Democratic Senate Forum

Interview by Emily Rooney
Greater Boston
November 23, 2009

[This partial transcript of the interview was made by from the WGBH video. We have transcribed only the exchanges that relate to the Geoghan probation deal and the Catholic sexual abuse crisis. See also a follow-up interview with Coakley.]


Emily Rooney: Martha, you have been described as cautious, methodical, even stiff. Are you?

Martha Coakley: No. It’s an easy answer. I am not. I believe that people who know me in my work, and knew me in personal life know that I am careful, I think that I am a careful lawyer as a prosecutor and as someone who has worked as an attorney general, but I think that I’ve taken actions that are bold, that I’m not afraid to stick my neck out, people know that the giraffe is my favorite animal, from the time I worked in the child abuse unit, because I’m not afraid to do that, and I think that in many instances people’s image of me may be seen while I’m at a homicide scene, or announcing an indictment or a conviction, but everybody who know me knows that that’s inaccurate.

Rooney: Did caution play into your decision not to prosecute John Geoghan back in 1995, the now-deceased pedophile priest?

Coakley: We did exactly what we should have done on that case in 1995, and since then, I’ve spent my career protecting kids, understanding when kids disclose, what we should do to do that. We didn’t have charges that would have identified him as a sexual offender, but we went to the mat to make sure that we kept him away from kids, that …

Rooney: So you weren’t intimidated by the church?

Coakley: Absolutely not, no, that was not the answer.



[On the disagreement between Bishop Tobin and Rep. Kennedy]

Coakley: I grew up Catholic, went to Catholic school for eleven years, my older sisters went to Catholic college, my dad went to Mass every day before he died, and I too think that faith is personal, but you also make decisions about the community that you worship with. I happen to think that this is a little bit of a rogue issue. I think that this bishop is unusual in his position. I don’t think most of the other bishops, including the archdiocese in Boston, have taken that position. I don’t anticipate that they will or that it will be a problem. But a community, I suppose, does set the rules. I don’t agree with the church on many issues, including pro-choice, including …

Rooney: Well, they say you don’t have the right to do that, that you can’t be a Catholic if you’re going to disagree with them.

Coakley: Well, that may be right. But I also disagree with the institution and the role they played in hiding pedophile priests for years. It seems to me a little bit ironic that a church that was willing to overlook the victimization of many, many children over several years is now turning around and saying to people who are good Christians, good Catholics, that you can’t join this. So I don’t think it’s a problem here in Boston; we’ll deal with it if it is. I think this position of this bishop has indicated that some of the bishops want to get more political, and I think that people will react to it very badly.


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