Catholic Church pays $1 Million to settle Sex Abuse Claims

(August 6, 2018)  AP reported last month that a Roman Catholic order has agreed to pay $1 million to eight people who say they were sexually abused by two Massachusetts priests.  The victims’ attorney said the sex-abuse claims were brought to the attention of the Augustinians about a year ago, and the parties reached an out-of-court settlement during mediation.

The Boston Globe reported that five men and three women were allegedly abused by the Revs. John Gallagher and Robert Turnbull in the 1970s and early 1980s, when the victims were 9 to 12 years old. Both the accused priests have since died.

Related:  Abuse by Clergy Lawsuit

A Cry for Help Ignored

One of the victims wrote about her abuse to the late Cardinal Bernard Law, said her attorney, Mitch Garabedian.  He said that letter proved the former archbishop of Boston knew of sexual abuse by priests.  Cardinal Law, who died last year, was also at the center of a sex abuse scandal while he reigned, and he is also part of the recent Pennsylvania grand jury report on runaway sex abuse by clergy.

The president of Road to Recovery Inc., Robert Hoatson, made the announcement regarding the  settlement outside St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Boston.  Mr. Hoatson, a priest sex-abuse survivor himself, said the settlement avoided bringing a lawsuit against the Augustinians. His nonprofit charity in New Jersey assists sexual abuse victims and encourages them to come forward with their stories.

Mr. Garabedian said three of his clients, now adult women, were abused by a former parish priest who also performed as a coach at St. Mary’s in Lawrence between 1973 and 1976.  Father Gallagher was a swim coach and basketball coach for CYO.  He abused young girls on the two teams in the rectory, and also on field trips, including one to Saratoga, New York.

Mr. Garabedian said five other people, now adult males, were abused by a priest who was also a teacher and an athletic equipment manager when the victims (then 13-14) attended Austin Preparatory School in Reading between 1977 and 1981.

“He would sexually abuse my clients (fondling and some digital penetration) at the Northmeadow Health & Racquet Club in Tewksbury, in the showers and in the swimming pool,” said Mr. Garabedian.  “He would also sexually abuse them in a room next to his classroom at Austin Prep.

He found it difficult to believe Father Turnbull’s supervisors did not know he was sexually abusing children, because rumors swirled about the priest among students.

“His supervisors turned their backs on innocent children,” said Mr. Garabedian.

Woman:  “This pain is still with me. . . ”

Mr. Hoatson said that one of Father Gallagher’s victims was sexually abused when she was attending fourth, fifth and sixth grade at the Catholic Inter-Parochial schools in Lawrence. Those schools were St. Mary, St. Lawrence and Holy Rosary. The woman gave details in the letter she wrote to Cardinal Law:  “Typically, Father Gallagher would have me and my friends with him for some reason: to paint the gym, to count out the money from collections, because he was our coach. . .  While the rest of the girls would be doing the work, he would call one of us to him.”

“As he sat facing the girls working, he would tell me to climb on his lap. This way I could not see the other girls. He would wrap my legs around him so that I was straddling him. He would push me very close to him. (and) would insist that I hug him tightly and kiss him.  (When) he finished with me, he would release me and call up another girl and repeat his act on her.”

Mr. Hoatson said the woman told Cardinal Law that it was her desire to see Father Gallagher punished for the pain he caused her.  “This pain is still with me and will be a part of my being forever,” wrote the woman in her letter.

Cardinal Law should have warned parishioners and the public about FatherGallagher, but instead he “participated in the coverup,” Mr. Garabedian said.

Catholic Church pays $1 Million to settle Sexual Abuse Claims

Instead of being disciplined and dismissed, predator priests such as Father Gallagher were shuffled from one parish to another, which is a claim that was also made by the recent Pennsylvania grand jury, which found that 300 Catholic priests had abused more than 1,000 children.

“The cardinal or archdiocese had an obligation to inquire as to why these individuals were transferred into the Archdiocese of Boston,” said Mr. Garabedian.  The church’s failure to have the pedophile predators screened, and to be forthcoming about their possible history of sexual abuse, he said, “is another indication of  how the Catholic Archdiocese has failed miserably to protect children.”

5,000+ Victims of Abuse by Clergy

Mr. Hoatson said that since forming in 2003, his organization has provided a range of support services to more than 5,000 victims of clergy sexual abuse and their families.

“I attend these public events as an advocate and to encourage other victims to come to me,” said Mr. Hoatson.   He knows the territory.   He was a victim of clergy sexual abuse himself as a child, and he later served as a Catholic priest for 14 years.

“We’ll do anything to help a victim get on the road to recovery,”  he said.

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