Officials avoided confronting
By Stephen Kurkjian
January 24, 2002
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Although several of his colleagues had been told by parishioners or had
suspected on their own that the Rev. John J. Geoghan was sexually abusing
boys, they did not always inform their superiors in the Catholic Archdiocese
of Boston of the allegations.
But the few times that the problem became known to archdiocesan officials,
they avoided confronting Geoghan. They never summoned law enforcement
authorities and only infrequently offered solace to the victims, according
to transcripts of more than a dozen depositions taken in the civil suits
against Geoghan, the archdiocese, and some of its top prelates.
|Maryetta Dussourd in front of St. Andrew
the Apostle Church in Boston. Dussourd complained about John J. Geoghan
in 1980. Globe staff photo / Pat Greenhouse.
The transcripts reflect a consistent institutional failure by the archdiocese
to deal decisively with the problem presented by Geoghan.
In their depositions, the priests indicate that there was little effort
by the archdiocese or the two men who led it during most of Geoghan's
tenure, Cardinal Humberto S. Medeiros and Cardinal Bernard F. Law, to
determine how extensive his abuses might have been or whether the problem
was pervasive among other priests.
"I am not a policeman; I am a shepherd," said Bishop Thomas V. Daily,
when questioned about why he had not acted more decisively when he was
informed in 1980 that a parishioner at St. Thomas Church in Jamaica Plain
had accused Geoghan of abusing her several sons and nephews.
It was not the first complaint against Geoghan from a Jamaica Plain family.
A year earlier, the pastor of St. Andrew Parish informed Daily that he
had been told by a mother that Geoghan had abused her son. Without summoning
the mother to ask her about the allegation, Daily wrote to Geoghan that
he had been cleared of the charge by the parish priest.
In addition, Daily said that the Rev. William C. Francis, then the chaplain
for the Boston Police Department, had found the charges were "irresponsible,
totally false, [and] made by a woman who is well known and without credence
in the community."
Daily was chancellor of the archdiocese under Medeiros and is now head
of the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y. He said he believed at the time,
incorrectly, that priests had immunity from civil and criminal prosecution
for sexual abuse. As a result, like other archdiocesan officials, Daily
likened Geoghan to a lost sheep who needed to be brought back into the
"I am a pastor who has to go after the Lord's sheep and find them and
bring them back into the fold and give them the kind of guidance and discipline
them in such a way that they will come back," said Daily.
After being briefed on the allegations, Daily ordered that Geoghan be
placed on sick leave in February 1980. It lasted about a year until Geoghan
was re assigned to St. Brendan Parish in Dorchester and before long began
visiting the home of the boys that he had allegedly raped at St. Thomas
Incensed by Geoghan's re appearance, four adult relatives of the boys
sought a meeting with Daily in July 1982 to determine why Geoghan was
still a priest. Within a month, Daily summoned Geoghan to his office to
question him about the new accusations.
However, Daily acknowledged in his deposition that, wanting to avoid any
allegation of sexual abuse, he questioned Geoghan as to whether he should
be taking the boys out at night.
"And the main thrust was that he was keeping the youngsters out too long,"
Daily said. After Geoghan denied he had been acting inappropriately with
the boys, Daily allowed him to go on a planned sabbatical to Rome and
then return to parish work.
Bishop John B. McCormack played a similarly important role in personnel
matters after Law became archbishop of Boston in 1984, serving as a secretary
in his Cabinet in charge of clergy personnel matters. In 1993, when Law
announced a new program to seek complaints from parishioners about sexual
abuse by priests, he put McCormack, who was not yet a bishop, in charge
of the effort.
One early complaint McCormack received related to Geoghan and the allegations
that had been raised in 1980 by the relatives of the seven boys in Jamaica
Plain. McCormack dispatched his assistant, Sister Catherine E. Mulkerrin,
to interview one of the relatives.
In her report, Mulkerrin said she found Maryetta Dussourd to be intelligent,
gentle, and idealistic, and Mulkerrin faulted church officials for moving
so slowly on her complaint concerning Geoghan.
"This follow-up is turtle-like," she wrote to McCormack in March 1994.
"There is a lot of dysfunction and time lapses between connections - not
all due to the family."
But in her deposition last month, Mulkerrin denied that she was placing
any blame on anyone within the archdiocese for failing to move on Dussourd's
"I think the meaning here was really the dysfunction of the woman I interviewed,"
Mulkerrin said, "between not wanting to do anything that would hurt Father
[Geoghan] and knowing that her own children were hurt."
Pressed on whether the archdiocese had acted decisively on allegations
such as those raised by Dussourd, Mulkkerin said: "My sense was that people,
those to whom these things were reported, acted in the way they knew how
- to make a retreat, repent, go away for a while, get an extended retreat
with a special spiritual director."
McCormack, who now heads the Catholic Diocese of Manchester, N.H., was
replaced by the Rev. Paul E. Micelli. In 1974, when Micelli was the parish
priest at St. Mary parish in Melrose, one of his parishioners, Joanne
Mueller, told him that Geoghan had molested four of her sons.
In his deposition, Micelli said that while he had received a call from
Mueller about Geoghan's spending too much time with her sons, he could
not recall her saying anything about sexual abuse. Micelli confirmed that
he had driven from Melrose to Geoghan's parish in Jamacia Plain to relay
the woman's concerns to Geoghan face to face, but he said he had not told
the archdiocese of the complaint.
|Bishop John B. McCormack
secretary for Cardinal Law, now head of the diocese in Manchester,
Appointed by Cardinal Law in 1993 to oversee the archdiocese's new
program to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by priests. The
Geoghan case was one of the first referred to him. After an investigation
by his assistant, McCormack received a report from her stating that
the "follow-up" on the allegations had been "turtle-like."
McCormack said he could not recall having any follow-up conversations
with his assistant about the pace of the investigation.
||Rev. Paul E. Micelli
Head of Office of
Now in charge of Cardinal Law's program to investigate allegations
of sexual abuse by priests, Micelli was informed in 1974 by a parishioner
at St. Mary in Melrose, where he was the parish priest, that Geoghan
had molested her four sons. Micelli, in his deposition, recalled getting
such a phone call but said the allegation was that Geoghan was spending
too much time with her sons, not sexual abuses. Although he did not
tell the archdiocese of the above allegation, Micelli said he drove
to Jamaica Plain to inform Geoghan, who denied it. The archdiocese
settled a lawsuit with the woman over the accusation.
||Bishop Thomas V. Daily
Bishop of Boston, now head of the diocese in Brooklyn
Cardinal Medeiros's chief assistant, Daily was told in 1980 that allegations
had surfaced from a family in Jamaica Plain that Geoghan had acted
inappropriately with several of the boys, all between the ages of
6 and 11. Daily, believing it was the church's role to provide counseling
to wayward priests, ultimately ordered Geoghan [to] go on sick leave,
but allowed him to return to another parish the next year. "I
am a pastor who has to go after the Lord's sheep and find them and
bring them back into the fold and give them the kind of guidance and
discipline them in such a way that they will come back," Daily
said in his deposition.