- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2002

BOSTON (AP) A grand jury is looking into whether criminal charges can be brought against Cardinal Bernard Law and other Catholic Church leaders in the sex scandal that has engulfed the Boston Archdiocese, a law enforcement source said yesterday.

The grand jury convened by Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly has been investigating for weeks whether Cardinal Law and other leaders broke the law in allowing priests accused of molesting children to remain in positions where they could continue to abuse youngsters.

A source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the chances that charges would be filed against Cardinal Law or other top officials are small because of the statute of limitations and the difficult standards for prosecuting someone as an accessory.

The scandal rocking the nation's Roman Catholic Church began earlier this year in Boston with disclosure that the archdiocese had moved priests from parish to parish despite accusations they had molested youngsters.

Nationwide, at least 250 priests have either been dismissed from their duties or have resigned since the scandal broke.

By law, Mr. Reilly cannot confirm whether a grand jury investigation is under way. But Mr. Reilly told the Associated Press yesterday that his office is using "every investigative tool available to us, including interviews and demand for documents and records."

"We have an obligation to look into this," Mr. Reilly said.

The attorney general said in April that he had not ruled out bringing charges against Cardinal Law.

The Rev. Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for the cardinal, said the archdiocese was preparing a statement but had no immediate comment.

Mr. Reilly and various district attorneys have said that under state laws on conspiracy, obstruction of justice and being an accessory to a crime, it would be difficult to charge someone for putting another person in a position to commit a crime.

One former Boston-area priest, John Geoghan, has been accused in lawsuits of molesting scores of youngsters. He was convicted in January of groping a boy and sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. Cardinal Law acknowledged knowing about accusations against Geoghan in 1984, his first year as cardinal.

Church documents show that archdiocese officials also knew as early as 1967 about abuse accusations involving now-retired priest Paul Shanley, who is charged with raping a boy in the 1980s.

Cardinal Law has been questioned under oath in both cases as part of lawsuits brought against the archdiocese.


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