John Geoghan

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John J. Geoghan (/ˈɡɡən/; June 4, 1935 - August 23, 2003) was a key figure in the Roman Catholic sex abuse cases that rocked the Boston Archdiocese in the 1990s and 2000s and led to the resignation of Boston's archbishop, Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, on December 13, 2002.[1]

Career Summary[edit]

Born in Boston in 1935, Geoghan attended Cardinal O'Connell Seminary, where he graduated in 1962 and was ordained. On February 13, 1962 he was assigned as an assistant pastor at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Saugus, Massachusetts.[2][3] That December, Geoghan successfully talked a man out of committing suicide by jumping off the Mystic River Bridge.[4] While at Blessed Sacrament, Rev. Anthony Benzevich allegedly told church officials that Geoghan would bring boys into his bedroom. Benzevich would later deny this.[3]

Geoghan was assigned to St. Bernard’s Parish in Concord, Massachusetts starting on September 22, 1966. He was transferred after almost exactly seven months there and church records offer no explanation for his reassignment.[3]

On April 20, 1967, Geoghan was assigned to St. Paul’s Parish in Hingham, Massachusetts. Around 1968, a man complained to church authorities that he caught Geoghan molesting his son. As a result Geoghan was sent to Seton Institute in Baltimore for treatment for his pedophilic sexual impulses. In the early 1970s, Joanne Mueller accused Geoghan of molesting her four young boys. Mueller says she informed Rev. Paul E. Miceli and he asked her to keep quiet. Miceli disputes her account.[3]

Geoghan’s next assignment was at St. Andrew’s Parish in Jamaica Plain, starting on June 4, 1974. On February 9, 1980 Rev. John E. Thomas told Bishop Thomas Vose Daily that Geoghan admitted to molesting seven boys. Daily then called Geoghan and told him to go home. Geoghan admitted to the abuse, but said that he did “not feel it serious or a pastoral problem.” He was placed on sick leave three days later and ordered to undergo counseling by Archbishop Humberto Medeiros. Under the care of Doctors Robert Mullins and John H. Brennan, Geoghan underwent psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.[3]

On February 25, 1981, Geoghan returned to pastoral work at St. Brendan’s Parish in Dorchester. While at St. Brendan’s, Geoghan allegedly raped and fondled a boy. In 1982 the family of seven of Geoghan’s victims complained to Daily that Geoghan had met one of the molested children at an ice cream shop in Jamaica Plain and was in the company of another child. On September 18, 1984, Bernard F. Law, the new archbishop of Boston removed Geoghan from the parish after complaints that he was molesting children.[3]

On November 13, 1984 he was assigned by Law to St. Julia’s Parish in Weston, Massachusetts. He was put in charge of three youth groups, including altar boys. On December 7, 1984, Auxiliary Bishop John Michael D'Arcy wrote to Law complaining about Geoghan’s assignment to St. Julia’s because of his “history of homosexual involvement with young boys.” That same month Dr. Mullins proclaimed that Geoghan had “fully recovered” and Dr. Brennan stated that there was no need for restrictions on his work as a priest. In 1986 allegations of sexual abuse returned. From April 3-12, 1989, Geoghan stayed at the Saint Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland. Here he was diagnosed with homosexual pedophilia. On April 28, 1989, Bishop Robert Joseph Banks ordered Geoghan to leave the ministry. He was placed on sick leave on May 24 and from August 10 to November 4, he was treated at The Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut. Upon his release, Geoghan was described as “moderately improved” and it was recommended that he return to assignment. Banks was unhappy with the Institute’s Discharge Summary and on December 13, the Institute sent him a letter explaining the Discharge Summary. It stated that “The probability he would act out again is quite low. However, we could not guarantee that it would not re-occur.” On November 28, 1990, Banks recommended that Geoghan return to the parish, but left the decision up to Cardinal Law and another bishop. On October 23, 1991 the church received a complaint about Geoghan “proselytizing” with a boy at a pool.[3]


In 1993, Geoghan retired from the priesthood at the age of 58 and moved into the Regina Cleri residence for retired priests. Three years later, after more allegations surfaced, he spent several months in the Southdown Institute in Ontario, Canada for therapy.[3]

Sex Abuse[edit]

Over a 30-year career in six parishes, Geoghan was accused of sexual abuse involving more than 130 children.[5] Charges were brought in Cambridge, Massachusetts concerning accusations of molestation that took place in 1991. Geoghan was defrocked in 1998 by Pope John Paul II. He was found guilty in January 2002 of indecent assault and battery for grabbing the buttocks of a 10-year-old boy in a swimming pool at the Waltham Boys and Girls Club in 1991, and was sentenced to nine to ten years in prison.

After initially agreeing to, and pulling out of, a $30 million settlement with 86 of Geoghan's victims, the Boston archdiocese settled for $10 million and is still negotiating with other victims. The most recent settlement proposed is $65 million for 542 victims. The settlements are being made because of evidence that the archdiocese had transferred Geoghan from parish to parish despite warnings of his behavior. As a result of allegations against Geoghan, evidence arose that the archdiocese displayed a pattern of shipping other priests to new parishes when allegations of sexual abuse were made.

Two other cases were charged against Geoghan in Boston's Suffolk County. One case was dropped without prejudice when the victim decided not to testify. In the second case, two rape charges were dismissed by a judge after hotly contested arguments because the statute of limitations had run out.[6] The Commonwealth's appeal of that ruling was active at the time of Geoghan's death, and remaining charges of indecent assault in that case were still pending at that time.

Murder of Geoghan[edit]

On August 23, 2003, while in protective custody at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts, Geoghan was strangled and stomped to death in his cell by Joseph Druce, a self-described white supremacist and inmate serving a sentence of life without possibility of parole for killing a man who allegedly made a sexual pass after picking Druce up hitchhiking. An autopsy revealed the cause of death to be "ligature strangulation and blunt chest trauma."[7] There have been questions raised about the wisdom and propriety of placing these two men in the same unit, since prison officials had been warned by another inmate that Druce had something planned.[8] Furthermore, it was alleged that Geoghan drew unwelcome attention to himself in prison by befriending other sex criminals and openly talking about his history of molesting boys.

A Worcester, Massachusetts jury found Druce guilty of first-degree murder on January 25, 2006, after the jury rejected his insanity defense. The next day, Druce was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for a second time.

A video, which shows correction officers trying to open the wedged shut prison door where the murder was occurring, was released on YouTube in June 2007.[9][10] Officials claim not to know how the video, taken from prison surveillance systems, came to be publicly released.

Impact of case on other Church principals[edit]

While Geoghan was left in his position at St. Julia's, D'Arcy was transferred February 26, 1985 to Indiana where he served out his career as bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend.[11] Law, after his resignation in December 2002 from the Boston see, moved to Rome in 2004 and it was "commonly believed that he w[ould] live out his retirement in Rome" when he was retired at age 80 in 2011.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cardinal Law and the laity, The Boston Globe, retrieved 26 November 2009
  2. ^ "Timeline; Geoghan's career history". Boston Herald. January 25, 2002. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Geoghan's troubled history". Boston Globe. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  4. ^ "Saugus Curate Foils Leap Off Mystic Bridge". Boston Globe. December 26, 1962. 
  5. ^ The John Geoghegan Case, The Boston Globe, retrieved 26 November 2009
  6. ^ "Boston Globe". "Geoghan ruling sparks anger: Alleged victims protest erasure of conviction" September 27, 2003, Kathleen Burge
  7. ^ "Prosecutor: Inmate considered Geoghan 'a prize'". Cable News Network. 26 August 2003. Retrieved 23 March 2013. 
  8. ^ The New York Times. Long Planning Is Cited in Death Of Former Priest August 26, 2003, Fox Butterfield
  9. ^ "Prison kill scene gets on YouTube". New York Daily News. 2007-07-08. Archived from the original on 2008-09-18. 
  10. ^ "Joseph Druce #1". Youtube. 2007-06-12. Retrieved 2010-10-29. 
  11. ^ Lawrence, J.M., "Bishop John M. D’Arcy, 80; warned against transfer of pedophile to new parish", Boston Globe, February 05, 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
  12. ^ Arsenault, Mark, "Law retires from post in Rome", Boston Globe, November 22, 2011. Retrieved 2013-02-05.

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