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October 25
Victims could now collect

October 2
Geoghan's sister hits guards

October 1
Geoghan's sister to speak

September 27
Conviction erasure protested
Druce is hospitalized again
Guard ad seeks understanding

September 24
Inquiry: Druce beaten as child

September 20
Druce pleads not guilty in slay
Geoghan claims guard assault

September 14
Report says Druce in a rage

September 13
Letter: Druce abused as a boy

September 12
Geoghan bore guards' abuse
Lawyer: Mail deluges accused

September 11
Expanded panel is sought

September 8
Druce is returned from hospital

September 5
Geoghan consultant ties eyed

September 4
Conflict raised on consultant

September 3
Bias concerns raised in probe

September 2
No new panel members seen

August 31
Geoghan panel to expand

Earlier stories

Spotlight Report

Spotlight Report   FOLLOW-UP

Doctors who OK'd Geoghan lacked expertise, review shows

By Michael Rezendes and Matt Carroll, Globe Staff, 1/16/2002

Last week, Cardinal Bernard F. Law said it was ''tragically incorrect'' for him to assign a known pedophile, John J. Geoghan, to a new parish in 1984. But Law said the decision was based on ''psychiatric assessments and medical opinions that such assignments were safe and reasonable.''

Yet Dr. Robert W. Mullins, one of the two doctors who declared Geoghan to be ''fully recovered'' in 1984, was a general practitioner who acknowledged yesterday that he has no credentials in psychotherapy or psychiatry.

The other doctor, who saw Geoghan as a patient in 1980 and wrote evaluations of Geoghan in 1984 and 1989, is a psychiatrist, but Dr. John H. Brennan had no background in treating sexual offenders, according to records kept by the state.

In addition, in 1977, before Brennan's 1980 treatment of Geoghan, Brennan was charged in a civil lawsuit with sexually molesting one of his patients. Brennan settled the lawsuit later in 1980; the woman who filed it received $100,000.

Donna M. Morrissey, a spokeswoman for the Boston Archdiocese, said she would not respond to questions about the two doctors because the matter is in litigation.

A review of public court records shows that Mullins, now retired, and Brennan were the two local doctors whose opinions were cited by the Archdiocese of Boston before it allowed Geoghan to continue as a parish priest.

During assignments to parishes in Dorchester and Weston in the 1980s and early 1990s, Geoghan continued to sexually abuse children, according to allegations in some of the 90 pending sexual molestation lawsuits filed against him. In the 25 cases in which Law is a defendant, the cardinal's decision-making will be a critical factor in determining whether he and other church officials are liable for Geoghan's acts.

A.W. Richard Sipe, a former priest and psychotherapist who has written extensively on clergy sex abuse, said an evaluation of a pedophile by a general practitioner should not have been used by the church in deciding whether to allow Geoghan to return to parish work.

''That absolutely does not count. It's no better than something coming from a woman in a pew who says her rosary every day,'' Sipe said.

David Finkelhor, a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire and author of four books on the sexual abuse of children, said he found the church's reliance on doctors without a specific expertise in sexual abuse astonishing.

''Nobody with training or experience working with sex offenders would give that kind of blanket assurance, even in the 1980s,'' Finkelhor said. ''It was well-known by then that sex offenders were highly likely to repeat the behavior.''

When Law first acknowledged last summer that he knew of Geoghan's abusive past when he reassigned him to St. Julia's in Weston in 1984, the cardinal's lawyer defended the decision.

Writing in the archdiocesan newspaper, the Pilot, Wilson D. Rogers Jr. said, ''Each assignment of John Geoghan, subsequent to the first complaint of sexual misconduct, was incident to an independent medical evaluation advising that such assignment was appropriate and safe.''

On the surface, church documents the Globe obtained from a public court file appear to support Rogers's assertion. For example, in 1980 - after Geoghan admitted molesting seven boys in one extended family in Jamaica Plain - a church chronology declares that Geoghan ''saw Dr. Brennan for psychoanalysis; Dr. Mullins for psychotherapy.''

But the Globe's review of the two doctors' credentials revealed that Mullins was for years a family physician - a general practitioner - with a practice on Corey Street in West Roxbury. He lives on Celia Road, within four blocks of Geoghan's home on Pelton Street.

In a brief interview yesterday, Mullins, 75, confirmed he had practiced general medicine and said he had no background in psychotherapy. He refused to answer any other questions.

The church's chronology of Geoghan's treatment from 1980 to 1994 shows psychiatrist Brennan joining Mullins in providing a favorable evaluation in 1984, declaring, ''No psychiatric contraindications or restrictions to his work as a parish priest.''

In 1989, after Geoghan - with Law's knowledge - was hospitalized again after more victims complained, the archdiocese again turned to Brennan, whose evaluation was almost identical to his 1984 opinion: ''no psychiatric contraindication to Fr. Geoghan's pastoral work at this time.''

Brennan did not return calls from the Globe. One of his attorneys, Tory A. Weigand, said he could not comment on the issue. And Morrissey, the church spokeswoman, would not respond to a request for a list of Brennan's qualifications. But a state agency evaluating a second case of alleged sexual misconduct against Brennan in the early 1990s said his specialties were ''psychopharmacology with supportive therapy'' and electric shock treatments.

The agency also said ''Brennan's major interests have been in treating substance abuse [alcohol or drug] patients, and patients with major psychoses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and dual diagnoses.''

The second accusation of sexual misconduct with a female patient, made in a civil suit filed in 1992, was heard by a Suffolk County jury that found no liability against Brennan. An appeal of the case is pending.

Finkelhor, the specialist in studying child sexual abuse, said it is crucial that accused pedophiles be evaluated by experienced practitioners because those who habitually molest children are typically intelligent conversationalists.

''[Child abusers] sound like capable, competent people who can deal with their problems, when in fact they cannot. ... That is one reason it is so dangerous to have them treated by nonspecialists,'' said Finkelhor, the director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at UNH.

Sipe, for his part, also wondered whether Mullins and Brennan had the objectivity to provide the independent evaluations that Rogers cited in his letter to The Pilot. ''The danger is you're getting a rubber stamp, a good Roman Catholic who thinks that all priests are good,'' Sipe said.

In fact, at the time Brennan treated Geoghan in 1980, Brennan was connected to the church in at least two ways: He was director of psychiatric education at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Brighton, a Catholic-affiliated institution; and he routinely accepted patient referrals from a priest well-known as a psychologist in the Boston area.

In an affidavit filed by Brennan in one of the sexual misconduct cases filed against him, Brennan said that the woman who accused him in 1977 of molesting her was referred to him by the late Rev. Fulgence Buonanno. Buonanno, Brennan said, was a priest and psychologist at St. Anthony's Shrine in downtown Boston.

When told of Brennan's affiliations with the church and Buonanno, Sipe said, ''That is not an objective opinion. It is coming from someone getting referrals and making a living at least in part from the archdiocese.''

Among the written questions that Morrissey would not answer was whether Law or other church officials knew about the 1977 sexual misconduct suit against Brennan or the $100,000 settlement.

''We are unavailable to respond to your specific questions at this time, as it would be inappropriate due to pending litigation,'' she wrote in a statement faxed to the Globe.

Mitchell Garabedian, the attorney handling the 25 lawsuits that name Law as a defendant, would not comment on the specific credentials of Mullins and Brennan but said, ''It is the plaintiffs' position that the cardinal did not act reasonably given what he knew at the time.''

The woman who filed the 1977 lawsuit also brought a formal complaint againt Brennan at the state Board of Registration in Medicine. The board took no action at the time. In 1989, almost a decade after the lawsuit was settled, the board dismissed the complaint. But in its written decision, board chairman Dr. Andrew G. Bodnar wrote that ''were there not a substantial lapse of time,'' the board might have reopened the case ''for further explanation and/or a further evidentiary hearing on the psychiatric issues.''

The second sexual molestation lawsuit against Brennan was filed in 1992 by Jean Palermo, another former patient who accused Brennan of sexually molesting her numerous times in the late 1970s.

Palermo's pending appeal is based on her claim that the presiding judge in her case did not allow testimony from the woman who filed the earlier lawsuit.

In a separate action, Palermo accused Brennan of sexually molesting her, in a complaint to the state Board of Registration in Medicine. The complaint was dismissed.

Brennan, both at trial and in the hearings, denied he ever had sex with Palermo or the woman who filed the 1977 lawsuit.


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