Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Editorial: John Geoghan: Rest in peace

by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register

(From the Sept. 11, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

By most reliable accounts, John Geoghan was not the kind of man you would want living next door to your playground.

In 2002 Geoghan was convicted of child molesting. Reliable estimates indicate he molested as many as 130 children during his career as a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston. The majority of his victims were boys. He was forcibly removed from the clerical state in 1998.

Geoghan was murdered in his prison cell Aug. 23. Geoghan was serving a prison sentence of 9 to 10 years. At the time he was being housed in the protective custody section of the prison.

It didn’t help.

It’s easy to extend the love of Christ to people like Mother Teresa. In retrospect – now that she’s not here to tell us vehemently that we’re wrong about something – to Dorothy Day. To selfless missionaries, or dedicated medical personnel, or brave firefighters, or steadfast police officers, or teachers or bakers or candlestick makers.

It’s harder when it’s a monster.

A serial child molester of outrageous proportions. Hard to love someone like that. Hard to mourn his death.

It wasn’t a particularly pleasant death, either. According to prison officials the 68-year-old Geoghan was bound and gagged and garroted and as he lay on the floor of his cell his 37-year-old alleged assailant climbed up on the bunk and jumped down onto Geoghan’s helpless body.

Did Geoghan get what he deserved? Less than he deserved?

There are those who would suggest that nothing would be harsh enough for the likes of John Geoghan. That he sentenced his victims to life imprisonment within their own ravaged souls and violated bodies.

It comes as no surprise that his alleged murderer also was sexually abused as a child and is described by his father as “a Nazi sympathizer with a vendetta against homosexuals, African-Americans and Jews,” according to the New York Times. Huge proportions of the prison population were abused as children. Huge proportions of child abusers, sexual and otherwise, were themselves abused as children. In a sense, a cycle has been broken.

It has been broken entirely the wrong way. John Geoghan’s death does not merit rejoicing. It does not merit glee. It does not solve anything except perpetuate the notion of revenge as an appropriate response to wrongdoing. Only now, in death, does John Geoghan face absolute, unflinching, merciful justice from the One who made him. Just as all of us will one day stand with our choices and our motives and our temptations and our resistance laid bare before a merciful God who sent his only Son to save the world. To save sinners, including the monsters. Including the murderers of monsters. Including us.

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