The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church

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NEGLIGENCE CLAIM

Judge defends staying on priest case

By Farah Stockman, Globe Staff, 5/4/2002

A Suffolk Superior Court judge presiding over a negligence lawsuit against the Boston Archdiocese and against the priest who supervised convicted pedophile Christopher Reardon has defended his decision to remain on the case, even though he attended seminary with the priest in the mid-1960s.

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In a footnote to a ruling issued yesterday, Superior Court Judge Thomas E. Connolly wrote that he has repeatedly told both sides that he attended St. John's Seminary with the principal defendant, the Rev. Jon C. Martin, and that neither side has objected to his supervision of the case.

''Father Martin was not a friend of this judge and was one of 350 students there at that time,'' the judge wrote. ''This Judge has not talked with, communicated with, or seen Father Martin in 37 years.''

Connolly has been criticized for not recusing himself from trying the lawsuit against Martin and the Archdiocese of Boston brought by victims of Christopher Reardon, a church worker and swim coach who is serving up to 50 years in prison. Martin was Reardon's supervisor at St. Agnes Parish in Middleton when Reardon, a lay youth minister, committed sexual crimes involving 24 boys. Reardon pleaded guilty and was sent to prison last year.

At a hearing in the civil case last week, Connolly vigorously criticized a watershed ruling by his colleague, Superior Court Judge Constance M. Sweeney, that made public church documents relating to its handling of pedophile priests. The records sparked public outrage and plunged the church into its current crisis. During that hearing, Connolly ruled that Martin's lawyer does not have to produce some of Martin's psychiatric records from St. Luke's Institute, a Maryland treatment center for priests suffering from sexual disorders.

Connolly also ordered that three one-page documents regarding Martin's psychiatric treatment be handed over to Jeffrey A. Newman, the victim's lawyer, but ruled that the documents must remain confidential unless they are deemed admissible at the time of trial.

In a ruling issued yesterday, Connolly wrote that because Martin is accused of negligence, not sex abuse, the release of Martin's psychiatric documents to the public would ''be a significant infringement on his right to privacy.''

''This is not a case alleging any improper sexual abuse by Father Martin,'' Connolly wrote. ''It is a straight negligent supervision claim.''

This story ran on page A11 of the Boston Globe on 5/4/2002.
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