Removed Somerville Priest Had Previous Complaints

By Robin Washington
Boston Herald
May 17, 2004

A Somerville priest removed from ministry Saturday for alleged child molestation two decades ago was allowed to serve despite two previous sexual misconduct complaints against him.

The Rev.

John E. McLaughlin, pastor of St. Benedict's parish, accepted a voluntary leave following the new charge, which an Archdiocese of Boston statement said was "reported for the first time."

But two years ago, a Lynn man in his 40s told the Herald he was sexually assaulted by McLaughlin in June 2001. A second man leveled similar charges and both claims were part of last year's $85 million global settlement, in which neither the church nor any priest admitted responsibility.

"They involved allegations from adults," archdiocese spokesman the Rev. Christopher Coyne said, explaining why McLaughlin had not been removed. "(The new allegation) was involving someone under the age of 18 at the time. That's the difference."

The Lynn man, an El Salvador native, said he was kissed and groped after seeking counseling from the Spanish-speaking priest.

"It was very hard to stop him because he was a priest, a representative of God," the man said in September 2002, describing three attempts to get the priest off him.

The second man said McLaughlin groped him at his son's christening.

Coyne said he did not know if other priests for whom the church had paid out claims remain in service. But Carmen Durso, the lawyer for the two adult accusers, said the victims' age should not have been a factor.

"We're talking about a situation where they were physically assaulted," he said.


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