Records: Church Let Lose 'Predator' Priest; Therapists Labeled Ex-Priest 'Sociopath'

By Eric Convey and Tom Mashberg
Boston Herald
May 17, 2002

The Archdiocese of Boston turned former priest Paul J. Mahan loose on the public in the mid-1990s after he had been diagnosed as a "sociopath" and a "threat to adolescent males," according to documents released yesterday.

In a sign of just how sick therpists deemed Mahan, doctors at St. Luke Institute in Suitland, Md., expelled him as hopeless in 1995 - kicking him out of a hospital that has specialized in treating clergy with severe sexual disorders.

At least one plaintiff alleges he was raped by Mahan at a home on the North Shore soon after the priest was discharged by the archdiocese without a warning to civil authorities or former parishioners.

"They released a sexual predator into the Marblehead community and did not warn a soul," said Joseph G. Abromovitz, a lawyer suing the church and Mahan on behalf of two of the ex-priest's nephews, both of whom claim he raped them from 1993 to 1995. "My clients were told Mahan was on a routine sabbatical when he was in fact being treated for incurable pedophilia," Abromovitz said.

Mitchell Garabedian, the lawyer who won the release of Mahan's personnel file, and represents 11 of his accusers, made two of the documents available yesterday after Superior Court Judge Constance M. Sweeney ordered that the archdiocese hand over the records.

Garabedian said he would review the full file before commenting in detail, but added: "These psychiatric characteristics obviously are of some concern."

The latest documents unveiled in the Roman Catholic Church abuse scandal include a summer 1995 evaluation from the Southdown treatment center in Ontario, Canada, a facility where now-defrocked pedophile John J. Geoghan was also shipped by the church.

The Southdown report states that Mahan's "behavior has been aggressive and intrusive and in some instances predatory." Therapist Michael John Sy wrote Mahan acknowledged his "high risk for re-offending" against children.

But more damning information is contained in a September 1995 letter, also released yesterday, in which the Rev. Brian M. Flatley, then a top archdiocesan official handling sexual abuse matters, argued that Mahan should be dismissed from the priesthood. There had been eight sexual misconduct allegations against Mahan, "a number of them involving more than one child," Flatley wrote.

Flatley cites an incendiary series of evaluations from St. Luke covering Mahan's two separate visits there - one in 1994, a second that spanned late 1994 and early 1995 - that made clear he was a predator.

Upon being discharged after his first 1994 visit, Flatley wrote, Mahan "immediately lapsed into his pattern of predatory behavior."

A therapist there concluded "there was a real question about Father Mahan's ability to tell the truth," Flatey's letter states.

After Mahan was sent back to St. Luke for a second time, Flatley wrote, Mahan's therapist telephoned to say he was recommending the priest leave the facility.

"It was his judgment that Father Mahan was not able to be helped at St. Luke Institute and perhaps not anywhere," Flatley wrote in a letter to Rev. Richard G. Lennon, one of Bernard Cardinal Law's top aides. The therapist "is convinced that Father Mahan is exhibiting the symptoms of a sociopath," Flatley continued. "He is a dangerous person. He is a threat to adolescent males."

In addition to being a chronic liar in therapy - "he has a lapse of memory whenever there is a victim involved" - Mahan also misled therapists by saying he had stopped drinking when in fact he had not, Flatley wrote.

At the very time church officials were exchanging the damning assessments, they stood by as Mahan ended his priestly career and moved unfettered to Marblehead.

Mahan later relocated to Arlington, Va., where he worked at a Radio Shack near two elementary schools until earlier this year.

Repeated efforts by the Herald to reach Mahan, including visiting his Virginia apartment building in March, were unsuccessful.

His lawyer, Martin Cosgrove, had fought to keep the psychiatric data away from Garabedian and other plaintiffs' lawyers. Attorneys for the Boston Herald and other media argued in court that the Mahan papers, like the Geoghan files, should be publicly filed.

Flatley concluded his 1995 letter by writing that Mahan should be allowed to leave the priesthood, lest he "be a source of scandal to the people." Garabedian's plaintiffs, including William and Paul Oberle of Boston, allege they were abused by Mahan between 1969 and 1982 at St. Ann's in Dorchester and St. Joseph's in Needham.


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