A Massachusetts man whose allegations of molestation against a priest helped propel an investigation in Orange County last year contends that he first alerted church officials in Boston in 1985 but that nothing came of it.
David L. Coleman, now 45 and a resident of Eastham, Mass., alleged that Father Richard T. Coughlin fondled him several times while he was a student at a Catholic school in Stoneham, Mass., where Coughlin worked before eventually moving to California. Although the incidents allegedly occurred when Coleman was between the ages of 10 and 12, he didn’t come forward until he became an adult and had undergone counseling.
Coughlin, who founded the All-American Boys Chorus in Orange County in 1970, was ordered in January to sever ties with the singing group and was suspended from his duties as a priest after Diocese of Orange officials investigated five separate complaints of alleged molestation, one involving Coleman.
On Tuesday, officials with the Archdiocese of Boston confirmed that Coleman met in November, 1985, with Father John B. McCormack, who reported to the archbishop of Boston and oversaw personnel matters pertaining to priests.
But archdiocese spokesman John Walsh said that there is no record of what was discussed at the meeting and that officials could not confirm if Coleman made allegations against Coughlin, who is now 68.
Coleman’s comments provide the first indication that a Roman Catholic church official may have known of allegations against Coughlin years before church officials in Orange County began their investigation.
“I don’t know why” there is no written log of the 1985 meeting, Walsh said. “It would not be fair to get into speculation as to why there is no record.”.
Coleman and four former members of the All-American Boys Chorus contacted the Diocese of Orange last December, alleging that Coughlin molested them as youths, church officials said.
Diocese of Orange officials said that the most recent instance of alleged molestation was in 1983 and that no current members of the chorus, which operates as a nonprofit organization in Costa Mesa that is independent of the church, have alleged abuse. The diocese had no record of any formal complaint against Coughlin before its investigation last year, Msgr. John Urell said.
Coughlin was ordained in Massachusetts in 1953 and worked as an assistant pastor at St. Patrick’s Church in Stoneham, Mass., until 1960, when he transferred to St. Mary’s Church in Lynn. In 1965, Coughlin moved to Orange County.
Coughlin, who officials said has been living in seclusion since his suspension, could not be reached for comment.
John H. Bovaird, one of the directors of the All-American Boys Chorus, said he had no comment. Other members of the board of directors could not be reached for comment or did not return phone calls Tuesday.