Abuse Enablers Must Follow Law into Retirement

By Rachelle Cohen
Boston Herald
July 24, 2003

We're the lucky ones, really. Hard as that may be to imagine looking at those devastating numbers - 237 abusive priests, perhaps 1,000 victims of sexual abuse at their hands.

But the Archdiocese of Boston is poised for a fresh start. The "under new management" sign already tacked up at Lake Street.

Those most responsible for the devastation of so many young lives, as documented in the report released yesterday by Attorney General Tom Reilly, those who knew and did nothing, and those who knew and became conscious enablers - they've moved on.

Bernard Cardinal Law, virtually driven out of town, spends his semi-retirement as chaplain to cloistered nuns in Maryland. And yet when the time comes he still gets to help choose the next pope - no matter how soiled his reputation.

Law "had direct knowledge of the scope, duration and severity of the crisis experienced by children in the archdiocese," Reilly found. "He participated in crucial decisions concerning the assignment of abusive priests, decisions that typically increased the risk to children."

He'll still be welcome at the Vatican.

But the pernicious bureaucracy that served this archdiocese under Law is now scattered. No longer a problem for the Archdiocese of Boston, this cadre of enablers remain bishops in good standing from Manchester, N.H., to Green Bay, Wisc., to New Orleans.

"I have a hard time seeing how someone can be in a position of responsibility and leadership in the church after making choices that put the reputation of the church and abusive priests ahead of the welfare of children," Reilly said in an interview yesterday when asked if those bishops should follow Law into retirement.

Bishop Thomas Daily, now head of the Brooklyn diocese, "apparently did not believe that a priest who engaged in such [sexual] misconduct was apt to engage in such conduct in the future," the report said. "Accordingly he failed to take any meaningful steps to limit abusive priests' conduct with children in the future."

Bishop Robert Banks, now in Green Bay, appeared in court on behalf of a convicted pedophile, the Rev. Eugene O'Sullivan, arguing successfully that O'Sullivan not be imprisoned "but failed to disclose that O'Sullivan had abused other children."

Bishop Alfred Hughes, last year installed as archbishop in New Orleans, "continued to perpetuate a practice of utmost secrecy and confidentiality with respect to the problem." After the Rev. John Hanlon was charged with child sexual abuse, Hughes knew but never disclosed to law enforcement authorities who questioned him about another credible allegation of abuse.

Bishop William Murphy, now on Long Island, with one exception "did not report to law enforcement any of the numerous allegations of clergy sexual abuse he reviewed."

Bishop John McCormack, now of Manchester, N.H., was blamed for "inadequate handling" of the sexual abuse allegations against Paul Mahan, Paul Shanley, Robert Gale and John Geoghan - the latter two "went on to abuse other children while on restricted ministries."

No, they are no longer Boston's problem. They have moved on, and they moved up in church hierarchy. Tom Reilly can't touch 'em and heaven knows he's tried. But they have committed terrible wrongs and they should be gone.

Rachelle G. Cohen is editor of the editorial pages.


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