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  Church Opens Ears for Alleged Abuse Victim Vilified by Media

By Tom Mashberg
Boston Herald
January 19, 2005

The Archdiocese of Boston spent four hours Monday listening to a former Newton altar boy describe how he was maligned in the media 2 1/2 years ago after alleging sexual misconduct by a powerful judicial official of the church.

The complainant, Paul G. Edwards, formerly of Winchendon, was flown to Boston by the archdiocese's Office of Pastoral Support and Outreach and met with director Barbara Thorpe and the Rev. John B. Connolly, a special church delegate for sexual-abuse matters.

"I think it's fascinating they flew Paul here and met with him for four hours," said Lori Lambert of the Coalition of Catholics and Survivors, a group that has long championed Edwards' cause. "We hope they are taking this seriously."

Central to Edwards' case are assertions his alleged abuser, Monsignor Michael Smith Foster, used his power as archdiocesan judicial vicar to launch a public relations campaign in 2002 aimed at depicting Edwards as a lifelong liar.

Many claims that Edwards was a liar fell apart upon close scrutiny by reporters from the Herald.

The main conduit for the PR campaign, Edwards' supporters say, was The Boston Globe, which is accused of publishing a dozen articles based on information provided to it by Foster's supporters.

Edwards' supporters say the articles, for which the Globe was awarded the 2003 Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Newspapers from Harvard University, drove Edwards to drop his civil suit against Foster and leave the state.

But documents obtained by the coalition show the priest in charge of investigating Edwards' initial abuse claims, the Rev. Sean M. Connor, wrote to Foster admonishing him to cease the PR campaign.

In one document, Connor says a Globe reporter told him Foster was "issuing quotes on my behalf, which were obviously not true."

Edwards' supporters are demanding the archdiocese issue a statement assailing the negative media coverage of Edwards.

 
 

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