Victims’ mother: Preserve church’s sex abuse history
FOREST HILLS—The former St. Andrew the Apostle Church complex shouldbe preserved as a monument to the Catholic Church’s sexual abusescandal, according to a mother of local victims.
Mitchell Garabedian, a famous attorney who representedmany victims in the case, said St. Andrew’s is a “reminder to theworld” and called for victim input about its fate. He also raised theidea of a monument to victims there or elsewhere.
Infamous child-molesting priest John Geoghan, whose prosecution blewopen the church cover-up of sex crimes, served at St. Andrew’s from1974 to 1980. He reportedly molested many children at the church and inthe neighborhood. He was murdered in prison following a 2002 convictionfor child molestation outside Boston.
“I represented 144 Geoghan victims. Many of them came from St. Andrew’s Parish,” said Garabedian in a Gazette interview.
Local victims were the first to sue the church over Geoghan’sactions, and their complaints became key evidence in the 2001revelation of the extent of the archdiocese’s cover-up of scores ofchild rapes and molestations.
“There’s a historical reason that [church complex] needs to stay,”said Jamaica Plain resident Maryetta Dussourd, whose three sons andfour other boys she raised were molested by Geoghan. “We want to sayyou never get rid of the records that are in permanent stone.”
“It’s where Geoghan was busted. It opened eyes worldwide,” Dussourdsaid, noting that St. Andrew’s has been pictured in international newsreports about the sex abuse scandal. The site, she said, should bepreserved as “evidence in your face of our destruction.”
“The St. Andrew’s site is a constant reminder to the world that theclergy sexual abuse crisis began with Father John J. Geoghan victimsand triggered the clergy sexual abuse crisis around the world,”Garabedian said. “The very important lessons learned because of FatherJohn J. Geoghan victims coming forward should never be forgotten, andreminders should remain so that such pedophilia never happens again.”
St. Andrew’s, at Walk Hill and Wachusett streets, is one of manyformer church sites being sold off by the archdiocese to raise cash. Aspreviously revealed by the Gazette, someone has won the bid for St.Andrew’s, but the archdiocese has not yet revealed their identity orplans.
Dussourd and Garabedian’s preservation concerns were raised by aGazette report that St. Andrew’s currently has no historical protectionof any kind, which would allow a developer to demolish or alter any ofthe buildings.
The Boston Preservation Alliance and Historic Boston Incorporatedalso advocate preserving St. Andrew’s. But their arguments focus onaesthetics and positive church history, such as the expansion of theCatholic population in the late 1800s.
Dussourd and Garabedian do not have specific ideas at this pointbeyond preserving the site. Dussourd mentioned in passing thepossibility of a museum.
“I think what we need to do is stir up a fire” and have a discussion with preservation groups, said Dussourd.
“I think the victims should speak up and give their opinion aboutwhether such a site should be maintained or a memorial to victims [bebuilt],” Garabedian said.
In any case, Garabedian said, there is one main message to send: “The victims are heroes and should be proud of themselves.”
Redevelopments of other church sites have tended to include housingas a major component. It is unclear how that might mesh with preservingSt. Andrew’s as a monument to evil.
Memorials to the dark side of history are fairly common, includingregional victim-focused sites such as the New England HolocaustMemorial or Salem’s monument to witchcraft mania victims. But thepreservation of actual buildings because something horrible happenedappears to be unusual and often involves ghoulish entertainment, suchas the transformation of the Lizzie Borden murder home in Fall Riverinto a bed-and-breakfast.
There are notable exceptions, such as the National Civil RightsMuseum in Memphis, Tenn., which preserves both the motel where MartinLuther King Jr. was assassinated and the rooming house where his killerhid.
The section of the former Texas Schoolbook Depository building inDallas, Texas from which Lee Harvey Oswald shot President John Kennedyis now a museum in a National Historic Landmark District. The web sitefor the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, as it is now known,explains that the site is preserved as a place where people can grieveand be educated about an event of national significance.
“History is poorly served by burying the past,” says the museum’sweb site. “Despite the emotions that surround this event, there is aresponsibility to face history squarely and to recount it accurately.Democratic societies are expected to interpret all of their history—thetragedies as well as the achievements.”
That is essentially the line of thought behind preserving St. Andrew’s for its sex abuse history.
“As painful as it is, we need to go out there and make a voice for the future children,” Dussourd said.
Geoghan was not the first child-molesting priest to cause a majorscandal. But his case was the first to reveal that the Catholic Churchwas aware of its pedophile problems at high levels and sought to coverit up, in part by moving child-molesting priests unannounced to newchurches rather than turn them in.
When the scandal broke in 2001, it shook the Vatican and set off awave of national and international investigations. Various archdiocesespaid out hundreds of millions of dollars in legal settlements withhundreds of victims.
Geoghan eventually went to prison for abusing a boy in Waltham. Butit was his St. Andrew’s crimes that were most damning of the churchhierarchy.
Dussourd was raised a St. Andrew’s parishioner and attended schoolthere. She trusted priests enough to let Geoghan associate with theboys in her care, including tucking them into bed. Geoghan repeatedlymolested them.
When Dussourd notified the church, she met with denial. A 1979letter from St. Andrew’s pastor Francis Delaney to then Bishop ThomasDaily—later made public as part of the sex abuse investigation and nowon the Bishop-Accountability.org web site—declares Geoghan innocent andtears apart the reputation of his accusers, saying the “possible handof the devil” was behind their complaints.
During the sex abuse investigation years later, the Boston Globereported that Delaney said in a deposition that he later heard thatGeoghan was bringing boys into his rooms in the rectory, reportedly to“shower.” The Globe reported that Delaney said he confronted Geoghanabout the reports, which Geoghan denied.
At least one other accuser later said Geoghan molested him in the St. Andrew’s rectory.
In 1980, Geoghan admitted molesting Dussourd’s children to otherchurch officials. He was placed on “sick leave” and later transferredto a Dorchester church, where he molested more children. Among them wasthe late Patrick McSorley, a well-known plaintiff in Garabedian’s majorlawsuit against the archdiocese, whose siblings knew Geoghan from St.Andrew’s School, according to the Boston Phoenix.
Dussourd and her relatives were instructed to keep matters quiet bythe church, she said. But in 1982, Geoghan approached one of herchildren again in a JP ice cream shop.
It was too much for the family to bear. Dussourd’s sister, MargaretGallant, wrote a letter that year to then Cardinal Humberto Medeirosprotesting Geoghan’s continued service and church claims that thepriest was “cured.”
“It was suggested that we keep silent to protect the boys—that isabsurd since minors are protected under law, and I do not wish to hearthat remark again, since it is insulting to our intelligence,” Gallantwrote. “May Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit have mercy on allof us.”
The letter became a key piece of evidence undercutting archdioceseclaims that high officials were unaware of the sex abuse or that theydid not know about modern psychological and legal concepts aboutpedophiliac molesters.
Dussourd and some of the children filed the first Geoghan-relatedlawsuit in 1997, which was settled out of court. One of the settlementrequirements was that its terms remain secret.