Three ex-pupils at a Catholic high school in Massachusetts have initiated legal proceedings against Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston and additional Church authorities due to purported abuse perpetrated by the institution’s deputy head.
Attorney Mitchell Garabedian made public on Monday the filing of a lawsuit on May 5 in Suffolk County Superior Court, representing three former attendees of Arlington Catholic High School situated in Arlington, a suburb northwest of Boston.
According to court documents, the unnamed complainants assert that ex-deputy headmaster Stephen Biagioni mistreated them between approximately 2011 and 2016, as detailed in the Boston Globe. The former students were between the ages of 15 and 17 during this period, they conveyed to journalists on Monday, WBUR News reports.
Biagioni, who later ascended to the role of principal at Arlington Catholic High School, was granted administrative leave in April 2016 pending the result of a probe into alleged misconduct during Sunday detention. At that moment, deputy principal Linda Butt stated that there were no grounds to suspect the involvement of allegations related to sexual abuse, WCVB News noted.
The Archdiocese of Boston declared that when the high school acknowledged the accusations, they were reported to the police.
“Generally, we refrain from commenting on ongoing litigation,” Archdiocese of Boston spokesperson Terrence Donilon stated on May 25. “That being said, it is our understanding that some of the allegations in this lawsuit were brought to Arlington Catholic High School’s attention in 2016 and were reported to the proper law enforcement and child protection authorities at that time, as part of Arlington Catholic’s commitment to maintaining a safe environment for the school’s young people.”
Donilon further stated, “The administrator involved was subsequently relieved of his role, and personnel from Arlington Catholic and the Archdiocese of Boston fully cooperated with the investigative authorities.”
The three complainants recount similar experiences. They allege that Biagioni would engage in wrestling with students during detention, and would forcibly position their heads against his groin area, including his genitalia, during these altercations. The lawsuit categorizes this as “explicit sexual conduct and lewd and lascivious behavior,” resulting in the complainants suffering from issues such as anger, flashbacks, and sleep disturbances.
“Without a doubt, the Archdiocese of Boston should have been on high alert given their history of allowing sexual abuse to occur for many decades,” Garabedian commented, as per the Boston Globe. “By now, one would think they would have the appropriate safeguards in place to protect children.”
He further argued that Church leaders, given their knowledge of the history of abuse in Boston and Cardinal O’Malley’s position as head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors since 2014, should have done more to prevent abuse.
In addition to Cardinal O’Malley, the lawsuit names Bishops Robert Deeley and Peter Uglietto as defendants, alongside three other Church leaders. The lawsuit does not list Biagioni, the former principal, as a defendant.
Bishop Deeley, currently the bishop of Portland, Maine, served as vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Boston Archdiocese from 2011 to 2014, according to his biography on the Portland Diocese’s website. Since February 2014, Uglietto has been serving as the archdiocese’s vicar general and moderator for the clergy.
The lawsuit states that Church leaders have a duty to “adequately supervise staff” to ensure that they do not exploit their positions in the archdiocese “as a means of grooming and assaulting vulnerable children.” It claims that Church leaders “knew, or were negligent in failing to know” that Biagioni posed a risk to students.