Boston Archdiocese settles with 7 alleged victims of clergy abuse
The Archdiocese of Boston has agreed to settlements involving cash and counseling with seven people who say they were sexually abused by priests, including one case that stretches back to the 1930s, according to the attorney for the alleged victims.
Two other settlements with religious orders have been reached in cases involving priests who allegedly abused victims while they worked in the archdiocese, according to the attorney, Mitchell Garabedian.
Another, separate settlement with the Carmelite Order involved a brother who had been accused of abuse in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles before being assigned to a chapel at the Northshore Mall in Peabody.
In all, the 10 settlements paid $778,500 and involved allegations of sexual abuse in every decade from the 1930s through the 1980s, Garabedian said. The attorney said he also reached agreements in six other cases across the country, including four in New Jersey.
The agreements carried no admission of liability.
The settlements are the latest reminders of the breadth of the crisis that rocked the archdiocese after the Globe reported in 2002 that abuse had occurred over decades, and that church officials transferred abusive priests to other parishes and routinely hid cases from the public and parishioners.
The Globe’s investigation into the abuse was chronicled in the movie “Spotlight” and earned the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize in 2003.
Terrence Donilon, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston, said the church “is committed to addressing cases of clergy abuse in a compassionate and just manner. As a matter of practice, we generally do not comment on individual settlements with survivors.”
Abuse claims have been settled in batches since the crisis became public. Garabedian, who has settled more than 1,000 claims, said the latest cases show that more victims are becoming emboldened to pursue claims they had tried to forget or bury.
“They could not come forward until their coping mechanism allowed them to,” he said.
Among the latest settlements is one that stretches back more than seven decades. A 90-year-old man who was near death pursued a claim in June 2014 involving the Rev. James MacGuinness, a priest who allegedly abused him from 1938 to 1940 in the rectory of St. John Church in Roxbury.
“It was as though he was waiting to report the abuse as the final chapter of his life,” Garabedian said. The man died two months after a settlement was reached in December 2014.
Three priests involved in the recent claims — the Rev. James Braley, the Rev. Joseph Byrne, and the Rev. Martin Walsh — are listed under “unsubstantiated cases” on an archdiocesan website devoted to sex abuse by clergy. Braley has been barred from public ministry, according to the archdiocesan website, and Byrne and Walsh are deceased.
According to the website, the “unsubstantiated” list is composed of priests who faced public accusations that “were found unsubstantiated by the Review Board after a preliminary investigation or who were acquitted of publicized allegations after a canonical process. The decision was made to restrict the ministry of certain of these priests for other reasons.”
The Review Board, which includes a wide range of lay members plus one archdiocesan cleric, advises the cardinal on sexual-abuse complaints and child protection.
Neither Braley nor Walsh is listed under any of five other categories that the archdiocese uses to track allegations of abuse, including whether a priest has been found guilty of abuse by the church or civil authorities.
A Florida man who pursued the claim against Braley said he was abused in the mid-1970s at St. Peter Church in Cambridge. Walsh, who died in 2007, had been posted in Waltham at Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted when he abused a 13-year-old in 1975, Garabedian said.
Byrne, who died in 2014, is named on the website under a category for deceased priests for whom criminal or canonical proceedings had not been completed. Byrne served at St. Matthew Church in Dorchester when he abused a 10-year-old in 1969, Garabedian said.
Another priest whose case was settled, the deceased Rev. Richard Butler, is not listed on the website — either as unsubstantiated or in any of the other categories. That settlement involved a claim from 1967 and 1968, when Butler served at Blessed Sacrament Church in Cambridge, Garabedian said.
Donilon, the archdiocesan spokesman, said the church is working diligently to prevent abuse.
“The policies and practices of the archdiocese include working with law-enforcement agencies and community professionals to report and investigate instances of sexual abuse, annually screening approximately 60,000 clergy, employees and volunteers, and implementing effective prevention training programs,” Donilon said.
“The archdiocese continues to reach out to those who have been harmed by the tragic reality of clergy sexual abuse in order to provide pastoral help and counseling services to survivors and their families.”
However, a Waltham-based watchdog group that tracks clergy sexual abuse criticized the archdiocese for not publicizing the settlements despite its pledge for greater transparency.
Garabedian called the settlements an acknowledgment of abuse, although the archdiocese stressed that they are not an admission of guilt.
“To a survivor, a settlement represents that the archdiocese has admitted that a claim is valid, has substance, and is credible,” Garabedian said. “A settlement helps a survivor try to rid himself or herself of the unnecessary guilt and shame felt as a result of being sexually abused.”
Garabedian also criticized the archdiocese’s decision not to list allegations of abuse involving priests in religious orders. Because those priests are not on the archdiocesan roster, Garabedian said, the Boston hierarchy’s attitude is “that’s not our problem.”
Wayne Rogers, a 54-year-old from Micco, Fla., who pursued the claim against Braley, said that as a troubled child in Cambridge looking for direction, he was encouraged by friends to become an altar boy at St. Peter’s. There, he said, he was targeted by Braley, then a young priest.
Braley’s attention soon turned to sexual contact, including oral sex, and continued into the boy’s early teens, Rogers said in an interview. Some of the abuse occurred in Braley’s room at St. Peter’s rectory, where the priest would take the boy up three flights of stairs past the rooms of other priests, Rogers said.
“It’s a black scar across your soul that you never think you’ll be able to talk about or get rid of,” he said. “I’m what the predator was looking for, and I didn’t have a clue.”
After the physical abuse ended, Braley and Rogers remained in contact for more than decade, Rogers said. During that time, often in meetings at Cape Cod hotels and homes, Braley would ask for specific details of Rogers’s sexual encounters with women, Rogers recalled.
“There was mind-control stuff, bonding over the secret stuff, blackmail stuff,” he said.
At the beginning, Braley seemed to be a caring, parental figure in Rogers’s wildly dysfunctional world.
“I had no direction,” Rogers said. “Here was my mother beating me half to death every day. I was doomed from the beginning, and then here was Braley. I don’t know how they do it where they take your mind and do this to you.”
Rogers said he kept the abuse to himself until several years ago, when he began to speak with other survivors. Now, Rogers — a military veteran who once was homeless — said he is an ordained minister.
The archdiocese’s response to his claim was disappointing, Rogers said.
“What upset me the most through this process was going to the ivory towers of the legal defense people in Boston, and no one from the church ever showing up. No apology. No admitting guilt,” Rogers said.
Garabedian said that the latest settlements have taken longer to complete — about two years, on average — than earlier agreements involving sexual abuse.
“The church’s attitude can be summed up in a nutshell: How can we disprove this case, and not how can we look at it objectively,” he said.
The settlements also include alleged victims of former archdiocesan priests who had been accused in previous, separate cases, including Richard Coughlin, a now-defrocked cleric who served in Stoneham and Lynn from 1953 to 1965.
After Coughlin was transferred to Southern California, claims against him there resulted in more than $3 million in settlements.