John Geoghan

John J. Geoghan (c. 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 eventually led to the resignation of Boston's archbishop, Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, on December 13, 2002.

Career Summary

Geoghan was a graduate of Cardinal O'Connell Seminary, and was ordained in 1962.

He was assigned successively to Blessed Sacrament parish, Saugus; St. Bernard’s parish, Concord; St. Paul's parish, Hingham; St. Andrew's parish, Jamaica Plain; St. Brendan’s parish, Dorchester; and finally St. Julia’s parish, Weston.

With each new assignment, he was eventually moved to another parish following accusations of child molestation. He was unsuccessfully treated for his pedophilic sexual impulses by psychoanalysts and psychotherapists in private practice, as well as at St. Luke’s Institute, Maryland; the Institute of Living, Hartford; and Southdown Institute, Ontario.

He eventually took up residence at the Regina Cleri residence for retired priests.

Sex Abuse

Over a 30-year career in six parishes, Geoghan was accused of sexual abuse involing more than 130 children. Charges were brought in Cambridge, Massachusetts, concerning accusations of a molestation that took place in 1991. Geoghan was defrocked in 1998. 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 10 years in prison.

The trial included testimony from the victim; from a psychiatrist, Dr. Edward Messner, who treated Geoghan for his sexual fantasies about children from 1994-1996; and from Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes, who testified that he banned Geoghan from the swimming club after a complaint that he had been proselytizing and had had prurient conversations there.

After initially agreeing to, and pulling out of, a $30 million settlement with 86 of Geoghan's victims, the Boston archdiocese settled with them for $10 million, and is still negotiating with lawyers for 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. Evidence also arose, as a result of allegations against Geoghan, 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. 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.


On August 23, 2003, while in protective custody at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts, Geoghan was trapped in his cell, strangled and stomped to death by Joseph Druce, a self-described white supremacist and fellow inmate already serving a sentence of life without possibility of parole for killing a man who allegedly made a sexual pass at him after picking Druce up hitchhiking. An autopsy revealed the cause of death to be "ligature strangulation and blunt chest trauma." 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.

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 guards trying to open the wedged shut prison door where the murder was occurring, was released on YouTube in June 2007. Officials don't know how the video, taken from jail surveillance systems, came to be publicly released.

See also

Devil in a Midnight Mass


  1. bostonglobe "Boston Globe". "Geoghan ruling sparks anger: Alleged victims protest erasure of conviction" September 27, 2003, Kathleen Burge

See also

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