Catholics Protest near Law's Residence, Demand Resignation

By Ron DePasquale
Associated Press
February 17, 2002

Boston - Rain drops and tears wetted Steven Lynch's face as he stood outside Cardinal Bernard Law's residence Sunday, demanding the resignation of the spiritual leader of Boston's Catholic community.

"A father does not trick or deceive his sons and daughters," Lynch said before a group of about 75 people protesting Law's handling of allegations of sex abuse by priests. "A father does not fill his children with fear, shame, guilt or darkness. A father does not disempower his own children in order to be empowered himself."

Lynch, 42, said he was sexually abused by a priest in Salem as a 9-year-old. Calls for Law's resignation have intensified since he admitted transferring defrocked priest John Geoghan after learning of child abuse accusations against him.

The names of more than 80 active and former Boston Archdiocese priests have been turned over to prosecutors, and dozens of lawsuits have been filed.

On Sunday, Catholics carrying signs saying "Law Breaks Law - Resign" and "Jesus Wept," sang hymns and listened to anguished calls for reform from victims and Geoghan's former parishioners.

Sybil Gallagher, 25, handed out purple ribbons to Catholics, who were urged to wear them to church in protest. Purple represents suffering in Catholicism.

"I don't think he should have the right to fix the problem," Gallagher said of Law. "He has enabled sick people to abuse children. He's not the person to solve these issues."

Also on Sunday, The Springfield Union-News and Sunday Republican reported that at least six Catholic priests have been removed from churches in western Massachusetts for alleged sexual misconduct, including one who now serves on a tribunal that considers annulment petitions.

However, the last was removed in 1994, and the diocese has not faced a lawsuit in more than five years, Bishop Thomas L. Dupre of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield said.

Meanwhile, a top fundraiser for the Boston Archdiocese said few pledges have been rescinded in the wake of the scandal, but acknowledged there could be more and the final effect on fundraising is uncertain.

Ken Hokenson, the Boston Archdiocese's chief development officer, told The Boston Globe on Sunday that "less than two dozen" of 4,000 donors to the Promise For Tomorrow capital fund have rescinded pledges.

The "one-half" percent he estimated would amount to about $75,000 of the $150 million pledged so far to the $300 million campaign - the largest for a United States diocese ever. Only about three or four of more than 100,000 pledges to a recent $17 million Cardinal's Appeal have been held back.

"There will be more," Hokenson told the Globe. "That number will grow, but it's not been a rush."

Still, Law recently presided over a dinner that raised $4.8 million fo Catholic school scholarships.

In western Massachusetts, the Union News and Sunday Republican reported that four priests were removed by The Diocesan Misconduct Commission, and two others were removed by the diocese in the early 1990s before the misconduct commission was formed in 1993.

Edward M. Kennedy, who resigned as pastor of Northampton's Blessed Sacrament Church in 1991 and later settled a $20,000 lawsuit filed by at least one male, was barred from full-time ministry by diocesan officials before the misconduct commission was formed. The diocese sent him for psychiatric treatment and then on to canon law school.

He is now an assistant judicial vicar on a diocesan council that considers requests for annulments.

"It was an excellent facility," he said of the treatment. "I'm very happy I had the opportunity to take part in that, to grow deeper in my values as a Christian and a priest, and I'm grateful to the bishop and the diocese for providing that for me."

Among the other priests:

- Richard F. Meehan's last assignment was at St. John the Evangelist Church in Agawam. He could not be reached for comment.

- Donald V. Dube was assigned to Notre Dame Du Bon Conseil Church in Easthampton until 1993-94. He was listed on leave of absence for two years and then reappeared with only a post office box in Fiskdale under his name. He did not return phone calls seeking comment.

- Alfred C. Graves resigned in 1992 from Our Lady of Hope Church in Springfield. He too was reported on a leave of absence from 1993-94 and then disappeared from the directory.

- Donald A. Desilets was barred from public ministry by the commission in the early 1990s after he allegedly molested two boys in the former Precious Blood Parish in Holyoke. He retired to Montreal, where he died last year.

"Years ago we failed to recognize this conduct was a symptom of a mental health disorder. That led to some terrible mistakes in thinking the persons could reform themselves and return to full ministry," Dupre said.


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