More Sex Abuse Victims Hire Lawyers

SEX ABUSE SCANDAL graphic, with Roman Catholic priest seen in shadows, on black background
Attorneys for people who allege they were sexually abused by Boston-area priests said more than 450 more alleged victims have come forward since the scandal broke in January.

"Some of them realize for the first time that they're not an isolated incident," said Mitchell Garabedian, who settled with the Boston Archdiocese last month on behalf of 86 people who accused former priest John Geoghan of abusing them.

Court documents released in January showed Cardinal Bernard Law and other Roman Catholic church officials knew Geoghan had been accused of abuse but kept moving him from parish to parish.

Garabedian said he has taken on 250 new clients who said they were assaulted by Geoghan and other priests.

"The Geoghan case has opened up the floodgates," he said.

Attorney Jeffrey Newman said he has taken on 100 new cases since January. He said that after each news report about allegations against particular priests, new clients have come forward accusing those priests of abuse.

Garabedian said alleged victims "seem to draw strength from the media coverage."

Attorney Roderick MacLeish told the Boston Sunday Globe he also has received 100 new clients. A call to his office from The Associated Press was not immediately returned Sunday.

Calls for Law's resignation mounted after church personnel records released by MacLeish at a news conference last week showed Law and other archdiocese officials knew the Rev. Paul Shanley had been accused of abuse over three decades.

Law, who announced in a letter to priests Friday that he would not step down, did not say Mass at Holy Cross Cathedral on Sunday as he usually does.

In a scene that's become familiar since the clergy sexual abuse scandal began, about three dozen protesters picketed the Cathedral. Some called for criminal charges against Law.

"I'm a psychologist. If I did what he did I'd be in prison right now. I'd have to file a report if I suspected abuse," said Ann Hagan Webb, of Wellesley.

Some worshippers expressed support for Law.

"He should stay on...he's in the best position to take care of this business," said Jim Contrino, a churchgoer at St. John the Evangelist in Quincy. "Someone new would have to start all over."

Law has not appeared in public since his letter was released and, according to the Boston Herald, canceled a meeting of the Presbyterial Council that had been scheduled for Thursday. The Council is a group of 40 priests that advise Law on pastoral issues.

Boston Archdiocese spokeswoman Donna Morrissey did not return calls Sunday.

In other recent developments:

  • The Washington Post is reporting that the head of Milwaukee's archdiocese moved a priest who was a known sex offender from one parish to another in 1979 and did not remove him until 1992. Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland established a 1988 program that has been lauded as a model for handling sexual abuse allegations.
  • The Cincinnati Enquirer is reporting that the Archdiocese of Cincinnati knew that one of its priests was repeatedly accused of sexual abuse over a 15-year period, but kept him in jobs where he had contact with children. Recent lawsuits against the archdiocese provide more detail about the case of George Cooley, a defrocked Roman Catholic priest who pleaded guilty in 1991 to molesting boys. In an interview, Cooley told the newspaper, "It's not God's fault. It was my fault."
  • A former worker at the St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport, Conn., told the Connecticut Post that in 1989 she overheard then-Bishop Edward Egan, now cardinal of the Archdiocese of New York, discussing what to do about a priest who got a teen-ager pregnant. Church officials had said Friday that the diocese did not know about the baby until 1994.

    Bridgeport diocese spokesman Joseph McAleer called the former employee's account "a total fabrication." "It's not true," New York Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said Saturday.

  • A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston, S.C., said officials are investigating allegations against several priests, but that none involve active clergy or victims who are now minors.
  • The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph admitted a retired priest accused of child sexual abuse remains active, but only in a role that officials say doesn't put children at risk, The Kansas City Star reported.
  • Bishop William Curlin of Charlotte, N.C., said church officials have told secular authorities about accusations against two priests involving alleged incidents more than 25 years ago. The diocese also is considering checking priests' files for past allegations that weren't properly addressed, a church spokeswoman said.
  • In Pennsylvania, the Diocese of Greensburg said a priest removed from active duty last month will remain on leave because of accusations of sexual misconduct. A diocese review board also ordered two retired priests to refrain from engaging in public ministry, placed one who had not been active within the diocese for 20 years on leave from his army chaplain post, continued to bar one priest from active duty and cleared three others because of a lack of evidence.