In the third day of his sworn testimony, Cardinal Bernard F. Law yesterday answered questions about three 1989 evaluations of then-priest John J. Geoghan that diagnosed him as a pedophile, and Law’s own decision to allow Geoghan to resume parish duties at St. Julia Church in Weston.
Neither Law’s attorneys nor those representing 86 people who have filed lawsuits claiming they were harmed by Geoghan would discuss the substance of yesterday’s pretrial deposition. But two of Geoghan’s alleged victims who attended the six hours of testimony said Law appeared testy under repeated questioning about medical evaluations that offered conflicting advice to church officials.
”He lost his temper at times. He was very angry,” said Mark Keane, a 33-year-old New Hampshire man who says Geoghan molested him when Keane was a minor at the Waltham Boys and Girls Club.
The session yesterday concluded Law’s testimony in the deposition for the time being. But Mitchell Garabedian, the lead attorney for alleged victims of the defrocked priest, said he would seek to continue questioning the cardinal at a later date.
Keane and Patrick McSorley, a Hyde Park man who also contends Geoghan molested him, said Law answered questions about the negative aspects of the evaluations by highlighting the more positive sections of the reports.
For instance, one evaluation by the Institute for Living said Geoghan had ”an immature and impulsive nature” and ”could be a high risk taker.” But it also diagnosed Geoghan with ”atypical pedophilia, in remission,” and said ”it was decided that the patient could return to his home parish in Weston, Massachusetts, and resume his pastoral responsibilities.”
A second letter from the Institute for Living, a Hartford facility that treats priests accused of molesting minors, said ”the probability that [Geoghan] would sexually act out again is quite low,” but added that ”we cannot guarantee” that he would not act out again.
The medical records have been central to Law’s public defense of his role in reassigning Geoghan to parish work at a time when church officials had been informed of Geoghan’s pedophilia, and they are likely to be featured in the legal defense of Law and other church officials in lawsuits that allege supervision of Geoghan was negligent.
Although details of yesterday’s questioning were incomplete – no transcript was released and Law’s attorneys did not return calls seeking comment – the evaluations of Geoghan were placed in the public file at Suffolk Superior Court in January under a court order by Judge Constance M. Sweeney.
During yesterday’s deposition, according to Keane and McSorley, Law was also asked about the role he played in a $15 million to $30 million settlement of 84 lawsuits against Law and other church officials – and the subsequent decision by the archdiocesan Finance Council to back away from the agreement.
McSorley and Keane said that at one point in his testimony, Law said he could have established a trust fund to cover the settlement that would not have been subject to the authority of the Finance Council, but did not do so.
”I think he was under pressure and the truth just came out,” McSorley said.
Since the first day of Law’s deposition, on Wednesday, lawyers Garabedian and William H. Gordon have followed parallel lines of questioning: one focusing on Law’s role in allowing Geoghan to remain in parish work when church officials knew he was a child molester, and the other on Law’s role in reaching the settlement agreement and the Finance Council’s vote not to approve it.
Garabedian has said he will use Law’s answers to questions about the settlement at a hearing to be held by Sweeney to determine whether the settlement agreement announced by Law on March 12 is a binding contract. He also said he may seek to depose church officials sitting on the Finance Council.
Yesterday, Garabedian said he will seek to continue deposing Law – perhaps for two more days – but only after he has taken additional depositions from Bishop Robert J. Banks, formerly a Law deputy and now the bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., and Bishop Thomas V. Daily, another former Law deputy who is now the bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Banks had oversight of Boston archdiocesan priests accused of sexually abusing minors in 1989, when Geoghan had been removed from St. Julia’s and was evaluated at the St. Luke Institute of Silver Spring, Md., and at the Institute for Living.
The first, preliminary evaluation of Geoghan was made by the St. Luke Institute in April 1989, after a three-week stay at the facility and after allegations that Geoghan ”had been sexually involved with three boys during the 1983-84 time period.”
The diagnosis: ”homosexual pedophile, nonexclusive type.” The recommendation: Geoghan was ”prone to impulsive behavior” and at ”high risk,” and should therefore go into extended treatment at St. Luke’s.
The following August, records show Geoghan began a three-month stay at the Institute for Living. After a November evaluation that included a notation that Geoghan ”could be a high risk taker,” Banks wrote to an institute psychiatrist and complained that the assessment was different from one that he had expected after a conversation with doctors there. And he noted that Geoghan has already been reassigned to St. Julia’s.
”I was assured that it would be all right to reassign Father Geoghan to pastoral ministry and that he would not present a risk for the parishioners,” Banks wrote.
Two weeks later, in December, Robert F. Swords, an Institute for Living psychiatrist, wrote Banks the letter in which he said the probability that Geoghan ”would sexually act out again is quite low,” but doctors could ”not guarantee” he would not act out again.
Garabedian took an initial deposition of Daily in September 2000, and would not say why he will seek to continue his testimony. But Daily figures prominently in events that Garabedian and Gordon raised on Wednesday, when they questioned Law about a September 1984 letter from a woman asserting that Geoghan had sexually molested seven boys in her extended family, and warning him that Geoghan had been seen again in the company of young boys.
Law, in response to questions Wednesday, said he had no memory of receiving the letter. But he identified as his own the handwriting on an accompanying envelope that said, ”Urgent, please follow through.” At the time, Daily was Law’s chief deputy for administration and had handled earlier complaints of Geoghan’s alleged sexual abuse of the woman’s relatives.