Reardon’s parents cling to `if only’
If the Archdiocese of Boston had investigated complaints against Christopher J. Reardon when they allegedly first surfaced, it’s likely “90 percent” of the sexual abuse he inflicted on 29 young boys would have been prevented, Reardon’s parents and lawyer said yesterday.
“If someone gave us a chance we could have given him the help he needed before all these children were put at risk for absolutely no reason,” Reardon’s father, John, 53, said yesterday.
The Boston Herald reported Saturday and yesterday that a secretarial worker at St. Agnes Church in Middleton where Reardon was employed as a youth worker telephoned an official at the archdiocese in January 2000 to complain about Reardon’s behavior with young boys.
But while the worker said James Flanagan, who coordinates youth services for the archdiocese, seemed to take her accusations of Reardon’s suspicious behavior with young boys seriously, nothing was done about Reardon until one of his victims contacted Middleton police in June 2000.
Reardon, 29, who also molested boys through his job as a swim instructor and summer camp coordinator for the Danvers YMCA, pleaded guilty last summer to 75 of 129 criminal counts and was sentenced to 40 to 50 years in state prison.
Among the charges Reardon admitted to were eight counts of child rape, which each carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
“When you say 90 percent of the abuse wouldn’t have happened, you’re right,” said attorney John Andrews, who represents Reardon. “Just think of all the human agony that would have been spared on both sides of the aisle.”
Andrews confirmed Herald reports that the Rev. Jon C. Martin, Reardon’s former supervisor at St. Agnes, also received a warning about Reardon from another priest in August 1999.
The Rev. Richard Driscoll told Martin he had concerns about Reardon being alone with children in the church rectory and office.
But Martin, who sources said was having homosexual trysts with men in his church living quarters and who has a long record of psychiatric troubles on file with the archdiocese, never acted on the comments from Driscoll.
He also never moved on later complaints from the secretarial worker and others employed at the Middleton church, who were urged by church lawyers to keep quiet about Reardon.
Sources said Martin was angry to learn the secretarial worker had made a call about Reardon and subsequently telephoned church officials to say the complaints were unfounded. Martin is reportedly being treated for “sexual issues” at an undisclosed location and is on leave from the church.
Andrews said if the allegations had come to light even as late as January 2000 when the secretarial worker made her call, his client probably would have been confronted before he committed the bulk of his crimes, including the abuse that resulted in rape charges.
“In August of ’99 when Father Driscoll complained, there were only two indecent assault and batteries and a couple of dissemination (of harmful material to a minor) charges based on the indictments,” said Andrews. “Even if you go to January (of 2000), there were no rape charges.”
While not condoning what Reardon did, his parents and attorney said action by the church would have limited Reardon’s abuse and harsh prison sentence.
“We certainly wouldn’t have pushed it aside. I guarantee it,” said Reardon’s mother, Cathy, 52. “Yes, it would have been horrible and it would have been devastating, but these kids wouldn’t have gotten hurt and our son would have gotten help.”
Andrews said Reardon’s parents, who helped found the Middleton church, feel betrayed by the archdiocese.
“The greatest difficulty his parents had at the time of the sentencing is, on one hand, they’re probably never going to see their son again as a free man, and knowing all these so-called good people (in the church) had known about it,” Andrews said.
Donna Morrissey, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said pending further review of the situation, the archdiocese maintains it was never notified about Reardon until after his arrest.
Flanagan and his superior, the Rev. Thomas A. Dunne, could not be reached for comment.
During a wide-ranging interview with the Herald yesterday at their Middleton home, Reardon’s parents said their son suffers from an illness and still does not comprehend what he did.
“He did not know anybody knew (he was abusing children),” said Cathy Reardon. “In Chris’s mind – and people think we’re crazy – he doesn’t know he did anything wrong. He can’t show remorse because he doesn’t know. He desperately wants help. He wants to know what happened to him.”
The Reardons said they found out about Martin’s gay trysts around Christmas 2000 and feel Martin “betrayed” them by trying to quash inquiries about their son’s behavior. Their son was loyal to Martin, they said, but never befriended the priest.
“Their lives were going down the same path,” John Reardon said, “and their paths never crossed.”
Shortly after Reardon was arrested in June 2000, Martin visited the parents but “he would not pray with us” and “then he told us the archdiocese wouldn’t allow him to come and visit any more,” Cathy Reardon said.
Martin subsequently telephoned the couple and said, “I can’t have anything to do with you people any more,” they said.
A baby picture of Reardon riding a rocking Donald Duck, and photographs of Reardon and his sister growing up, decorate the Reardons’ home.
His parents said they keep his room intact and the home’s foyer is filled with toy ducks that were given to their son over the years.
Reardon, who was a beloved youth worker before his arrest, had the nickname “Ducky.”
Andrews and Reardon’s parents said “18 people” were suspicious or had been notified of Reardon’s behavior but nothing was made public until one of his victims went to the police.
“That’s a lot of people not to step forward and it’s people we know,” said Cathy Reardon, with tears streaming down her cheeks as she rocked back and forth in a living room recliner.
“We know they knew the whole truth, the whole time,” added John Reardon about people in the parish and officials at the archdiocese.
Despite the warnings, Reardon continued to systematically target and molest young boys – even videotaping one sexual assault in his church office.
“All the rape charges, the video, it all accelerated (after January 2000),” said Cathy Reardon.
“Now we’ve lost our son for a lifetime.”
Although their son has never admitted it, and the Reardons say there was no sexual abuse within their family, they believe their son was sexually molested sometime in the past.
“We’re wrestling with the unknown,” said John Reardon. “There’s a whole other story here but I don’t know what it is. Chris wants to get it out but he can’t. That’s why he needs help.”
The parents say they visit their son at MCI-Concord up to three times a week and speak to him by phone up to three times a day.
They have asked him pointed questions about whether he was a victim of sexual abuse but he can only articulate so much to them before he shuts down, they said.
The parents remain upset that in handing down his stiff sentence, Judge Isaac Borenstein did not allow their son to receive adequate treatment for his mental illness.
“We’re disappointed that the judge did not decide to give him any psychological help,” said John Reardon. “He just threw him away.”
The parents stressed several times that they and their son are not looking for sympathy – especially in light of the horror Reardon’s victims and their families experienced.
“People should know we believe we were victimized as much as everyone else,” said John Reardon. “We didn’t know any of this until after Chris was arrested.”
Eric Convey and Maggie Mulvihill contributed to this report.
Caption: PAINFUL HEARING: Christopher Reardon’s parents, Cathy and John Reardon, and his wife, Pamela Moline, from left, listen to details of the charges against him at a hearing in Salem District Court in June, 2000. Reardon’s parents said yesterday that action by the church would have limited his abuse. FILE PHOTO BY MIKE ADASKAVEG
Caption: SHACKLED: Former Middleton church youth worker Christopher Reardon as he was led from a court appearance in December, 2000. HERALD FILE PHOTO
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