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  Priest Accused of Raping Local Girl
Rev. Scanlan Was Pastor in Stoughton

By Patriot Ledger
Patriot Ledger
December 10, 2002

Boston - A Catholic priest whose personnel file contained a warning that he "fools around with kids" was accused about five years ago of raping a 12-year-old girl who was a member of his church in Stoughton.

Boston Archdiocese files show that the Rev. William Scanlan, former pastor of St. James Church in Stoughton, was ordered into therapy despite vigorously denying the accusations. He said the girl was infatuated with him and that she had dreamed he attacked her.

The Rev. Scanlan passed a lie detector test, according to the files. No criminal charges were brought against him.

The alleged assault occurred in 1997 but was not reported until 2000.

The new documents about Rev. Scanlan and six other priests came to light yesterday as Cardinal Bernard Law's sudden trip to Rome was confirmed, though not explained, fueling speculation he might resign or seek permission to send the archdiocese into bankruptcy. At the same time, 58 Boston-area priests signed a letter calling for the cardinal's resignation.

"The events of recent months and, in particular, of these last few days, make it clear to us that your position as our bishop is so compromised that it is no longer possible for you to exercise the spiritual leadership required for the church of Boston," according to the letter.

"The priests and people of Boston have lost confidence in you as their spiritual leader," it said.

Among those signing the letter were the Rev. Emile R. Boutin Jr. of Immaculate Conception in Stoughton, the Rev. Robert Bullock of Our Lady of Sorrows in Sharon, the Rev. Ron Coyne of St. Albert the Great in Weymouth, and the Rev. William G. Williams of St. Mary of the Assumption in Hull.

"It was not an easy thing to do, unprecedented in American Catholicism," said the Rev. Bullock. "But this crisis is unprecedented."

The Rev. Bullock is head of the 250-member Boston Priests Forum. Leaders of that group plan to discuss calling on Cardinal Law to resign at a meeting Friday.

Cardinal Law met privately today with the top Vatican officials who would handle the damage caused by the sex abuse scandal - the possibilities of his resignation and a bankruptcy filing by the archdiocese.

A senior Vatican official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Cardinal Law's "agenda was open" but that he was expected to see the pope later this week.

The papal official dismissed speculation that the Vatican was weighing the unusual step of naming a "coadjutor," or a successor to Cardinal Law who would serve alongside him to spare him having to resign in disgrace. The official said the idea has "never been considered" by the Vatican.

Cardinal Law has been in Rome since at least Sunday, and the Boston Archdiocese has not commented on the purpose of his trip.

In another development in the scandal, the Rev. Paul Shanley, who faces multiple charges of sexually abusing boys, may soon be released. A spokeswoman for the Middlesex District Attorney's office said Shanley's lawyers expect to post his $300,000 bail this week.

The latest documents were among hundreds of pages related to seven priests who faced sexual misconduct allegations. They were released by lawyers representing hundreds of alleged abuse victims seeking to show the archdiocese routinely reassigned priests to hide the misconduct.

Thousands of pages of similar files were released last week.

The archdiocese had fought release of the files, but a judge ordered them turned over to plaintiffs' lawyers.

Unlike the first round of files, which contained some of the most shocking allegations to date, the latest records show the archdiocese took at least some allegations of sexual abuse by priests more seriously than those made before a written policy on abuse was instituted in 1993.

In the Rev. Scanlan's case, however, the files show the archdiocese assigned the priest to several parishes after concerns were raised about him in 1987.

Notes written in July 1987 by an unidentified church official say, "He is going to cause me a problem. He fools around with kids. He is in difficulty."

Four days later, the official wrote "his reactions of innocence were appropriate, and I said matter was ended unless I had back up to the charges."

The Rev. Scanlan was later assigned to a prison ministry in Bridgewater, then returned to parishes. He became pastor of Stoughton's St. James Parish in 1994 and served there until he was placed on sick leave in 1997.

In 1997, he was accused of raping a troubled girl he had been advising at St. James, allegedly telling her when she resisted that "God wanted him to."

In October 2000, an archdiocese official wrote to Rev. Scanlan that after "lengthy and serious discussions we cannot conclude the alleged incident(s) more likely than not occurred," and reinstated him.

The Rev. Scanlan eventually was assigned to a Veterans' Administration hospital in San Jose, Calif., under the condition that his superiors know about the allegations, that another priest be involved in his psychotherapy, and that he be evaluated quarterly.

As pastor of St. James in 1996, he worked closely with the Rev. James D. Foley, a priest who had allegedly fathered at least two children and watched their mother take a fatal drug overdose.

The Stoughton parish was the Rev. Foley's first assignment after undergoing intensive psychological rehabilitation ordered by the archdiocese.

The Rev. Scanlan wrote a glowing letter about the Rev. Foley to the official in charge of handling sexually abusive priests, and asked if he could remain in Stoughton permanently.

Attempts to reach the Rev. Scanlan since last week have been unsuccessful. His telephone has been disconnected, and he is believed to have left California several months ago, possibly to return to the Boston area.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Donna Morrissey said she had not seen the files and had no immediate comment.

The personnel records show another priest, the late Gary Balcom of Weymouth, was accused in a lawsuit of molesting a former altar boy at Immaculate Conception Church during a five-year period.

The records indicate that Balcom admitted engaging in sex acts with eight or nine boys over 20 years.

Balcom was placed on sick leave in 1985. While undergoing treatment, he attempted suicide.

Balcom was removed from ministry in 1992 and defrocked in 1998. He died in October at age 55.

Balcom is not the first priest from Immaculate Conception to be accused of sex abuse. The Rev. Ernest Tourigney, who also served during the 1960s, was accused of sexually abusing minors and of being a problem drinker. The Rev. Frederick L. Guthrie, who served with Balcom and Rev. Tourigney, was arrested last year by a New Hampshire undercover police officer for allegedly using a computer to solicit a teenage boy.

Weymouth Town Councilor Gregory Hargadon, an altar boy at Immaculate Conception during the late 1960s, knew all three priests. He said they never acted inappropriately with him.

Although Hargadon described Tourigney and Balcom as "nice guys," he said he is furious with them and with a church hierarchy that failed to protect children.

"I'm very proud to be a Catholic, but I'm appalled at the way the church would recycle these priests from parish to parish," he said. "It's reprehensible."

Hargadon said he believes Cardinal Law should resign, and he called for other public officials who are Catholic to take the same position.

Other documents released yesterday show that a Woburn priest was removed even after he was acquitted of indecent assault and battery of an 11-year-old boy in 1993, and after the alleged victim's parents denied he had been assaulted.

The files also include records of a priest dismissed by Cardinal Bernard Law in 1995 for kissing a 19-year-old seminarian, and a priest removed from the ministry in May, two months after the archdiocese received a letter from a woman claiming her brother had been raped by him in the early 1960s

 
 

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