January 7, 2004
Abuse bill would make supervisors liable
By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff, 1/29/2002
ngered by the conduct of church leaders who allowed a pedophile priest to work with children, a Catholic lawmaker is proposing legislation that would punish supervisors who knowingly expose children to child abusers.
Senator Marian Walsh, a Democrat from West Roxbury, yesterday filed legislation that she said was inspired by her own anger, as well as that of her constituents, over Cardinal Bernard F. Law's reassignment of former priest John J. Geoghan despite knowing that he was an accused child molester.
Geoghan, who has been convicted of one count of indecent assault, is alleged in civil suits to have molested more than 130 youngsters over three decades. Law has said that he was "in retrospect . . . tragically wrong" to reassign Geoghan, but that he did so in good faith based on medical advice.
"Our knowledge that educated, powerful, trusted adults placed a child abuser in a position to rape children obviously begs for our attention," Walsh said. "Every supervisor of Father Geoghan who had knowledge of his conduct is responsible, in part, for what happened to those children."
Walsh, a longtime advocate of tougher legislation to prevent and punish child abuse, is proposing to create a statute against the crime of reckless supervision. The legislation would make employers criminally liable if, knowing the employee posed a risk to children, that employee sexually exploits, assaults, kidnaps, or stalks a child. Violators could be sentenced to five years in prison.
"I am disappointed and I am concerned, and this behavior can not be ignored or sanctioned," Walsh said of the archdiocese's conduct in the Geoghan case. "They have been allowed to do this because of silence and because of secrecy and because of trust."
Walsh said she plans today to set about finding cosponsors for her legislation.
The lobbyist for the archdiocese could not immediately be reached for comment last night.
Michael Paulson can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story ran on page B4 of the Boston Globe on 1/29/2002.