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Two Defend Coverage of Ex-Priest

Porter accusers say it helped them cope

By Luz Delgado
May 25, 1992 - THE BOSTON GLOBE

Two of the numerous men and women who have said they were raped and sexually molested as children by former Massachusetts priest James R. Porter yesterday defended news coverage of the case after Cardinal Bernard Law charged Saturday that the media overplayed the accusations.

"The media has helped me replace shame with affirmation, lost innocence with empowerment, solitude with validation, and an aching silence with healing," said Dennis Gaboury of Baltimore.

Gaboury, 40, has said Porter sexually abused him for nearly two hours in the priest's locked office when Gaboury was a 10-year-old altar boy at St. Mary's Church in North Attleborough.

North Attleborough resident Judy Mullet, who alleges she was raped by Porter, said the news coverage has helped victims to realize they are not alone.

"I'm a victim. I just want to find other victims and find them some help," she said. "If for nothing else, just to help those people who thought they were the only ones."

Other alleged victims of Porter met yesterday to draft a response to Cardinal Law's comments on the coverage of the story.

Forty-seven men and women in New England have said that as children they were raped or sexually molested by Porter while he served as a priest in Roman Catholic parishes in North Attleborough, Fall River and New Bedford between 1960 and 1967. Nine of them have said they would sue the Catholic Church if it does not compensate them for the damages they say they have suffered, and if it does not act to help bring Porter to justice.

Porter, 58, who left the priesthood in 1967 and now lives in Oakdale, Minn., has been questioned by authorities about more recent allegations that he sexually molested a child there in the 1980s. Sources said that at least one other Oakdale resident has come forward and alleged sexual abuse by Porter.

Officials from the Bristol district attorney's office, who are looking into the Massachusetts allegations, went to Minnesota to assist with the questioning in the recent Oakdale case.

Porter has lived in Oakdale since the early 1970s. He is married and has four children.

Porter has declined repeated requests to speak to the Globe about the allegations. But in tape-recorded telephone conversations with one of his alleged victims, Frank Fitzpatrick, a man Fitzpatrick identifies as Porter admitted that he molested 50 to 100 boys and girls while a priest in Massachusetts.

Speaking at an antiviolence march in Roxbury Saturday, Cardinal Law singled out the Globe in particular to criticize news coverage of the accusations. ''The papers like to focus on the faults of a few," he said. "We deplore that. . . . By all means we call down God's power on the media, particularly the Globe."

Mullet, one of the nine people who first accused Porter of sexual abuse, described Cardinal Law's comments as "typical of the Roman Catholic Church."

"They don't want to deal with it," she said. "It's a problem they don't want to face. . . . They're confronted with evil, and what do they do? Nothing.

"We're not lying. This is the truth. This really happened. The man was a priest, and you would think the church would be responsible for this."

Mullet, 42, said Porter raped her several times when she was 10 or 11 and a student at St. Mary's School in North Attleborough.

"I never forgot it," she said.

The group statement being drafted yesterday was expected to be released today.

"It will be a statement from the survivors of Father Porter as a group," Gaboury said. "I think what we want to do is affirm our original intent. We're not going to face anger with anger. This is not about anger. It's about the loss of innocence and healing and bringing people together."

Attempts to reach Boston Archdiocese spokesman John Walsh for comment were unsuccessful last night.

Mullet said she finds it hard to believe that church officials were unaware Porter was sexually abusing children.

"It happened in the church, and the church was aware of it," Mullet said.

"He did it everywhere. At the kids' homes. At the church. In the rectory. He fondled people openly everywhere. At church dances. In the halls. He came to the pool. He was always patting people's fannies. But the kids knew, because we all, we used to say, 'got it.' "

Two other alleged victims, John Robitaille and Steven Johnson, have said that another priest walked in while they were being sexually assaulted by Porter in separate instances at St. Mary's Church in North Attleborough, but walked out without taking any action. Porter was at St. Mary's from 1960 until 1963.

Mullet said that being raped by Porter has affected her religious beliefs.

"I'm very confused about my faith," she said. "I never went back to church after high school. It's a confusing thing when the person who is supposed to be so good -- I mean, he's next to God when you're so little. I didn't even know what sex was back then, then all of a sudden he does something like that.

"If you can't trust your priest, who can you trust?"

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests