February 2, 2021
By Shelley Murphy
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has paid alleged victims millions of dollars in recent years to resolve claims that they were sexually abused by priests working in local parishes. Yet, the names of many of those priests are missing from the Archdiocese’s public roster of clergy accused of sexually abusing children, an accounting that began a decade ago under pressure from victims.
Their exclusion has angered survivors of abuse, particularly in light of Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley’s longstanding pledge to be transparent about clergy sexual abuse after decades of secrecy.
“It just seems like they’re trying to cover up,” said David, who in November received a settlement in “the high five figures,” from the archdiocese, according to his attorney, Mitchell Garabedian. It was awarded after David underwent painful questioning from church lawyers and an arbitrator tasked with corroborating his claims against John H. Curley, who died in 1999.
David, who asked to be identified only by his first name, said he was frustrated by Curley’s absence from the Archdiocese’s list because the priest ruined his life by sexually assaulting him in 1981 when he was 12 and living at a home for troubled boys in Braintree.
“They’re trying to hide that the person is a pedophile,” he said.
Curley routinely brought groups of boys from the Pilgrim Center on trips to the park or to play basketball that ended with an overnight stay at his home, David said. While the group watched television, Curley would “bring kids up to his bedroom one at a time,” he said.
He said he was sleeping one night when Curley awakened him and told him “we had to do penance.” He said the priest told him to pray as he sexually assaulted him. He said he refused to go on any more trips with Curley.
Garabedian, a longtime advocate for sexual abuse victims who has settled claims involving more than 340 clergy and church personnel, has identified 20 priests whom the Boston Archdiocese does not list as accused child molesters although it has paid settlements totaling more than $1.2 million to their victims since 2011. In that time, the archdiocese also paid about $1.3 million to the victims of nine clergy members listed as accused of “unsubstantiated” claims of child sexual abuse, according to Garabedian. Several of those priests were accused of sexual abuse by multiple victims, he said.
“Why would they pay us a settlement if the priest didn’t do it?” Garabedian asked. “They’re hoping the clergy sexual abuse crisis is going away when it isn’t. You’re dealing with an entity that has engaged in coverup, so they’re not changing their stripes now.”
Attorney Tyler Fox said two of his clients who were sexually abused by priests decades ago while working as altar boys at churches in the Boston Archdiocese were paid settlements of $85,000 and $99,000 last year, yet both priests are absent from the church’s roster of accused abusers.
Terrence Donilon, an Archdiocese spokesman, declined to comment on specific cases and would not disclose how many settlements involved claims against priests who are omitted from the Archdiocese’s roster or listed as being accused of “unsubstantiated” allegations.
He said archdiocesan leadership has been actively considering whether its criteria for identifying accused clerics should be updated.
“In many situations, choosing to resolve an allegation by reaching a settlement is often the best decision financially for all the parties involved,” Donilon said. “In many ways we are acknowledging the harm that was done by offering compensation and counseling services.”
He said the Archdiocese immediately reports allegations of clergy sexual abuse of minors to law enforcement and publicly discloses when a clergy member is removed from active ministry after a conviction or during an investigation into an allegation of child abuse.
The Boston Archdiocese’s website lists 132 clerics in various categories, including those convicted of child sexual abuse in criminal or church proceedings, those who left or were suspended from the church pending investigations, and those who died before victims came forward. Another 38 priests are listed as “unsubstantiated cases” because a review board concluded the allegations were unfounded or the priest was cleared of wrongdoing during church proceedings.
The Boston Archdiocese settled agreements with 33 people for $2.3 million in the last fiscal year to resolve sexual abuse claims, Donilon said. The year before, it settled 20 allegations totaling $1.2million, he said. It also paid $2.4 million in each of those years for “abuse-related prevention, outreach, healing, and reconciliation efforts as a whole to both new and ongoing survivors,” he said.
In 2011, O’Malley released the first list of clerics who were accused of sexually abusing children, saying the Archdiocese’s “commitment and responsibility is to protect children and to ensure that the tragedy of sexual abuse is never repeated in the Church.”
At the time, he said some names were excluded to balance “the critically important need to assure the protection of children” with “the due process rights and reputations of those accused clergy whose cases have not been fully adjudicated.”
He omitted the names of many deceased priests because they were unable to respond to the allegations. He also excluded the names of dozens of priests from religious orders and other dioceses who were accused of abusing children while assigned to the Boston Archdiocese. It was the responsibility of the priest’s order or diocese, he said, to investigate allegations against them.
Those guidelines remain in place today. O’Malley has been urging religious orders to identify accused priests, Donilon said.
Fox represents a man who was awarded $85,000 last year to settle a sexual abuse claim against Lawrence Buckley, a Redemptorist priest who worked for the Boston Archdiocese and was described in his 2008 obituary as a champion for social justice.
The man, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Chris, said he was a 7-year-old altar boy at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Roxbury in 1987 when Buckley first sexually assaulted him in the sacristy, where priests change into their robes before Mass. He said the abuse continued for four years, even on the day that Buckley came to his home to deliver the news that his father had died.
He said he never told anyone until he became a father himself, fiercely protective of his two little girls. Two years ago, he disclosed the abuse to the Boston Archdiocese.
“It’s frustrating,” Chris said of the Archdiocese’s omission of Buckley’s name from its list of accused priests because he belonged to a religious order. “It was a Catholic church and I was a Catholic altar boy. I just wish they owned up to something that happened here.”
The Redemptorists have not released a list of clergy accused of molesting children and did not respond to inquiries regarding Buckley.
Terry McKiernan, founder of Bishop-Accountability.org, a volunteer group that tracks clergy sexual abuse, said it’s a “glaring peculiarity” that some of the worst offenders have been left off the Boston Archdiocese list. Recent high-profile investigations into clergy sexual abuse and court settlements have prompted more dioceses and religious orders to release lists identifying abusers. Currently, 152 of the nation’s 178 Roman Catholic dioceses and 24 religious orders have done so, he said.
David O’Regan, Massachusetts leader of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said identifying abusive priests helps their victims heal and often gives those who have suffered in silence the courage to come forward because they realize “that happened to somebody else. It wasn’t just me.”
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