Accused Priest Put on Leave
St. Francis Xavier Parishioners Feel 'Disheartened'

By Mark Fontecchio
Patriot Ledger
January 25, 2005

The Patriot Ledger The St. Francis Xavier Church pastor who allegedly sexually abused a boy in the 1970s has been placed on administrative leave.

The Rev. Eugene P. Sullivan, 68, voluntarily stepped down from the post shortly after the allegation became public earlier this month. But the archdiocese, in a statement, said the priest was officially placed on leave last week, as recommended by a review board.

The statement says the board's recommendation and the archbishop's acceptance of it show "their commitment to the safety of all parties" and do not indicate the Rev. Sullivan's guilt or innocence "as it pertains to this allegation."

Under archdiocesan rules, a priest is put on administrative leave when a credible abuse allegation is made.

The Rev. Robert Murray will take the Rev. Sullivan's place while the archdiocese conducts an investigation and a civil lawsuit is settled or completed.

Another priest at St. Francis Xavier was accused of sexual misconduct in August. The archdiocese removed the Rev. Charles J. Murphy, 70, from the parish after he was named in a sex-abuse suit brought by former students at the Boston School for the Deaf in Randolph.

The allegations against the Rev. Sullivan and the Rev. Murphy have hit the church hard, according to Rick O'Neil, a St. Francis Xavier parishioner for more than 20 years.

"I think there's a lot of sadness," he said. "There has been a lot of support for Father Sullivan and Father Murphy, two priests who have been at the core of the parish for years. It has been disheartening to see some strangers on the altar, quite frankly."

The Rev. Sullivan, former superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, has been accused of fondling a 15-year-old boy in his car in 1977.

He denies the allegation, which is part of a lawsuit filed in Suffolk Superior Court. The Rev. Sullivan and his lawyer say the victim could be confusing him with another priest, the Rev. Eugene M. O'Sullivan.

The Rev. O'Sullivan pleaded guilty in 1984 to raping an altar boy in Arlington. He was accused of molesting a number of boys and teenagers on the South Shore, including his nephew in Quincy and a Marshfield boy in 1964.

Mitchell Garabedian, the accuser's lawyer, maintains that the suit identifies the correct man. His client also alleges that two former Brighton parish priests, including one named previously in suits and archdiocese records, also molested him when he was 15.

The now-42-year-old man accusing the Rev. Sullivan is seeking unspecified damages for emotional distress and expenses for lost earning capacity and therapeutic treatment. The Patriot Ledger is not naming the man, a construction worker living in Boston, because he is an alleged sex-abuse victim.

The man said he never told anyone about the molestation until about 10 months ago, when he called Garabedian, who has successfully represented many victims of sexual abuse by priests.

O'Neil said the Rev. Sullivan has been committed to the church and supportive of the St. Francis Xavier Elementary School. He also said the Rev. Sullivan was an enjoyable homilist and could help parishioners apply the Bible to their everyday lives.

Although he said many people have been victimized by the church and its priests in recent decades, O'Neil thinks the Rev. Sullivan is not an offender.

"I frankly don't believe that Father Sullivan is capable of that sort of behavior, and I hope the process takes its course and the truth ultimately surfaces," O'Neil said.


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