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New Suits Filed Against Ex-Priest

Oct 4, 2002 | AP

Seventeen new civil lawsuits have been filed by people who claim they were sexually abused as children by a defrocked priest whose case triggered a clergy sexual abuse scandal.

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who last month reached a $10 million settlement agreement with the Archdiocese of Boston in 86 cases against John J. Geoghan, said Thursday the new lawsuits were filed on behalf of different alleged victims.

The suits claim Geoghan abused the 17 boys from 1964 to 1996 while Geoghan was assigned to seven different parishes. Some of the abuse also occurred while he was living at Regina Cleri, the archdiocese's principal retirement home for priests in Boston, Garabedian said.

The boys were ages 8 to 15 when the alleged abuse — including molestation and rape — took place, Garabedian said. One of the alleged victims is still a minor.

"It's unfortunate to have more victims come forward to state such sad facts which could have been avoidable had the leaders of the Archdiocese of Boston been doing their job," Garabedian said.

He said the victims came forward during the last six months.

The sex abuse scandal erupted in Boston in January, when previously secret documents showed church officials moved Geoghan from parish to parish after receiving abuse allegations.

Donna Morrissey, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said church officials had not yet seen the lawsuits and would have no immediate comment.

Meanwhile, a canon lawyer cautioned a group of Roman Catholic priests in New York not to say anything to their bishops if confronted with allegations of sexual abuse.

"So a priest should say nothing," Msgr. William Varvaro told about 150 priests and lay people who gathered Thursday for a meeting of the newly formed Voice of the Ordained. "And again this is that old question of trust. It's that old question of the father-son relationship that's been destroyed."

Under new policies adopted by the U.S. Conference of Bishops last June, bishops much report all violations to the authorities and immediately remove from ministry any member who faces credible accusations of abuse.

But Varvaro, a member of the Brooklyn, N.Y., Diocese's tribunal, and others have criticized the ruling, saying it defines abuse too broadly and imposes the same punishment without regard to the severity of the abuse.

Varvaro told the audience, including priests from the Archdiocese of New York and the dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre, the new policies have created a rift between bishops and priests. He said he expected some priests to take legal action against bishops for violating their rights.

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