Lawsuit: Haverhill priest sexually abused girl in 1990s, 2000s

The Eagle-Tribune [North Andover MA]

June 2, 2022

By Angelina Berube

An unnamed 28-year-old woman is suing two former Boston Archdiocesan Auxiliary bishops, claiming they neglected to supervise one of All Saints Roman Catholic Church’s now-defrocked priests — the Rev. Kelvin Iguabita-Rodriguez — and allowed him to sexually abuse her for years.

The complaint was formally filed last month by Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents the woman who claims she was sexually abused by Iguabita-Rodriguez when she was between 5 and 7 years old.

Garabedian announced the lawsuit Thursday morning, via Zoom, on the sidewalk in the shadow of the Haverhill church. He was joined by Robert Hoatson, a former priest who now advocates for survivors of sexual abuse through the New Jersey non-profit charity, Road to Recovery.

According to the Archdiocese of Boston’s records, Iguabita-Rodriguez was assigned to the All Saints Roman Catholic Church as a parish priest – one who assists the parish’s pastor — from June 1999 to June 2001. He then went on to non-ministry work at Metropolitan Marriage Tribunal in Brighton, Massachusetts, before taking a leave of absence in September 2001.

Iguabita-Rodriguez was convicted in 2003 on four criminal counts including child rape and indecent assault for a complaint filed in 2000 on allegations involving a 15-year-old female. Iguabita-Rodriguez was sentenced to 12 to 14 years in prison and released in 2015. Following his sentencing, Iguabita-Rodriguez was defrocked and stripped of his priesthood.

In October 2015, he also faced a lawsuit for sexually abusing a 5-year-old girl during that same time frame. The lawsuit filed said the abuse occurred in the rectory and other spots in the church.

In this new complaint, Garabedian said his client alleges she was sexually abused by Iguabita-Rodriguez while he served the All Saints Parish from approximately 1999 to 2001. Garabedian announced in a press release that the abuse occurred while the victim attended St. Joseph’s School – the parish’s affiliated school — and also while she was a member of the church’s choir group, which Iguabita-Rodriguez led.

The complaint also alleges that then-Boston Archdiocesan Auxiliary Bishops William Murphy and Bishop Richard Malone were negligent in their supervision of Iguabita-Rodriguez.

“You have a situation where supervisors in positions of power within the Archdiocese of Boston negligently supervised a pedophile priest,” Garabedian said. “They went on to become bishops in their own diocese which had severe problems with clergy sexual abuse which we’ve seen today.”

Murphy served as the bishop for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, from 2001 until his retirement in 2016. Malone served as bishop in both the Dioceses of Portland, Maine and Buffalo, New York, and retired from the Diocese of Buffalo following allegations involving the clergy abuse crisis.

Garabedian has represented clergy sexual abuse victims for decades. He said this claim is significant because victims of clergy sexual abuse do not come forward to report it until they are older in age. He noted those who were abused in the late 1990s and 2000s, like his client, are now coming forward as they approach 30 years old as a way to heal and help others.

“Some of them are coming forward because they feel as though they have to try to heal and be voices for those who have been sexually abused but who can’t yet come forward,” Garabedian said.

Hoatson praised this particular young woman for coming forward because he believes this is a crisis that will continue with victims coming forward at different points in their lives.

“The most disconcerting aspect for this is not just the fact that she was sexually abused, but that she is 28 years old,” Hoatson said. “We will be here on this sidewalk and on all other sidewalks because courageous victims will continue to come forward and tell their stories. Here we have a woman who was sexually abused right here in Massachusetts in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The children who have been abused in those times will now begin to surface because of her courage.”