on the ice for a year as a New York Rangers farm hand, and who prospered as an EMC sales executive during the high-tech boom, he nonetheless described himself as "43 days old." It is a reference to the length of his sobriety, and to the start of his public avowals that he was sexually abused by a priest.
"I am breaking the chain of abuse that led this man to me," he said, referring to Ryan, who has refused to comment on the assertions by Garland, or by a second family alleging abuse in the 1970s, the O'Loughlins of Townsend.
"This man made me unclean," he said. "I am now throwing it back on him. I am telling the world that he is unclean, and not me."
In an office filled with computer equipment, and cluttered with memorabilia spanning his brief hockey career and his days as a three-letter athlete at Catholic Memorial in Boston, Garland spoke of a searing moment in time that he is convinced corroded his adolescence.
It occurred on a summer night in 1979, according to the class-action suit that Garland filed Thursday in Suffolk Superior Court. At the time, Garland was a sophomore and living in West Roxbury.
The events Garland described encapsulate the betrayal many victims of molester priests have been alleging. Their revelations have arisen seemingly by the hour in recent weeks as the public absorbs the news that at least 60 Boston-area clerics have admitted to molesting children since the 1960s.
Garland said he went to Ryan for aid and solace after coping with violence in the home. He saw the priest as a potential surrogate father, he said, and was honored and excited when Ryan took him to Joe Tecce's bistro in the North End for Italian food and wine.
Garland alleges that after the meal, Ryan invited him back to the chancery compound in Brighton, where Ryan lived while serving as archdiocesan vice chancellor under Humberto Cardinal Medeiros.
Plied with more liquor inside Ryan's rooms, Garland says, he was quickly drunk and supine on Ryan's bed. He says the priest then asked to take a photo of the tattoo on Garland's right thigh, a Boston Celtics leprechaun logo, calling the tattoo "the little guy."
It was not long, Garland says, before Ryan removed his pants altogether, then photographed him naked. Eventually, he says, Ryan performed a sex act on him.
Garland says the betrayal and shame he felt afterward have been with him for 23 years, contributing to a life marked early on by drunkenness and violence, and later, after his marriage to "the best wife in the world," and despite his professional successes, by depression and deep sexual embarrassment.
"There were times I could not even change my kids' diapers because of this memory," he said glumly. "I can still smell his body odor on me from that night."
The problems were compounded, he said, by the knowledge that Ryan had taken scores of pictures of him - not just naked, but shirtless or in his underwear on occasions when he was changing in the locker room at Catholic Memorial.
"I went through life feeling like an giant impostor," Garland said, his voice breaking with emotion. "Was I straight? Was I gay? Was I destined to become a molester because I had been molested? I was morally and spiritually bankrupt."
Garland's life went sour in 1984, at age 19, when he and a friend, Scott O'Leary, got into a drunken brawl with two men - coincidentally near the church's chancery grounds. O'Leary ended up in jail for manslaughter after beating a Boston College honor student, Charles Mathieu of New bedford, to death with a car jack. Garland, who fought with another man, received five years' community service and probation for battery.
Garland was even accompanied to court by Ryan, and as the years rolled by, he said, he would receive dozens of photos of himself, partially clad, in the mail from the priest, some of them accompanied by notes that read, "Garry, I am your father." He has given over those letters and pictures to his lawyer, Daniel J. Shea, as evidence in his civil suit against the priest.
"I am just the tip of his scandalous acts," Garland said of Ryan, who had been serving as pastor of St. Joseph's Parish in Kingston, and as vicar of southeastern Massachusetts, overseeing 16 parishes, prior to his removal. "This man took hundreds of pictures of half-naked boys, and not just me. He put them on his walls. He traded them with others. I don't doubt he is destroying them as we speak."
Late yesterday, Garland said, he received a phone call from a former teammate at Catholic Memorial recounting similar abuse by Ryan. Garland sped to the man's house to help him cope with what he feared would be an emotional meltdown.
In Kingston, meantime, parishioners continued to stand by their suspended pastor, unwilling to believe a man they respected might have led a secret life.
"When I hear Father Ryan admit to this I'll believe it," said Therese Lyons, 76, who has known him for at least four years. "He buried my husband. We're standing by him."
Jeffrey Marani, 25, a vocalist at the church, said before evening Mass: "This is a travesty. We are very much in support of him. I haven't heard any negativity."
Garland said he himself has begun to pray nightly for Ryan, part of his own internal healing process. But he also feels rage and disgust for a man he believes has in essence blackmailed him by keeping a cache of naked pictures of him for more than 25 years.
"This is all part of a pattern." Garland said. "I don't doubt Ryan was abused too. He was a victim and a victimizer - and he needs to be man enough to admit to it.
"He needs to understand the golden rule - that the truth will set him free," Garland said. "If he does, I will be first in line to forgive him and embrace him too."
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