Law Denies He Knew of Mississippi Child Sex Cases
By Robin Washington
August 26, 2002
In a response to a Mississippi child molestation lawsuit, Bernard Cardinal Law said he had no knowledge of child sex allegations against priests by the mid-1960s - a statement putting him at odds with assertions by a prominent canon lawyer and Law's own former seminary schoolmates.
The latest denial by the embattled prelate comes in a rebuttal to a suit filed in June by Kenneth Morrison.
Morrison alleges he and his brothers were molested by George Broussard, a seminary schoolmate of Law who served with him in Mississippi in the 1960s and '70s.
In the Aug. 1 response, Law's lawyers stated: "Defendant denies that he had become aware of (clergy) sexual abuse allegations . . . by the mid-1960s."
The statement contradicts assertions in the Herald last week by Tom Reed and Jack Fritscher, who attended Ohio's Pontifical College Josephinum with the future cardinal. They said Law could not possibly have been unaware of a sex scandal that shook the prestigious seminary in 1961.
It also is in opposition to general knowledge of such cases by priests and seminarians at the time, a famed canon lawyer and clergy sex abuse expert said.
"For him to say by the mid-'60s he didn't know it existed I find it highly unbelievable. I was in seminary in that time and we knew," the Rev. Thomas Doyle said yesterday from Germany, where he is a military chaplain.
The co-author of the 1985 report, "The Problem of Sexual Molestation by Roman Catholic Clergy," Doyle said he found incredulous a sworn statement by Law in a recently released deposition that he did not recall receiving the report.
The report, written in the wake of the pedophilia conviction of the Rev. Gilbert Gauthe in Louisiana, is considered a definitive primer on clergy sex abuse but was never adopted as policy by Catholic hierarchy.
"I do not have a recollection of having studied it. I cannot, sitting here, tell you that I have a recollection of having received it," Law told attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr. in the June 7 deposition.
But Doyle said he vividly remembered otherwise.
"I talked to him, gave him a copy of the report. I stayed at his house afterward," Doyle said.
"That's like saying I don't have active recall of colonoscopy. How can you forget something like that?"
A spokeswoman for Law declined comment on the statement and deposition, citing advice of counsel and pending litigation.
In both documents, Law denied learning of the abuse allegations against Broussard from the Morrisons' father, though he acknowledged knowing the family.
Sharon Garner, an attorney representing the Morrisons, said the family stands by its story and that her staff has unearthed earlier allegations against the former priest.
"We've heard allegations against Broussard going back to 1962," she said.
Another alleged victim, Mark Belenchia of Hattiesburg, Miss., said in June his mother asked Law to intervene when she learned her son was being molested by the late Rev. Bernard Haddican.
Yesterday, Belenchia said he could not state the exact date of his mother's encounter with Law, but that it occurred well before the Morrison allegations.
Law has not commented on the Haddican allegations and has said the first priest sex abuse case he was aware of was Broussard's in 1973.
"I think his story is full of holes," Belenchia said yesterday. "I know that she talked to him."
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