Man knows not his time


Issue: "As the West burns," Sept. 6, 2003

PRIEST JOHN GEOGHAN WAS THE TIP THAT REVEALED a terrible iceberg in the Roman Catholic Church. His long history of molesting boys sexually (allegedly more than 130), when revealed, helped focus international attention on abuse scandals involving hundreds of priests across the country, led to revelations last year that bishops did little to discipline them or protect parishes from them, cost the Boston archdiocese at least $10 million in civil settlements with 86 of his victims so far, and drove Cardinal Bernard Law from office. (The archdiocese is trying to settle 542 lawsuits for $65 million; alleged victims of dozens of priests want much more.)

Now, in death-at the hands of a convicted murderer on Aug. 23 in a prison cell in Massachusetts-Rev. Geoghan is receiving a measure of sympathy that would have been unthinkable just weeks before, and some homosexuals are honoring him as a martyr.

Ordained in 1962 and defrocked in 1998, Rev. Geoghan, 68, was serving a sentence of up to 10 years for a 2002 conviction of indecent assault and battery of a 10-year-old boy in 1991, the first of three criminal cases against him. He was one of 24 inmates in a new protective-custody unit at the prison; child molesters aren't safe among the general prison population.

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Curiously, one of the 24 was convicted murderer Joseph L. Druce, 37. Guards and law-enforcement officials described Mr. Druce as a neo-Nazi who hated Jews, blacks, and homosexuals. He is serving a life sentence for killing a gay man 15 years ago.

Guards say Mr. Druce followed Rev. Geoghan into the cleric's single-occupancy cell during post-lunch cleanup, jammed the door shut, strangled him, then stomped on him. By the time guards forced open the cell door, Rev. Geoghan lay dying. Several investigations are under way to determine how such a thing could happen in protective custody.

Edward E. Plowman
Edward E. Plowman


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