Church Removes Bust of Accused Priest

Associated Press, carried in San Luis Obispo Tribune
October 15, 2006

Boston - A bust of the Rev. Louis Toma, an icon at the East Boston church where he served for 50 years, has been removed by the Boston Archdiocese at the request of parishioners who said the late cleric sexually abused children.

About 16 people, including some who said they were victims, watched as the bust was lifted Friday from the grounds of St. Lazarus Church and a bulldozer pushed over its marble pedestal, The Boston Globe reported.

Women complained to Cardinal Sean O'Malley last year that Toma had abused numerous young girls during his decades as pastor and asked that the statue be taken down.

Barbara Thorp, director of the Victims' Support Office of the Archdiocese of Boston, said there was no doubt the women were telling "a terrible truth."

She said victims' stories of abuse in the rectory, the sanctuary, the sacristy and the church's school were convincing and consistent, and showed a pattern of recognizable abuse.

"We had an obligation to listen and to respond," she said.

Toma, who was born in Italy, was pastor of the parish from 1911 until his death in 1961. The church's youth center is named for him.

The Rev. John Connolly, a special assistant to O'Malley, called Toma "iconic."

"He literally built this place," he said. "There are people here who were married and baptized by him and whose parents and grandparents were, too.

"But the only way to deal with these things is openly and in the light of day," Connolly said. "It is painful but necessary to say that someone who was entrusted with the care of children harmed and abused them."


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