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Spotlight Report

REACTION

Alleged victims relieved, skeptical

By Corey Dade, Globe Staff, 1/10/2002

T he memory of facing a naked and leering John J. Geoghan in the locker room of the Waltham Boys & Girls Club, says Mark Keane, keeps him from forgiving the Catholic Church.

So even though Cardinal Bernard F. Law expressed profound sorrow yesterday for sending the accused pedophile back to parish ministry, Keane was unmoved.

Law's apology to the victims, his expressed remorse - even his new zero tolerance policy on abuse by priests - fell weakly against a realization that, Keane says, took him years to come to terms with: Geoghan had his eye on him before they ever met.

''He knew my name. He knew where I lived. He knew I didn't have a dad. He was probing somebody about me,'' said Keane, 32, one of numerous alleged victims suing the defrocked priest, Law, and the Archdiocese of Boston.

Many who say they were molested by Geoghan as children reacted to Law's apology with little more than relief, discouraged that the church hadn't acted sooner, since new accusations about Geoghan followed him from parish to parish.

While applauding a stricter policy for handling sexual abuse allegations involving minors, several of Geoghan's alleged victims noted that the measures were announced days before Geoghan's first criminal trial for sexual molestation. The former priest also faces nearly 90 civil suits, many of which also name the archdiocese as defendant.

Law ''was forced to make this press conference,'' said Keane, who says he was molested by Geoghan at the Waltham club in the mid-1980s. ''He's now exposed. He can't hide from the mistakes he has made. I hope he feels guilty about it.''

Under Law's new policy, all clergy members and archdiocesan volunteers must report allegations of abuse against children to law enforcement authorities - something not required by state law.

Advocates said the guidelines are a starting point, but they question the effectiveness of a measure that ignores sexual abuse complaints made before yesterday.

''What about all the cases he has heard about in the last 10 years? It's got to include past information as well as what comes forward in the future,'' said Phil Saviano, 49, who heads the New England chapter of the Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests.

Most of Geoghan's alleged victims are now grown men who say they didn't confront the devastating psychological and emotional damage until adulthood.

Coming forward about the abuse they experienced at the Blessed Sacrament parish in Saugus estranged John D. Sacco and his family from each other. In a lawsuit they filed in 1999, the Saccos allege that Geoghan molested the Saccos' five sons, including John, and a daughter over a period of 20 years.

Sacco, 47, has left his family's hometown and lives in Malden - and has not been a practicing Catholic since leaving the church as an altar boy, when, he says, Geoghan molested him.

''Who knows better about pedophilia than the Catholic Church?'' Sacco said. ''They've known more about this than anyone. They've just been used to covering it up.''

The abuse Joe Dulong, 47, allegedly suffered from Geoghan at the same parish did not turn him away from the church. Yet Dulong acknowledges that for years he believed the church, in not properly addressing Geoghan's behavior, made protecting its privacy more important than the welfare of its flock.

''Intuitively,'' Dulong said, ''the church should have known that it was a wrong and grievous act - a sin - and should not have been tolerated.''

Corey Dade can be reached at dade@globe.com.


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