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  Settlement Reached in Kelley Suit
Abuse Was Alleged at St. Cecilia's

By Gary V. Murray
Telegram & Gazette
September 10, 2004

The Worcester Diocese has reached an out-of-court settlement with an Idaho woman who filed a civil lawsuit two years ago alleging she was sexually abused as a child by the Rev. Robert E. Kelley.

Terms of the recent settlement were not disclosed by a lawyer for the diocese, who said yesterday the settlement was one of seven reached in the last several months between the diocese and plaintiffs in clergy sex abuse cases.

The woman, Denise Hanrahan, was one of two remaining plaintiffs in a suit filed in 2002 in Middlesex Superior Court and transferred last month to Worcester Superior Court. Ms. Hanrahan alleged that she was sexually abused by Rev. Kelley between 1976 and 1983, when the Catholic priest was assigned to St. Cecilia's Parish in Leominster.

The abuse allegedly occurred at various locations, including the church rectory and in New Hampshire, according to the lawsuit. Named as defendants were the Catholic Diocese of Worcester, the Rev. George E. Denomme and the Rev. Francis Goguen. Rev. Denomme was pastor of St. Cecilia's when the abuse was alleged to have occurred and Rev. Goguen was also assigned to the Leominster parish, according to the suit. The plaintiffs were minors when they were allegedly abused.

The suit alleged that the defendants knew or should have known that Rev. Kelley posed a danger to Ms. Hanrahan and the other plaintiffs and failed to take steps to protect them.

Rev. Kelley, 61, was sentenced to 5 to 7 years in state prison on Oct. 1, 2003, after pleading guilty in Worcester Superior Court to raping two young girls between 1981 and 1984, when the victims were ages 6 to 9. The rapes occurred at St. Cecilia's and Sacred Heart Parish in Gardner.

One of the two victims in the criminal case was Diane Gallian of Ashburnham, who is now the sole remaining plaintiff in the civil case in which Ms. Hanrahan was also a plaintiff.

Heather Mackey of Tewksbury, the other victim in the criminal case, had also been a plaintiff in the civil action, but her claims against the diocese were dismissed in July, 2003, after she voluntarily chose not to proceed. The claims of two other plaintiffs, Nicole M. Cormier of Fitchburg and Debbie A. Doucet of Leominster, were also dismissed in July, 2003, after settlements were reached between them and the diocese.

Rev. Kelley's October sentencing marked the second time he had been imprisoned on child sexual assault charges. He had served six and a halfyears of a seven-year state prison sentence imposed in 1990 after pleading guilty to six counts of rape of a child.

Last week, Ms. Hanrahan's lawyers, Jeffrey A. Newman and James P. Ponsetto, and lawyers James G. Reardon Jr. and Joanne L. Goulka, representing the defendants in the civil case, filed a stipulation of dismissal regarding Ms. Hanrahan's claims. As grounds for the dismissal and the entry of a final judgment, the defendants' lawyers said they had reached a settlement with Ms. Hanrahan.

Mr. Reardon declined to comment yesterday on the terms of the settlements with Ms. Hanrahan and the plaintiffs in the other cases against the Worcester diocese that have been resolved. Mr. Newman could not be reached for comment. Court documents did not reflect the terms of the settlements.

A stipulation of dismissal based on an undisclosed settlement was filed April 5 in Worcester Superior Court in a 2003 suit filed by John Riganati of Dennis Port. Mr. Riganati alleged that he was sexually abused by the Rev. Thomas Teczar from about 1968 to about 1970, when he was about 16 to 18 years old. In his suit against the diocese and Rev. Teczar, Mr. Riganati alleged that he was repeatedly sexually abused in the rectory of St. Joan of Arc Church in Worcester, in Rev. Teczar's car and on Cape Cod.

A stipulation of dismissal based on a settlement was filed June 7 in a 2002 case brought by Melinda Ness of California, who alleged that she was sexually abused by Rev. Kelley in the late 1970s at St. Cecilia's in Leominster.

The settled cases also included one brought against the diocese in 2002 by James Kane of Derry, N.H., and Jeff Doherty of Deerfield Beach, Fla. Mr. Kane and Mr. Doherty alleged that the Rev. Robert Shauris engaged in acts of nonconsensual sexual contact with them in the 1980s, when they were students at St. Bernard's Catholic High School in Fitchburg and Rev. Shauris was a priest assigned to the school.

Rev. Shauris was not a named defendant in the lawsuit. A stipulation of dismissal in the case was filed July 15.

There are a dozen clergy sex abuse cases still pending against the Diocese in Worcester Superior Court.

 
 

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