AG: No Church Charges

By Robin Washington
Boston Herald
July 21, 2003

A long-awaited report by Attorney General Thomas Reilly on the Archdiocese of Boston's role in covering up molester priests will be issued this week with no criminal indictments or any other sanctions against church officials, a Reilly spokeswoman said yesterday.

"This report documents what happened and why and what the archdiocese must do to protect children now and in the future," said Reilly spokeswoman Ann E. Donlan, confirming that there are no criminal indictments as a result of the 16-month probe by a grand jury.

The lack of charges is consistent with the prediction of several victims and advocates who met with Reilly in April after the dismissal of the attorney general's grand jury.

Then, one advocate told the Herald, Reilly said, "It would be very, very hard to indict," and the remaining options were no action at all, a civil agreement between the attorney general and the church, or a report detailing the abuses.

In exercising the final choice, Donlan said, "The report is heavily focused on child protection measures that are crucial to assuring that children are safe," and urges the Legislature to pass laws increasing the penalties for those who fail to report abuse.

Carmen Durso, a lawyer representing numerous abuse plaintiffs, said the attorney general should also throw his support to lawmakers' efforts to eliminate the statute of limitations in sexual assault cases.

"With the passage of this legislation, the church will never again be able to bury these crimes with the passage of time," Durso said.

Reilly has previously blamed current statute of limitation laws on his inability to prosecute both abusers and their supervisors.

Donlan said the release is timed to get the report "directly to Bishop (Sean) O'Malley" before his installation as archbishop of Boston next week.

Archdiocese spokesman the Rev. Christopher Coyne said the church would have no comment until the report is released.

Robert Sherman, a lawyer with Greenberg-Traurig, which represents hundreds of abuse plaintiffs, said he was not surprised Bernard Cardinal Law, who testified before the grand jury, and his top lieutenants escaped prosecution.

"Everyone knew the prosecutors did not have the tools necessary to prosecute the actions of the hierarchy," said Sherman, a former assistant attorney general.

"I expect the attorney general is going to come down extremely hard on the way the church carried out its responsibility to protect children."

But Paul Baier of Survivors First, an umbrella group of victim advocacy organizations, said he was disappointed by the reported content of the document.

"Attorney General Reilly has a history of being strong against child abusers, but we don't see it here," he said. "We need the same creativity that law enforcement has used in the past against organized crime."

An example is pulling the church's non-profit status, said Baier, whose group will go ahead with a previously scheduled protest tomorrow at Reilly's office.

But Sherman said that would not be appropriate.

"The mission of the Catholic Church to feed the hungry and provide homes for the homeless needs to be continued. Pulling their status is not the solution here," he said.

Susan Gallagher, a victim and member of the Coalition of Catholics and Survivors, said she hoped the report would take preventive measures and response to abuse out of the hands of the church.

"What we need is not harsh rhetoric but recommendations for concrete change. We need an outreach and advocacy program independent of the church as has been recognized by hundreds of therapists throughout the commonwealth," she said.

"It doesn't do any good for the attorney general to complain about the wolves if he then throws victims to them."


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