National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  September 5, 2003

Muted responses to brutal murder of pedophile priest

By Catholic News Service

The brutal murder in prison of defrocked Boston priest John J. Geoghan, a serial child molester whose case sparked a national scandal and forced the U.S. church to adopt major policy changes, drew a muted response from victims, attorneys and the Boston archdiocese.

Authorities said Geoghan, 68, was bound, beaten and strangled to death in his cell Aug. 23 by inmate Joseph L. Druce, who is already serving a life sentence for the 1988 murder of a gay man. The attack occurred in the protective custody unit at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, a maximum security prison in Shirley, Mass.

Geoghan had been accused in civil lawsuits of sexual misconduct with nearly 150 minors, ranging from indecent exposure to fondling to rape. Nearly all his victims were boys.

He was in the second year of a 10-year prison sentence for fondling a 10-year-old boy in a public swimming pool in the early 1990s. He still faced trial on other charges involving a 12-year-old boy.

In a brief statement Boston archdiocesan spokesman Fr. Christopher J. Coyne said the archdiocese “offers prayers for the repose of John’s soul and extends its prayers and consolation to his beloved sister, Cathy, at this time of personal loss.”

He said Aug. 25 that Boston Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley would not have “any further public statement about John Geoghan’s tragic death.”

At a news conference in Boston, attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who handled the civil lawsuits of most of Geoghan’s alleged victims, said the victims are “not happy about this. This is not going to help victims heal.”

He said the victims would rather have seen Geoghan live on in prison and reflect on his crimes.

One of the alleged victims, Michael Linscott, told reporters that Geoghan’s death does not change the suffering of those he molested.

“He still had a lot of penance to do,” Linscott said.

Garabedian was the lead lawyer in a $10 million dollar settlement last September by 86 Geoghan victims and the Boston archdiocese. Before that, the archdiocese had settled 35 cases with other Geoghan victims.

Among the 542 clergy sexual abuse cases still pending in the archdiocese, 26 plaintiffs claim to have been abused by Geoghan. The archdiocese has offered up to $65 million to settle the claims.

State and local officials opened investigations into the killing. They are examining things like staffing levels and protective custody procedures at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center where Geoghan was murdered.

Geoghan served as a Boston priest for more than 30 years, despite several complaints of child molestation, before he was finally suspended from ministry in 1994. Four years later, as the number of complaints and lawsuits against the archdiocese grew, he was defrocked, or forcibly returned to the lay state.

At the time of Geoghan’s criminal trial, in January 2002, the Boston Globe won a court order for release of sealed court records in the civil lawsuits against the archdiocese concerning Geoghan.

Those records provided hard documentary evidence of a long pattern of archdiocesan officials transferring Geoghan and other priests suspected of sexual abuse to new assignments, sometimes after brief periods of treatment.

Within weeks the scandal spread to neighboring dioceses and states and then nationwide as local news media began digging to see if a similar pattern could be found in their own dioceses.

National Catholic Reporter, September 5, 2003

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