Norwood Man Details Abuse by W. Roxbury Parish Priest

By Deborah Eisner
Boston Herald
February 16, 2002


The words come slowly, methodically, as the Norwood man tells of his abuse at the hands of a West Roxbury priest starting at the age of 7.

Robert Costello, 40, says his attacker was the Rev. John Cotter, a parish priest at St. Theresa-Avila in West Roxbury in the late 1960s and early 1970s, where Costello was an altar boy. Over a period of seven years, Cotter molested Costello in the church's rectory, at the community swimming pool and on Boy Scout camping trips, he said.

During roughly the same time, from 1969 to 1976, Costello said he was also molested by his Boy Scout troop leader, William Reynolds of West Roxbury.

Cotter died in 1989. In 1993, Costello sued the archdiocese, the Boy Scouts of America and Reynolds. Two years later the suit was settled out of court, Costello said. Costello won an undisclosed monetary settlement and an audience with Cardinal Bernard Law, he said. No details were available regarding a settlement with Reynolds or the Boy Scouts.

Both Reynolds and the Archdiocese of Boston declined comment. The Boy Scouts Council of Boston did not return phone calls.

Every Wednesday afternoon after school, Boy Scout Troop 5 swam at Curtis Hall under the supervision of Reynolds and Cotter, the church's liaison to the Boy Scouts. Costello started going to these afternoon swims in 1968 at the age of 7. It was during one of these swim periods that Reynolds first molested Costello, he said.

Costello filed a lawsuit against his attackers in 1993.

By that time, Cotter had been dead for four years.

During the course of attorney Laurence Hardoon's investigations, six other defendants signed onto the case, alleging similar abuse by Cotter during his time at both St. Theresa's and St. John the Evangelist in Beverly, Hardoon said. Costello said he knows of at least two other victims who have still not come forward.

"It takes a tremendous amount of personal strength and courage to go through the healing process," he said. "Some people have it, some people don't. For some people, it comes later in life, and I have to respect that."

During his 1995 audience with Law, Costello said the cardinal apologized for the abuse.

Shortly after that meeting, the cardinal said a Mass of Reconciliation and Healing at St. Theresa's in November 1995, and Law specifically addressed the issue of sexual misconduct by priests.

But Costello said Law never performed a similar Mass at other churches afflicted by this problem, as the two had discussed. Nor did Law put in place a curriculum into the parish schools discussing the issue of sexual misconduct, as Costello had requested.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.