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Spotlight Report

16 priests named for first time in sexual abuse lawsuits

At least three still active; total of accused at 130

By Michael Rezendes and Matt Carroll, Globe Staff, 1/30/2003

The number of priests in the Boston Archdiocese accused of sexually molesting children grew to 130 yesterday, with the filing of a rash of new lawsuits that name 16 priests as molesters for the first time.

The new lawsuits, filed on behalf of 70 new alleged victims, include charges of rape, attempted rape, and fondling of minors against 40 priests and a former church worker who is believed to be a deacon. At least three of the 40 priests are in active ministry.

Also named as defendants in some of the suits are two former auxiliary bishops in Boston, Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin of the Hartford archdiocese and Bishop Daniel A. Hart of the Norwich, Conn., diocese.

They bring to eight the number of bishops, including Cardinal Bernard F. Law, who have been accused of negligence while they supervised the abusive priests.

Law resigned Dec. 13, but the seven other bishops all head their own dioceses.

Of the 16 newly accused priests, at least three are diocesan priests in active ministry, according to church records, and one is retired. At least 10 of the other 12 are believed to be dead, according to attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who filed the lawsuits.

''It's another situation where there is sadness, senselessness, and shock,'' said Garabedian.

Garabedian said many of the 70 alleged victims are similar to the men and women he represented who were abused by defrocked pedophile priest John J. Geoghan.

''The scenario hasn't changed,'' Garabedian said. ''They were vulnerable children from basically fatherless homes where the mothers were overwhelmed and relying on the priests for help.''

He added: ''The church has to be held accountable for what it's doing.''

In the new lawsuits, 23 of the alleged victims say they were raped, 26 say they were fondled, and one says he is the victim of an attempted rape. In addition, some of the alleged victims say they were raped or molested by more than one priest and were shown child pornography.

The 70 alleged victims are among the estimated 500 individuals who have filed claim letters or lawsuits over the last year.

The three active priests accused of abuse in the lawsuits are the Rev. Edward F. Sherry, the 60-year-old pastor at Nativity Church in Merrimac; the Rev. Edward M. Keohan, 71, who until recently was the administrator at the now-closed St. Mary's Church in Salem; and the Rev. Edmund P. Charest, 71. Charest is assigned to the archdiocese's emergency response team, a pool of priests who fill in at parishes while pastors are away.

The Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, an archdiocesan spokesman, said church officials received the names of the active priests only yesterday and will not place any of them on leave until there is an investigation to determine whether the allegations are credible.

According to the lawsuits, Sherry allegedly fondled and raped an Easton man for several years, beginning about 1968, when the man was between 13 and 16 years old. The abuse allegedly occurred at St. Joseph's parish in Malden.

Keohan allegedly fondled a teenage boy from about 1981 to about 1983, when the alleged victim was about 13 to 15 years old and a parishioner at St. Rose of Lima parish in Chelsea.

And Charest is accused of repeatedly molesting a teenage boy when Charest was assigned to Our Lady of Grace parish in Chelsea, in about 1971, when the accuser was about 15 years old.

Charest, Keohan, and Sherry could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The Rev. John H. Flynn, who is 77 and retired, is accused of molesting a Natick woman in 1978 when the woman was 6 years old and Flynn was working at St. Paul Church in Wellesley.

''I never did a thing like that in my life,'' Flynn said in a telephone interview.

''I don't know who this woman is, I have no idea what she looks like, and I am certainly not anxious to meet her.''

Among the 12 other priests, at least 10 have died, according to Garabedian and church directories: the Revs. Eugene Bailot, Leon Beauvais, Guido Caverzan, Edmund Croke, John Dewire, Frank Fairbairn, Louis Govoni, Charles Loeffler, Robert Ryer, and Paul Rynne.

The other two priests named are the Revs. Barry Bossa and John Dunn. Their status could not be determined last night.

The remaining 24 priests named in yesterday's lawsuits have been previously accused publicly.

In addition to the 130 priests who have been publically named, six Catholic brothers have also been accused of sexually abusing minors. The overwhelming majority of the accusations stem from incidients that allegedely happened in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s.

So far, just one priest, Monsignor Michael Smith Foster, has been exonerated by the church.

The archdiocese, however, has cleared, and is preparing to reinstate, two other priests who were placed on leave last year when they each faced single acccusations.

As a matter of policy, the Globe does not identify alleged victims of sexual abuse without their consent.

At a news conference, Garabedian belittled a request by the archdiocese that he and other plaintiff lawyers agree to a a moratorium on the legal cases so a so-called global financial settlement with all the alleged victims can be negotiated.

''They don't care about the victims, they only care about themselves,'' Garabedian said. ''They're in survival mode right now.''

Garabedian also characterized as ''sour grapes'' comments made Tuesday by J. Owen Todd, Law's personal attorney, in which Todd accused Superior Court Judge Constance M. Sweeney of issuing prejudical written and oral remarks about the cardinal.

''He's just trying to put a positive spin on an unfavorable situation,'' Garabedian said.

Sacha Pfeiffer and Walter V. Robinson of the Globe Staff contributed to this story. Michael Rezendes can be reached at rezendes@globe.com. Sacha Pfeiffer can be reached pfeiffer@globe.com. Walter V. Robinson can be reached at wrobinson@globe.com.

This story ran on page B6 of the Boston Globe on 1/30/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


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