Crisis in the Church
Cardinal Promoted Alleged Sex Abuser Church Official Says Pastor Acknowledged Misconduct
By Michael Rezendes, and Sacha Pfeiffer
May 18, 2002
Cardinal Bernard F. Law promoted a Quincy pastor to the position of area vicar with oversight of 19 parishes south of Boston in 1996, after the pastor had admitted to an allegation of sexual misconduct, according to the sworn testimony of a church official.
In a deposition made public yesterday, the Rev. Charles J. Higgins acknowledged that the pastor, the Very Rev. Daniel M. Graham, had admitted to an allegation of sexual misconduct before he was given responsibility for parishes in Braintree, Milton, Quincy, and Randolph.
Law also had promoted Graham to pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Quincy in 1990 despite the fact that the archdiocese had been informed of an allegation of sexual abuse against him, according to the alleged victim and his attorney who spoke with the Globe yesterday.
Donna M. Morrissey, a spokeswoman for the Boston archdiocese, said she would not comment on whether Law knew Graham had admitted to sexual misconduct when he named him an area vicar because the matter is likely to become the subject of a lawsuit.
An archdiocesan document obtained by the Globe shows that the review board created by Law in 1993 to investigate allegations of sexual abuse against clergy first considered an allegation against Graham on June 5, 1995. The board subsequently discussed accusations against him in February 1996 and in February 1998.
Higgins said he did not know if Law was aware that Graham had admitted to sexual abuse when he promoted him.
Higgins's deposition was filed yesterday in the case of the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, who was arrested earlier this month for child rape. Since 1999, Higgins has been responsible for oversight of priests accused of sexual misconduct. His pretrial testimony in the Shanley case shed new light on several aspects of the mushrooming clergy sexual abuse scandal.
For instance, Higgins said that more than half of the 70 living priests accused of sexual misconduct whose names have been referred to authorities have more than one allegation against them. He also said that as recently as this year he had not taken any notes during two phone conversations with a man who said he had been abused by Shanley.
Graham was abruptly removed from his post as pastor of St. Joseph Church in February when church officials said they had discovered a single past allegation of abuse against him.
The alleged victim who said he had complained about Graham is an official with the state Department of Social Services. He said he made his allegation against Graham to a church official in the mid-1980s, asserting that he had been molested repeatedly by Graham 20 years earlier, beginning when he was about 14 years old.
The official said he could not remember who he had spoken with at the archdiocese. He said he came forward primarily because he had received credible information that Graham was having inappropriate contact with boys at St. John the Baptist Church in Quincy.
"I had gone to them revealing my own history so they'd know there was some legitimacy to what I was saying and I was working with the department. Despite all that, they felt his word was more reliable than mine."
The official asked that his name not be used for this story and said that his attorney, Roderick MacLeish Jr., is preparing a lawsuit on his behalf. The Globe does not print the names of sexual abuse victims without their consent.
The official said that some time after he made his complaint he received a letter from a church official saying that Graham had admitted molesting him, but had denied abusing anyone else.
"We know that a copy of the letter exists," MacLeish said. "We asked the archdiocese for it and didn't get it."
Under questioning by MacLeish, who is representing several of Shanley's alleged victims, Higgins estimated that "less than 15" priests who are now dead had been the subject of sex abuse complaints.
Moreover, of the 70 priests whose names were turned over to law enforcement officials, Higgins said it would be "conservative" to estimate that each had served in at least three parishes. He also said it is possible that the 70 priests have collectively served in more than 200 parishes in the archdiocese.
Asked whether parishioners at Shanley's former parishes were ever notified that he had molested children, Higgins said they were not, a violation of current church policy. Nor were officials at Leo House, a New York City guest house where Shanley worked from 1995 to 1997.
Questioned about whether he believed it would have been "consistent with the protection of children for the Diocese of New York to know everything there was about Paul Shanley," Higgins replied, "I don't have an opinion."
Higgins also said that, at least until 1995, the archdiocese did not have a policy of notifying other dioceses when an accused priest had been transferred, although it has such a policy now.
Recounting his search for abuse complaints in church files, Higgins described a record-keeping process marked by confusion, and disorder. The filing system included a personnel file, a confidential file, an assignment card file, and an archival file.
The confidential file, he said, contains records on priests that record "difficulties" such as alcoholism, psychological or therapeutic evaluations, or complaints ranging from sex abuse to being a "lousy preacher." Those files are kept in a locked cabinet. Only Bishop Walter Edyvean, the archdiocese's second-in-command, has a key, Higgins said.
Higgins also offered an explanation for how, two weeks after turning over 800 pages of Shanley documents, last he found another 800 pages that had been overlooked in his initial review. He explained he had neglected to check the archives because he believed they contained information only about deceased priests.
Higgins said he never asked Law or other church officials for additional documents, even though several of them who were named by MacLeish had dealt directly with accused priests and alleged victims.
When MacLeish asked why a psychological assessment of Shanley from the Institute of Living in Suitland, Md., is apparently not part of church files, Higgins said Shanley might not have authorized its release to the archdiocese.
But Higgins acknowledged that of the 70 priests whose names were turned over to law enforcement officials, between 50 and 75 percent were the subject of psychological assessments, the "good majority" of which were included in church files. In fact, Higgins said, he could recall only two priests, excluding Shanley, who had refused to release their assessment to the archdiocese. Michael Rezendes can be reached at email@example.com. Sacha Pfeiffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CORRECTION-DATE: May 19, 2002, Sunday
BECAUSE OF AN EDITING ERROR, A HEADLINE ON A STORY ABOUT AN ALLEGED SEX ABUSER BEING PROMOTED BY THE CHURCH THAT RAN INSIDE YESTERDAY'S NATION/REGION SECTION WAS INCORRECT. A priest did not say that Cardinal Bernard F. Law knew of the allegations but promoted the pastor anyway.
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