Clergy Abuse Lawyer Victim of Sex Abuse, Therapist Abuse

I just read an extraordinary article about Eric MacLeish, the lead attorney for the clergy sex abuse scandal at the Archdiocese of Boston. After being part of the successful lawsuit against the diocese and helping to win an $85 million settlement for abuse victims, MacLeish began to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as memories of his own childhood sexual abuse began to surface. After struggling with PTSD and depression for several years, he was referred to psychologist Mary O’Neill for treatment. Within eight weeks, O’Neill had begun a sexual relationship with MacLeish. The sexual exploitation had devastating effects on MacLeish’s mental health and his marriage. MacLeish eventually filed a licensing complaint against O’Neill, which was just recently resolved: O’Neill’s license has been revoked due to “gross misconduct.”

I highly recommend reading this powerful story about MacLeish, called “The hole in the heart of a star,” by Bella English of The Boston Globe.

It was mid-2003, and Eric MacLeish was on fire.

As a lead attorney in the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston, he was in the newspapers and on TV continually. Named one of the top trial lawyers in the country by the National Law Journal, MacLeish conducted a nine-day deposition of Cardinal Bernard Law that helped lead to Law’s resignation. He and others sued the archdiocese for the release of thousands of pages of secret files on abusive priests, which broke the story wide open. When the archdiocese agreed to an $85 million settlement with 550 abuse victims, MacLeish became a very rich man.

And then his world shifted.

(Read the full article here)

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  1. I spoke to Eric back in 2002 about representing a friend of mine who had been molested. I remember he told me that he had “fought off ” his molester as an eight year old. I remember thinking that it would have been very difficult for an eight year old to fight off a grown man.

    Now the truth is. Macleish was a ferocious protector of powerless victims. Hope he’s healing.

  2. Eric couldn’t possibly have a hole in his heart since he does not have one. Eric is a master manipulator and an all around bad guy. He hopes to mend his relationships with his daughters by making Dr. O’Neill the villain, she is not.
    He on the other hand, used his lawyerly influence, as well as, the influence of Dr. O’Neill’s psychiatrist to help try and destroy her. Dr. O’Neill’s psychiatrist (which all people in the mental health field see) just so happened to be Eric’s best friend. How convenience for Mr. MacLeish to blur lines with ease. The rich stick together in their incestuous little club house while they bury the working people with glee.

    MacLeish is not an innocent, and his protection of powerless victims was always about the notoriety and the money. It is time for his true colors to be unveiled.

    He is a miserable human being who only enjoys making money and making others suffer for his own personal failings.

    • Hi Seraph,
      I can appreciate that you have a different perspective from most of my other readers. You are absolutely entitled to your opinion. My only response is to point out that it is always the therapist’s or psychiatrist’s responsibility to uphold and maintain all boundaries in the therapeutic relationship. If the professional becomes sexually involved with their client or patient, then that person has violated their ethical agreement as a licensed professional. It doesn’t matter what the client/patient does or if they encouraged or sought out a sexual relationship, the accountability lies solely with the professional.

  3. Hi Kristi,
    MacLeish tried to manipulate the situation from the very beginning. First he wanted money, but when there wasn’t enough he went to the board. Basically the only money that changed hands was for a letter. He has claimed how this “relationship” has destroyed him. During the years that he was supposed to be so damaged he wrote a book, started a stress management seminar and began teaching law at Plymouth State College. His divorce was already in the works long before this. My point is that although there may have been some lapses in judgment but it certainly does not warrant the sensationalistic way Mr. MacLeish decided to come out with his “ordeal.” He’s been out of the press for a while, and for him it is like a drug. I am sure he’ll be writing a book on this.

    I know him, he always has an agenda. A good follow up story would be to see how many other therapists he has sued, and how many restraining orders there might be against, let’s say, women he no longer had interest in.

    It is easy to vilify Dr. O’Neill in a black and white world but Mr. MacLeish lurks in the murkiness of grey.


    • Hi Seraph,
      Okay, just to play devil’s advocate here, would you say the same things about me?

      My therapist became sexual with me.
      It totally turned my life upside-down.
      After I got away from him I filed a civil lawsuit and received a settlement from his insurance company.
      After that I filed a licensing complaint which resulted in his surrender of his license.
      I’ve been dealing with PTSD and mental/physical health issues directly related to his violations.
      While dealing with all that, I’ve created this blog, gone public with my story, and am doing my best to turn my life around.

      So, how am I different?

      The only two people who really know what happened are me and Dr. T. No one else was there, having the experience with us. So the people who know us choose sides, based on their own beliefs and personal biases. I know there are people who side with Dr. T—they like him and want to believe he would never do anything wrong or harmful, therefore, I must be to blame in some way. I can’t change their minds; they’ve chosen their side. I may not agree with them, but I accept that they are entitled to make that choice for themselves. Others take my side because they like me, believe me, or perhaps have had experiences that have biased them in my favor. But does anyone other than me and Dr. T really know the truth? No. Even the two of us have our own versions of the “truth.” He will never see what happened the way I see it, and I would never agree with whatever his side of the story is either.

      There are no absolutes. It’s all just a matter of perspective. Since I and this blog have a bias, that’s what I present. But I do know there are always at least two sides to every story. I appreciate your sharing yours.

  4. Hi Kristi,

    I appreciate the scenario you present. I am sorry for your pain. Let me just say Eric is not you. Eric’s story is quite different, although he tries to paint himself as the perpetual victim. His story molds itself to circumstance.

    She didn’t turn his world upside down. He destroyed hers.
    He is a predator.
    The only two places you can hurt Eric MacLeish is in his pocketbook and his ego.

    You take the story on face value, and I admit, at face value it makes good press. I know the whole story and I cannot help but say that Eric MacLeish spins fine yarns just as his father was known to do.

    Trust me, your story garners concern and empathy. His (or his version) does not.


  5. Seraph,
    You probably don’t need to be told this but you are correct in your assessment and you are not crazy. I know first hand that he has a problem respecting his own professional boundaries. We can all agree that it is tragic.

  6. If anyone really thinks that Eric is the victim here they don’t know the full case. Eric is slime and that’s a nice term for him. He consented to the whole thing and knew exactly what he was doing when he hurt his children and his wife and had the affair. Mary O’Neill may have made some bad decisions but she should never have received the punishment she did. Eric is a master manipulator. I know this case personally and know all the players involved. I’m disgusted that the Boston Globe would write such trash and oh yeah Eric knows the reporter very well and it was extremely bias.

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