- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 9, 2002

BOSTON (AP) Cardinal Bernard Law answered attorneys' questions in a rare deposition of a high-ranking church leader yesterday and maintained that he relied on the advice of doctors and subordinates when he approved the transfer of a priest accused of sexually abusing children.
The deposition was ordered in a civil lawsuit filed by 86 persons who accuse Cardinal Law of negligence in supervising former priest John Geoghan, who was convicted in January of abuse.
The Archdiocese of Boston backed out of a multimillion-dollar settlement with the group last week. With no settlement, the judge ordered the deposition immediately, expressing concern that Cardinal Law could be called to Rome before he could testify.
Cardinal Law, who has withstood repeated calls to resign, arrived at the courthouse yesterday amid heavy security for the first of several days of testimony.
The closed-door deposition began with Cardinal Law's attorney, Wilson Rogers Jr., making a standing objection to the questioning, saying "the inquiry into the inner workings of the church was inappropriate."
Under questioning, Cardinal Law explained that he was both a U.S. citizen and a citizen of the Vatican.
"But I must say that it hasn't been something that I've been conscious of in the past 17 years," Cardinal Law said, according to an 88-page transcript of the morning session, released by attorneys for the plaintiffs.
It had been suggested that Cardinal Law could have diplomatic immunity from civil lawsuits because of his dual citizenship with the Vatican.
William Gordon, a plaintiffs' attorney, questioned Cardinal Law about why he approved Geoghan's transfer in 1984 even though he had received letters and other evidence of abuse by Geoghan.
Cardinal Law said he didn't recall reading letters warning about Geoghan's behavior including one from his own secretary and said doctors had said Geoghan was not a threat.
"I'm sure that medical assurance was given," Cardinal Law said. "Whether it was subsequently put in writing and in an earlier form given orally, I cannot say.
"But I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that this letter would never have been put before me for a signature had we not had the assurance of someone competent to give that assurance that this assignment was safe."
Cardinal Law said he did not remember reading a letter from the aunt of seven supposed Geoghan victims in which she expressed disbelief that the church gave Geoghan another chance at a Boston parish. Nor did he recall a letter from Bishop John D'Arcy warning him that Geoghan was unfit to be reassigned.
Geoghan is currently serving a nine- to 10-year prison term. He has been accused of molesting more than 130 children.
Neither Cardinal Law's attorney nor the plaintiffs' attorneys would comment as they arrived at the courthouse.
Outside, a protester waved a sign reading: "Mr. Law, tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but truth, so help you God."
Cardinal Law's deposition is a legal rarity for someone of such high church ranking. It was closed to the public but was videotaped and could be used in a trial if Cardinal Law is not available.
That deposition also could be immediately followed by a second if a judge expedites a deposition scheduled for next month in a case against another accused priest, the Rev. Paul Shanley.
Father Shanley, a former Boston-area priest, pleaded innocent Tuesday to charges of repeatedly raping a boy in the 1980s. He was ordered held on $750,000 cash bail.
Also yesterday, another former Boston-area priest, Ronald H. Paquin, was ordered held on $50,000 bail after he pleaded innocent to a charge of child rape. Essex County District Attorney Kevin Burke said the charge involved more than 50 incidents with a boy about 12 years old in the early 1990s.


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