Law: Probing Priest Dad Was Not My Job

By Robin Washington
Boston Herald
March 14, 2003

In his latest deposition, Bernard Cardinal Law said he was "terribly outraged" to learn a priest in his archdiocese had fathered children with a woman and failed to assist her when she was dying of a drug overdose, but said it was not the archbishop's responsibility to make sure the case was investigated.

Law, who testified in the Rev. Paul R. Shanley civil case for two days in late January and last month, said his 1993 review of the 20-year-old incident involving the Rev. James D. Foley and the dead Needham woman was "absolutely unique," and "There's no parallel to this of anything I have ever handled."

He said he delegated alerting law enforcement of the case to his deputies, including now-Manchester, N.H., Bishop John B. McCormack, and did not follow up. "I'm not a lawyer.

"I'm not a policeman. But it was a question in my mind and it was a question that I would presume would be looked at," he said.

"Do you know whether it was looked at?" plaintiffs' lawyer Roderick MacLeish Jr. asked.

"I do not know that," he said.

He said his eventual reassignment of Foley to St. Joseph's Parish in Salem "at that time was appropriate."

Law was questioned on his similar delegation of cases involving the Revs. James Picardi, a Boston priest who went on to work out of state after admitting to raping a man, and Robert Burns, an accused Ohio priest accepted for work in Boston despite warnings from therapists.

In Burns' case, Law defended sending a pastoral letter to the now-convicted priest - but not his victims - saying he was reminding Burns his reprehensible acts did not define his life.

Roberto Goizueta, a Boston College theology professor, said that message is consistent with Catholic reconciliation, but does not explain why Law did not similarly reach out to Burns' victims, another matter he delegated.

"The victim ought to be the first one. But that to me is not only the Christian response, it's the human response," Goizueta said.

Law was also asked why he resigned as archbishop, but declined to say if it was due to mistakes in handling abuser priests.

"It was the conviction that I had come to over the months that my ability to provide pastoral leadership was severely impeded by a lack of confidence on the part of a number of people," he said. "I frankly did not see how I would reach a point in any near term when that confidence would be restored."

Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
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