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  Pastor of St. Francis Accused

By Michael Verseckes
Weymouth News
January 12, 2005

The Rev. Eugene Sullivan, pastor of Saint Francis Xavier Church in Weymouth, has accepted voluntary leave due to a civil lawsuit which has been filed against him alleging that he abused a minor in 1977.

According to published reports, Sullivan's attorney, Paul Kelly, said that the plaintiff has the Rev. Sullivan confused with another Catholic priest with an almost identical name who was convicted of molestation. In 1984, that priest, the Rev. Eugene O'Sullivan, pleaded guilty to raping an alter boy in Arlington.

The Rev. Sullivan's lawyer insists that the plaintiff has accused the wrong man.

The lawsuit, filed by attorney Mitchell Garabedian, names the Rev. Sullivan as one of the defendants who allegedly molested the plaintiff when he was 15 years old.

A statement released by the Archdiocese of Boston said that the Rev. Sullivan "has accepted a voluntary leave of absence for the good of the parish."

The statement said that Archbishop Sean O'Malley would consult the review board and solicit its guidance as to whether the Rev. Sullivan should be placed on administrative leave.

In cases of credible accusations, the archdiocese places priests on administrative leave or suspends them while cases are examined.

The lawsuit specifically names three priests who allegedly abused the victim, one of whom has died.

At least five other priests, two of which were specifically named, and three who are presently unidentified, were cited for negligence in their duties of oversight and supervision.

The plaintiff alleges that these five priests were in a position to know about the abuse and allowed it to continue.

The lawsuit accuses the Rev. Sullivan and two other priests of abusing the plaintiff on several occasions in 1977 and states that the plaintiff has suffered severe emotional effects as a result.

The victim was allegedly abused at a summer camp and while he was a parishioner of the Rev. Sullivan's former parish of Saint Columbkille in Brighton.

Around that time, the Rev. Sullivan was the superintendent of schools for the Boston archdiocese and the assistant director of education.

Garabedian, the plaintiff's attorney, who has handled over 300 cases of sexual abuse, said, "One has to know how deep and how wide pedophilia exists within the Archdiocese of Boston."

The alleged victim is now coming forward after 28 years of silence, and Garabedian said that the plaintiff is seeking "closure."

In addition, he said, the plaintiff "wants to prevent children in the future from being molested."

"There is no confusion here," Garabedian said about mistaking the Rev. Sullivan with another priest with a similar name.

The Rev. Sullivan's attorney was away early this week, but parishioners at St. Francis are holding prayer services to express their support for the priest.

"We feel as if the power of prayer works wonders," parishioner Virginia Creed said. "We pray for our priests and our bishops and for St. Francis Xavier. We love our church and our priests."

Creed's expression of solidarity in support of the Rev. Sullivan also follows bewilderment by many people at the accusations against him.

While the Rev. Sullivan is on voluntary leave, the archdiocese "is making arrangements for the ongoing pastoral care of this parish community," its statement said.

"The archbishop wishes to reiterate his great concern for all persons impacted by the tragedy of sexual abuse," the statement continued.

The statement also said that Archbishop O'Malley firmly intends to resolve cases as "expeditiously as possible in a manner that is just for all parties involved."

Contact: mverseck@cnc.com

 
 

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