Catholic Church sentences priest who they believe abused children to “life of prayer”
Author: Juwan J. Holmes
The Archdiocese of Boston has determined that a priest that led parishes under their supervision had sexually abused children in the 1960s. An internal “court” panel has determined that as punishment, he shall be barred from public ministry for the remainder of his life, meaning he cannot wear clerical attire, participate in Mass, or function as a priest for anyone.
Instead, “He is expected to dedicate his life to praying for victims and repenting of his past offenses,” the archdiocese announced. “In this way, the Church seeks even here to prevent any future abuse and to repair the injustice that has already taken place.”
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Paul J. McLaughlin was ordained as a priest in 1955 in Washington state and led parishes throughout Massachusetts from 1962 until 1972, when he became a chaplain at Regis College in Weston. He became a pastor in Marlboro in 1977 and remained in that role at different churches in the area for nearly 25 years, based on his page on the administrative site for the archdiocese.
He was placed on administrative leave on Valentine’s Day 2002 when accusations first surfaced, although he had already retired from Massachusetts in 2001 and took up part time work at California churches for the next year.
Three of his victims’ accounts were reported by the Boston Globe in 2003. One victim accused McLaughlin of orally raping him at the age of 11 or 12.
The “Sex Abuse Firm” website made by Pearson, Simon & Warshaw LLP and Boucher LLP, reports that “[former] Fr. McLaughlin’s personnel file contained references to one instance of physical abuse and another in which he told boys to wrestle naked.”
A lawsuit separate from those instances, which McLaughlin later settled, accused him of abusing one child at least 10 times over a three year period.
He had remained canonically on leave until now. His page on the archdiocese’s site now shows his status as “Assigned to a Life of Prayer and Penance (2021).”
“He is to live in contemplation of his sins and pray for all of those affected by his conduct,” the archdiocese said of his “punishment.”
McLaughlin is now 91 and lives in California. He did not respond to inquiries about the findings from the Associated Press.
As controversial as the findings might be, it is not the first time the Catholic Church has chosen prayer as the way one can answer for child abuse. In fact, the Archdiocese of Boston also ruled last year that a different priest should receive the same punishment.
In 2020, James Gaudreau was also handed “to live a life of Prayer and Penance,” as “affirmed by the Vatican,” for allegedly much more recent abuse than McLaughlin’s. Accusations were made against Gaudreau in 2012 for actions he allegedly committed in 2006, but by 2013, prosecutors declined to press charges against him, without explaining why.
Gaudreau proclaimed his innocence ever since, but the Church still found him guilty.
In 2011, the Archdiocese of Boston banned Saint Cecilia Parish from having a Mass entitled “All Are Welcome” in recognition of Pride Month. Instead, the parish held a sidewalk prayer service and celebration.
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Author: Juwan J. Holmes