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Spotlight Report

Abuse alleged at Xaverian in 1970s

By Stephen Kurkjian, Globe Staff, 3/6/2002

The Roman Catholic order that runs Xaverian High School in Westwood prides itself on its decade-long policy of being sensitive and alert to any sign of sexual abuse of students.

Declan Buckley wishes such a policy had been in place in the early 1970s when he sought to alert administrators to the activities of the Rev. Richard O. Matte, the school's chaplain, who Buckley alleged had been abusing one of his friends during confessions.

Instead, after Matte denied any wrongdoing and accused Buckley's friend of being a ''pathological liar,'' Buckley was susended from Xaverian for several days for spreading rumors about Matte.

Nothing, meanwhile, happened to Matte. After spending several more years as Xaverian's chaplain, he was assigned by the Archdiocese of Boston to serve as a priest at churches in Malden, Pepperell, and Lowell. Yet, during those years, he abused at least six other boys, according to court documents and settlement agreements between the archdiocese and the victims.

''If the Xaverian Brothers had taken it seriously when it was first alleged, there is a significant chance that someone who used a confessional to molest children would have been removed before he was able to harm again,'' said attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr. MacLeish has represented several of those allegedly abused by Matte, including Buckley's friend who has asked MacLeish to file suit against Matte and the archdiocese on his behalf.

Brother William Drinan, headmaster at Xaverian whom Buckley says he spoke to about Matte's activities, is now retired and living at St. John's Preparatory School in Danvers. He did not return phone calls yesterday and Monday.

Matte, now retired and living in South Dennis, also did not return phone calls yesterday. He was removed as an active priest by the archdiocese in 1993 after MacLeish first filed suit against him.

William Comer Jr., 42, of Pembroke, one of six men who have brought complaints against Matte and received settlements, said he was a sophomore at Xaverian in 1976 when he sought out Matte for advice on how to deal with his relationship with a girl. ''I was a confused adolescent, and he took advantage of me,'' Comer said. ''Without getting into the details of what happened, for a very, very long time it left me feeling, ashamed, embarrassed and complicit.''

In 1978, the archdiocese transferred Matte from Xaverian to St. Joseph's Church in Pepperell where his duties included supervision of the youth ministry. According to a 1994 lawsuit filed against him and the archdiocese in Suffolk Superior Court, Matte set up a scheme to molest one 13-year-old boy who was a member of the church's youth ministry group.

Matte told all the other participants in the program that their Sunday evening meeting had been canceled. When the 13-year-old arrived at the church, Matte took him into the rectory where he accosted and raped him in his bedroom, the lawsuit alleged. ''Matte then instructed [the victim] that he had done nothing wrong and that if [the victim] told anyone he would go straight to hell,'' according to the complaint.

The Rogers law firm, which represented both Matte and the archdiocese, settled the case out of court for an undetermined sum.

Brother Daniel E. Skala, current headmaster at Xaverian, said the Xaverian order was not named in any of the complaints because Matte was on loan to the school from the archdiocese.

''I am sorry to hear that abuse of any nature took place here,'' Skala said, ''because we pride ourselves in being alert and sensitive to any allegation of sexual abuse.''

Michael Paulson of the Globe Staff contributed to this article.S tephen Kurkjian can be reached at kurkjian@globe.com

This story ran on page B5 of the Boston Globe on 3/6/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.


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