Priest Says Witness Saw Boy in 'Horseplay'

By Paul Langner
Boston Globe
June 22, 1994

A former Woburn priest, accused of sexually molesting a boy in whom he had taken a special interest, testified yesterday that the fellow priest who accused him seems to have mistaken innocent horseplay for sexual misconduct.

Rev. Paul Manning, a priest who formerly served as associate pastor at St. Charles Borromeo Church, is on trial in Middlesex Superior Court, charged with indecent assault on the 11-year-old boy in the priest's third-floor study at the rectory on the evening of last Sept. 5.

The boy is not expected to testify. The most direct evidence against Father Manning, 54, was the testimony of Rev. Paul Sughrue, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo, who testified last Friday that after hearing screams, he had gone to Father Manning's study and seen Father Manning and the boy on a recliner chair, their bare legs intertwined and bodies in rhythmic motion.

Father Sughrue reported what he saw to an archdiocesan official whose duties include dealing with suspected sexual abuse.

Father Manning said yesterday that if his pastor had asked him he would have assured him that what he had seen "was just some horseplay."

He testified yesterday that the boy, who he said preferred the rectory to his own home in a dangerous neighborhood on Woburn's Main Street, had come into the studyand playfully poked him in the ribs as a form of greeting.

Father Manning said he grabbed the boy by the wrists and pulled him over his lap, chiding him in jest. As the child wriggled away, the priest testified, at one point the boy's hands were braced on the floor and the priest was holding him by the ankles.

The encounter lasted about 15 seconds, Father Manning testified, and he directly denied assaulting the child.

When asked why he later gave money to the boy's mother, to rent a better apartment he had found for her, the priest said she had come to him for a loan. He said roller skates and a gold chain he gave the boy were gifts like those he had given other disadvantaged children.

Judge Robert Barton told the jury yesterday that he expects them to receive the case today.


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