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2003-12-01 - 1:17 p.m.

There was an incredibly riveting article in this morning's Boston Globe about Father Geoghan... one of the priests in the Boston area who was convicted of child molestation. He was later murdered in prison. The article quotes several people who said that both the church and the prison system failed Geoghan. Which I think is partly true. But article also subtly makes the very valid point that Geoghan also never really understood how what he had done was wrong. They painted him as being incredibly naive and childlike.

It brings up a whole series of interesting questions for society I think. The purpose of our prison system. Punish or rehabilitate? The purpose of our religious institutions. How the Church chooses men for the priesthood. How the institution of the Church itself can shelter these men too much from the realities of the world. Also the questions of how childlike, essentially *good* people can perform *evil* acts. How good and evil aren't as separate and distinct as we'd like them to be.

You know. All those simple little questions.

A priest by turns demanding and timid trod prison's path

By Thomas Farragher, Globe Staff, 12/1/2003

On the eve of his first Christmas in prison, John J. Geoghan sat in his cell on the brink of despair -- and surrender.

The torments he said he suffered at the hands of a few correction officers had worn him down.

The sanction they had imposed for offenses Geoghan insisted were trumped up stung too much: For 12 weeks, the defrocked priest's ability to talk with or see his older sister Catherine had been taken away.

Since childhood, the two had been inseparable. And now she was his treasured connection to the world beyond the walls.

And so, the 67-year-old Geoghan suggested he was ready to abandon the losing battle he'd been waging against the guards and the rules of the medium-security prison to which he'd been sentenced.

"After eighty-four days of no contact with my seriously ill sister, we are finally back in contact, but only on the phone as I am afraid of our safety in personal visits," Geoghan wrote in a Dec. 24, 2002, letter to a legal adviser. ". . . I think I now have decided I am only interested in survival and keeping out of difficulty so I do not lose contact with my sister."

For Geoghan, survival meant not only securing his personal safety, but continuing his unlikely bid to prove his innocence. He wanted to be free to focus on the appeal of his conviction for fondling a 10-year-old boy in a Waltham swimming pool.

Click here for the full article


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