- The Washington Times - Monday, July 21, 2003

BOSTON (AP) — Top officials in Boston’s Roman Catholic Archdiocese will not face criminal charges for keeping abusive priests in church parishes, a spokesman for the attorney general said.

Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney for more than 100 people accusing priests of abuse, expressed disappointment upon hearing word that a state attorney general’s report to be released this week would rule out charges.

“Given the number of tragedies that have occurred by these sexual molestations and the allowance of these sexual molestations, many of my clients were hoping that there would be indictments so church leaders and individuals would be held responsible,” he said.

Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly’s report, based in part on an investigation by the state grand jury he convened, suggests changes to prevent future abuse but stopped short of charges, according to WBZ-TV of Boston, which cited an unidentified source who has reviewed the document.

A spokesman for Mr. Reilly, Corey Welford, told the Associated Press on Sunday that the attorney general would not immediately release the document, but confirmed that the television report was accurate.

The Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, an Archdiocese spokesman, said he could not comment until the report was made public.

Gary Bergeron, 41, one of 54 men who say they were abused by the late Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham, said he never expected top church officials to be charged.

“I am not surprised there are no indictments because of the way the laws were written,” Mr. Bergeron said. “But it’s unfortunate that, for all intents and purposes, men who agreed to sanction the abuse of children throughout the years cannot be indicted.”

The grand jury investigated whether the former Boston archbishop, Cardinal Bernard F. Law, and many of his top aides, some of whom are now bishops in other dioceses, could be held criminally responsible for moving priests from parish to parish even when they knew of abuse accusations. Cardinal Law was among those who testified before the grand jury.

Mr. Reilly said in April that it would be difficult to indict church supervisors for letting abusive priests remain in parish work because of weak child protection laws in Massachusetts when the abuse took place. Mr. Reilly came to the same conclusion after the grand jury investigation, according to the report.

Cardinal Law resigned as archbishop in December, after nearly a year of criticism about his role in allowing abusive priests to remain in parish work.

Bishop Sean Patrick O’Malley was named July 1 as his successor, and will be installed as archbishop at the end of the month. Bishop Richard Lennon has served as interim head of the archdiocese since Cardinal Law resigned.

In addition to Cardinal Law, at least eight other top officials in the Boston Archdiocese were subpoenaed to answer questions about their handling of complaints against priests including the Rev. Thomas V. Daily, now bishop in Brooklyn, N.Y.; the Rev. Robert J. Banks, now bishop in Green Bay, Wis.; and the Rev. John B. McCormack, now bishop in Manchester, N.H.

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