Thirteen years before the Boston Archdiocese removed the Rev. Bernard J. Lane from his parish in 1993 for alleged sexual abuse that dated to the 1970s, a senior pastor alerted Auxiliary Bishop Thomas V. Daily, the archdiocese’s vicar general, to ”disturbing stories” about Lane’s 1978 removal as director of Alpha Omega, a house in Littleton for troubled boys, according to a letter sent to Daily in April 1980.
There is no evidence in Lane’s records that Daily, who is now the bishop of the Brooklyn, N.Y. Diocese, took any action after the letter from the Rev. Thomas C. Hudgins, who was Lane’s superior.
Hudgins’s letter, with its clear hint of sexual misconduct, expressed concern that if Lane were again granted permission to work with youngsters ”and something should happen, God forbid, his Eminence will be subjected to criticism and embarrassment.”
The letter came two years after Lane had been removed from the facility in 1978 because of allegations he had sexually molested a boy there.
Even in 1993, another diocesan official, the Rev. John B. McCormack, now bishop of the Manchester, N.H., Diocese, expressed skepticism about the 1978 allegation. Months later, Lane was forced out as a pastor in Chelsea when other alleged victims came forward.
According to a lawsuit filed yesterday in Middlesex Superior Court, Lane allegedly molested Michael T. Aceto, a boy he met while performing weekend Masses at Alpha Omega – after the 1980 warning to Daily. Before Lane’s 1978 dismissal from Alpha Omega, he also molested two others at the home, Patrick McKeever of Uxbridge and another man identified only as ”John Doe,” according to the suit. John Doe’s mother also sued.
Besides Lane, the suit also names as defendants Cardinal Bernard F. Law; Daily, who heads the country’s fifth largest diocese; and McCormack.
A spokeswoman for the cardinal, Donna M. Morrissey, said Law, who did not arrive in Boston until 1984, would not comment on ongoing legal action. Calls to the offices of Daily and McCormack were not returned. Lane was unavailable for comment.
Lane has now been sued by or settled cases with at least 17 men who accused him of sexually abusing them as young teens. Besides the suit in Middlesex, he faces suits by eight men in Suffolk County and has settled six other cases. According to lawyer Roderick MacLeish Jr., who filed yesterday’s suit, the abuse allegedly occurred between 1969 and 1982.
Lane, a cofounder of Alpha Omega, resigned his position as director in November 1978 after the state Department of Youth Services received allegations he had abused a boy at Lane’s cottage in New Hampshire. No criminal charges were filed against Lane, although there was an investigation by the district attorney.
The Globe reported in March that the state had a chance to intervene earlier. A state DYS team had visited the home in 1976 or 1977 for an inspection, but had been turned away at Lane. A state DYS supervisor refused to intercede and no inspection was done until 1978.
After his dismissal, Lane was assigned by the archdiocese to parishes in Lowell and Methuen, where he ran programs for teenagers. In 1980, Hudgins wrote to Daily, the highest ranking aide to Cardinal Humberto Medeiros:
”I have heard from Protestants as well as Catholics some very disturbing stories concerning the reasons for [Lane’s] removal. … If he is allowed to continue with this project and something should happen, God forbid, his Eminence will be subjected to criticism and embarrassment.”
The letter was contained in material the archdiocese turned over to MacLeish’s office in June. The ”project” is an apparent reference to his youth program. Hudgins died in 1989.
Despite Lane’s dismissal and the subsequent letter to Daily, Lane continued to say Mass, counsel boys, and run outings at Alpha Omega, according to the suit. In 1982, Aceto was placed at Alpha Omega by DYS. Late one night, the suit says, he was awakened by Lane molesting him. He talked to an Alpha Omega staffer, who discouraged him from reporting it.
In February 1992, an unidentified church official, in a memo to Bishop Alfred C. Hughes, who is now archbishop of New Orleans, wrote that Lane admitted asking a young resident at Alpha Omega to disrobe in his room in 1978. ”BL claims there was no homosexual activity, just touching.”
Despite that memo, when the 1978 allegation against Lane surfaced again, he was defended by McCormack. In a 1993 memo to Hughes, McCormack wrote, ”It seems that the boy made these charges in a vindictive way. There is no substantiation for holding them to be credible.”
And in May of that year, McCormack again vouched for Lane: ”In light of the fact that we can uncover no evidence … that points to sexual misconduct, I recommend the matter not be pursued.”