Welcome back, thanks for joining us, we know this is not an easy topic to read about.
We’re writing about this as background information for our #question4Trump, which we will publish at the end of this series. It is our hope that if enough of us ask him together, he cannot avoid answering.
We say, use the system to change the system. But to use the system, we need to understand how it really works. This series is a look at the facts, mainstream media articles about what had really happened in the United States Catholic church with regards to pedophilia and sexual abuse.
So far we’ve published 5 articles on Trump and 3 on the Catholic church in Poland, as well as the first part of this story, which we will continue below.
To change the system, to ensure something is done about a problem, we must work together. We hope you’ll stay with us until the end of the series when we publish our #question4Trump.
John J. Geoghan, Boston, Massachusetts
The beginning of media coverage of sexual abuse in the church dates back to 1992 with James R. Porter, 10 years before the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team published their story in 2002 on John J. Geoghan, another predator, pedophile priest who operated in a territory just next to where Porter had been active. It turns out the two men were even supervised, indeed had their crimes facilitated, by the same man – Bernard Law (described later in this series).
The following excerpts come from the Boston Globe Spotlight Team’s 2002 report. They are selected and arranged to give an overview of Geoghan’s career as a pedophile priest.
There is no dispute that Geoghan abused children while he was at Blessed Sacrament in Saugus after his 1962 ordination. The archdiocese …settled claims on accusations that he did, and the church records obtained by the Globe note that Geoghan in 1995 admitted molesting four boys from the same family then.
…A former priest, Anthony Benzevich, has said he alerted church higher-ups that Geoghan frequently took young boys to his rectory bedroom. In news reports after accusations against Geoghan surfaced publicly, Benzevich was also quoted as saying church officials threatened to reassign him as a missionary in South America for telling them about Geoghan.
…Geoghan’s second assignment – in 1966 to St. Bernard’s in Concord – ended after seven months, according to a detailed chronology of Geoghan’s service prepared by the church which does not explain why the assignment was so abbreviated.
…[L]awsuits include[d] accusations that Geoghan again abused young boys from several families in his next parish, St. Paul’s in Hingham, between 1967 and 1974. One of his alleged victims, Anthony Muzzi Jr., said in an interview last week that in addition to his own abuse, his uncle caught Geoghan abusing his son.
As evidenced by his behaviour in Saugus and Hingham, it became apparent that Geoghan would choose his victims by befriending “Catholic mothers struggling to raise large families, often alone. His offers to help, often by taking the children for ice cream or praying with them at bedtime, were accepted without suspicion.”
…During his assignment in Hingham, Geoghan found victims far afield, befriending Joanne Mueller, a single mother of four boys who lived in Melrose. There too, according to depositions, the priest became a regular visitor, a spiritual counselor to Mueller and a helpmate to her boys, who were between 5 and 12.
One night, she testified, her second youngest son came to her, insisting that she keep Geoghan away from him. “I don’t want him doing that to my wee-wee, touching my wee-wee . . .” Mueller recalled the boy saying.
Mueller, according to her deposition, summoned her three other sons and learned that Geoghan, while purporting to be taking them out for ice cream, helping them with their baths, and reading them bedtime stories, had been raping them orally and anally. Also, Mueller said, Geoghan was insisting they tell no one. “We couldn’t tell you because Father said it was a confessional,” she said one of her sons told her.
Mueller testified that she immediately took the boys to see Rev. Paul E. Miceli, a parish priest at St. Mary’s in Melrose who knew both Geoghan and her family.
She testified that Miceli assured her that Geoghan would be handled by appropriate church authorities and would “never be a priest again.” Mueller also said that Miceli asked her to keep the matter to herself: “Bad as it was, he said, `Just try – don’t think about it. It will never happen again.’ “
Miceli, until recently a member of Law’s cabinet, contradicted Mueller in his own deposition. He said he did not recall her name, and never received a visit of the sort she described. But Miceli acknowledged receiving a call from a woman saying Geoghan was spending too much time with her children.
Miceli testified that the caller said nothing about sexual abuse. Nonetheless, Miceli said he drove to Geoghan’s new parish in Jamaica Plain to relay the woman’s concerns to Geoghan face-to-face.
The article tells of another similar story:
If Mueller had unwittingly facilitated Geoghan’s access to the children in her home in Melrose, the same role was played by Maryetta Dussourd at the priest’s next stop: St. Andrew’s, in the Forest Hills section of Jamaica Plain, where he served from 1974 to 1980.
Dussourd was rearing her own four children – three boys and a girl – as well as her niece’s four boys. In her hardscrabble neighborhood, she said in an interview, she hoped there was a priest the children could look up to. Then she met Geoghan, who oversaw altar boys and Boy Scouts at the parish.
Geoghan, she recalled bitterly, was eager to help. Before long, he was visiting her apartment almost every evening – for nearly two years. He routinely took the seven boys out for ice cream and put them to sleep at night.
But all that time, Geoghan regularly molested the seven boys in their bedrooms, Dussourd said. In some cases, he performed oral sex on them, according to court documents. Other times, he fondled their genitals or forced them to fondle his – occasionally as he prayed.
A 1994 Archdiocesan memorandum, labeled “personal and confidential,” said Geoghan would stay in the Dussourd home “even when he was on retreat because he missed the children so much. He `would touch them while they were sleeping and waken them by playing with their penises.’ “
Dussourd discovered what was happening after the children finally told her sister, Margaret Gallant. Horrified, Dussourd complained to the Rev. John E. Thomas [who]…confronted Geoghan with the allegations, and was taken aback when Geoghan casually admitted they were accurate. “He said, `Yes, that’s all true,’ “
…Several weeks later, Dussourd said, a contrite Thomas came to her apartment and told her that Geoghan had admitted to abusing the boys, but had excused his behavior by telling the pastor, “It was only two families.”
Thomas, echoing a tack common among clerics at the time, later pleaded with Dussourd not to follow through on her threat to go public, she said. He cited the years Geoghan had spent studying for the priesthood, and the consequences for Geoghan if the accusations against him were publicized. “Do you realize what you’re taking from him?” Thomas asked, according to Dussourd.
It was also in Jamaica Plain where, in 1980, Geoghan asserted “that his repeated abuse of seven boys in one extended family was not a “serious” problem, according to an archdiocesan record.”
The article describes the rest of his career:
Before Geoghan ever got to Weston in 1984, he had already been treated several times and hospitalized at least once for molesting boys. And he had been removed from at least two parishes for sexual abuse. In 1980, for instance, he was ordered out of St. Andrew’s in Jamaica Plain after casually admitting he had molested the seven boys.
In 1981, after a year’s sick leave, Geoghan was dispatched to St. Brendan’s in Dorchester, with little chance he would be placed under scrutiny: His pastor for most of his 3 1/2 years there, the Rev. James H. Lane, has told friends he was never warned that Geoghan had a history of sex abuse.
In September 1984, complaints that Geoghan had abused children at the Dorchester parish prompted Law to remove him. Two months later, the cardinal gave Geoghan a fresh start at St. Julia’s [in Weston].
At this point we must interupt the story to point out that it was in 1985 that “Pope John Paul II named him a cardinal, granting him the red hat that signified his role as a prince of the church”.
Back to the story:
[Cardinal] Law allowed Geoghan to stay in Weston for more than eight years before removing him from parish duty in 1993. But even that decision to recast Geoghan as a functionary at a home for retired priests did not prevent him from seeking out and molesting children, according to the multiple civil suits and criminal charges filed against the 66-year-old Geoghan.
…The civil and criminal allegations Geoghan faces in Middlesex and Suffolk counties suggest that he allegedly abused at least 30 more boys after Law sent him to Weston in 1984 – both before and after the half year’s sick leave in 1989.
After Geoghan’s 1989 return to St. Julia’s, it was another 38 months before Law took him out of the parish. Three years later, Geoghan was still seeking out victims, allegedly including an altar boy donning vestments for a christening ceremony, according to the criminal charges.
After Porter’s proverbial day in court and the media spotlight but before the Boston Globe Spotlight report:
Finally, in 1998, the church “defrocked” Geoghan, removing him from the priesthood.
As reports, in 2006 Geoghan was strangled by a fellow inmate in prison. The man, Joseph Druce, who was “already serving a life sentence for another killing, …pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, arguing that his own molestation as a child and years in prison had filled him with rage.”
Mr. Druce, 40, said that in the weeks before the killing, he twice confronted Mr. Geoghan, then 68, about the former priest’s molesting children. Mr. Geoghan was “arrogant” and said he was worth far more than the millions that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston had paid to settle lawsuits involving his offenses, Mr. Druce testified.
…Mr. Druce said he had overheard Mr. Geoghan talking on the phone to his sister, as well as engaged in conversations with other prisoners, about plans to move to South America once he was released so he could work with children again.
Once, Mr. Druce said, he heard Mr. Geoghan discussing with other prisoners how to molest young boys.
There is no doubt that Porter and Geoghan and the hundreds of other priests like them are sick people, but perhaps even more guilty are the system and the men who employ it to facilitate their crimes, who repeatedly put children at risk, and who continue to try to cover up the extent of the sickness and depravity within the Church. One of these men is Cardinal Bernard Law. We will tell you about him next time, if you are brave enough to return.
Thank you very much for reading.
This case and the article that exposed it represented a watershed moment in the USA. Now the cases are too numerous to even list on a space such as this, unfortunately. But we are trying to do something about it and we thank you for getting informed and doing your part.
As always, much love ♡