8 victims who were abused by the priests of the Order of Saint Augustine in Massachusetts were paid 1million USD in compensation by the Catholic organisation. According to reports, the church finalised the settlement amount in an out of court negotiations which have been ongoing for two years.
8 people in total, five men and three women have been fighting the long legal battle against the Catholic organisation. The victims were all abused by two priests named John J Gallahager and Robert Turnbull in areas around Boston. Gallahager had reportedly abused the women at St Mary of the Assumption parish in Lawrence while Turnbull had abused the men at the Austin preparatory school in Reading, Massachusetts.
All the victims were abused in the 1970s and 80s. The victims were in the age group of 9 to 12 when they were abused by the priests. Mitchell Garabedian, the attorney of the abuse victims has reportedly stated that victims of sexual abuse can only come forward when their coping mechanisms allow them to and the eight people who have come forward in the case are brave voices.
Garabedian had earlier released a letter written by one of the victims to the late Cardinal Bernard F Law, who was the head of the Archdiocese of Boston at that time. In that letter, the victim had detailed the sexual abuse she had to undergo and made the Cardinal aware of the perpetrator priest. Garabedian had argued on the basis of the letter that the Archdiocese of Boston was aware of the sexual abuse committed by their priests and they took no action, instead kept shuffling the priests from one parish to another.
It is notable here that the widespread sexual abuse scandal and the Catholic church’s attempt to ignore it was first broken by the ‘Spotlight’ investigating a team of the Boston Globe. The investigation had found that there were hundreds of abuse victims (mostly children) in Boston itself and the Archdiocese had taken no action on the priests involved. Instead, there was a racket going on to silence the victims with paltry compensation and legal hurdles.
Boston Globe’s report of the case had won the Pulitzer Prize that year. It was revealed that not only hundreds of children (one of the victims was 4) were being abused by the priests with impunity, the Archdiocese kept a lid over the entire affair and kept reassigning the priests to different places, despite being well aware of their crimes.
Garabedian has been representing the victims who agreed to come forward and pursue the case. He has been legally assisting the victims for 3 decades. Both the priests involved in the case have since died and Cardinal Law died in 2017.
The story of the Spotlight team’s report was made into a Hollywood movie named ‘Spotlight’ which won the Oscar award for the best movie in 2016.
The victims have reportedly stated that the settlement will finally bring them some closure. Many other victims have remained anonymous or refused to part-take in the legal proceedings.
The Boston sexual abuse scandal is only one of the many instances where the Catholic church has been actively involved in abuse and subsequent silencing of the crimes. Recently a UK citizen named Edward Hayes had waived off anonymity and had come forward to recall how he was abused by a Catholic nun as a teenager. Hayes had also mentioned that the organisation was aware of the abuse but did nothing to help the victim. In India too, there have been numerous allegations of sexual abuse on the church. Apart from sexual crimes, Missionaries of Charity, the organisation established by Mother Teresa, was recently found to be involved in rampant child trafficking and selling.