Sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic archdiocese of Boston
The sexual abuse scandal in Boston archdiocese was part of a series of Catholic sex abuse cases in the United States and Ireland. In early 2002, Boston Globe coverage of a series of criminal prosecutions of five Roman Catholic priests thrust the issue of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests into the national limelight. The coverage of these cases encouraged other victims to come forward with their allegations of abuse resulting in more lawsuits and criminal cases.
As it became clear that there was truth to many of the allegations and that there was a pattern of sexual abuse and cover-up in a number of large dioceses across the USA, what had originally appeared to be a few isolated cases of abuse exploded into a nationwide scandal. The resulting scandal created a crisis for the Catholic Church in the United States, encouraging victims in other nations to come forward with their allegations of abuse, thus creating a global crisis for the Church.
Ultimately, it became clear that, over several decades in the 20th century, priests and lay members of religious orders in the Catholic Church had sexually abused minors on a scale such that the accusations reached into the thousands. Although the majority of cases were reported to have occurred in the United States, victims have come forward in other nations such as Ireland, Canada and Australia. A major aggravating factor was the actions of Catholic bishops to keep these crimes secret and to reassign the accused to other parishes in positions where they had continued unsupervised contact with youth, thus allowing the abusers to continue their crime.
Boston Globe coverage
In 2002, criminal charges were brought against five Roman Catholic priests in the Boston area of the United States (John Geoghan, John Hanlon, Paul Shanley, Robert V. Gale and Jesuit priest James Talbot) which ultimately resulted in the conviction and sentencing of each to prison. The ongoing coverage of these cases by The Boston Globe thrust the issue of “sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests” into the national limelight. The coverage of these cases encouraged other victims to come forward with their allegations of abuse resulting in more lawsuits and criminal cases.
In 2003, the series of articles in the Boston Globe received a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. The Globe was honored, according to the Pulitzer website, “for its courageous, comprehensive coverage … an effort that pierced secrecy, stirred local, national and international reaction and produced changes in the Roman Catholic Church.”
Grassroots public advocacy groups like Voice of the Faithful focused on Cardinal Law after documents revealed his extensive role in covering up incidents of sexual misconduct of his priests. For example, Cardinal Law moved Paul Shanley and John Geoghan from parish to parish within the diocese despite repeated allegations of molestation of children under the priests’ care. Later, it was discovered that Father Shanley even advocated the North American Man-Boy Love Association. Under questioning, the cardinal stated that, when a priest committed a sex crime, the cardinal said his practice was to seek the analysis of psychiatrists, clinicians and therapists in residential treatment centers before deciding whether a priest accused of sexually abusing a child should be returned to the pulpit.
In 1984, John Brendan McCormack became Secretary for Ministerial Personnel in the Archdiocese of Boston. In this position, McCormack was Cardinal Law‘s point person on hearing complaints against priests accused of sexual misconduct and removing some of them from active duty. He was later accused of taking too little action in handling John Geoghan, a Boston priest who allegedly molested over 130 children during his ministry.
In 1990, after receiving complaints from an alleged victim, he removed one priest from duty and sent him to treatment, only for the same priest to later serve as a hospital chaplain. He also wrote conciliatory letters to another priest accused of pedophilia and who once defended the North American Man/Boy Love Association, then failing to notify the diocese to which that priest was later transferred of the accusations made against him.
Cardinal Law’s response
Cardinal Law’s term as Archbishop of Boston began in popularity but quickly declined into turbulence towards the end of his term. Allegations and reports of sexual misconduct by priests of the Archdiocese of Boston became widespread causing Roman Catholics in other dioceses of the United States to investigate similar situations there. Cardinal Law’s actions and inactions prompted public scrutiny of all members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the steps they had taken in response to past and current allegations of sexual misconduct at the hands of priests. The events in the Archdiocese of Boston exploded into a national Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal.
Law’s public statements and depositions during the abuse crisis claimed that the Cardinal and Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston did not initially have the expertise to understand pedophilia and ephebophilia and relied upon doctors’ recommendations. In January 2002, Law stated, “I promulgated a policy to deal with sexual abuse of minors by clergy. This went into effect on Jan. 15, 1993,” and also noted that the, “policy has been effective.” His depositions echoed those sentiments.
Impact on the diocese
Settlements in the Boston, Massachusetts suits were estimated to be up to $100 million. In some cases insurance companies have balked at meeting the cost of large settlements, claiming the actions were deliberate and not covered by insurance. This was additional financial damage to the Archdiocese, which already faced the need to consolidate and close parishes due to changing attendance and giving patterns. In June 2004, much of the land around the Archdiocese of Boston headquarters was sold to Boston College, in part to raise money for legal costs associated with scandal in Boston.
Resignation of Cardinal Law
In a statement and apology Cardinal Law said, “To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes I both apologize and from them beg forgiveness”. He remained cardinal, which is a separate appointment, and participated in the 2005 papal conclave.
Handling by Bishop Lennon
Bishop Richard Lennon‘s appointment as apostolic administrator of the Boston archdiocese, following the resignation of Cardinal Law, brought criticism from some sex-abuse victims’ groups. This criticism increased after Bishop Lennon‘s appearance in the Frontline Documentary “Hand of God.” The movie documents the history of a Salem, Massachusetts sex scandal and its effects on the film maker’s own family. Lennon closes the Salem parish despite the fact it is not losing money for the Church. Then, when the movie’s filmmaker attempts to film the administrative building where his brother reported his own sexual abuse, Lennon exits the building, shoves the camera, declares he won’t “feel bad about this” after being told why the filmmaker wants to film the building’s exterior, attempts to avoid any discussion of the sex scandal by refusing to talk about anything other than the Church’s private property rights, and responds to the film maker’s claim that he doesn’t care by calling the filmmaker a “sad little man.”
In September 2003, the Archdiocese settled most of the abuse-related claims for $85 million.
In June 2004, the archbishop’s residence and the chancery in Brighton and surrounding lands were sold to Boston College, in part to defray costs associated with abuse cases. The offices of the Archdiocese were moved to Braintree, Massachusetts; Saint John’s Seminary remains on that property.
On August 25, 2011, Cardinal Seán O’Malley released a list of 159 names of priests who had been accused of sexually abusing a minor. The publication mentioned that 250 priests in the archdiocese had been accused but 69 names were omitted because they were either deceased, weren’t active ministers, had not been publicly accused, or were dismissed or left prior to canonical proceedings. An additional 22 names were omitted because the accusations could not be substantiated; nine of these priests were still in active ministry
Sexual abuse cases in the Boston archdiocese
In 1987, after at least 23 years of child molesting by Father Joseph Birmingham during which time he was shuffled to various parishes, the mother of an altar boy at St. Anns wrote to Law asking if Birmingham had a history of molesting children. Cardinal Law wrote back “I contacted Father Birmingham. … He assured me there is absolutely no factual basis to your concern regarding your son and him. From my knowledge of Father Birmingham and my relationship with him, I feel he would tell me the truth and I believe he is speaking the truth in this matter.” 
As a result of the unlawful sex, the Archdiocese of Boston lost millions of dollars in fines and settlements. It also funded the legal defense of accused priests. The archdiocese slipped into large financial deficits. The Archdiocese closed sixty-five parishes before Cardinal Law stepped down from service.
In response to the scandal, over fifty priests signed a letter declaring no confidence in Cardinal Law and asking him to resign  – something that had never before happened in the history of the Roman Catholic Church in America.
Paul Desilets, a retired Quebec priest, has been indicted on 27 counts of indecent assault and battery dating back to his time as a parish priest in Bellingham, Mass., between 1978 and 1984. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is seeking extradition.
Robert V. Gale
Robert V. Gale was sentenced to 4.5–5 years in prison in 2004 after pleading guilty to repeatedly raping a boy in Waltham during the 1980s. Gale (who had been treated in 1987 following years of abusing children) began a restricted ministry around 1992, living at St. Monica’s in South Boston while studying at the University of Massachusetts.
Cardinal Law, who had the ultimate authority, signed off on letting Gale remain at St. Monica’s. An adolescent reported that Gale abused him in his room/office in the rectory just a few months after Law’s decision was made.
The trial included testimony from the victim; from a psychiatrist, Dr. Edward Messner, who treated Geoghan for his sexual fantasies about children from 1994 to 1996; and from Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes, who testified that he banned Geoghan from the swimming club after a complaint that he had been proselytizing and had prurient conversations there.
After initially agreeing to, and pulling out of, a $30 million settlement with 86 of Geoghan’s victims, the Boston archdiocese settled with them for $10 million, and is still negotiating with lawyers for other victims. The most recent settlement proposed is $65 million for 542 victims. The settlements are being made because of evidence that the archdiocese had transferred Geoghan from parish to parish despite warnings of his behavior. Evidence also arose, as a result of allegations against Geoghan, that the archdiocese displayed a pattern of shipping other priests to new parishes when allegations of sexual abuse were made.
Two other cases were charged against Geoghan in Boston’s Suffolk County. One case was dropped without prejudice when the victim decided not to testify. In the second case, two rape charges were dismissed by a judge after hotly contested arguments because the statute of limitations had run out. The Commonwealth’s appeal of that ruling was active at the time of Geoghan’s death, and remaining charges of indecent assault in that case were still pending at that time.
On August 23, 2003, while in protective custody at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts, Geoghan was strangled and stomped to death in his cell by Joseph Druce, a self-described white supremacist and inmate serving a sentence of life without possibility of parole for killing a man who allegedly made a sexual pass after picking Druce up hitchhiking. An autopsy revealed the cause of death to be “ligature strangulation and blunt chest trauma.” There have been questions raised about the wisdom and propriety of placing these two men in the same unit, since prison officials had been warned by another inmate that Druce had something planned.
According to Leon Podles in his book Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church, “In late 1993, Shanley was sent to the Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut, for evaluation. The Boston archdiocese has refused to release this evaluation, but other released files show that Shanley admitted to nine sexual encounters, of which four involved boys, and that he was diagnosed as “narcissistic” and “histrionic.” Shanley admitted that he was “attracted to adolescents” and on the basis of this confession, the Boston archdiocese secretly settled several lawsuits against Shanley. The archdiocese of Boston in 1993 had to admit to the diocese of San Bernardino part of the truth about Shanley, and the bishop of San Bernardino immediately dismissed him.”
In February 2005, Shanley was found guilty of indecent assaults and the rape of a male minor and received a sentence of 12 to 15 years in prison. Shanley’s case remains controversial because the allegations of abuse came only after the victim (now an adult) alleged that he “recovered” memories of the abuse from approximately 20 years earlier. The notion of “repressed memory” is highly controversial and has been excluded from several courts of law. The manner in which the accusations against Shanley arose and enormous attention in the media also have given rise to questions about the validity of the convictions.
Robert A. Ward affair
In February 2002, Rev. Robert A. Ward was accused of molesting an altar boy in Boston 1970.   Records show that the archdiocese knew at least as early as 1995 that the pastor used cocaine and had been treated for drug abuse. The records also show that in 1999 Ward admitted to downloading of child pornography from the internet, a discovery made when a technician repaired Ward’s computer and noticed the sexually explicit material. Ward was suspended by the Archdiocese of Boston in February 2002 and defrocked by the Vatican in 2005 
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Bishop John D’Arcy, Who Sounded Alarm on Sex Abuse, Dies at 80
By Paul Vitello
Published February 4, 2013
Bishop John D’Arcy, who was ignored by his superiors in the 1980s when he warned about priests who later figured in the sex-abuse scandal that rocked the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, died on Sunday at his home in Fort Wayne, Ind., where he had led the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend for 24 years. He was 80.
The cause was cancer, said Sean McBride, a diocese spokesman.
Bishop D’Arcy, who retired in 2009, drew national attention that year when he led a boycott to protest the University of Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama to speak at its commencement ceremony.
Bishop D’Arcy, whose diocese encompassed the university campus, objected that the president’s abortion-rights views were in opposition to Roman Catholic teachings.
In Boston, where he spent the first half of his clerical career, Bishop D’Arcy, then an auxiliary bishop, wrote a series of letters to his superiors raising alarms about priests he considered troubled and dangerous. The priests were being reassigned to new pastoral duties despite their known histories of substance abuse, sexually abusing children or both, and he urged his superiors to reconsider.
The letters became public in the early 2000s when archdiocese documents were released by court order as a result of lawsuits.
In one of his bluntest letters, Bishop D’Arcy asked the newly appointed archbishop of Boston, Bernard F. Law, to rescind the appointment of the Rev. John J. Geoghan as pastor of a parish in Weston, Mass.
“Father Geoghan has a history of homosexual activity with young boys,” Bishop D’Arcy wrote to the archbishop on Dec. 7, 1984.
Father Geoghan was later accused of sexual abuse by 130 former parishioners, many of them from the Weston parish. He was strangled to death in a Massachusetts state prison by a fellow inmate in 2003 while serving a sentence for child sexual abuse.
Archbishop Law, who became a cardinal in 1985, said he could not recall Bishop D’Arcy’s letter when asked about it years later in depositions concerning the abuse cases.
Bishop D’Arcy wrote cautionary letters about three other priests: Thomas Forry, Richard Buntel and Robert Meffan, all of whom were later accused publicly of sexually abusing children.
In 1985, after writing a second letter about Father Geoghan to Cardinal Law, Bishop D’Arcy was elevated from auxiliary bishop to full bishop status and appointed to the post in Fort Wayne-South Bend.
He never spoke publicly about his letters.
Terrence McKiernan, founder of the Web site bishopsaccountability.org, a repository of church documents released as a result of lawsuits and government investigations of sexual abuse by priests, said letters like Bishop D’Arcy’s were rare.
There have been many internal memos about priests whom fellow clerics considered liabilities to the church, Mr. McKiernan said in an interview on Monday. “But I have read through thousands, tens of thousands of these documents,” he added, “and seen very few with D’Arcy’s level of expression of concern for the victims.”
John Michael D’Arcy was born on Aug. 13, 1932, in Boston, and ordained in 1957. He served as a parish priest for nine years before being appointed the vicar for spiritual development at St. John’s Seminary in Boston.
In that role, in 1979, he recommended a comprehensive rethinking of the archdiocese’s system of recruiting men for the priesthood. Among other things, he urged that candidates undergo psychological testing, in part to screen out those who might not be sincere in taking vows of celibacy.
A 2003 report on sexual abuse by priests in the archdiocese, issued by Attorney General Thomas Reilly of Massachusetts, concluded, “It does not appear that the archdiocese adopted Bishop D’Arcy’s recommendations in any meaningful way.”
Bishop D’Arcy’s boycott of Mr. Obama’s address at Notre Dame was one of two he led at the university when he was bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend. In the other, in 1992, he protested the university’s plans to give an award to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, again because of Mr. Moynihan’s abortion-rights views.
When Mr. Obama was invited to give the commencement address in 2009, Bishop D’Arcy declared in an open letter to the university, “Notre Dame must ask itself if by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth.”
Neither boycott changed the university’s commencement plans, though both sparked national debate among Catholics.
“He was very clear in his thinking, and never hid his views from anyone, no matter whom,” said the Rev. John Sassani, a parish priest in Boston, who was a friend.
Bishop D’Arcy’s survivors include two sisters: Sister Anne D’Arcy, a nun with the Sisters of Saint Joseph, and Joan Sheridan.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: February 6, 2013
Because of an editing error, an obituary on Tuesday about Bishop John D’Arcy misstated his position in the Roman Catholic Church in the early 2000s, when letters he had written to his superiors in the Archdiocese of Boston about priests he considered troubled or dangerous were made public. He was bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., at the time; he was no longer an auxiliary bishop in Boston. The obituary also misstated the length of the sentence given to the Rev. John J. Geoghan, one of the priests Bishop D’Arcy had warned about, who was later convicted of child sexual abuse. It was 9 to 10 years, not life.