Cardinal Bernard F. Law apologized last week for knowingly allowing a parish priest accused of molesting children to continue his duties. Law and other Church officials in Boston knew that former priest John J. Geoghan has been accused of child abuse in at least three parishes, but instead of revoking his duties, Law merely reassigned Geoghan to new parishes. This decision helped Geoghan allegedly victimize more than 130 children since the 1980s according to the Boston Globe. Of his decision, Law claimed, “I didn’t have the knowledge, the experience with this issue, the wisdom of time that I have now.” Nearly 90 lawsuits have been brought against Law and the archdiocese of Boston for negligence. The archdiocese has already paid more than $10 million in settlements to Geoghan’s alleged victims.
Geoghan, who was withdrawn from the priesthood in 1998, now faces two criminal trials. The first involves charges that Geoghan molested a 10-year old boy in 1991. Jury selection for the trial began yesterday.
The Cardinal’s apology and the Geoghan trial come on the heels of a Vatican decision to hold secret ecclesiastical trials for priests accused of pedophilia. In its directive, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith was silent on whether Church officials should report the accusations to civil authorities. Cardinal Law, only after the Geoghan scandal and the civil lawsuits brought against the archdiocese, has ordered all Church officials in the Boston archdiocese to immediately inform civil authorities of any reports of child sexual abuse.