Central Catholic Responds to 1960s Sex Abuse Allegation

By Jill Harmacinski
The Eagle-Tribune
May 3, 2017

A spokesman for Central Catholic High School said a former student who recently made allegations of sexual abuse in the 1960s will be treated in the same "totally transparent" manner as others before him.

The statement released by the school on Tuesday was in response to a demonstration on the sidewalk across the street from the 300 Hampshire St. school late Monday.

Dr. Robert Hoatson, from the international sex abuse survivors group Road to Recovery, told reporters about new information and allegations regarding the sexual abuse of a boy by a priest at St. Patrick’s Church in Lawrence and four members of a Catholic order of brothers who worked at Central Catholic High School in the 1960s.

The man named the Rev. Paul Rynne, who died in 2001 after facing other sexual abuse allegations, and Marist Brothers who taught and worked at the school.

The new details emerged at a particularly tumultuous time for Central Catholic. Last week, administrator Andrew Nikonchuk, 36, was fired from Central Catholic for failing to maintain "appropriate social boundaries" between faculty and student. Later, the school said a former student claimed he was drugged and raped by Nikonchuk in 2006.

Those allegations remain under investigation by the Middlesex district attorney's office.

Central Catholic, in the statement released Tuesday, said they learned of the allegations dating back to the 1960s through a "media story." The statement notes the individual "has been identified only as 'John Doe' concerning claims of the abuse by Marist Brothers at the school in the 1960s."

"The School had not received prior information concerning these specific allegations and urges this individual or his attorney to contact the School to provide additional information so it can investigate this matter and attempt to assist this individual," according to the statement, released by Central spokesperson David DeFillippo.

He added: "In 2002, Central Catholic had reached out to members of the general public who believed they had been harmed by Marist Brothers, offered to pay for counseling for victims, and set up a toll-free telephone help line staffed by a professional counselor for reporting allegations."

"Unlike other institutions at the time, Central Catholic was totally transparent, accepted responsibility and dealt with each case frankly and honestly. We certainly intend to treat 'John Doe' in the same fashion," the statement concluded.

The alleged victim, who is now in his 60s and still a Merrimack Valley resident, is working with Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who said he has represented thousands of sexual abuse victims.

In a phone interview Monday, Garabedian said when the man was a senior at Central Catholic, he told the school principal that he was abused by one of the brothers, who was his algebra teacher. The principal removed the teen from the algebra class but never reported the sexual abuse, he said.

He said the man contacted him after recently seeing the movie “Spotlight,” about a team of Boston Globe reporters who exposed the priest sexual abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston.

Hoatson, during Monday's demonstration, said he had received phone calls from other sexual abuse survivors living in the Merrimack Valley as well as Central alumni after Nikonchuk's firing.

In a Facebook post last week, the alleged victim wrote the assault occurred when he was 15 at a beer and “weed” party at Nikonchuk’s home.

He wrote that Nikonchuk first tried to get him to sleep in his bed with him. When he refused and moved to a couch, he said Nikonchuk gave him a drink of Powerade. He took two sips and blacked out. The next morning, he wrote that he was sore and had difficulty walking.

Nikonchuk, a 1998 graduate of Central Catholic, was the director of curriculum and instruction at the school. He also served as the academic adviser to the student athletes on the hockey team.

Central Catholic President Christopher Sullivan initially said Nikonchuk was fired abruptly for a violation of the “school’s policies pertaining to appropriate school boundaries between students and faculty.”

Then on Thursday, DeFillippo confirmed that on April 20, a graduate from the Class of 2008 said he may have been drugged and raped by Nikonchuk in 2006.

The Middlesex district attorney’s confirmed they are looking into the matter but would not comment on the ongoing investigation.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.









Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.