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Commonwealth of Massacusetts v. Porter



Type of Case:


Location (State or Country): 


Civil or Criminal: 

Confession, Other victims

Form of Corroboration: 


One of the most well known clergy abuse cases in America, Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Porter resulted in Father James R. Porter being sentenced to 18-20 years of imprisonment after pleading guilty to 41 charges for the sexual abuse of 28 children. Porter admitted to abusing scores of other children beyond those named in the case against him during interviews; on May 8th, 1992 he told a Boston television reporter he may have molested as many as 100 children during his time at the Fall River diocese in the 1960s and 70s. There are two notable cases of recovered memory which related to Porter's criminal trial. The first is Frank Fitzpatrick’s memory of prolonged child sexual abuse by Father James Porter. Fitzpatrick began recovering memories of Porter's abuse in 1989. A private investigator, his personal investigation of Porter's abuse resulted in tape-recorded incriminatory statements by Porter taken during a telephone call in which he admitted to molesting children while "hiding behind the cloth". He was the first to speak out about Porter's abuse, and inspired dozens of other victims to come forward and be identified. (Town Secret, By Linda Matchan, Globe Staff, 8/29/1993, Porter gets 18-20 years: 22 describe ex-priest's abuse, impact on their lives By James L. Franklin and Linda Matchan, Globe Staff, 12/7/1993). The second notable recovered memory case from Porter's criminal trial is John Robatille’s memories of sexual abuse, triggered by reports about Frank Fitzpatrick. “His specific memories were confirmed by two classmates….Harvard psychiatrist Stuart Grassian surveyed 43 [of the Porter victims] in 1993 and found another 8—or 19 percent—who reported no thoughts or memories of the childhood abuse until the case broke in the media.” (Katy Butler, “The Latest on Recovered Memory,” Family Therapy Networker, Nov/Dec 1996: 36.)


1. Franklin, J. L., & Matchan, L. (1993, December 7). Porter Gets 18-20 Years: 22 Describe Ex-Priest's Abuse, Impact On Their Lives. The Boston Globe.

2. Matchan, L. (1993, August 29). Town Secret. The Boston Globe.

3. Butler, K. (1996). The Latest on Recovered Memory. Family Therapy Networker, 36.

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