Clergy abuse conviction shows more needs to be down by church, lawyer

By Erin Tiernan
January 6, 2020

JANUARY 6: Anthony Sgherza, who was abused from the age of 10 to 13 by Catholic priest Father Randal Gillette, speaks out along side attorney Mitchell Garabedian during a press conference on January 6, 2020 in Boston, MA.
Photo by Nancy Lane

The sentencing last week of a still-ordained priest who admitted to abusing children while he served in Brighton shows church leaders have taken “no substantive action” to stop abuse, said sex abuse lawyer Mitchell Garabedian.

“Bishops have spoken. Cardinals have spoken. Cardinal (Sean) O’Malley has spoken. They’ve all said words but taken no substantive action. It’s time to take action,” Garabedian said Monday.

The Rev. James R. Gillette pleaded guilty to two counts of unnatural acts with a child under the age of 16 in Suffolk Superior Court on Jan. 2 in a plea deal with prosecutors. The charges stemmed from abuse that occurred between 1972-1975.

Judge Beverly J. Cannone sentenced him to five years of probation with GPS monitoring, ordered him to register as a sex offender and complete a sex offender treatment program.

Standing beside Garabedian at a press conference on Monday was Anthony Sgherza, who said he was an altar boy at a New Jersey church from age 10 to 13 when Gillette abused him in the early 1970s.

Gillette transferred to St. Gabriel’s in Brighton in 1975 where he tricked Sgherza into visiting to attend a Boston Red Sox game and again abused the boy, Garabedian said.

Sgherza said he “carried the shame of being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse” for decades.

“My world had to come collapsing down in order for me to come forward,” he said, noting he hopes his journey can “be part of the solution” to help other survivors of childhood sexual abuse by priests.

Garabedian said Gillette started abusing boys in 1971 — the year he was ordained as a priest.

“In typical fashion this pedophile priest Fr. James Randall Gillette was shuffled from town to town, from city to city to city and then country to country. The blueprint is there. He was allowed to have free access to children,” Garabedian said.

Gillette is still an ordained priest. Records show he has not been assigned to a church since 1999 and has lived at Catholic residences.

Garabedian condemned O’Malley, head of the Boston Archdiocese.

“It’s time for Cardinal O’Malley to step forward and back his words up with action,” Garabedian said. “The Catholic Church does not want to self-police and is not capable of self-policing.”

Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston, called Garabedian’s harsh words for O’Malley “disingenuous.”

“It is well-known that Cardinal Sean has been an agent for change and been a leader in responding to the clergy sexual abuse crisis,” Donilon said, detailing eight initiatives and pastoral support programs created over the last 16 years.


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