Mediation failed in Fall River Diocese priest sex abuse case

By Curt Brown
South Coast Today
May 14, 2014

Robert M. Hoatson, co -founder and president of Road to Recovery, Inc., a support group for sexual abuse victims, discusses the lawsuit brought against former Bishop Daniel Cronin and the Diocese of Fall River.

FALL RIVER — The Fall River Diocese and the lawyer for two men now suing it and its former bishop over sexual abuse charges against a priest failed to reach agreement during mediation last year, the parties said Tuesday.

Diocesan spokesman John E. Kearns Jr. said the two sides had been in mediation for a period of time until Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian pulled the plug on the discussions in May.

"We wanted to resolve it through mediation and that process was stopped," Kearns said at a press conference outside his office.

Garabedian, in a telephone interview, called Kearns' comments "inaccurate and self-serving."

He said he did not end the talks, they were mutually terminated. "The offer and settlement made by the diocese was unreasonable. We had reached a stalemate," he said.

Garabedian also maintained that "Although holding itself up as purportedly the most moral institution in the world, the Catholic church is once again acting in the most immoral way by allowing the wholesale sexual abuse of children."

After the failed mediation, Garabedian filed a lawsuit in January in a Connecticut court that seeks unspecified monetary damages against the Diocese of Fall River and former Bishop Daniel A. Cronin. Cronin headed the diocese for 21 years until he left to become archbishop of the Hartford Diocese in 1991.

According to court documents, the late Rev. Monsignor Maurice Souza, a New Bedford native, sexually abused two altar boys over nearly a decade beginning when they were 9 and 10 years old, when he was assigned to St. Anthony's Parish in East Falmouth. The suit also charges he berated one of them on numerous occasions.

Cronin, as bishop of the Fall River Diocese at the time, failed to properly supervise Souza, the lawsuit charges.

According to court documents, the boys accompanied and traveled with Souza to Connecticut and Massachusetts for athletic contests and other events and were sexually abused in the two states. They would often spend the night with Souza at the rectory, in hotels in Connecticut and at his residence in Taunton.

The victims are now in their 40s. One lives in Central Massachusetts and the other on Cape Cod, Garabedian said.

Souza died Aug. 17, 1996; he was 83.

The diocese, after learning in 2012 that a claim might be brought, investigated and offered counseling to the victims, according to Kearns.

A church representative did not believe there was "support" for the plaintiffs' "more severe (sex abuse) allegations," he said.

Kearns could not elaborate when questioned later, saying he did not know any more.

The charges were the first time sexual abuse allegations had been leveled against Souza, Kearns said. "Nothing was brought to the attention of the diocese," he said.

Also holding a press conference Tuesday was Robert M. Hoatson, co-founder and president of Road to Recovery, Inc., a New Jersey nonprofit charity that assists victims of sexual abuse and their families.

He stood on a public sidewalk on Highland Avenue opposite diocesan offices on the other side of the street, with Kearns standing in the background.

"We are supporting two men who have said 'Enough is enough," Hoatson said, explaining that while the victims are "ready" to have their complaints made public, they are not ready to stand in front of the media and answer questions.

"One (of the victims) communicated with us today and said he was thrilled to see The Cape Cod Times today and is glad it's out," he said.

Neither the victims — The Standard-Times is choosing not to identify them — nor their attorney attended the press conference. Garabedian said he was tied up on another matter.



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