Group Weighs Whether Priest in Abuse Case Should Continue in Post

By Jared Stearns
Boston Globe
May 17, 2004

Officials of the Archdiocesan Union of Holy Name Societies in Boston will meet tonight to decide whether a Somerville priest who stepped down from his duties pending an investigation of a sexual abuse allegation will continue as the fraternal organization's spiritual moderator.

The recent allegation contends that the Rev. John E. McLaughlin, pastor at St. Benedict Church, was involved in sexual misconduct with a minor nearly 20 years ago, said the Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, spokesman for the Boston Archdiocese.

"Just recently it was brought to our attention," he said. "He took a voluntary leave of absence" on Saturday.

McLaughlin was also named in a 2002 lawsuit that alleged he sexually abused two men on two occasions. No action was taken to remove McLaughlin from his position at that time, Coyne said, because the archdiocese handles allegations of sexual abuse of adults differently from allegations involving minors.

Carmen L. Durso, the lawyer who represented the two men who accused McLaughlin of sexually assaulting them, said it's "nonsense" that the archdiocese did not remove McLaughlin from his position when the first allegations surfaced.

"The business about whether they were adults is arguably relevant if you're talking about something that might be characterized as a consensual relationship between adults," he said. "This was not a consensual relationship. There was an assault by a priest. This is nonsense that they didn't take any action."

The 2002 lawsuit was addressed in the $85 million settlement between the Archdiocese of Boston and more than 500 alleged victims of abuse.

The Holy Name Society, founded more than 700 years ago to aid the poor and afflicted, is directed by the archdiocese with groupings at various parishes, Coyne said. As spiritual moderator, McLaughlin serves as the appointed chaplain for the organization, Coyne said.

"More or less his task is to coordinate various activities of the Holy Name Society," he said.

Robert Quagan, vice president of the local chapter of the society, said that the members will meet with a bishop and other religious leaders tonight at St. Benedict to decide what will happen to McLaughlin as a member of the society.

"We're sort of scratching our heads as to what happens next," he said. "It comes as a real shock to me. He's very selfless. I'd be floored if this were true."


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