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Spotlight Report

  A Boston Globe Editorial  

One more victim

8/25/2003

NO CHAPTER CLOSES with the murder of John J. Geoghan -- there are only more questions crying to be answered. Talk of jailhouse justice and vindication for the crimes of a 68-year-old defrocked priest merely serve to compound the sorry epic of wrongs committed not only by one deeply-disturbed individual, but by so many others in the Catholic priesthood and hierarchy. Geoghan's murder Saturday at the hand of another inmate at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center on the Shirley Correctional Complex points to institutional failure -- something that tragically shaped Geoghan's life, and, consequently, the lives of the nearly 150 people he had been accused of molesting.

Just as the church neglected to protect the children entrusted to its care, so too has a correctional facility apparently failed to keep Geoghan safe in what is supposed to be its protective custody unit.

And just as Geoghan's victims deserve legal retribution for his unconscionable acts, so does Geoghan's murder now demand a full investigation and meting out of fair justice. Murder is no less heinous because it has been committed against a criminal -- no one deserves to die that way, no matter how destructively he may have lived.

Prosecutors are expected to charge Joseph L. Druce, 37, with the killing.

Druce, serving a life sentence for murder, attacked and strangled Geoghan around noon on Saturday, according to authorities -- the former priest was pronounced dead two hours later at a Leominster hospital.

Druce, a member of the neo-Nazi group Aryan Nation, pleaded guilty last year to an anthrax scam in which he mailed a powdery substance to 39 lawyers around the country with Jewish-sounding names.

"I can't understand why they would put a guy who would kill a sex offender in a cell with a sex offender," Druce's father, Dana Smiledge told the Boston Globe, though it is not known whether Druce actually entered Geoghan's cell.

Clearly the two men should have been kept apart, and, sadly, on Saturday they were not.

Geoghan's death denies his victims his answers for his crimes in a child abuse case still awaiting trial, and in two dozen pending civil suits. Geoghan, defrocked by Cardinal Bernard Law in 1998, was serving a sentence for indecent assault and battery on a boy at a Waltham swimming pool in 1992.

Last year's court-ordered release of church documents relating to Geoghan highlighted not only one man's pattern of sexual abuse but the church's pervasive coverup of predatory behavior and refusal to remove a cancer that would poison hundreds of lives.

Geoghan's murder is one more shot of venom in that dark, deep pool of pain.


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