- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 30, 2002

YONKERS, N.Y. (AP) In a meeting that resembled last week's summit between U.S. cardinals and the pope, New York Cardinal Edward Egan and hundreds of priests gathered yesterday to discuss the sex-abuse scandal engulfing the U.S. Roman Catholic Church.

The Rev. Peter Gavigan from Our Lady of Victory in New York said his "faith and trust" in Cardinal Egan was renewed as a result of the private, four-hour meeting.

Cardinal Egan opened the meeting with a 45-minute speech, after which the 500 priests broke into small groups. Cardinal Egan met with the smaller groups and answered their concerns.

"It was both informational and relational the relationship between the priests and the cardinal as bishop was strengthened," Father Gavigan said. "We priests have been dealing with it, in a sense, on our own. It was necessary to see him face to face."

New York Archdiocese spokesman Joe Zwilling would not divulge what the priests discussed with Cardinal Egan. He said the message was "to let them know what was happening they read things, they see things and they don't have an opportunity to ask the cardinal directly what's going on."

Cardinal Egan had no comment as he arrived at St. Joseph's Seminary. On Sunday, he said priests accused of sexual violations would be suspended from clerical duties at least until an investigation is completed. He also suggested those who suspect abuse should contact the authorities.

Father Gavigan said the church should "listen to the people's pain, listen to their hurt and also listen to their suggestions about how things might be improved."

"I think the wisdom will also come from the people, not just from the top," he said.

In Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law was under new criticism for a legal defense that suggests a man who claims he was sexually abused as a boy by the Rev. Paul Shanley and his parents were partly responsible for the reputed abuse.

Accusations of the abuse began in 1983, when Gregory Ford was 6. Now 24, Mr. Ford and his parents say Cardinal Law was negligent in overseeing the now retired Father Shanley, described in archdiocese documents as a "very sick person" and known as a proponent of sex between men and boys even as he was shuffled from job to job.

In a six-page response to the lawsuit, an attorney for Cardinal Law said, "The negligence of the plaintiffs contributed to cause the injury or damage."

The response said any damages against Cardinal Law "should be reduced in proportion to the said negligence of the plaintiffs."

The Fords' attorney, Roderick MacLeish, said he could think of no circumstances under which a 6-year-old could be blamed for "something like this."

However, Suffolk University law professor Rosanna Cavallaro called the legal language "boilerplate" and said it would be unusual for an attorney not to raise every defense available.

That said, "most people would be very unpleasantly struck" by the comments, she said.

Elsewhere:

•New York's Brooklyn Diocese said it will forward all accusations of child abuse to prosecutors without first screening them. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes called the agreement "groundbreaking."

•The Syracuse, N.Y., Diocese said it will create a victim's advocate position and a lay advisory board to help handle cases of sexual abuse involving priests.

•The Rev. William D. Donovan, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Bridgeport, Conn., resigned from the priesthood after admitting to a homosexual relationship, which is under investigation by church officials. The former pastor, 66, also has a record of three drunken-driving convictions.

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