Law Met with Problem Priests: Datebooks Indicate Talks He Later Denied
By Robin Washington and Tom Mashberg
January 10, 2003
Bernard Cardinal Law's personal appointment records indicate he held numerous meetings with priests accused of sexual misconduct with minors, despite the prelate's repeated assertions he left the handling of those cases to his subordinates, according to files released yesterday.
The release of more than 800 pages dating from Law's appointment as archbishop of Boston in 1984 through July 2002 came as civil attorneys prepared to announce a major abuse settlement today involving two priests at Boston College High School.
The datebook shows Law meeting with numerous priests either then or subsequently accused.
Among those are: the Revs. Richard Ahern, Thomas Dempsey, James Foley, Thomas Forry, Robert Gale, John J. Geoghan, Edward Kelley, Richard Matte, Robert Meffan, George Rosenkrantz and at least a dozen others. Most of the entries do not give a reason for the meetings. Listings also show the cardinal met with a greater number of priests who have never been accused.
But several of the meetings with alleged molesters are contemporary with reports to the church of their abuse. Also, notations on alleged abusers are typically followed by remarks such as ``Fr. (John) McCormack requested'' and ``Please see folder for backup.''
The mention of folders about those priests sent to Law before meetings with them seemingly contradicts the cardinal's statements that he wasn't made aware of files of abusive clergy.
In an October 2002 deposition, plaintiffs' attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr. asked Law, ``I understood you to state, and perhaps I'm wrong, that it was not routine in those days for - certainly wasn't routine for you to access the confidential file in 1984 and 1985. That's a fair statement, is it not?''
``That's a fair statement,'' Law replied.
In the same deposition, Law said he rarely handled such cases himself, stating, ``The way these matters were handled was through delegation.''
The appointment records show time was also set aside for the cardinal to write assignment letters for alleged abusers, such as an hour on each of several occasions for the late Rev. Joseph Birmingham. That activity is less frequently noted for priests who have not been publicly accused.
The records give a glimpse of the cardinal's activities with the famous and influential, such as Mother Teresa, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds.
But in some cases, those worlds collided, such as in an Aug. 12, 1984, listing that states, ``1 p.m. Rosemary Clooney and daughter, guests for lunch,'' followed at 3:30 by a ``drop in at Our Lady's Hall'' - a Milton residence used to house alleged molester priests.
Also yesterday, the head of the lay group Voice of the Faithful raised concerns about the desire of Bishop Richard G. Lennon, Law's temporary successor, to bring openness and unity to the church.
VOTF President Jim Post said he has yet to hear from the bishop about a request to meet, saying he would like to discuss a $35,000 donation from the group.
Though Catholic Charities has accepted a similar $55,000 VOTF grant, the archdiocese has yet to accept their funds and has continued to ban new Voice chapters from meeting on church property.
``Bishop Lennon can't bring about unity while he's (locking people) out of their own facilities,'' he said.
Church spokeswoman Donna Morrissey said Lennon is committed to improving communication but is busy with his new duties.
``Certainly, we want to respond to the community of the faithful, which includes members of Voice of the Faithful,'' Morrissey said.
On the legal front, officials from Boston College High School and the Jesuits will today announce settlements of 15 cases of sex abuse by the Revs. James F. Talbot and Francis McManus, MacLeish said. The lawyer would not disclose the settlement amounts, but implied they were significantly higher for the individual plaintiffs than that received by the 86 who shared in a $10 million in the Geoghan case last year.
``We paid no attention to the Geoghan settlement. We looked national jury verdicts to determine how these cases were settled,'' he said, adding BC High officials have set a model for addressing and preventing abuse. ``There wasn't a moment when the headmaster, Bill Kameza, wouldn't make time to meet with these victims,'' he said.
Talbot, 64, pleaded not guilty in September to charges he abused three students in the late 1970s.
In a statement to WCVB-TV, Kemeza said, ``We hope that those that have been hurt . . . receive some consolation.''
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