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Spotlight Report

Church board dismissed accusations by females

By Thomas Farragher and Matt Carroll, Globe Staff, 2/7/2003

When a woman complained to the Archdiocese of Boston in 1994 that the Rev. Lionel P. Ouellette had molested her as a schoolgirl in Lynn, the church ruled he could keep his job.

When the Rev. Paul G. McPartland was accused by a woman, who said he had tried to sexually molest her in a car at Castle Island when she was 16, the church took no action.

Records made public yesterday detailing alleged sexual misconduct by six priests suggest that women who complained that they had been assaulted as girls often received dismissive treatment by a church review board.

''Victims, male and female, were discounted, but it was even more pronounced with respect to women,'' said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

Of the clergy sex abuse cases referred to prosecutors in Eastern Massachusetts, more than 90 percent involve male victims. And the most prominent Boston lawyers for alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse have said that about 95 percent of their clients are male. But some specialists have said that women are more reluctant to come forward, and that women abused as minors or adults may constitute a third or more of those abused by priests.

The batch of records made public yesterday is the first in a year of disclosures in which most of the allegations involved sexual misconduct by priests against women or girls. They were released by the church to lawyers representing alleged victims of the Rev. Paul R. Shanley.

Shanley's alleged abuses involve male victims, but the lawyers sought the documents as part of their effort to prove the church had a longstanding pattern of negligence in handling abuse cases.

In the case of Ouellette, Cardinal Bernard F. Law decided he could retain his ministry ''with your pastor being aware of the concerns that have been raised about you.'' Ouellette died in 2000.

With McPartland, the church immediately took his side after he denied the allegation. The priest said he was in the car with the woman in 1969, but ''never intended to attack her.''

The Rev. William F. Murphy, the archdiocesan investigator, wrote McPartland that the complaint grew out of a ''misunderstanding and misinterpretation of an event which took place many years ago. ... The important thing is to help [name redacted] deal with her trauma without implicating you in something you did not do.''

The church paid about $17,000 for the woman's therapy. And McPartland, who retired last year as pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Church in Halifax, was grateful.

''You couldn't have treated me better if I had been dealing with the Lord Himself,'' McPartland wrote Murphy.

The church also appears to have dealt gently with the Rev. Nicholas J. Spagnolo, who was accused in 1992 by a woman who said he made sexual remarks and touched her inappropriately starting in 1960 when she was 15.

The woman who complained about Spagnolo said she went to him for counseling after being molested by a relative. She said the priest asked her to sit on his lap, pushed up her skirt one time, and asked her to put her arms around his waist. Once, she said, the priest said she had ''little orgasms.''

The Rev. John B. McCormack, now bishop in Manchester, N.H., and then Law's chief aide in matters regarding sexual abuse, pronounced Spagnolo's conduct ''typical of misguided counseling techniques being used in the sixties,'' according to one church memo. The review board simply told Spagnolo that he should ''be involved in regular spiritual direction and professional supervision as a pastoral counselor.''

The review board also examined allegations against the Rev. Raymond P. Lambert, who in 1992 was accused of having consensual sex with a woman he was counseling and of inappropriately touching another woman he visited in a hospital when he was parochial vicar in Revere.

The archdiocese placed Lambert, who yesterday again denied the charges, on sick leave; one of the cases was settled for $75,000. The review board limited his ministry in 1993 to an order of cloistered nuns and ordered him to keep away from ''vulnerable women.'' But two years later, following major health problems, he was allowed to live in a rectory and celebrate Mass publicly.

Another priest whose file was released yesterday, the Rev. Gerard V. Dever, was accused of inappropriately touching schoolgirls while serving as a parochial vicar at St. Ann's in Quincy. Complaints were filed in 1993 and 1994, according to the review board, and church officials found other complaints in his file. The review board allowed him to continue in ministry, without restrictions, but encouraged him to continue therapy. He died in 1997. ''It's almost a free pass when it comes to women and young girls,'' said Roderick MacLeish Jr., a lawyer representing Shanley's alleged victims.

He said his office has received files on 135 priests accused of misconduct, but said he is not certain the archdiocese has produced all records on clergy sexual misconduct. He said he is ''preparing an appropriate legal response to this late production [of documents].''

One of the files released yesterday involves alleged abuse of a boy. The records show that church officials returned the Rev. Paul P. Rynne to ministry in Brockton 15 months after he was accused of making lewd advances to a teenage boy in 1986, when Rynne was pastor of St. Bonaventure Church in Manomet.

The April 1986 allegation forced Rynne's resignation from St. Bonaventure and his assessment at an inpatient treatment center, where church officials sought ''reasonable assurance that he will be able to be assigned to parish ministry without undue risk.''

And in July 1987 he was. Cardinal Law named him parochial vicar at St. Margaret Church in Brockton. While there, Rynne faced another allegation in 1994, and was forced from public ministry. He retired in August of that year, and died at age 70 in 2001.

Sacha Pfeiffer and Walter V. Robinson of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 2/7/2003.
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