Wellesley doesn’t figure prominently in Spotlight, the excellent new film about the Boston Globe‘s coverage of the Catholic church sex abuse cover-up and featuring the #1 movie villain of the year: Cardinal Law.
But in the white text that scrolls against a black background before the credits at the end of the movie, Wellesley is listed as being among the dozens and dozens of communities where abuse took place or was alleged to have taken place.
There were allegations of abuse by a priest at St. Paul in 1978, but after being put on leave in 2002, he was reinstated a few years later because the allegations couldn’t be substantiated.
A broader scandal was uncovered at a high school seminary that once operated at Elm Bank Reservation between the 1940s and 1971, where Mass Horticultural Society now resides (Elm Bank’s address is in Wellesley, though the property once you cross the Cheney Bridge is actually in Dover).
The overall church scandal has had a far-reaching impact on all Wellesley parishes, which saw members leave, some for other denominations, some entirely.
St. James the Great Church on Rte. 9 paid a heavy price even thought it wasn’t directly implicated in the scandal. The church was closed in 2004 along with dozens of other area parishes, as the Archdiocese reorganized in the face of dwindling attendance, shortage of priests and a need to cut costs. Following a 7-plus year vigil by parishioners, the property has since been acquired by the town and will be used for recreational purposes to be determined.
Wellesley also has played a key role in attempts to resurrect the church and to support sex abuse survivors as well as clergy with integrity. The Voice of the Faithful organization started in the basement of St. John the Evangelist Church in Wellesley, and now has expanded worldwide and has some 30,000 members.