Man Wants His Agreement with Church Overturned

By Nancy Meersman
Union Leader (Manchester NH)
June 13, 2002

A 22-year-old Manchester man who alleges the Rev. Francis Talbot sexually abused him regularly for eight years has gone to court to overturn a confidential document he signed a year and a half ago releasing the church from liability for what he alleges was done to him as a child.

Cody Goodwin, 122 Wilson St., was suicidal, as well as heavily medicated and abusing illegal drugs and alcohol when he unknowingly signed his legal rights away, his lawyer Charles G. Douglas III contends.

Douglas has petitioned Hillsborough County Superior Court to rescind the agreement between Goodwin and the Roman Catholic bishop of Manchester, saying Goodwin's mental state prevented him from realizing what he was signing.

Douglas said he could not disclose the contents of the agreement. But he said Goodwin, who had no lawyer, thought the church had him sign in order to get counseling for him.

The agreement could stand in the way of Goodwin's lawsuit against Talbot and the church that he filed in April. But Douglas said he was optimistic about the chances of having it dissolved.

"Given the mental state of Cody Goodwin at the time he signed it and based on court rulings . . . there is no way he was competent to understand that he was forever giving up his legal rights, rather than getting money for counseling," Douglas said.

Goodwin's alleged abuser, Francis Talbot, was on the list released by Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack in February identifying priests whose ministries had been revoked after complaints of sexual misconduct had been made against them.

No one from the diocese was available to comment yesterday. Talbot did not return a telephone call.

Two other New Hampshire men who have filed lawsuits against the church are accusing Talbot of sexually abusing them when they were teenagers living at the State Industrial School.

Goodwin, who came to know Talbot through a relative, alleges the priest abused him hundreds of times, from the time he was 9 until he was 15 and big enough to fight off the assaults.

Goodwin began doing odd jobs for Talbot every Monday for years and every Monday, he alleges, he was sexually assaulted.

According to court papers, Goodwin had been able to put the horrific memories in the back of his mind until, by chance, he ran into Talbot at a store parking lot and "Talbot offered to now pay Cody for sex."

After the encounter, Goodwin went into a tailspin. According to court filings, he began drinking and consuming drugs, and had to be hospitalized at the Manchester Mental Health Cyprus Center, where he attempted suicide.

Later, court papers say, at the Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, where he signed himself voluntarily into a psychiatric ward, he tried to hang himself.

After the suicide attempt, Goodwin was committed to the New Hampshire Hospital. There, according to his petition, he disclosed for the first time to a counselor at the state hospital that he had allegedly been abused by the priest. Another suicide attempt occurred in January 2001, the court papers say.

Douglas contends that when Goodwin signed the agreement with the church on Dec. 5, 2000, he was taking heavy doses of prescribed medications "which caused him to be disoriented, confused, and interfered with his memory and cognitive abilities."

The petition says it wasn't unusual for Goodwin to drink eight to 10 drinks of hard alcohol a day, and to also smoke heroin-laced marijuana and/or cocaine daily. "In addition," it says, "Cody would crush and snort as many as 12 Percocet pills per day."

The petition says:

"As a result of his mental illnesses and heavy medications, coupled with his excessive use of illegal drugs and alcohol, Cody was in no condition to be transacting business like the release of his rights.

"His limited understanding of the business conducted was that the church was giving him money for the counseling and prescriptions that he desperately needed."


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