Former North Attleboro altar boy receives settlement after disclosing abuse by Father Porter

The Sun Chronicle [Attleboro MA]

November 1, 2023

By David Linton

North Attleboro — A former altar boy at St. Mary’s Church in the 1960s has reached a financial settlement with the Diocese of Fall River for sexual abuse he suffered form now notorious Catholic priest James Porter.

The 72-year-old man, who now lives on the North Shore of Boston, recently reached a financial package in the “mid-five figures,” Boston lawyer Mitchell Garabedian said during a press conference Wednesday.

Garabedian, who has represented more than 30 victims of the disgraced Father Porter and numerous other victims of Catholic priests worldwide, declined to disclose the exact amount of the settlement.

He said the victim was 11 around 1961 when Porter forced him to accompany him from the World War II Memorial Pool to the church rectory, where the boy was sexually abused.

Porter, who admitted to sexually abusing at least 200 children in three states, used the guise of needing to go to the rectory to retrieve more tobacco for his pipe, Garabedian said.

In the 1960s, Porter was a priest at St. Mary’s Church but his pedophilia did not come to light until he was arrested in 1992, years after leaving the priesthood.

He was convicted of sexually abusing 28 children from the parish and sentenced to an 18- to 20-year prison term. He died in 2005, a year after he was released early.

A press conference was held Wednesday on the sidewalk in front of the former St. Mary’s Church on Park Street, now called Transfiguration of the Lord Parish.

Garabedian, who spoke on Zoom, said the victim did not want to be identified and did not attend the press conference. Garabedian said the victim never forgot the abuse and explained the reason why he came forward now.

“He decided it was time to clean house and get the weight off his shoulders,” Garabedian said, adding that it is not uncommon for people to disclose abuse in their 80s.

“They want to kind of clean house before they pass on,” he said.

Other times, Garabedian said, victims wait for someone they believe will be hurt by the disclosure to die before coming forward.

He said the victim’s disclosure comes after the statute of limitations has expired and called on the Legislature to change the law “to level the playing field” for victims of clergy sex abuse.

He said the Fall River Diocese investigated the victim’s claims and agreed to the settlement after determining the allegations against Porter were credible.

On Wednesday night, the diocese issued a statement saying, “The actions of former priest James Porter decades ago are a painful reality in the history of the Diocese of Fall River.

“Through its Victim Assistance outreach, the Diocese of Fall River offers supportive services to survivors of clergy sexual abuse and their families throughout the legal process and continuing after a conclusion is reached. For assistance, please contact Carolyn Shipp, the Director of Safe Environment and Victim Assistance at 508-985-6508 (confidential voicemail) or (”

Attending the press conference were Robert Hoatson, co-founder of Road to Recovery Inc., a New Jersey-based non-profit charity that assists victims of sexual abuse and their families, and Claude Leboeuf, 70, a former Attleboro man and a Porter victim.

“The more light we put on the issue of clergy sex abuse the better it is for the victims,” said Hoatson, a former priest in the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., who was fired for helping clergy sexual abuse victims.

He and Leboeuf, who said he buried memories of his trauma until his mid-60s, praised the victim for having the courage to disclose the abuse.

Leboeuf, who now lives in Providence, recently received a “mid-five figure” settlement with the Fall River Diocese. He said he was 8 when he was sodomized by Porter in a back room at St. Joseph’s Church in Attleboro.

He now leads the Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests in Cumberland and is seeking a change in the statute of limitations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

David Linton may be reached at 508-236-0338.