Crisis in the Church / Legal Fight
Law Named in Suit Alleging Abuse by Two Miss. Priests
By Stephen Kurkjian
July 18, 2002
More than a decade before becoming Boston's cardinal, Bernard F. Law failed to act on a request from a woman that he remove a priest who was abusing her son at a Mississippi parish in the early 1970s, according to a civil lawsuit filed in Jackson, Miss., yesterday.
In addition, according to a lawyer in the case, the father of a second alleged victim informed the Jackson diocese that his son had been abused by another priest while Law was vicar general of the diocese in 1973.
Law, who left Jackson in December 1973 to take over as bishop of a diocese in southern Missouri, had not been notified late yesterday that he is a defendant in the lawsuit, said Donna Morrissey, his spokeswoman.
The lawsuit, which also names as defendants the two priests, the Jackson diocese, and its current bishop, William Houck, is the second to be filed recently against Law in Mississippi. Last month, three brothers sued Law and the others for failing to stop a third priest, the Rev. George L. Broussard, from molesting them even though their father told Law of the alleged abuse, according to the suit.
When he was deposed last month by Boston lawyer Roderick MacLeish in Boston, Law acknowledged that he had been friends with Broussard and had gone to the seminary with him.
Anthony R. Simon and Marcie M. Fyke, co-counsel in the Broussard lawsuit, said yesterday they were researching Mississippi statutes to determine whether Law was obligated while vicar general to inform criminal authorities of the allegations of child abuse.
Currently, the law requires such notification by numerous professionals, including "ministers," according to Pamela Confer, spokeswoman for the Mississippi Human Services Department.
Both victims in the suit filed yesterday had previously secured financial settlements from the Jackson diocese for their alleged abuse. Mark Belenchia was paid $44,000 by the Jackson diocese in 2000, after he alleged that he had been abused by the Rev. Bernard Haddican at St. Mary's Church in Shelby, Miss., between 1968 and 1971.
Haddican died in 1998 but his brother, a resident of New Jersey, said last night that he could not believe the allegations. "My brother would never do anything like that," said Patrick Haddican.
The second victim, identified only as John Doe #1, was allegedly abused by the Rev. Paul Madden during a trip that Madden allegedly took with the youth in 1973.
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