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  Trial Dates Set for Civil Suits in Priest Sex Abuse Cases
Plaintiffs' Lawyer Says Judge to Rule on Immunity Cap

By Kathleen A. Shaw
Telegram & Gazette
February 15, 2006

Fall trial dates have been set in several civil lawsuits involving allegations of sexual abuse of minors by some priests of the Catholic Diocese of Worcester.

The diocese previously removed from ministry those who were working in parishes who were named in the suits. Three of the priests are retired and three have died. A status meeting on the pending suits was held Jan. 26 before Judge Jeffrey Locke in Worcester Superior Court.

Boston lawyer Carmen L. Durso, who represents a majority of the victims whose cases are slated for trial, said Judge Locke said he would rule soon on whether the diocese will be held to the state's charitable immunity cap, which would limit payments to the alleged victims to $20,000 each.

Two lawsuits filed by men identified only as John Does against the diocese and the Rev. Raymond P. Messier are scheduled to begin with jury trials Oct. 10 in Worcester Superior Court, unless the lawsuits are settled out of court before then.

Rev. Messier was pastor of parishes in Athol and Petersham at the time he was removed from ministry in 2002 after an allegation was made of sexual abuse of a minor.

One suit filed by a John Doe against the Rev. Henry S. Banach, a retired priest, and the diocese was settled out of court and dismissed last May but another involving a John Doe against Rev. Banach and the diocese is scheduled for jury trial Oct. 19. The Rev. Brendan O'Donoghue, now retired, is named in a suit involving another John Doe that has been scheduled for jury trial Oct. 25 unless settlement is reached. A jury trial has been scheduled for Nov. 15 in the lawsuit involving a John Doe who alleges sexual abuse by the Rev. John J. Bagley. Rev. Bagley was removed from ministry in 2002 after an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor was made to the diocese and he has since retired. The late Rev. Leo O'Neil is named in a lawsuit along with the diocese filed by a John Doe and jury trial is scheduled for Nov. 29. The suit alleges that he sexually abused a boy in 1975 from the Stetson Home of Boys in Barre.

A lawsuit filed by Karen Pedersen against the diocese and the Rev. Robert E. Kelley, who is currently in prison after pleading guilty to raping two girls in another case, was recently settled out of court. Jane Martin's suit against the same priest, which was filed in Hampden Superior Court, was also settled out of court in August.

Three lawsuits by unnamed people using the name Doe alleging abuse by the late Monsignor Richard Carelli also were settled out of court.

Lawsuits against the late Rev. Bernard R. Reilley, who allegedly sexually abused a girl in the early 1950s, and the late Monsignor Michael L. Carney, who allegedly abused a 15-year-old boy in Worcester in the late 1970s, are pending, according to Mr. Durso, who is representing the alleged victims, who are named only as Jane and John Doe in the suits.

 
 

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