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Victims could now collect

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Spotlight Report

Former Law aide was concerned about Geoghan's future, not past

By Kathleen Burge, Globe Staff, 2/5/2003

After learning that the Rev. John J. Geoghan had admitted molesting seven boys from the same family, a deputy to Cardinal Bernard F. Law said he was bothered more by what Geoghan might do than what he had done.

''I really did not give too much thought to what had gone on in the past as to what was going to happen in the future,'' Bishop Robert J. Banks said in a deposition given last June and released yesterday.

Banks has said that he believed Geoghan's case had been handled correctly by another church official, Bishop Thomas V. Daily -- the same official to whom Geoghan allegedly confessed molesting the boys.

Banks was questioned by attorneys for victims of Geoghan. In September, they settled 84 lawsuits filed against the Archdiocese of Boston for $10 million. Banks was questioned about his role in overseeing Geoghan, who is now serving a prison sentence for molesting a boy a decade ago.

Banks, who heads the Green Bay, Wis. diocese, became the vicar for administration under Law in 1984. Daily is now the bishop of the Brooklyn, N.Y. diocese.

Even though the victims of Geoghan settled their lawsuits before trial, Superior Court Judge Constance M. Sweeney ruled that the deposition should be released after news organizations requested access.

In his deposition, Banks repeated what he had told reporters in April 2002: that it was a mistake to return Geoghan to parish work. ''Well, obviously it was a mistake that we put him back . . . my original intention was to keep him out,'' he said.

Geoghan was suspended from active ministry in 1994 and later defrocked. In January 2002, he was convicted of molesting a boy in a public swimming pool and sentenced to a nine- to 10-year prison term.

''This [deposition] depicts another example of the church leaders protecting themselves and not healing the victims,'' said Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer for the Geoghan victims. ''It's not only unfortunate, it's senseless.''

Law has said he relied on subordinates to supervise Geoghan. But Banks noted a few times in his deposition that he had discussed Geoghan's problems with Law.

Banks says he first learned about accusations against Geoghan in December 1984 in a letter from Bishop John D'Arcy, who said that Geoghan had ''a history of homosexual involvement with young boys.'' Banks said he spoke to Law about the letter, but doesn't remember the details of the conversation.

Law has said in an earlier deposition that he had no memory of that letter, which questioned the decision to return Geoghan to parish work.

In May 1989, Banks said he received a letter from the St. Luke Institute in Maryland, where Geoghan was being treated, stating that Geoghan was a ''high risk'' for abusing children.

''Did you convey that to Cardinal Law, that there was a high risk with Father Geoghan?'' he was asked.

''I presume that I would share, that I did share that with Cardinal Law,'' Banks said.

Banks also said he conferred regularly with the Rev. John B. McCormack -- then a top aide to Law and now bishop of Manchester, N.H. -- about Geoghan.

The documents released yesterday also included a letter from Dr. Robert W. Mullins, who treated Geoghan. The Globe has reported that Mullins, a family physician without expertise in psychology or sexual disorders, was a neighbor of the Geoghan family in West Roxbury.

Mullins wrote to Banks in December 1984 about Geoghan's ''moral indiscretion'' and his ensuing depression. Mullins described Geoghan as a longtime friend and said he considered him ''fully recovered.''

But Mullins urged Banks to seek guidance from Geoghan's psychiatrist, saying he would ''hate to see the priesthood lose this talented man.''

Kathleen Burge can be reached at kburge@globe.com.

This story ran on page B4 of the Boston Globe on 2/5/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


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