Dismissal of Former Priest Uncovers Dark Past in Canton
By Jay Turner
May 6, 2016
Editor’s note: The name of the victim who was interviewed for this story has been changed in order to protect his privacy.
When reports first surfaced in late 2012 that Father Thomas H. Maguire had been removed from public ministry in Norwell following allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct, Mark L., a Canton native and former St. John the Evangelist parishioner, felt a complex flood of emotions ranging from anger to regret to disgust.
Then he picked up the telephone and made a call that he felt was long overdue.
Contacting the Norwell police and speaking to an investigator, Mark would go on to recount his own experiences with Father Maguire in Canton in the early 1990s, back when Mark, his brother and their friends were students at Canton High School and members of the St. John’s CYO leadership board. Maguire, who was assigned to the parish during those years, worked directly with the CYO, and Mark recalled multiple instances where Maguire both supplied and consumed alcohol with the teens, along with one or more instances of inappropriate behavior and alleged sexual misconduct during “off-site” CYO meetings.
Ultimately, police determined that none of the alleged offenses could be prosecuted because they all fell outside of the criminal statute of limitations. However, the Archdiocese undertook its own investigation into the matter, and on March 31, 2016, following a lengthy probe and a church process undertaken under canon law, Maguire was found “guilty of abuse of a minor” and removed from the priesthood by order of the Holy See.
According to a public database of accused priests provided by the Archdiocese on its website, Maguire is the first Boston area priest since 2009 to be defrocked due to allegations of abuse and just the seventh in the last decade. And it was the reports of inappropriate conduct from the “mid 1990s and before” — coinciding with his years at St. John the Evangelist (1989-1996) — that appeared to carry the most weight in the decision.
In a statement announcing Maguire’s removal, the Archdiocese specifically references those early victims while noting that their complaints were determined to be “credible.”
“We are grateful to the victims who had the strength to come forward,” the statement continued. “Their courage assisted the Church in seeking justice for the inappropriate conduct which occurred years before the initial allegation in 2012. We pray for all those affected by this matter.”
The Citizen searched public directories and also contacted the Archdiocese of Boston but could not find or obtain current contact information for Maguire.
The Citizen did, however, speak directly with Mark L., who said he felt a certain sense of satisfaction and relief in knowing that he played even a small part in bringing this conduct to light and potentially sparing future victims.
“I figured that if I could say something that would help get [Maguire] away from kids, then it was worth it,” he said. “My only regret is that I didn’t say anything earlier.”
Mark said it took him years to process what had happened, and for a long time, he doubted whether he was a victim at all since it never rose to the level of inappropriate touching or sexual assault. However, when he had more time and distance from the experiences and a chance to reflect, he said the disturbing nature of Maguire’s conduct “started to sink in.”
In hindsight, Mark said there were numerous “red flags,” culminating with an incident at Maguire’s mother’s house where the boys played drinking games and shared “smut stories” in the presence of Maguire. Mark said he witnessed Maguire touching himself inappropriately and that at one point, Maguire offered money to the first one who completed a sexual act.
Mark said there were several instances where Maguire purchased alcohol for the teens, who ranged in age from 15 to 17 at the time. “I think that was kind of his lure,” he said.
Now a husband and a father, Mark acknowledges that he too made poor judgment, noting that he willingly accepted alcohol and kept it a secret from family members and church leaders.
“I think the partying and the access to booze was our justification for putting up with that kind of stuff,” he now admits.
Mark said it wasn’t until years later that he told his parents what had happened, although both believed him and were very supportive, he said. He would also run into Maguire from time to time during his college years and beyond, mostly at social gatherings, and he made no secret of his disdain for the man.
Mark said he had a “hang-up” about his experiences for many years after and sincerely wished that he had said something sooner. “At first it was like, he didn’t touch me. You know, ‘no harm, no foul,’” he said. “But then you start to get older, and then the whole stuff with the [church sex abuse scandal] comes out, and I start to wonder whether I could have saved others.”
Reached for comment on the matter, Father Thomas Rafferty, the current pastor of St. John the Evangelist, placed the blame in any instance of clergy abuse squarely on the offending adult.
“A priest is in a position where he is trusted by those in his charge,” Fr. Rafferty said, “and similar to a teacher or coach or any authority figure, to abuse that is what makes it so heinous.”
Rafferty said both the Archdiocese of Boston and St. John the Evangelist in particular have taken important steps in recent years to protect the safety and welfare of children, including mandated CORI checks for all adult leaders and volunteers and policies requiring more than one adult to be present around children. “I think the safeguards we have in place are very strong, and I pray that this is something that’s in our past,” he said.
Rafferty also praised the Archdiocese for its handling of the Maguire case. “I am pleased, and we as a parish are pleased, to hear that any allegation or charge of inappropriate behavior was vigorously investigated by the Archdiocese, and I’m glad that the victims found a responsive Archdiocese,” he said.
In its statement announcing Maguire’s dismissal, the Archdiocese highlighted its child protection efforts that have been put in place since the installation of Cardinal Sean O’Malley in 2003.
“The policies and practices of the Archdiocese include working with law enforcement agencies and community professionals to report and investigate instances of sexual abuse, annually screening approximately 60,000 clergy, employees and volunteers, and implementing effective prevention training programs. In addition, through the Office of Pastoral Support and Outreach, the Archdiocese continues to reach out to those who have been harmed by the tragic reality of clergy sexual abuse in order to provide pastoral help and counseling services to survivors and their families.”
For more information on the Boston Archdiocese’s ongoing efforts to protect abuse victims, visit the Child Protection tab at www.bostoncatholic.org.