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New Abuse Allegations Surface In Church Files

Dec 18, 2002 | AP

A priest who admitted molesting teenage boys while they slept was advised by a church review board in the 1990s to put an apology in his personnel file for use in case more victims came forward.

His case was outlined in the latest batch of personnel files to be released by lawyers suing the Boston Archdiocese over its handling of child-molesting priests. The latest batch consists of about 3,000 pages on 13 priests.

The documents contain a variety of allegations, including those made against the Rev. Joseph K. Coleman, who was accused by a woman of molesting her 14-year-old son in 1987.

When confronted by church officials, Coleman acknowledged that while drinking heavily, he had touched the boy on two occasions and once performed a sexual act, all while the boy was sleeping. Coleman claimed he did not realize the boy was aware of what he had done to him.

Coleman also acknowledged performing sexual acts on a 15-year-old boy twice while he was sleeping.

"He admits to a strong attraction in this area of sexuality and has touched other young boys in the genitals by way of a quick brush or touch. Again, it was done while they were sleeping," a 1987 internal church memo reads.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Church officials sent Coleman to the Institute of Living, a psychiatric facility in Hartford, Conn. Over the next six years, Coleman was not allowed to return to parish work but was given a position as chaplain at two Catholic hospitals and was allowed to say weekly Masses.

In 1993, Coleman's case went before the archdiocese's review board, which was established as part of a more stringent sexual abuse policy prompted by a scandal involving a priest who pleaded guilty to molesting 28 children.

The board recommended that Coleman continue therapy, but appeared clearly concerned that Coleman may have abused other boys.

"The board suggests he consider placing an apology in his file for any victim who might come forward in the future," reads a 1993 summary.

Coleman is listed in the archdiocese directory as being on health leave. The archdiocese's personnel office said Tuesday only that he was not currently assigned anywhere. His home phone number was not listed.

Another priest file released Tuesday contains a church memo describing the Rev. Gerard Creighton as "homicidal" and fixated on schemes to make money from allegations he accepted money from female parishioners to complaints he sold furniture out of the parish garage.

In 1973, the Rev. John McNally, the priest at the parish in Revere where Creighton was an assistant, wrote a letter to then-Cardinal Humberto Medeiros, imploring him for help.

"For 22 years, this man has been transferred from one parish to another something like 17 times but no one has ever faced the real problem. The man is sick and needs help," McNally wrote. "Why must we always place the immediate accommodation of the priest above the good of the church? Why should so many people have to be abused and insulted and alienated from the church, just so that we can give this man a place to sleep?"

In 1979, Creighton was placed on a leave of absence. He retired six years later. A decade after he retired, a woman claimed Creighton molested her when she was a teenage parishioner in Boston in 1958. The archdiocese agreed to pay the woman $150,000 and pay for her counseling.

A memo from a church official indicates Creighton denied any sexual misconduct.

Efforts to reach Creighton for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful; a home phone listing could not be found for Creighton in Massachusetts.

Attorneys representing alleged victims of clergy sex abuse have received the files from the archdiocese and have spent the past two weeks filing them in court so they can be made public.

The scandal led to Cardinal Bernard Law's resignation last week.

Also Tuesday, a former Berkshire County commissioner who says he was molested as a teenager by his parish priest sued the cleric and the Diocese of Springfield.

Paul Babeu, 33, says he was abused between the ages of 13 and 15 by the Rev. Richard Lavigne. Lavigne pleaded guilty in 1992 to fondling two altar boys and served 10 years probation. He is being defrocked.

Lavigne's lawyer did not return telephone calls Tuesday seeking comment.

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