symbol of horror in church scandal
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
August 25, 2003
For more than three decades, John Geoghan molested nearly
150 boys entrusted to his care. He would seek out boys from
broken homes, ingratiate himself with their families, then
abuse his young charges during trips to Fenway Park, out for
ice cream, visits to their homes, even in the rectory.
His abuses cut a wide swath through parishes within the Boston
Archdiocese - and he came to symbolize the horrors of pedophile
priests and the exhaustive steps church hierarchy would take
to keep the allegations under wraps.
Then, in January 2002, a judge ordered the archdiocese to
release internal documents related to Geoghan's case - and
the paperwork told a disturbing story: The archdiocese had
been well aware of the allegations, but simply moved Geoghan
from parish to parish to try to avoid scandal.
"Geoghan personified the pedophile priest," said
Jim Post, president of Voice of the Faithful, a lay reform
group organized after the abuse scandal broke. "And what
people saw in the handling of Geoghan was the twisted logic,
in which a church that is supposed to protect the innocent
and punish the guilty protected the guilty and punished the
Geoghan, 68, was killed Saturday by another inmate at the
maximum security Souza-Baranowski Corrections Center in Shirley,
where he was serving a nine- to 10-year sentence for assault
and battery on a 10-year-old boy.
Worcester County District Attorney John Conte said Geoghan
appeared to have been strangled, though an autopsy was scheduled
for today. The suspect, Joseph Druce, 37, was serving a life
sentence for a 1988 murder.
Known as Darrin Smiledge before changing his name, Druce is
a member of the neo-Nazi group Aryan Nation, according to
published reports. He pleaded guilty in 2002 to sending a
letter containing fake anthrax to a federal prosecutor in
New Hampshire. He admitted sending similar letters to lawyers
with Jewish-sounding surnames around the country.
Conte said Druce will be charged with murder. He was placed
in isolation after the murder, Department of Correction spokeswoman
Kelly Nantel said.
Druce's father, Dana Smiledge of Byfield, declined to comment
when reached yesterday by The Associated Press.
Geoghan had been in protective custody since being transferred
to Souza-Baranowski in April. Nantel would not confirm whether
Druce was also in protective custody, but said those inmates
typically only have contact with one another.
The Department of Correction has begun an internal investigation
of Geoghan's murder, Nantel said.
One of two children born to a religious Boston family, Geoghan
traced his desire to become a priest to the death of his father
in 1940, when he was only 5, according to a 1995 evaluation.
He said he experienced no abuse as a child.
Described as immature and a poor student by the rector of
St. John's Seminary, where he enrolled in 1954, Geoghan was
able to stay on only through the intervention of his uncle,
the late Monsignor Mark Keohane.
After his ordination in 1962, Geoghan began pastoral duties
at a Saugus parish, starting a 34-year career that took him
to five other parishes. Along the way, he left behind him
a legacy distinguished only by the trail of allegations of
predatory abuse of the boys he was expected to shepherd to
Geoghan often targeted boys from broken homes. One victim
said Geoghan molested him as they drove home from getting
ice cream; others said Geoghan molested them after visiting
their rooms to tuck them in at bedtime.
One man said Geoghan abused him when he was 13 years old.
Geoghan offered him some lemonade, then had the boy come to
his room in the rectory to see his stamp collection, then
But despite the mounting evidence of compulsive pedophilia,
and periods spent at treatment centers, Geoghan was continually
allowed to return to pastoral service. His last stint, after
his removal from a Boston parish following allegations of
abuse, saw him in charge of various youth groups.
He was eventually granted early retirement in 1996 and praised
for an "effective life of ministry, sadly impaired by
illness" by Cardinal Bernard F. Law, who ultimately resigned
in December 2002 for his role in the scandal.
But with legal troubles mounting, Geoghan was defrocked in
1998, and in December 1999 he was charged with raping and
molesting three boys.
Molestation scandals had hit the church in America for nearly
two decades, with notorious cases involving priests and dioceses
in Lafayette, La., in 1984, Fall River in 1992 and Dallas
But in January 2002, the church's role in the handling of
priests, long sealed in the courts, first came to light as
Superior Court Judge Constance Sweeney ordered the release
of documents in Geoghan's civil cases.
"It was the first time objective evidence was produced
to show that the Archdiocese of Boston, through its supervisors,
allowed the abuse to continue," said Mitchell Garabedian,
a lawyer who has represented 147 alleged victims of Geoghan.
"I think the Geoghan case helped the public, parishioners
and victims understand that there was a moral responsibility
within the Catholic Church," Garabedian said.
The archdiocese settled last year with 86 Geoghan victims
for $10 million.
In the months that followed his trial, lawyers representing
hundreds of alleged abuse victims of other priests brought
new cases, forcing the church to turn over tens of thousands
more documents and revealing over time the previously unknown
scope of the church's cover-up in Boston and nationwide.
But Geoghan's name remained synonymous with the scandal, said
Stephen Pope, chairman of the theology department at Boston
"He was kind of the Jack the Ripper of pedophiles, in
the imagery of the public world," Pope said. "The
shift was a seismic shift from trusting all priests to trusting