Priest Dismissed by Vatican - Given Probation in '84 Abuse Case

By Ralph Ranalli
The Boston Globe [Boiston NA]
July 30, 2005

Eugene O'Sullivan, believed to be the first Massachusetts priest convicted of sexual abuse more than two decades ago, has been dismissed from the priesthood by the Vatican, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston said yesterday.

O'Sullivan, who served at a number of parishes in the area, including St. Agnes Church in Arlington, was sentenced to probation in 1984 after he admitted sodomizing a 13-year-old altar boy at St. Ann's Parish in Marshfield. One condition of his probation was that he not be allowed to work with children, but church officials, who had pleaded with a judge for leniency on his behalf, later assigned him priestly duties at four New Jersey parishes.Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley, said church officials had no comment on the matter beyond the fact of O'Sullivan's official removal from the priesthood.

The Vatican has dismissed another priest, Paul E. McDonald, who had served in parishes in Hyde Park and Marlborough, Donilon said.

McDonald was accused of raping boys when he was a priest at St. Joseph Church in Hyde Park in the 1960s. He eventually left the priesthood voluntarily in 1976 after getting a woman pregnant.

Neither O'Sullivan, who is in his 70s, nor McDonald have served as priests for more than a decade.

O'Sullivan's case was cited in Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly's scathing 2003 report on the clergy sex abuse crisis that showed how, for many years, former cardinal Bernard F. Law and his senior managers knew that substantial numbers of children in the arch diocese had been sexually abused by substantial numbers of its priests.

Using previously unreleased church documents obtained through grand jury subpoenas, Reilly's report asserted that then-Bishop Robert J. Banks urged prosecutors and a judge to be lenient toward O'Sullivan, even though Banks knew that O'Sullivan had other victims. Banks later became bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis.

Documents from O'Sullivan's personnel file, made public in 2002, show that the archdiocese was alerted as early as the 1960s about allegations against him.

In a 2003 deposition Law gave in lawsuits filed against the archdiocese, he defended his decision to allow O'Sullivan to transfer from St. Agnes to the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J., less than a year after he pleaded guilty to sodomizing the 13-year-old boy. Law said he wanted to give O'Sullivan a chance at "redemption."

"Obviously, if someone is going to start out fresh, it would be advantageous for that to be in a new place," Law said in the deposition.

Pastors in three of the four New Jersey parishes he worked in told the Globe in 1993 that they were never informed of O'Sullivan's conviction or that he was on probation. He was recalled to Boston in 1992 after the church learned of another allegation against him dating back to his time in Massachusetts.

Some of O'Sullivan's alleged victims were part of the massive civil litigation brought against the archdiocese by more than 500 plaintiffs, who contended that church officials looked the other way. The cases were settled in 2003 for $85 million.