- 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.

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, said a spokesman for Mr. Reilly’s office.

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 concluded 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, 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.

In a related case, lawyers yesterday submitted an outline for a lawsuit in one of the most notorious clergy sex cases, accusing the Rev. Paul Shanley of paying teenagers to have sex with him, and sometimes passing them on to other men.

The documents include 21 victim affidavits and a roughly 220-page brief previewing the civil case that attorneys for Gregory Ford and his family plan to present at trial in their lawsuit against the Boston archdiocese, Cardinal Law, New Hampshire Bishop John McCormack and other key figures in the scandal.

Mr. Ford is suing over the abuse he says he suffered as a young parishioner. Father Shanley also faces criminal charges of raping and sexually assaulting four men. No dates have been set for either the civil trial or the criminal trial. Father Shanley, who was involved with the North American Man-Boy Love Association, has pleaded not guilty.

The archdiocese yesterday asked that the Fords’ attorneys not be allowed to expand the scope of the trial beyond Mr. Ford’s accusations, and challenged the admissibility of “recovered memory” of abuse, said Father Coyne, who declined to comment on the substance of the Fords’ filing.

“We’re just seeking to follow the normal course and the normal expected practice in law in coming to a just and equitable conclusion to the cases,” he said.

One affidavit, from a man who was not named, said a man would send him to Father Shanley, who would have sex with him and send him back with an envelope of money, some of which the boy would keep.

“I did not want to have anything to do with them, but if I didn’t show up for the meetings which he arranged for me, he would become totally enraged and threatened me with physical harm,” wrote the unnamed man.

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