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Law's resignation little comfort to some victims
By Jay Lindsay, Associated Press, 12/13/02
BOSTON -- Anthony Muzzi's break with the Catholic church began long before Cardinal Bernard Law came to Boston. It came three decades ago when his parish priest, the Rev. John Geoghan, entered his bedroom and allegedly put his hands in places a little boy shouldn't be touched.
A bitter Muzzi hasn't stepped inside a church in years. His religious observances are confined to short prayers in his truck on the drive to work. Law's resignation Friday wasn't enough to erase the decades of hurt, he said.
"It's too little too late," Muzzi said. "It's gone beyond where it ever should have gone, with too much hurt to everybody."
Like Muzzi, some abuse victims said the damage was too extensive for one act of contrition by Law to have much effect. Law has been under fire since church records showed he shuffled pedophile priests from parish to parish.
"As a Catholic, I have some sympathy for the devil, but he took an active role in covering up the victimization of quite possibly hundreds and hundreds of individuals," said William Oberle, who said he was molested by the Rev. Paul Mahan while Mahan, now defrocked, was at St. Ann Church in Boston. "I will never forget those pains."
But many agreed Law's exit was needed for any reconciliation to happen.
"Maybe this can be a new beginning," said Paula Ford, whose son, Greg, was allegedly abused by the Rev. Paul Shanley, who is charged with multiple counts of child rape and indecent assault and battery. "I hope the victims feel now they can get going and try to heal."
Most victims weren't believed when they first told the sordid details of their abuse by priests. But archdiocese personnel files made public this year after a court order eventually backed up their claims.
Christopher Fulchino, who has accused Geoghan of abusing him, expressed relief Law had finally resigned, and tearfully told other victims, "Don't be afraid. Just don't be afraid. It just gets better. ... Every day gets easier for you."
Muzzi was about 12 when Geoghan allegedly began molesting him. The priest would visit his bedroom at his home and fondle him after telling his parents he was going upstairs to "bless" him, Muzzi said.
"I was always asleep, and he would wake me up and I didn't know what to do, so I would just freeze," he said.
Muzzi didn't say anything to his parents until he heard his cousin tell his aunt the same story about abuse by Geoghan. He later learned a brother and another cousin had also allegedly been molested by Geoghan, who's now in prison after being convicted in January on a sex abuse charge in an unrelated case.
Muzzi was one of the first Geoghan victims to go public with his accusations, and was one of 86 victims covered in a $10 million settlement reached in September. The way the suit was handled by church officials further alienated him.
"They have to make extreme changes for me to regain my faith in the people running the church," he said. "All I've seen in the past year is 'protect the church, protect the priests and protect their money."'
Despite his disgust with church, Muzzi sends his sons to Catholic religious education classes, though he admits it's not easy to let them go.
"I almost want to sit in the parking lot with binoculars, looking through the window to make sure nothing happens to them when they're in there," he said.
A loss of faith isn't the only lingering effect of his abuse, Muzzi said. He has had lifelong trouble trusting people: friends, colleagues in his construction and excavating business, even his wife.
"I know how my life has changed after this happened," Muzzi added. "I know things would have been different."