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Andrews v. Cronin

Superior Court of Massachusetts, Middlesex

March 5, 2018

Paul ANDREWS et al.[1]
v.
Most Reverend Daniel A. CRONIN

          OPINION

          Maynard M. Kirpalani, Justice of the Superior Court

         This case concerns the alleged abuse of the plaintiffs, Paul Andrews (" Andrews" ) and Daniel Sherwood (" Sherwood" ), in the 1970s and 1980s by their parish priest, Monsignor Maurice Souza (" Souza" ), who has since passed away. The plaintiffs bring this action now against the Most Reverend Daniel A. Cronin (" Cronin" ), who was the bishop of the diocese when and where the alleged abuse occurred. The matter is presently before this court on Cronin’s motion for summary judgment. After a hearing and careful consideration of the materials submitted, the motion is ALLOWED in part, and DENIED, in part.

         BACKGROUND

         The following facts are taken from the summary judgment record. From 1970 until 1992, Cronin served as the bishop of the Fall River diocese of the Catholic Church. As bishop, Cronin governed the diocese, and had the authority and right to manage it. In 1977, Cronin appointed Souza to be the pastor of St. Anthony’s church in East Falmouth. Souza remained at St. Anthony’s until his retirement in 1986. He passed away in 1996.

         Sherwood was an altar server at St. Anthony’s from 1977, when he was about nine years old, until approximately 1985. Andrews began as an altar server at St. Anthony’s in 1978 or 1979, when he was nine or ten years old, until 1986. While they were altar servers, Souza took the plaintiffs on numerous trips, primarily to see sporting events, in Boston and around the country. The out-of-state trips included yearly two-week trips to Florida, yearly trips to New Hampshire, an extended trip to the west coast, and trips to Canada, Wisconsin, New York, Kansas City, and Hartford. Souza and the plaintiffs would stay at hotels overnight. As a matter of routine each morning during these trips, Souza would sexually molest the plaintiffs.[2]

         During this period, the plaintiffs also spent a significant amount of time at the rectory where Souza and an associate pastor, John Ozug (" Ozug" ), resided. Even though church rules prohibited laypersons, such as the plaintiffs, from " residing" in the rectory without the bishop’s permission, the plaintiffs would often go there to watch sporting events on television. Sherwood also would stay overnight when he and Souza had a trip planned for the next morning. Andrews also recalls staying overnight at the rectory on one occasion. The abuse occurred at the rectory in the same manner as at the hotels. Ozug never witnessed any abuse, but saw the plaintiffs there, and knew that Sherwood had stayed overnight. Ozug never reported those occurrences to Cronin.

         Cronin, as well as two other priests who had assisted him while he was bishop of the Fall River diocese, John Harrington (" Harrington" ) and John Oliveira (" Oliveira" ), each testified at their depositions that they had never received notice that Souza was taking extended overnight trips with the plaintiffs or other young boys, despite a church rule in effect during the relevant period providing that " [a] priest’s annual vacation is three weeks; he is also to have a day to himself weekly and an overnight every other week." Neither, according to these priests, did they know that the plaintiffs had been staying at the rectory, or that Souza had been, or had a history of molesting boys. They, accordingly, never investigated Souza, or inquired about what had been going on at St. Anthony’s. Cronin avers, however, that had he known about Souza’s sexual misconduct, he would have removed him from active ministry.

         At their depositions, Cronin, Harrington, and Oliveira were presented with two letters concerning Souza’s interactions with parishioners regarding the cemetery at St. Anthony’s. The letters, sent to Cronin in September and October 1979, inform him of Souza’s " inept" handling of a cemetery expansion, such that the recently-laid graves of their loved ones were plowed over without their knowledge. In one of the letters, Mrs. Lawrence D. Farias (" Farias" ), writes that Souza " yelled and screamed at me in an uncontrollable rage" when she approached him about it, and asked her " what’s this got to do with me?" She concluded that " [i]n [her] estimation, after seeing Father Souza act and talk the way he did, he is incompetent to be a pastor of any parish." Souza also wrote to Cronin about the matter, denying that he had treated anyone insensitively, and informing him, as to the subject of the other letter, that " Mrs. Rose died at precisely the wrong time for our cemetery expansion" and " Mr. Rose found another opportunity to clobber the church and priest once again." While Cronin has no present recollection of the letters, a note indicates that " Bishop telephoned Msgr. Souza from Chancery on Sept. 17th and placed him at ease." A letter from Oliveira informs Farias that the matter " will be looked into." None of the priests deposed recall whether or how the matter was resolved.

         Cronin, Harrington, and Oliveira also were shown records from Souza’s time at the seminary. The records indicate that Souza abruptly took a leave of absence because he was in a " melancholy state of mind" before returning to complete his education. None of these priests recollect ever having seen these records, or having reviewed them during Souza’s tenure at St. Anthony’s. Cronin, Harrington, and Ozug all testified that they had a good opinion of Souza at the time the abuse is alleged to have occurred.

         In addition to testimonial and documentary evidence, the summary judgment record also includes the report of Thomas Doyle (" Doyle" ), a priest familiar with the laws and practices of the Catholic Church and with clergy sex abuse cases. Doyle opines that the " excessive amount of time [Souza] took as time off in order to travel around with the plaintiffs and other boys" is " highly unusual" and " should have triggered inquiries from [Cronin]." Doyle also opines that the two letters, which describe violations of gravesites, something " highly irregular and insensitive," also should have triggered inquiry.

         The plaintiffs commenced this action on June 5, 2015. The complaint states claims for: negligent hiring, retention, direction, and supervision (Counts 1 and 3) and breach of fiduciary duty (Counts 2 and 4). Cronin moves for summary judgment on all counts. Further facts will be set forth as necessary.

         DISCUSSION

         To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party bears the burden of " show[ing] that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law" based on the undisputed facts. Mass.R.Civ.P. 56(c). See Augat, Inc. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co.,410 Mass. 117, 120 (1991). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court views the evidence and draws all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Currier v. National Bd. of Med. Exam’rs,462 Mass. 1, 11 (2012). " Ordinarily, summary judgment is not an appropriate means to resolve claims of negligence because the question is usually one of fact ... However, a judge may decide the issue as a matter ...


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